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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Broad cast

Stuart Broad has done the business for England’s cricketers on the opening day of the Ashes Tour.

I caught up with the young bowler last week, just before he flew off to Australia

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.

Orange Feet after the Monsoon

I have orange feet.

It’s been three days and I still have orange feet.

It all goes back to Saturday night, the night West London was gridlocked and the heavens opened.
West Ham earned a fighting draw against Fulham. It wasn’t a classic, but it was our fourth game unbeaten, and there are lots of optimistic signs for the future, despite us being bottom of the table.

I thought I’d have a cup of tea in the press room before leaving and listen to the managers’ interviews.  That’s where it all started going wrong.  The tea machine was broken, so I had to have coffee.  It makes me irritable, but I fancied a sit down, so I drank it anyway.

On the way home I was listening to 606 on the radio. Robbie Savage was whingeing about not being called into the Welsh squad by caretaker boss Bryan Flynn. Mark Chapman was gently ribbing him and it was very entertaining radio.  The trouble is 606 is on 5Live on AM. The traffic alerts only work on my car radio on FM and CDs. If I’d been listening to FM I’d have heard that a crash in Hammersmith had brought down a lamppost and the whole of West London was at a standstill. I hit the traffic on the embankment, that’s how bad it was. Earls Court, High St Ken, Cromwell Road, the whole lot was stuffed. No-one was going anywhere.

Then it started raining. Never mind cats and dogs, I think I saw a small horse.
After two and a half hours I had reached Fulham, moving a few feet at a time. My car didn’t enjoy it and showed its displeasure by spewing lots of smoke out of the exhaust. Trouble is, I was stuck in traffic and there was nowhere to go. And by now I was busting for a wee. I knew I shouldn’t have had that coffee. Some kids knocked on my window to tell me there was something wrong with my car. Who says kids today are thick?

I thanked them for their detective work. One of them was a bit chippy, told me my car was disgusting and it was killing the environment. He was trying to impress a girl.  He told me I had to sort it out. As I’d forgotten to pack my boiler suit and set of spanners, I opted to ignore them and sit in the car spewing smoke. He ran off swearing, which won’t have impressed the girl from my experience, and I was left chugging away. It became apparent that if I didn’t take action, the car might well blow up, so I drove into a side road, parked up and called the AA.

After an hour they hadn’t come. I’d rung three times. I needed a wee and some food, but it was like a monsoon outside, so I stayed put. To make it worst, many of my best friends were all together at an event in Marlow, the annual convention of the Professional Speakers Association. While they were enjoying the gala dinner, I rummaged around inside the car looking for emergency flapjack that was nowhere to be found. I wanted to be with my friends, not stuck cold, lonely and hungry in a dark side road, while a perfect storm beat down on my car.


Eventually I had a wee in my travel mug. Well most of it went in the travel mug, it was hard to tell when it was full, so some of it went on my trousers. Fortunately it was lashing down with rain and it was dark, so no-one saw me. Eventually the AA rang back to say they couldn’t get to rescue me any time soon, as there was gridlock in West London. It’s not just children that are good at spotting obvious things.
I dug out an umbrella from the boot, which is massive but unreliable. It goes up a treat, but it’s a nightmare to get it down again. I set off for the nearest tube using my Sat Nav to guide me. It was tricky looking at the screen and holding the umbrella to protect me from the torrential downpour. TomTom kept telling me I was only a few minutes away from the station, but it expected me to be travelling at thirty miles an hour. Sat Navs aren’t as clever as kids or AA operators.

Peering intently at the screen, I didn’t notice the approaching car or the giant puddle at the edge of the road next to me. I was completely drenched. For some bizarre reason, I didn’t have my coat done up, and the cold water went right through my jumper and shirt.  I also discovered my shoes were not remotely waterproof. Through the streams of rain I made out a shop and toyed with the idea of an emergency Mars bar. My blood sugar was low, but so was the doorway and I wasn’t sure I’d get my umbrella up again if I collapsed it. I decided to push on. I feared drowning more than starving.

When I got to Baron’s Court, I bought a single for Richmond and went onto the platform. Only then did I see a sign saying the District Line was closed from Hammersmith to Richmond. There was a replacement bus service operating. That was no good, Hammersmith was flooded and gridlocked, both unsuitable conditions for buses.  So I got on a Piccadilly Line train and headed for Osterley, bracing myself for a tricky conversation at the other end about my ticket being for the wrong destination.

The other people in my tube compartment eyed me suspiciously. I was soaked to the bone and smelt of wee. I’d arrived wrestling with my umbrella and  I was mumbling to myself, as I rehearsed a potential conversation with a ticket inspector.

‘Yes I know my ticket is for Richmond. Yes I know I should have got off at Hammersmith and used the replacement bus service, but the thing is Hammersmith doesn’t exist anymore. It’s been wiped out by a biblical flood and a plague of lampposts, so just open the barrier and let me through please because I need to get out of these wet clothes. Yes most of it is wee, with just a little bit of rain. Thank you so much, coming through. Mind my brolly it won’t go down.’

It was quite disappointing to find my ticket opened the barrier at Osterley no problem. I’d rehearsed a speech in my head, easily as good as some that I’ve been paid to deliver, and I think part of me was sad that I couldn’t use it.  A £3.50 ticket from Baron’s Court, it appears, will work at any station that is £3.50 away. My wife met me at the station, sniffed me and kindly agreed to let me sit in the immaculate interior of her car. After leaving West Ham at 6.10 I had finally arrived back in Twickenham at 11.30. I would have to return to Everington Street W6  the next day to recover my car. Despite West Ham battling for a point, it seemed Fulham had the last laugh.
I’d been in the car for the best part of an evening. Children had laughed at me. I’d weed in a mug. I’d been soaked by a car in a manner only seen in Carry On Films. I was starving hungry and my umbrella was left dripping outside the front door to teach it a lesson.

I’d learnt my lesson. I will never listen to Robbie Savage again. Well, not unless he gets a show on FM.The final humiliation came when I took off my wet socks, I had orange feet. The shoes were soaked through and the colour of the lining had stained me. It’s still there, three showers later.

Jeremy Nicholas – London UK, 5th October 2010

To book Jeremy as an after dinner speaker and help pay for the repair work on his car, please visit his speaking website for details of fees, testimonials and how to contact the poor, wet, smelly lad.  www.JeremyNicholas.co.uk

My favourite job in the world ever.

You probably know me as a speaker and broadcaster but did you know I’m the the voice of a global video game?

The new FIFA 11 came out today. I think it’s the best football video game in the world. But I’m biased; I’ve been involved in the EA Sports FIFA games since 2006.

Every year I spend a day in Soho in a sound studio, putting down two thousand new messages in my role as stadium announcer on the games.

If you play any of the FIFA games, alongside the commentators you’ll hear me in the background announcing the team line-ups, the substitutions, the scorers and the added minutes. In fact, everything I announce in real life at West Ham United. There is the facility to turn up the announcer if you want to have a really good listen. I sometimes wish that was possible at the Boleyn Ground.


Each time I also record ten ‘hidden’ messages, which are played at random points.

For example on FIFA 08 I congratulated my wife, Jeanette Kruger, on finishing the London Marathon.

My good friends Dave Cheeseman and Nicola Underdown were delighted to find their marriage being announced on FIFA 09.

I also like to give my nieces and nephews a mention. Christopher, Julian, Kate and Joe have all had birthdays or been lost children who should contact the nearest steward.


My youngest niece was also welcomed to her first ever game, before she was even born. At the time of the recording she was just a bump, going under the working title of Lulu Lemon. By the time she was born, my sister had decided to drop the Lemon bit, quite wisely in my view. But in the game she will always be Lulu Lemon. Once a recording is done, it’s done. When you are doing two thousand messages in a day, there’s little time to go back and change it.

Every car I have ever owned is given a mention over the stadium PA in the games. Listen out for my first car from student days, a blue Mini 1000. I seem to remember the announcement is about its lights being left on. Then there’s my old white Ford Cortina which is illegally parked. There’s a yellow Opel Kadett, a claret Ford Sierra, a blue BMW and a blue Ford Focus, all committing various offences outside stadiums across the world. They’re cars I’ve driven over the years. I should think they’re mostly in the big scrap yard in the sky now, but I like to think they live on through the medium of video gaming.

I read out all the number plates as well.  I haven’t put my current car on, in case some deranged gamer comes round my house. Maybe my announcement put them off during a vital moment.   That’s the thing with the random messages; they can play at any point in the game.  It all adds to the authenticity.

There are a few announcements on there especially for West Ham fans. I don’t mention the club by name, because these messages play out in virtual stadiums across the world.  However there’s no reason, I thought, why our safety announcement shouldn’t receive a wider airing. Gamers have the option to play matches with any teams in any ground, but it’s always my voice on the PA.  So Mr Moon has been arriving and leaving stadiums across the globe since FIFA 10. There’s also a welcome for ‘everyone at Knees Up Mother Brown’ on the last two games, a thank-you for the support on the forums I received during the difficult days of the first half of the 2008/09 season.

If you listen carefully there are lots of Canadian youngsters who also get a mention. Electronic Arts is based in Vancouver and the team on the FIFA games get a kick out of hearing their off-spring announced.

So how did I get this dream job? Like most of the good things in my life, there’s a West Ham connection. After the success of FIFA 06 the EA guys decided to bring out a special edition, called FIFA 06 -The Road to the World Cup. They were facing increasing competition from rivals like Pro-Evolution Soccer, so to keep ahead of the game they added some extras.

Video game consoles were getting more sophisticated. The newly launched X Box 360 had increased capacity that would allow more layers of audio. As well as the commentators, EA decided to add a stadium announcer and enhanced crowd sounds.  I was lucky. The commentators were Andy Gray and Martin Tyler, represented by an agent called Matthew Fisher, who just happened to be a West Ham season ticket holder. When the guys in Vancouver asked him to find an announcer for the new game, he gave me a call. I’ve been the voice of the games ever since.


This summer I was speaking at a three day football event at the NEC in Birmingham. After facilitating at a few sessions with big name speakers like Graham Taylor, Peter Taylor, Ian Holloway and one of the Alan Smiths, I found I was signing just as many autographs as they were. They couldn’t all be West Ham fans and most of the kids were far too young to remember me presenting football on Channel 5.

They were gamers. I realised this on day one when two boys asked me what Mr Moon means on FIFA 10. I said it was a safety message at West Ham, and if I told them exactly what it meant, I would have to kill them. At which point they ran off crying.

For the rest of the three days I happily posed for photos and signed autographs for football fans, who’d only ever heard me in the confines of a video game.

It was all a bit strange and reminded me of a time a few years back, when I’d left West Ham after a match, by the player’s entrance. A small boy who’d been patiently waiting held up his autograph book and said, ‘scuse me mate, are you anyone?’

I replied that sadly I wasn’t anyone, but he might have heard my voice on the PA and I’d happily sign for him.

‘No, you’re all right,’ he said, and put his book away.

A few years later it seems I have now cracked the child market. Being the stadium announcer on a video game, it seems is far more prestigious than doing it in real life!

Jeremy Nicholas – London, UK  1st October 2010



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