Lightning Talks

Each year we bring together three inspirational speakers who personify authentic storytelling. Instead of letting circumstances beat them, they rose up to become inspirational campaigners and champions and are really making a difference.

Download the #SMEX17 programme (PDF)

  • Riding on a Smile

    Ahmad came to London a year ago after fleeing violence and persecution in his homeland, Syria. Arriving in London he was a stranger in an unfamiliar city, and had no one to turn to for help and support. For Ahmad, getting to and from important places, such as the supermarket and the doctors was a huge challenge on his meagre asylum allowance of £36.95 a week. Then he found The Bike Project who gave him a bike, and with a new bike came freedom. Having a bike has given him the opportunity to experience this unique city in a personal way, and saved his precious allowance. The Bike Project has changed his life and now he’s giving back to help other refugees to get a bike, and feel welcome.
    www/ | @The_BikeProject

  • My Social Media Search for a Kidney Donor for my Son

    Nicola Pietrzyk is a 37 year old mother of 3 boys from Leicester.  Nicola’s middle Matthew was diagnosed with Congenital Nephrotic Syndrome at 5 weeks of age. The only chance of a normal life for Matthew was a kidney transplant.

    In 2008 Nicola donated her own kidney, but sadly the operation was unsuccessful.  In 2013 when she discovered Matthews chances of actually finding a donor  bleak she decided to start a campaign using social media in the hope of finding a living donor.

  • Meet Pete, London's Best Tour Guide

    Pete found himself sleeping rough and squatting after leaving a well-paid job in advertising where he could no longer cope with feeling harassed by his boss. As an Unseen Tour tour guide, Pete shows people around Brick Lane on their walking tours of London. Combining his experience in advertising and psychology, he is a powerful storyteller, sharing views of Brick Lane’s colourful history, local politics, and his own experiences in the area. Unseen Tours is a multi-award winning social enterprise which offers unique London walking tours led by homeless, formerly homeless, and vulnerably housed tour guides. Let Pete guide you through his story today. | @UnseenTours

  • Jonny Benjamin

    When Johnny Benjamin talks, people stop and listen. He is a mental health campaigner, writer and presenter. At 20, he was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a combination of schizophrenia and depression. During his recovery, Jonny started making YouTube videos about the condition that have been watched by thousands of people across the globe. Jonny now speaks publicly and in schools about living with mental illness. He has appeared on TV, radio and in print around the world to help educate and break stigma.

  • Rachel Warwick

    Rachel Warwick is the Founder and Director of MakeLunch, a national network of churches providing school holiday meals and activities for children and families who rely on free school meals during term time. But doing this work was not in her life plan. All that changed when she watched the BBC Documentary ‘Poor Kids’.


A new addition to #SMEX16 - the lunchbites - are back for 2017. These informal sessions take place over the lunch break.

  • Challenges and Opportunities for Harnessing Social Media and Using Storytelling for a Small Charity


    This informal lunchtime session will bring together staff working for small charities to share ideas and insights.
    Facilitated by Dawn Newton


  • Insight Through Experience


    In this informal lunchtime session delegates will get an insight into the value of supporting people with first hand experiences to tell their stories, the challenges they might face and the impact it has on the organisation. You’ll hear from Expert Citizens who are working to create a new narrative around issues including poverty, homelessness and multiple and complex needs (offending behaviour, substance misuse, mental ill health and homelessness) and creating real systems change. This session is an opportunity to share ideas and insights with delegates who would describe themselves as Expert Citizens.   Expect lively discussions!

    Facilitated by Darren Murinas, Chair, Stoke Expert Citizens

  • Setting Yourself Up for Social Success


    From purpose to planning: how to link organisational objectives to your social media activity, and how best to measure success. Come with a question that needs an answer.

    Facilitated by Lisa Jeffery, Digital Communications Manager, Joseph Rowntree Foundation


  • Video Ideas and Strategy

    Interactive and Practical

    Benefit from one-on-one advice on how to create powerful video on little or no budget. Creative Online Marketing Consultant Bob Snarey specialises in video and is passionate about helping charities find attention grabbing ideas. Bob will be sharing his insights into idea, strategy and video production and giving one-to-one advice to try and answer any of your video queries.

    Strategic and Practical session – advanced booking only 15 minute sessions