How to make the move into After Dinner Speaking

The formation of PADS – PSA After Dinner Speakers

I’ve formed a Professional Expert Group (PEG) for After Dinner Speakers who belong to the Professional Speaking Association. This weekend, at the Hilton Hotel, Coventry I spoke at the PSA annual convention, giving a session on how to make the move into after dinner speaking and was encouraged that twenty five of the one hundred odd speakers (some of them very odd)  have signed up to say they’re interested. You can join the group here.

When I first joined PSA back in 2007 I was surprised to find lots of brilliant speakers who specialise in motivational talks, marketing, sales, every aspect of business you can think of, but very few after dinner speakers. There are some brilliant ones of course; Graham Davies, Kenny Harris, John Hotowka, Alan Stevens and the rest, but as a breed we are outnumbered.

That’s a shame, because I come across a lot of after dinner speakers outside of the PSA, and a lot of them are rubbish. I think the time has come for action. I’m fed up of choking on my chicken dinners watching ex politicians, sports stars and TV presenters, serve up the same old reheated fare. So I’m proposing to form the PADS – PSA After Dinner Speakers. This will be a PEG, something that is very popular amongst NSA speakers in the USA, which will help us connect, collaborate, and exchange ideas. I don’t have any fixed ideas on how it will work, but I think the first thing will be a LinkedIn group, which I’ll set up this week.

Will we have outside meetings? Probably not.

Will we meet up at PSA conventions? Definitely yes, probably in the sauna and swimming pool.  Maybe we could meet up at PSA chapter meetings too? I’m sure no region would mind us hijacking their meeting, as long as we all did ten minutes of entertainment each!

If you didn’t sign up, but would like to join the group please contact me. The only condition for entry is that you are an associate, member or fellow of the Professional Speaking Association. You don’t have to be an experienced after dinner speaker, just someone with an interest in moving into that area.

I look forward to sharing chicken dinners with you in the future!

Jeremy Nicholas – PSA

If you have any questions, please contact me:

07802 251530         jem@jeremynicholas.co.uk       www.JeremyNicholas.co.uk

You can join the PSA After Dinner Speakers group here

Join the Professional Speaking Association here

 A SUMMARY OF MY SESSION ON AFTER DINNER TO PSA11

What’s the difference between after dinner and keynote speeches? – After dinner doesn’t have a core message, it just has to be entertaining. (There’s no take away, unless you count a doggy bag!)

Does it have to be funny? – No, but it does have to be entertaining. Don’t be put off by the expectation that you have to be funny. It’s not stand-up comedy; it’s story telling.

What works best? – True stories from your own life. I’ve seen great talks by adventurers, vicars, war veterans. No need for a message but a running theme through the stories works well.

How long do you have to do? – Typically 30-40 minutes, but I’ve done 20, 30, 40, 45, 50 and 60 minute talks. (But even I think 60 minutes of me is too much!)

How do you write them? – My advice is to write down your ten best stories; the ones that go down best at weddings when you are telling them to the person you’ve never met before, who’s sitting beside you. I have 10 x 5 minute stories. For a 30 minute talk, I pick the 6 stories that will work best for the audience. My stories work in any order. They can all be lengthened if going well and shortened if they are getting no reaction.

What about swearing? – I never swear, but some after dinner speakers do. If in doubt, leave it out. Some speakers put a swear word into a punchline of a story to signal it’s the moment to laugh. Be warned, it usually gets a laugh, but you may be alienating a silent minority.

Should I do unpaid gigs? – Yes. Hone your material at networking groups, rotary groups, golf clubs, Ladies who Lunch etc. They won’t pay you, but you’ll get a free dinner. This will invariably be chicken. In a sense you should pay them, because they are helping you find out what bits of your routine work, and what doesn’t. You’ll know you’re doing well, the first time you are served beef.

How do I get paid gigs? – Contact groups in the Directory of British Associations. Contact local firms and organisations. They all have dinners coming up. After dinner is big in the next few months as people have Christmas parties.

What about speaker bureaus? – Forget it to start with. They’re obsessed with celebrities who’ll help get bums on seats at the event. Your best bet is to build up a reputation and get referrals from gig to gig.

Can you make a living out of it? – There are only a few people who do, but it’s a brilliant extra income stream, because it’s in the evenings and you can do other things during the day. (Like playing golf!)

Do I have to sit with them during the dinner? – You don’t have to, but I usually do. It goes down well and you’ll often pick up extra gigs, because you’ll usually be on the table with the Big Cheeses. (Tell them if you are lactose intolerant).

Won’t they keep asking me questions about my talk? – Yes that can be a problem, so you need to avoid stories that are in your upcoming act. Instead try and deflect their enquiries about your life, which will inevitably have crossover with your talk, by asking lots of questions to the people at dinner. You’ll pick up great information that you can add to the first few minutes of your talk, which will show you’ve personalised it for them. They’ll love you for it.

What about getting into the zone before speaking? – Unlike keynote speaking, there’s no hiding behind the stage until you are introduced. However I sometimes miss out the pudding course and go to the loo, just to check my tie is straight, my hair isn’t sticking up and I’ve got my notes handy.

You use notes! – Yes I have each 5 minute story on a 6×4 white index card. I have them in front of me during the talk and rarely refer to them. If I do, they’re conveniently placed next to my glass of water, so it looks like I’m having a drink. I have a terrible memory. No-one minds if you use notes but they do mind if you forget your act. And I’m not sure if I mentioned it, but I have a terrible memory.

What about the topical/local mentions? – They’re on separate blank cards which I fill in during the meal. I do sometimes hold them up to read, especially if there’s names of people in the room that I want to make sure I get right.

What if they don’t laugh or react to my stories? – If a line doesn’t get the reaction I want for three gigs in a row, I drop it. It’s three strikes and you’re out! Even if I think it’s the best line in the world, it goes. You have to be brutal.

What can I do to make them react? – Build to your punchline, then pause, pause and pause again. When you say your killer line, you have to give them permission to laugh, gasp in horror or whatever. In the end they will react, even if it’s just because you are staring at them.

Should I be jokey? – You don’t have to act funny to be funny. You’re not a clown, you are a speaker. Jack Dee is hilarious, but looks miserable. Whatever nonsense you’ve heard about presentation being all about body language, forget it. The most important bits are the words, the story and your story telling ability.

Should I wear a suit? – Yes always dress at a higher or equal level than your audience. It gives you a higher status. Lots of storytelling, particularly humorous stories work better if you are perceived as high status. You want them laughing with you, not at you. Don’t wear a Mickey Mouse tie, unless you are the CEO of Disney.

Do you stand at the table to speak? – Usually yes, but I move into the light if there is one, and I go on the stage if there is one. I’m always looking for light and height. (I’m 5 ft 8 in)

Any more tips on writing after dinner talks? – I’ve got lots and I’ll be giving a masterclass on Using Humour at the PSA Midlands Chapter in Birmingham on 8th November 2011. You can find details and book here.

I hope that’s useful, if I can be of any help in kick starting your after dinner speaking career, please contact me:

Jem: 07802 251530         jem@jeremynicholas.co.uk       www.JeremyNicholas.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

Champions League Festival


Today i worked as a commentator and stadium announcer at the Champions League Festival in Hyde Park. I say worked, it was for the Bobby Moore Fund, a charity dear to my heart. Here’s me with BMF founder Stephanie Moore, Bobby’s widow and a truly splendid woman.

I commentated on a match between the Parliamentary Football Club and TalkSport. The MPs won it 11-7. They were surprisingly good, especially as Ed Balls and Angus MacNeil pulled out on the day. Something to do with the visit of Barack Obama, which is quite a good excuse I suppose.

Here’s the TalkSport team. I didn’t get a shot of the MPs as they were a little late arriving.

Andy Jacobs had a fine game in goal for TalkSport, keeping the ball out with every part of his body apart from his hands.

Gregg McClymont MP was the man of the match after a first half hat trick. He’s the MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East. He’s also the House of Commons pool champion!

The MPs had two number twelves in their line up, but as Bill Esterton MP is a lot taller than Dominic Berner it didn’t lead to any confusion.

Paul Hawksbee, Ian ‘Moose’ Abrahams and Sam Matterface all impressed for TalkSport. A last ditch attempt to rescue the game by throwing on ringer Graeme Le Saux, nearly worked, but the MPs were worthy winners.

I was happy to receive a medal from Stephanie Moore at the end. The Bobby Moore Fund does brilliant work to raise funds for research into bowel cancer, which took Bobby in 1993.


The queue to have your picture taken with the Champions League Trophy. I didn’t bother.


Two West Ham legends, along with Moose from TalkSport 😉

Jeremy Nicholas, London, UK

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My book

Google can be a scary thing. I just googled my book title and found it on Amazon already. I’m still writing it!

The book ‘Mr Moon Has Left the Stadium’ is a funny account of my life as the West Ham United FC announcer. It comes out on August 1st.

It has to be handed in to the publishers at the end of June. There’s nothing that quite galvanises the writer into action more than seeing that people actually expect to be able to buy it on a set date.

You can see it on Amazon here. I promise you the cover won’t look like that. It’s a quickly mocked up version by the publishers.
It’s also already on the WH Smith site and Waterstonesm. Even more scary it’s on Amazon Japan.

Jeremy Nicholas, London, UK

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The Button Collector

I’m back with a new series of Collectors for BBC East Midlands Today.

Last time I interviewed people with collections of valve radios, Roy Rogers memorabilia and badges.
This time round I’ve met a man who collects saucy postcards, a cheque collector and I’ve sat amongst the world’s largest collection of Smurfs.

The feature below is with Jenny Swindells from the British Button Society, who collects, you’ve guessed it, buttons!
It’s amazing how much you can learn about social history by looking at buttons. Jenny was a great guest. We had to cut so much good stuff out to fit it into 2 minutes 15 seconds of TV.

If you’d like to find out more about buttons you can visit the British Button Society website.

Jenny also travels the country giving talks on buttons. You can contact here via the speakers page.

And if you’d like me as a speaker, then check out my talks at the top of this page. I don’t do much about buttons though.
Enjoy the feature.

If you enjoyed this feature, please check out my feature on a man who collects badges. It’s here

Jeremy Nicholas, London, UK

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No speaking gigs till July

I’m not taking any more after dinner speaking gigs until the end of June, otherwise I’ll never get the book finished.

Once it’s safely handed in to the publishers I’ll be back on the chicken dinner circuit.

If your firm, golf club, sports organisation needs a speaker, please consider me.

Details of my fees, subjects of talks and testimonials are at the buttons at the top of the page. Plus there’s lots of videos so you can see I’m not too bad.

best wishes

Jem

www.JeremyNicholas.co.uk

PS I also run a referral scheme where anybody who finds me a gig gets 10 percent of the fee. So thinking caps on. Do you know anybody who needs a speaker?

Jeremy Nicholas, London, UK

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The one eyed darts player

Here’s a feature I did with darts player Jamie ‘Jabba’ Caven.

As a child he was stung by a bee and lost the sight in one eye. He still went onto become world youth darts champion.

As an adult he’s overcome pancreatic cancer which has left him diabetic.

Amazingly he’s risen against all those odds to become number eighteen in the world rankings. I went to his Derby home to meet the man they call Jabba.

Jeremy Nicholas, London, UK

Speedy the Tortoise and his artificial leg

This week being Christmas week I’m sharing my favourite ever TV reports with you.

Behind today’s Advent calendar window of fun is Speedy the Tortoise. Sadly he lost a leg and his owners made a new one out of Lego. When that fell to bits they were stumped. Fortunately a neighbour who is an inventor came up with a new high-tech leg.

The feature has the feel of a Victoria Wood style spoof documentary, but I promise you it is genuine.

Watch out for a great wig and a marvellous moment when we wait for Speedy to walk out of frame, so we can move on to the next bit.

Enjoy

The tallest cricketer ever

As it’s Christmas week, I thought I’d create my own version of the advent calendar, but without the chocolate.
Like so many of many ideas, I’ve had it rather late, so instead of 25 days worth, there’s just going to be 5.

Each day this week I will post one of my favourite BBC TV reports from the past year. Kicking off today with the tallest cricketer ever to have played professional cricket. I caught up with him at Leicestershire for the start of the season, along with his rather smaller batting partner.

Click below to open the window. (He said trying to keep the Advent calendar theme going, even though you can clearly see from the YouTube clip who is behind that window!)