” We’ve asked Marcus to speak at our internal commercial company event. I had seen him speaking 5 years ago and invited him for a totally different group this time. The beauty was that Marcus managed to tailor the message to our audience whilst keeping his energy and wittiness that I remembered. We split his session in two blocks where in the first part the topic was around how to think beyond constraints in a business setting. We received some really interesting insights in how we can look at other peoples issues.

The second part actually built further on this and focused on how to influence different people and relate to them. Hilarious examples were given with serious messages, all with great interaction from everyone. Marcus facilitated this in a wonderful way.
For us it was a great break from the other type of sessions we had. Every minute well spend, we could have gone on for a day! “

Global account manager, Adyen, February 2017 – Amsterdam
(I delivered two talks: the first for 25 minutes and the second for 45 to the audience of 200 directors, and senior sales and tech support managers from the international regions)

“Marcus, I need to tell you that you were one of the greatest presenters I’ve seen in my life, all Googlers were extremely pleased with your performance. The feedback from participants on speeches ranged from 3.5 to 4.1 (on a scale of 5), which was also driven by the fact that scale didn’t consist of numbers but words, and brilliant was instead of 5. In CEE people would just never say brilliant to anything….and yet you were rated 4.85 (compare that to the rest), which is unimaginable in this region.  So again, you were brilliant and I’m so thankful for that and also to get to know you, if was a real pleasure.”
Country Manager, Google, June 2014
(I was the keynote speaker at Google CEE conference for about 300 advertising executives)

“We asked Marcus to speak at the launch our new brand identity. I heard Marcus some 15 years ago when I was a student and have been inspired by his story ever since so I was particularly delighted to be able to invite him to Belfast for our event. A room of some 100 or so professionals and business leaders stood enthralled for over 45 minutes while Marcus simply told his story – what he does, his goals, the obstacles in his path, and what he does to get past or around those challenges. Everyone at our event was blown away by his powerful yet unassuming delivery, with so many shades of light and laughter. He masterfully told us the story of his journey and the outcomes he has achieved, changing the lives of countless young people along the way. All of our guests commented that he was by far the best speaker they had heard in years of these events – he will be in demand in NI!! Marcus is much more than a motivational speaker – he awakens a spirit inside his audience and challenges them to see and do things completely differently.”
Partner, Belfast law firm, May 2016
(I gave a talk at the rebranding launch of the firm)

“Marcus’ presentation was uplifting, entertaining and inspirational.  We found that the two hours went very quickly, and the talk was humorous and entertaining whilst getting across strong principles and thought provoking ideas.  We would strongly recommend Marcus as an asset to any group who is looking for an inspirational speaker.”
Director – Butler & Young Building Control, May 2016
(I gave a talk to a hundred or so building control engineers at their annual conference)

“You are probably too humble to admit it but your strongest asset as far as I can tell it your ability to think differently regardless of the occasion topic discussion situation or political agenda  and you have proven this in the last year without a shadow of a doubt on the three times I have seen you. Your thought process and delivery ignites the room or conversation alike and provokes thoughts and ideas in the audience regardless of their own agenda or background, and again this was obvious yesterday as being the host I have a fantastic view of the whole room at the back and I can see, hear and be competently conscious of the energy that is emerging within.”
Fire Safety Director, September 2015
(I was the opening keynote speaker at a fire prevention conference, to 50 technical experts, Frimley)

“On behalf of the Board of Directors and the HR Committee of AmCham Hungary let me express our gratitude for your active involvement in the AmCham Dream Day held yesterday. Your presentation was the highlight of the program. I would also like to thank you for spending the entire day with us… the workshop was a unique and successful venture.”
CEO, Assessment Systems International, April 2016 
(I gave an opening keynote talk to a hundred or so HR Managers in Budapest)

“I had a chance to work with Marcus not once, not twice, not even three times… Five! He gave two talks at TEDxVilnius, hosted two TEDxVilnius and one TEDxKids@Vilnius event after that.

Everyone in the event business know that a good host brings 50 (if not more) percent of the success to the event, and, I can speak on behalf of an entire team, we can’t imagine the better person to host a celebration that TEDxVilnius than Marcus.

As a speaker he’s always the only one to receive standing ovations, as a host he’s the most genuine person you would know: being there for the audience to laugh (and most often the one to make jokes) but also holding onto the most sensitive moments on the stage. His talent and hard work makes him truly integral part of what TEDxVilnius organizing team and TEDx community in Lithuania is right now.”
TEDx organiser, Lithuania, May 2015
(Hosting TEDx Lithuania is something different: 20 or so speakers, 10 hours, 1,000 participants, 50 in the organising committee)

“In short; it was inspirational. We have had lots of motivational speakers in to the Academy and Marcus was the best. His humility was extremely impressive, as was his exceptional CV. His message of never settling for people telling you something can’t be done was very powerful, and all of my students (and me) were left speechless at the end. We are extremely grateful that he came in, and we would welcome him back in a heartbeat!”
Head of 6th form, Central London, July 2014
(I came and spoke to about 30 students) 

“It was a pleasure to listen to your speech on the ‘Youth to change leadership conference’ at the University of Warwick today. It was one of the most inspiring speeches I’ve heard in my life! Thank you very much!”
Student at Warwick University
(I gave an opening keynote talk to a hundred or so undergraduates at Warwick)

“I would like to share with you, and anyone who considers using your services, my and my team’s view of the session and, more importantly, the impact it has had on us as a school. As you know, we are a very large team of over 160 adults, coming from very different backgrounds and so bringing varying perspectives on life, education and the world. With that in mind, it is never easy to achieve a “perfect pitch”! One inevitably struggles to engage every person in a session which is about “everything and nothing” at the same time. As the Headteacher commissioning Marcus’s services, I probably did not make it any easier, as I simply…..trusted his judgement, only giving him a few bullet points of areas I would like him to touch on in his presentation. Things that matter to me as the school’s leader are all to do with values, beliefs, emotional and physical resilience, personal drive and responsibility and generally optimistic, hopeful outlook on life! Easy, isn’t it?!

Marcus and I spoke briefly before the session and agreed a rough programme for the morning (it was a half-day session) and I left it in his court to make the start of the term AMAZING. I am pleased to say that he did not disappoint in the slightest. In fact, his session was exactly what we all needed returning from Christmas holidays; we all left the session having been exposed to a lot of reflection, a bit of challenge and a huge dose of humility. The team were open and honest with me after the session, with overwhelming support for my decision to bring Marcus into the school, with many stating that his was the best INSET session they had a chance to experience in recent years.”
Head, special school, Maidenhead, January 2014
(I ran an INSET session for all staff for the morning)

“Marcus gave a truly inspirational talk to our (Year 11) students. His sense of humour, stage presence and bonhomie with the audience was very special. His open and frank views on life and the universe were fantastic. This combined with a thought provoking summary of his personal and professional life provided the students with a genuine heartfelt human story that demonstrated to all the audience that any barriers we face can be overcome with endeavour, spirit and determination. ”
Head, large secondary school Hull, December 2013
(I came and spoke for about 1.5 hours to 300 students)

“An inspiring and fascinating session – a great start to the day, Marcus is a natural.” Director, ISBA, October 2013
(Following my opening the ISBA Bursar masterclass in London)

“The speech was essential for raising aspirations and unlocking the box – it was an incredibly powerful keynote. It also wasn’t formal, and in schools we tend to focus a lot on the HOW of attainment, but we sometimes forget about the WHY. The WHY is different for each child, and Marcus really enables that self-reflective analysis that gets kids to think about different opportunities. It will make a difference in their lives.”
Head, large secondary school, Nottinghamshire, July 2013

“The students became more and more fixated on his every word, to the point where, with 170 (6th form) students in a large hall you could have heard a pin drop. The pupils were so engaged and it was wonderful to observe. It certainly got students thinking and was without doubt inspirational.”
Head of 6th form, Hertfordshire, November 2013

Susan Young, education journalist, will be commenting live from the NAHT education conference 2014.

Dare to dream – or make it rain – with Marcus Orlovsky

The room’s clearing after an astonishing first session from Marcus Orlovsky – which I think is fair to say was as unexpected as it was moving. We had an idea of how it might go from Gail Larkin’s introduction – the NAHT President explained he had phoned her when she was driving, so she pulled over to take the call. “An hour and a half later I was still sitting there laughing – people had gone past me and back again. I told him the title of the conference, and he said was it about lighting fires or arson?”

Let’s say that Marcus isn’t the kind of speaker that you can report verbatim. It doesn’t work. His approach is more stream-of-consciousness, building to some pretty concrete messages which clearly resonated with a roomful of school leaders on a drizzly Thursday morning in York.

His style is wide ranging. So here’s a bit of what he said: that “a lot of us achieve great things through breaking the rules… if we follow the rules we’ll be in the s@#t.” He was disappointed every time he heard talented teachers say they’d be of the profession in a couple of years, and even more disappointed by teachers who say they don’t want to be heads, they “don’t want to take all that crap. Others say headship is the most wonderful experience, how could anyone not want to inspire young people?”

What followed included a look at the possibilities of the digital age, the way in which we learn by making mistakes, and the way in which everyone has become a producer rather than a consumer.

“Anybody here wish they were a kid?” he asked. “I talk to kids, and say do you know anyone creative? They say they are.”

Another hum of approval came from the room when he described how just a few minutes conversation with a child can be enough to remind heads why they do the job, and make their whole week – and then showed a slide of what happened after it rained in Death Valley, the hottest place on earth, for the first time in 35 years. The arid valleys were covered in flowers and vegetations. “All this stuff was waiting to be rained on. I wonder how many of the people in our charge are waiting to be rained on.”

Levels weren’t the same thing, he said. “How many of us knowa  university professor so clever you know they will get ripped off when take their car to be serviced?” Every day you create a “burst into laughter moment, when things are fantastic and brilliant” are to be cherished, he said. “The most depressing thing is when you ask a child how school was and they say it was OK.”

There followed a dizzy sequence of mad signs, a TED talk on bionic limbs, a reminder that today’s 10 year olds are likely to live to at least 2100, and the question: who’s going to be the next Shakespeare?

Here’s a few lines to remember:

  • We all want to do great things
  • Where we’ve never been before there are no experts
  • Mistakes make us.

And then it all got inspirational, with a film made by children with no training in just 2 hours and 18 minutes about the things they would stop, start or continue in school, about fantastic innovations such as the school’s own pizzahut where the children bake their own lunch in the grounds once a week, and the igloo made of milk bottles. “We can say sod its let’s just have fun,” he said. “”We can dare to dream all this stuff we can do.”

“Let’s do it because I think it’ll be nice. It’ll  be nice to go into woods and cook a pizza even if raining. Do you agree. cheaper than from contract caterers? Yes. Nicer? Yes.  Will kids eat it? Yes. That’s what we should strive for.”

And there was the special school which needed £2m spent on it. With half of that figure, Orlovsky and his team (his past credits include various huge London developments and all sorts of other stuff: do Google him) they transformed the place by bringing in local people to the spa and restaurant they created, staffed by the young people – who’ve now had various job offers.

And then came the kicker. Just two and a half weeks ago, Orlovsky had a serious stroke. Yet here he was, talking to us, because he wanted to. “What are your dreams? Your real dreams. What do want to feel proud of, what’s your ‘bursting to tell’ moment? Let’s cut through all the stuff holding us back, try and get there. Let’s cut loose – but loose tight. Let’s dare to dream. Let’s go and make it rain. The very best of luck.”

The applause where I was sitting made the table shake. Astonishing stuff.

Recent Posts

CEFPI / Learning Environments

I’ve just returned from San Diego and a Learning Environment conference – I try to go each year to the International Conference as well as some local ones.  It’s really important to all of us who work in or around Education to keep up to date with thinking and the contrasts between San Diego (just now), Dubai (last month) and Morocco (three months ago) is interesting.  However, it’s also the similarities which are equally pertinent as everywhere I go I find that the same issues arise and are discussed centering around assessment, measurement and purpose.

Every educator I talk to knows is acutely aware that the world is changing fast and its hard to keep up if we want to deliver a ‘standard curriculum’.  But equally the challenge of moving toward something engaging, meaningful and relevant for students is daunting as there is real fear that this might mean a drop in results.  And its the fear of what might happen which too often becomes the obstacle to innovation for the better.

Keeping on doing something which we know is not good seems the safer than moving to something which could be much better, but could also be worse.  Better to stay as is.  If enough people stay then by sheer force of numbers change can be stifled.

Interestingly though, children aren’t caught up with those same concerns and are happy to talk candidly about what makes teaching (and through that, learning) interesting.  Last week I talked to some children in the West Country and they said the same thing as similarly aged children five years ago.


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