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

 

 

 

 

 

Victory eclipsed by Mr Moon

I’m never one to moan about a fellow West Ham fan, but there’s one chap who is getting on my nerves. This Mr Moon fellow has been arriving and leaving the stadium during games for as long as I can remember.

There’s nothing more annoying than people arriving midway through games is there? You’re in your seat in plenty of time to enjoy the action but have to keep getting up to let others reach their seats. Inevitably this happens just as a goal is scored. The new arrival turns to watch it, but as they are standing up, your view is completely obscured.

At yesterday’s game with Nottingham Forest the master of the late arrival, Mr Moon turned up well into the second half as I was announcing a substitution. To many in the crowd it sounded like Mr Moon came on for the last few minutes of the game.

He’s not the sort of person you’d want to throw on to help protect a one goal lead in a cup tie, because he’s unreliable. In all the years I’ve been coming to West Ham, I’ve never known him stay for a whole game. He’ll often not turn up for five or six games in a row. Mr Moon has been to a few games recently but we’ve had so many home games in January.

True to form on Sunday he sloped off just a few seconds after the final whistle. He didn’t hang about to clap the players after a hard fought FA Cup win. Fair enough he might have worried about getting home with the tube messed up again but he could have stayed a few seconds longer to applaud Obinna the winner and the rest of the victors.

I think Mr Moon is getting too big for his boots. He’s on FIFA 11 now you know. Just like in real life at Upton Park, his arrival and departure are announced over the PA. It’s a recording that is triggered when he arrives. I don’t know exactly how it works. Maybe he wears some kind of electronic tag which is read by a sensor at the turnstile. It’s my voice that announces his comings and goings, so rather embarrassingly, I appeared to be interrupting myself during the substitution.

At the end of the game, when he legged it out of the ground with indecent haste, it interrupted the traditional singing of Bubbles which heralds a home win. If I knew what he looked like, or where he sits, I’d have a word with him. That’s the trouble with Mr Moon, no-one has ever met the guy. He’s a mysterious figure who’s been haunting the Boleyn Ground for years, rather like Inspector Sands on the Underground.

I suspect Mr Moon is not even a proper West Ham fan, he’s just a glory hunter.

So if you are reading this Mr Moon by all means come along to the game on Sunday against Birmingham. Why not bring Mrs Moon, we’ve got a special Valentine’s package on offer, see the club website for details. And young Master Moon can get in for a pound as it’s Kids for a Quid. Make a day of it why don’t you? But please, for the love of God, stay for the whole match and stop getting in the way.

Jeremy Nicholas, London 31.1.11

The pub full of Rooneys

All this week I’m putting a different favourite TV report on my site each day. It’s a sort of advent calendar without the chocolate.

This year, being a World Cup year, I did a lot of quirky football reports for the BBC.

I had a drink in a pub where all the bar staff were called Wayne Rooney.

The only one not called Rooney was the manager, who despite being a woman had changed her name by deed poll to Fabio Capello.

I love the shot of all the Rooneys sat in a line all claiming to be Rooney in a scene reminiscent of Spartacus.

Badges, badges, badges

Frank Setchfield from Loughborough has over 150 thousand badges. He collects all types except military and he specialises in button badges.
He has sporty badges, funny badges, ones with saucy slogans and political badges that have changed the world.

I interviewed him for my BBC series on Collectors. Here’s the report.

Edinburgh Talk

I’m off to Edinburgh next week for the festival.

On Wednesday night I’ll be giving a talk on how to keep an audience’s attention using comedy. Forget jokes, I’m a big believer in telling true stories that have happened to you. It’s called ‘Putting the U in Humour’ . It’s a talk I’ve done many times to businesses and organisations, but this is one of the few times when members of the public are also welcome.

Regular readers of this blog will know this is the talk I gave in Johannesburg earlier in the year, where my trousers split open at the back as I plugged in my laptop at the edge of the stage, just before I was announced. I literally did get through the talk by the seat of my pants.

If you fancy coming along on Wednesday it’s at the Apex European Hotel, Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh. Tickets are twenty pounds and that includes a networking supper.

More details are here

Putting the ‘U’ in Humour

Jem with cowboy hat and arrow smiling

One of my most popular talks is on how to use humour effectively when you are speaking in public.

As a professional speaker I use humour a lot.  It helps keep the audience engaged. If they are being entertained, they are less likely to switch off and stop listening.  It’s so much easier to put your message across if your audience are still listening!

I’m rarely the slickest speaker at an event, but I’m often the one who gets rebooked. I put a lot of that down to humour. People remember the message if they enjoyed the journey.

If you’ve seen this talk, you’ll find the accompanying notes I promised below.  If you haven’t seen the talk, read the notes anyway. They will certainly help you if you want to put some humour in your speeches.  The twenty points work just as well for toastmasters, best men, teachers, team leaders, comperes  or even  priests who want to make their sermons more entertaining.

If you read the twenty points and are intrigued as to why the Welshman isn’t needed at the pub (point 15) then you better book me to speak at your event.  Details are at the bottom.

Best wishes

Jem

(Jeremy Nicholas- London, Nov 1st 2009)

clown sad face

PUTTING THE ‘U’ IN HUMOUR

How being funny can enhance your public speaking

By Jeremy Nicholas, Professional Speakers Association

1. Why be funny?  – People will remember your message.

2. Never tell jokes!  It puts pressure on the audience to laugh.

3. Use funny lines and observations from real life.

4. Never steal material, but it’s OK for inspiration.

5. Always carry a notebook. Write down things that make you laugh.

6. If you don’t believe in a line, don’t use it. People will notice.

7. If a line doesn’t work dump it. You must kill your babies.

8. It’s better to be an amusing speaker than a comic.

9. Avoid anything racist, sexist or homophobic. It’s not acceptable.

10. Check anything that is likely to offend in a local culture.

11. Find your own style.

12. Keep a high status on stage. Don’t become a clown.

13. Comedy is truth and pain.

14. If a line is cruel, make yourself the butt of the joke.

15. The Rule of Three means there’s no need for a Welshman in the pub.

16. Get it right. A nearly accurate punch line won’t work.

17. Use your best material in your opening minute.

18. And your next best material to close with.

19. Be topical.

20. Lastly mix humour with information. If they don’t laugh, you’re still speaking!

This is a handout from a talk called Putting the ‘U’ in Humour by Jeremy Nicholas.

To book Jem to deliver this talk at your business event, or to find out details of his other talks, please visit www.jeremynicholas.co.uk.  Email jem@jeremynicholas.co.uk. Phone +44 (0) 7802 251530

Write your own introduction

As well as speaking for a living, I often act as the MC or compere at an event.

It’s not rocket science. I  tell people where the fire exits and toilets are located and glare at them until they switch their mobile phones to silent.

Then I pop up in between speakers, make a few light hearted comments, based on what they’ve said.  I always challenge myself to think up new comments for each event, based on what the previous speaker has said.

That way,  people think, ‘what he says isn’t brilliant, but at least he’s made it up today, and it’s specially for us, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and they clap and maybe even pretend to laugh.’

At least I think that’s what they’re doing.  It’s so hard to focus when they start throwing things.

There was an episode of Friends, where Ross made a list of five celebrities who Rachel would allow him to sleep with. It was  like a Get out of Jail Free card allowing him to crack off with someone famous, without risking his relationship.  Off the top of my head I remember that Uma Thurman and Winona Ryder were on the list, along with Elizabeth Hurley and an ice skater. Possibly Michelle Pfeiffer as well, but that might have been on Chandler’s list. Anyway that’s not important. What is important is that he’d laminated the list.

By covering the list of his five chosen women, he’d set them in stone. He could carry that list around in his pocket without it getting creased. It meant he could have that list ready at all times, just in case Winona or Liz were down the laundrette. He could produce it triumphantly and claim his reward. Maybe after hearing his chat up lines about dinosaurs and robotic dancing, they would decide to forgo the chance of a bit on the side with a fossil hunter, in favour of a return to Beverley Hills, but at least he had the card with him.

And so we come to the point of my story.  You’ll be glad to hear that there is one, and you haven’t read this far for nothing.

When I speak at an event, I hand the host a laminated cue sheet. On it I have typed my introduction. This is how I would like to be introduced. It does not vary. It is always the same. I know if off by heart. I can make sure that the MC  gives me just the right build up.

My laminated introduction takes away the wildcard element.  Occasionally I’ll be introduced as Jeremy Nichols or Nicholson, but at least the bulk of what I want them to say will be correct. You can’t cater for hosts who are stupid, sloppy or have forgotten their reading glasses.  But at least you’ve given yourself a fighting chance of getting off to a flying start. I think of my laminated introduction as a golf tee.  I may end up playing in the rough at various points during the next hour, but at least I know my opening shot will be off a raised tee, giving me every chance of hitting it straight down the middle.

But how many of my speaking colleagues have a printed introduction which they hand to the compere at an event? In my experience it’s less than half, which I think is a disgrace.  OK you don’t have to have it laminated, that’s just me . I get nervous before speaking and often spill things!

As the host of events, I’ve lost track of the number of speakers who say they are happy to be introduced however I see fit.  Worse still they hand me their biography and want me to pick something out of that! I give them a chance to get off to a flying start and they don’t take advantage.

Here are a few comments from speakers  who I’ve asked how they want to be introduced to the stage:

*Just say I’m a Marmite speaker, you either love him or hate him.  (really? I hate you already)

*Just say he’s written a couple of books and he speaks all over the world.   (no kidding, you’ve written some books, whoopee do)

*Just say he’s a professional speaker who is well known in business circles. (you’re well known? Maybe I don’t need to say anything?)

One speaker at a recent event,  who had no printed introduction, handed me a few handwritten lines, scribbled onto the back of a flyer. There were a couple of very good points, which made me think his talk would be brilliant. Unfortunately, he mentioned those very same points in the first minute of his talk.  The audience must have thought, yes we know that mate, the compere just said that.

I hope he didn’t see me roll my eyeballs into the back of my head. But I think he did.

Avoid the hazards and the rough with your opening shot. Write your introduction out on a sheet of A4. And if you really want to make my day, stick it in the laminator.

There’s a lovely laminator here.

Jem  – pulling out what’s left of his hair- 26th February 2010    London, England

The face of Elvis on a piece of Stilton cheese

When the face of Elvis was discovered on a piece of Stilton cheese nearly 30 years to the day after his death, the BBC knew they had to send their top reporter to cover the story. Sadly when I arrived, the cheese had already been cut up, because it was worth £70! I’m sure that would have easily been covered by the publicity value of having the world’s newsmedia rolling up in their satellite trucks.
As it was, there was just me in a silly hairnet covering it for Auntie.
I’m particularly proud of the cheese related Elvis lyrics in my script such as ‘don’t step on my blue vein cheese’ and ‘I just want to be your Camembert’
Enjoy!

Too mean to pay to hear me talk? Here’s some free speech.

One of my most popular talks is ‘Putting the U in Humour’. It’s aimed at business people who want to get their message across more effectively by keeping their audience entertained.

Its a 30 minute keynote or a 60 minute interactive workshop.

The main message is to forget telling old jokes and concentrate on using amusing stories from your own real life.

It also deals with the way humor varies around the world, even the spelling!
Plus what is acceptable to different audiences, how to write funny stuff and why you should avoid being a clown. (Unless you already have a big red nose and a car that keeps falling to bits!)

Click below to watch it, and contact me if you’d like me to deliver the talk to your organisation.

Jem – Jan 2010

Tim Gard with me

[ti_audio media=”428″ autoplay=”1″]

Tim Gard pic

Picture courtesy of www.timgard.com

Here’s my interview with Tim Gard, the brilliant American speaker.  He’d just come off stage at the PSA 2009 convention in Marlow. His after dinner set was hilarious.  For me it was extra special because it was my birthday, and Tim invited eight fellow speakers onto the stage and they played Happy Birthday for me on nose whistles!
It wasn’t the most tuneful version, but I will always remember it.

I’d been invited to speak about humour at the convention before I knew that Tim was headlining the event.  It was a bit like being asked to talk about physics and then finding Stephen Hawking is also on the bill.  Fortunately my ‘Putting the ‘U’ in Humour’ workshop was well received and I was delighted when Tim came and found me to give me a copy of his book.

Anyway, enough of the praise, here’s the interview.