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Motivational keynotes based on various experiences and adventures


Stephen Venables

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Inspirational writer and renowned mountaineer who has climbed Mount Everest without supplementary oxygen

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About Stephen

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The keynote speaker Stephen Venables is a renowned mountaineer who has climbed Everest without supplementary oxygen, as well as made climbs of many previously unknown mountains. Stephen Venables is both inspirational as a speaker and a writer and is able to captivate his audiences wherever he goes with his stories.

Our public speaker Stephen Venables is a writer, broadcaster and one of the best known mountaineers of his generation and was the first Briton to climb Everest without supplementary oxygen.

That epic 1988 climb was by a new route up the Kangshung Face – the biggest face on Everest – with a four man Anglo-American-Canadian team. This was the first time such a small team had tackled such a route this hard on Everest, without Sherpa support or oxygen. Stephen reached the summit alone, seven weeks after first setting foot on the face. Caught out by darkness, he was then forced to spend the night in the open, without shelter, food, or drink, at 28,000 feet above sea level – a new record for a solo bivouac. It was not until morning he could rejoin his companions (who had not reached the summit) to make a retreat down the mountain, concluding a journey which the world-renowned mountaineer Reinhold Messner described as, ‘perhaps the most adventurous expedition in Everest’s history.’

During his career, the strong-willed speaker Stephen Venables has travelled right through the Himalaya, from Afghanistan to Tibet, making first ascents of many previously unknown mountains. His adventures have also taken him to the Rockies, the Andes, Antarctica, South Georgia, South Africa, East Africa, and of course the European Alps, where he has climbed and skied for over forty years.

The stories of his travels have captivated his audiences ranging from schools and theatres to corporate conferences all over the world. Past clients include Accenture, BP, BlackRock, Boots, Liffe, Masterfoods, Ove Arup, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Shell, Stryker & Zurich.  ‘Your pace and pitch were spot on.’ BlackRock.

Our speaker Stephen Venables has also appeared in television documentaries for BBC, National Geographic and ITV. He has presented for Radio 4 and appeared in the IMAX movie Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure. He recently had his first experience behind the camera, filming Ranulph Fiennes for ITN News. In 2009 he was asked to write the initial treatment and shooting script for the first ever IMAX film on the Alps.

He has written for all the London broadsheet newspapers, covering exploration and adventure, as well as more diverse subjects such as gardening, transport, sculpture and music. His first book in 1986, Painted Mountains, won the prestigious Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature. Sir Chris Bonington, called it ‘an absolute delight’. He later helped save Venables’ life on Panch Chuli during an epic escape related in A Slender Thread. In all Stephen has published twelve books. Reviewing the most recent, Higher than the Eagle Soars, the Sunday Times wrote, ‘the story of his descent after a night spent near the top [of Everest] is both harrowing and deeply moving.

The admirable speaker Stephen Venables is a past president of the world’s oldest mountaineering organisation, The Alpine Club, and of the South Georgia Association.  He has an Honorary Doctorate from Sheffield Hallam University and, in addition to the Boardman Tasker Prize, his books have won awards at the Banff International Mountain Festival.

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    Motivational talks on his various experiences and adventures.

Stephen Venables - video

To The Top: The Story of Everest by speaker Stephen Venables at TEDxSalford

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Interview with Stephen Venables

What is the message you hope people take away from your presentations?

You don’t have to be uniquely fortunate or talented to achieve great things.  What matters is how you cope with inevitable bad luck, but equally make the most of your good luck, seizing life’s opportunities, learning from team mates and relishing the thrill of the big project.

What is the most unique experience you have had as a keynote speaker?

I once did an illustrated Everest talk in a packed parish church.  We back-projected from the altar onto a huge sheet of whitewashed polythene sheet stretched over  the church crossing. It’s the only time I’ve talked from a pulpit.

The most challenging, though, was for an outdoor corporate event.  They asked me to do an illustrated keynote speech.  The only snag with that was that the delegates were gathered in a white marquee on a very sunny midsummer morning.  This was the pre-digital era and the projected slides were opaque to the point of invisibility. Never mind, it gave the audience an opportunity to use its imagination, and me the necessity to paint vivid word pictures.

Perhaps the most surprising for the audience was the time when I was recuperating from a Himalayan accident, with both legs in plaster.  Defying all the doctors’ warnings about the risk of post-operative infection, my  wife sprang me from hospital and drove me up to the conference center.  The assembled British Gas managers were astounded to see their keynote speaker  manoeuvred in on an NHS wheel chair.

Where does your climbing passion stem from?

It all started with walking, scrambling and skiing in the mountains and wanting to get onto the steeper more interesting bits.  Few things beat the intense tactile pleasure and mental stimulus of rock climbing.  On big mountains you add snow and ice  – and at times an element of danger – for a richer multi-media experience.  It all stems from the desire to immerse yourself totally in the big journey.

What is the most dangerous situation you have found yourself in?

Alone on the summit of Everest, at four o’clock in the afternoon, without the benefit of supplementary oxygen. My great fear had always been that I might just be strong enough to reach the top without oxygen, but would I have the reserves to get back down again?  The sky had clouded over, it was starting to snow, in three hours it would be dark.  My two companions had already turned back and our tents and sleeping bags were a thousand meters lower down.  I really had to force myself to get a grip and keeping moving downwards.

What type of audience benefits most from your keynotes?

I have addressed audiences of all ages, all over the world.  Any audience enjoys a good story.  However, in the corporate world, perhaps the people who benefit most are those facing difficult, uncertain times. Mountaineers thrive on uncertainty: it’s what makes us tick.  And the joy is to share that sense of adventure with other people.

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