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

 

 

 

 

 

Silent Movie

Here’s the latest in my And Finally TV reports.

I met a group who compose and perform music for classic silent movies.
They’re called the Southwell Collective and the movie featured is the 1928 French gothic horror, The Fall of the House of Usher, based on the novel by Edgar Allen Poe.

In the story a man is painting his wife. As the picture becomes more and more lifelike, so her health fails. As he finishes the portrait, she dies. It all goes downhill from there, she’s buried in a fancy coffin, which takes ages, and then the house burns down and she comes back to life, and it’s all a bit of a nightmare for the boy Usher, to be honest.

Watch out for my hilarious ‘usher’ torch gag,with a nod to the Blair Witch Project.

Jeremy Nicholas, London, UK

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.

Lovely Clean Tigers

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to wash the dirty kit of a professional rugby squad?

That’s the challenge faced every day by Brenda Hargrave. She’s the laundry supervisor at Leicester Tigers.

At the age of seventy she’s become a bit of a celebrity having starred in the break bumpers for Eviva either side of the live TV coverage of Premiership rugby.

I went along to meet her at the Tigers Oval Park training ground in Oadby. She was a charming lady, who takes great pride in her team running out in bright, clean kit.

If you can remember the Sixties you weren’t there.

I’ll be taking my autograph book with me on Saturday for the West Ham v Newcastle game.

We have some legendary West Ham players from the sixties, coming down for a chat pitch-side before the game.

The  names I’ve been given are  Ken Brown, John Bond, Alan Dickie, Alan Stephenson, Ronnie Boyce, Brian Dear, Jack Burkett, Martin Peters, Dennis Burnett, Eddie Bovington and Peter Brabrook.

It’s amazing how many players we had in those cup winning sides of the sixties with surnames beginning with B.

The hard bit for me will be to identify them. I know what they used to look like, but chances are they might not look the same now. For starters I’ve only seen some of them in black and white, and I’m led to believe that they will be in colour on Saturday.

I remember a few seasons back when my guest in the technical area was Alan Devonshire. The curly haired, moustachioed, slim framed wizard of the dribble I was expecting, turned out to be much broader and balder. That’s the trouble with wizards, they can change shape at will.

Just looking at that list, I know Martin Peters of course. I’ve met John Bond and Kenny Brown before. Ronnie Boyce I know, and I sat next to Brian Dear at a game once.

The others I hope will walk out in the order I announce them. If they want to play a trick on me and mix up the order, then I will, not for the first time look a fool.

Still I seem to have made something of a career out of doing daft things. Being the West Ham announcer is not a full time job. I’m only at the ground on match days.

Since the Fulham match I’ve been filming a new series called Collectors.

The highlight is Britain’s top Roy Rogers collector. Dennis has all sorts of Wild West items crammed into his house. He’s a reputable collector but says he does come across a lot of cowboys.

I thanked Dennis for wearing Wild West gear for the filming.  Oh, it’s not for the filming, he said, I wear western gear every day. He didn’t flinch when I asked him how he got into Roy Rogers, what was the trigger?

I’ve also filmed with Britain’s biggest badger. I was expecting a large furry animal, but it turned out to be Frank who has 150 thousand button badges. He took some pinning down.

Next week it’s a man with a house full of vintage radios. I hope he’s on my wavelength.

I was filming with 70 year old Brenda the other day. She’s the laundry lady at Leicester Tigers rugby club.  One of the players, Boris Stankovich started rooting about in the dirty shorts on the wash room floor. He’d left thirty pounds in his pocket after training. Sadly, Brenda had already loaded his shorts into the washing machine. The burly Kiwi could only wait for his three tenners to come out.

Still it gave me a money laundering gag to end the piece with.

I’ve often given media training to sports people, teaching them how to come across well on TV and radio.  I’ve mainly worked with footballers and Olympians, but never rugby players. I don’t know why, but rugby guys always seem to be good talkers.

Even the laundry lady at Leicester gave me a great interview.

The other day I was dancing in the Blue Peter garden at Television Centre with Peter Shilton. It was a background feature on his participation in Strictly Come Dancing.  Because he’s so much taller, Shilts was the man and I was the woman.  I’ve met him many times at sports dinners, where one or other of us has been the after dinner speaker, but it’s the first time I’ve danced with him. I suspect it will be the last. I didn’t really take to it.

Peter gave me a terrific interview. He reckons his dance partner Erin Boag reminds him of Brian Clough, because she’s a great teacher and gets the best out of him.

Regular readers will know I have a bit of history with Cloughie.  I have to admit, I’d much rather have a lesson with Erin.

I’ve become a bit of a fan of Strictly. Who would have thought Felicity Kendall was so bendy?

Head judge Len Goodman is a West Ham fan. I bet his favourite player is Kieron Dyer.

‘Number Severrrrrn!!!’

I’m no expert on dancing but I think Anne Widdecombe is unlikely to win the competition. My mate Iain Dale has been known to host stage shows called ‘An Evening with Anne Widdecombe’. I’m hoping Iain will introduce a dance element into future evenings.

Anne has been saved by the public vote. The judges have given her very low scores like threes and fours. The meanest judge Craig Revel Horwood gave her one!

Which was brave.

I’m hoping to get home from the Newcastle game a bit quicker than I did last time. After the Fulham match I finally arrived home at 11.30.

It’s a long story involving Robbie Savage, a monsoon, some environmental warriors, an umbrella, a travel mug and orange feet.  You’ll have to visit MrMoonHasLeftTheStadium.com for the whole travel chaos saga. I find blogging about it much cheaper than therapy.

Jeremy Nicholas, October 22nd 2010, London.

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

The Bakewell Show

The Bakewell Show

Here’s some pictures of Thursday’s BBC East Midlands Today roadshow at the Bakewell Show in Derbyshire. I smiled a lot at people and if they looked short sighted, I signed photos that weren’t of me.

Viewers had a chance to read the news. The vicar of Bakewell was a star at doing the weather in front of the green screen.


Everyone had their picture taken with our quirky weather presenter Des Coleman. You may remember him as Lenny in Eastenders. He’s now a cult hero in the East Midlands for his larger than life, hand waving forecasts. I love Des, he certainly has something. I’m not sure what, and I’m not sure if there is a cure for it.

The Milky Bar kid (above right) is looking well.

Special thanks go to weekend presenter Maurice Flynn who made me a gluten free Bakewell tart. I do love a tart. Most gluten free recipes are a bit dry, but Maurice had done a fine job. Look at my colleagues’ faces as they tucked in.

Jeremy Nicholas, London   August 10th 2010

(At the Leicester roadshow earlier in the week, viewers asked an extraordinary number of questions)

To book Jeremy as an after dinner speaker click here

A free chapter from my book

I’ve co-written a book called MediaMasters with my good friend Alan Stevens.

The aim of the book is to learn how top sports stars, performers, business people, politicans and others in the public eye, use the media to best effect.

Below is a free chapter about one of my footballing heroes, Brian Clough. We didn’t always get on, but he was a brilliant manager. His teams played attractive football and he was a godsend for journalists. He played the media better than anyone before or since. He knew the game and always provided great quotes.

BRIAN CLOUGH – the statue in the Old Market Square, Nottingham.

‘That’s the man we should have as England manager’, my Dad used to say, whenever Brian Clough was on the television in the seventies, talking about football. ‘But they’ll never give him the job, he’s too outspoken’.

Dad was right. Despite winning the league title with two unfashionable teams Derby County and Nottingham Forest, and then two European Cups with Forest, they never gave him the job he really wanted, because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He said entertaining, witty, outrageous and controversial things that the blazer wearers at the Football Association would never condone. Brian was years ahead of his time and he understood the importance of television to football. Most of all he spoke in terrific soundbites, and that’s why he’s a media master in my book, even if he did once punch me.

Here’s a few Cloughie soundbites to kick off with:

‘Football hooligans – well, there are 92 club chairmen for a start.’

‘Don’t send me flowers when I’m dead. If you like me, send them while I’m alive.’

‘Players lose you games, not tactics. There’s so much crap talked about tactics by people who barely know how to win at dominoes.’

Known to all as Cloughie, he died in 2004. He’s the only person, I didn’t interview specifically for the book, but I have interviewed him many times and have referred back to those old interviews as well as TV and radio footage from the archives. And if that sounds a chore, well it wasn’t. He’s one of the most entertaining speakers ever in my view. In the sports world only Muhammad Ali and Yogi Berra come close. Every time he opened his mouth, out came a gem.

Most neutrals loved the way Cloughie’s teams played, attractive passing to feet, not just hoofing it up in the air and hoping.

‘If God had wanted us to play football in the clouds, he’d have put grass up there.’

Like many a fan of the beautiful game, I was disappointed when Manchester United opted out of the FA Cup one season, so they could play in the World Club Championship in Brazil. Brian didn’t hold back with his feelings:

‘Manchester United in Brazil? I hope they all get bloody diarrhoea.’

He was a very arrogant man, but with justification, and he could joke about it as well. When honoured by the Queen for his services to football, he was the first to say that his OBE stood for Old Big ‘Ead.

‘I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the business, but I was in the top one.’

‘The river Trent is lovely, I know because I have walked on it for 18 years. ‘

‘They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I wasn’t on that particular job. ‘

Brian was uniquely eloquent. He’d had his playing career cut short through injury, so he came to management very young. He was fresh faced, witty and outspoken. TV producers and viewers loved him.

I don’t want to upset any footballers who might be reading this book, or having it read to them, but they aren’t always the greatest with words. So gifted with their feet, many can barely string two words together. ‘Yeah like I say, the lads done great, if you know what I mean, obviously, we’re just taking each game as it comes.’ (I always think playing one game at a time is a good idea, or the pitch would be far too crowded!)

When Sven Goran Eriksson, a Swede, was appointed the first foreign manager of England, Cloughie came up with the priceless soundbite:

‘At last England have appointed a manager who speaks English better than the players.’

Despite making a good living from being an expert analyst on television, he thought there was too much football on the box.

‘You don’t want roast beef and Yorkshire every night and twice on Sunday.’

He could be a bit rude, like this piece of advice to David Beckham, about his wife’s career with the Spice Girls.

‘He should guide Posh in the direction of a singing coach, because she’s nowhere near as good at her job as her husband.’

(He could be right. I’ve never heard David sing!)

He hit me once. Cloughie not Becks.

Brian had signed Steve Hodge for Nottingham Forest and he’d been drinking whisky with the player in his office to celebrate. I waited outside in the cold with the press pack. When he emerged after a few hours and a few glasses, Cloughie’s nose was a little redder than usual. He said a few words to the press, but refused me an interview for BBC radio. I asked again and he punched me full in the face, I fell backwards through a door and landed on his labrador, Del Boy. I picked myself up and asked again, which really wasn’t a good idea. He shoved me through a door and slammed it closed. In his mind he had thrown me out, but in fact he was now in the corridor and I was in his office.

I stood there for a few moments just looking at all the pennants from foreign football clubs on the wall alongside a picture of Frank Sinatra. How would I explain to my boss at the BBC that relations with Cloughie might be a bit strained from now on. Eventually I let myself out, interviewed Brian’s assistant Archie Gemmill about the new signing and then went back to find Old Big ‘Ead. He was drinking whisky with some newspaper reporters.

I held out my hand.

‘See you next week Brian’.

He shook it.

‘Young man, you are the first reporter I’ve punched this season, but you won’t be the last.’

That year Forest won the League Cup Final at Wembley. While other reporters were kept waiting in the tunnel, I was hauled into the dressing room by Cloughie wearing just a white towel. He gave me an exclusive radio interview while internationals Des Walker and Stuart Pearce stood naked drinking beer out of the trophy. As I left Clough said, ‘That’s cos I took your head off earlier in the season.’

I don’t feel bad about being clobbered by Cloughie, after all he hit his own fans who ran onto the pitch during a game. Once, rather bravely in my view, he dished some out to tough guy footballer Roy Keane.

‘I only ever hit Roy the once. He got up, so I couldn’t have hit him very hard.’

Drink was Brian’s downfall. He did like his whisky.

‘Walk on water? I know most people out there will be saying that I should have taken more of it with my drinks. They are absolutely right.’

He was the best in the business at motivating players. They just had to agree with his methods. If they disagreed:

‘We talk about if for twenty minutes and then decide I was right.’

Martin O’Neill, now a successful manager in his own right pays tribute to Brian’s ability with words.

‘It’s fair to say I wasn’t one of his favourites, but when he gave you praise he made you feel a thousand feet tall.’

Football is a much poorer place now Cloughie has gone. This is how the man himself wanted to be remembered:

‘I want no epitaphs of profound history and all that type of thing. I contributed. I would hope they would say that, and I would hope somebody liked me.’

I think we can safely say that a few people liked him. Not much unites the rival East Midlands cities of Nottingham and Derby, but the loss of Cloughie did.

The road that links Nottingham and Derby has been renamed Brian Clough Way.

I stood in the pouring rain with supporters of both teams at his memorial service at Derby’s Pride Park.

What a stormy night it was. We were soaked through. Nigel Clough summed it up, when he spoke on the microphone, suggesting he may have inherited his Dad’s knack of capturing the spirit of an occasion.

As the rain streamed down from the heavens, Nigel said, ‘I’m sure he’s going to have a bit of an input upstairs about who’s running the show up there. We hope he’s sat up there with friends in the sunshine, looking down and saying- look at those daft buggers sitting in the rain.’

Brian Clough was the best football manager the England national side never had. Most of the people in this book have got where they are today, by being great talkers. For Brian his mastery of the spoken word cost him the job he wanted most. As always he gets the last word. Here’s his thoughts on where he went wrong.

‘Telling the entire world and his dog how good a manager I was. I knew I was the best but I should have said nowt and kept the pressure off ‘cos they’d have worked it out for themselves. ‘

by Jeremy Nicholas London Uk (Links to Kindle and print versions of the book on Amazon below)


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

Splitting my trousers on stage in Johannesburg

I’m smiling in the picture above, but a few hours earlier I wasn’t feeling as comfortable. I was in Johannesburg at the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa’s international convention. It was held at the very swanky Emperors Palace, so swanky it doesn’t have an apostrophe. I was honoured to be the only European to be asked to speak on the main stage at the three day event, but there was a big surprise in store for me. A real ripper.

Maybe I’m getting a little too big for my boots, with lots of positive feedback recently, but as I took to the stage, I realised I’d got a little too big for my pants. As the previous speaker left the stage, I bent down to connect my laptop to the projector and felt the seat of my trousers tear open.

At that point the MC introduced me and I ran onto the stage with my trousers flapping open at the back. (see pic below, taken afterwards in my hotel room)

I decided to come clean and tell the audience what had happened, but of course they didn’t believe me. I was there to give a talk called Putting the ‘U’ in Humour, about using comedy to brighten up your speeches, so of course they all thought it was part of the act. I think some of them still do.

It took me a few minutes to regain my composure. If I seemed a little two dimensional, it was because I wanted to stay front on to the crowd of one hundred odd professional speakers. Some of them very odd. In the end I just turned round, showed them my pants, took the humiliation and moved on. At least it was an icebreaker and I received some lovely comments. Some were about my speech, but mostly of course about my pants.

The event was brilliantly organised by Michael Manley and Andy Brough, seen with me below. I’ve still got that slightly wild look in my eye, even though I’ve now changed into my dinner suit.

The previous night I was invited to dinner by my good friend Paul Du Toit along with Gustav Gouss, the President of the PSASA and many other former presidents and global presidents and some soon to be presidents. I seemed to the only one who had never stood for presidential office. I do have the box set of The West Wing, so maybe that’s why I was allowed in. (I would kill for a re-elect President Bartlett bumper sticker)

There’s always someone at these events who decides to go native. On this occasion it was NSA President Phil Van Hooser. It’s not everyone who can keep their dignity in that sort of African headgear, but I think Phil pulls it off.

I’m always amazed at how friendly speakers are. My background is in the broadcasting world, where it’s dog eat dog. The speaking world is very different, with everyone offering tips to each other and being very supportive.
At the gala dinner I sat next to Craig Ferreira who speaks about great white sharks. A few days later I found myself a guest at his home in Cape Town, enjoying a lovely meal with his family.

Gary Bailey is South Africa’s equivalent of Gary Lineker. He fronts the football on the SuperSport channel. UK football fans will remember him as the white haired South African who played in goal for Manchester United in the eighties and won some England caps before injury ended his career early. He went back to SA and played for the Kaizer Chiefs, the team not the band and then moved into TV.
He now does a lot of professional speaking, and does a great job in promoting the benefits of the World Cup to the people of South Africa and the world. He was inducted into the speakers hall of fame at the event, along with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

I loved the South Africa event. I saw some brilliant speakers like Steff Du Plessis, Billy Selekane and Anton van der Post. Paul Du Toit made the compering look easy with his relaxed yet authoritative style.

I’ve been invited to speak at various events as a result of my trip and I hope to get back to South Africa later in the year to fulfill some of those. I’ve cancelled plans to attend the World Cup itself as it was going to be so expensive, but I’ll be cheering on Bafana Bafana along with England, and blowing my vuvuzela, which has already had a trip to the hallowed turf of the Boleyn Ground, Upton Park.

Jem – back from South Africa 10th May 2010