FIFA SHOW

This week I was a guest on the FIFA show with Steve Morgan and Romily Broad.

You can hear it here.

Enjoy it

Jem

On my wavelength

Here’s the latest in my series on Collectors for the BBC.

Phil Rosen from West Bridgford in Nottinghamshire has over a hundred valve radios. They’re beautiful pieces of furniture and have lovely rich tones you just don’t get with modern radios.

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

Press to get on TV and radio

If you want to get your message into the media, you need to approach journalists. If you wait for them to approach you, it will take a lot longer, maybe the rest of your life.

My advice is to write a one page press release and send it to your local newspaper.  Local papers are always crying out for good stories, so if you make it human interest, you will have a great chance of it being published.

Radio stations get a lot of their stories from the papers, and TV news organisations will monitor the papers and the radio, so if you can plant a seed with your local paper, there’s a great chance that radio and TV will follow.

A press release should be on page.

Top- the headline to grab the attention. Put the top line of your story here.  State in as few words as possible, why a journalist should ring you to find out more.

Middle- some facts to support your story

Bottom- contact details – your phone number, email and maybe your website if it will add something to the story.

People dream that there is one email list that you can put your press release on and press submit. In fact I’ve seen organistations who advertise that very service. In reality that doesn’t really work. Journalists receive so many emails, that unless it’s personalised to them, chances are they won’t read it.

So you do have to do a bit of work yourself. Every local paper has a website, with contact details for the news editor and features editor. Send your story to them. Send it to the business editor, sports editor, arts editor, etc, depending on the nature of your tale.

To get a news story on BBC London radio TV and online.

YourLondon@bbc.co.uk

Any BBC person’s email is their first name dot last name at bbc dot co dot uk.
Continue reading “Press to get on TV and radio”

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

Hillsborough

In April 1989 I went to Hillsborough for a football match, an FA Cup semi final between Nottingham Forest and  Liverpool. I was commentating on the game for BBC Radio Nottingham.  96 Liverpool fans lost their lives in a dreadful crush on the terracing behind the goal.  20 years on here’s my  account of the day for The Times newspaper.

Witness: We went to report on a football match  and ended up reporting on a tragedy

Jeremy Nicholas worked as match commentator for BBC Radio Nottingham at Hillsborough. Now 46, he is an after-dinner speaker and author

It didn’t seem any different to any other day. I drove from Nottingham to Sheffield, it took just over an hour. To do a radio show, you get there really early, to do your preparatory work. That day, we were presenting the show from the ground, with me commentating and Mark Shardlow doing the presenting.

Just before kick-off, I noticed that it seemed very busy at the Leppings Lane End. Already, I could see people in the upper tier hauling up those below them. It wasn’t right, something was badly wrong. It all unfolded very quickly.

I remember a policeman running, then walking, on to the pitch. He sort of stuttered, as if he was worried about what he was doing. I just thought: “What a brave man.” He got to the ref [Ray Lewis] and told him to stop the game. Some fans booed; they had no idea what was happening.

We had hooliganism in those days. People were climbing up the fences, as if they were causing trouble, but they were pushed back. I still thought it was just a bit of a squash. At 3.25, we were saying that people could be seriously injured. I saw a little boy carried out. Then we were saying some people may have died.

Mark carried on talking, I went off to get the information, to find out what was going on. We crossed on air to other matches: what was happening at the other semi-final [Everton v Norwich City]? How were Notts County getting on?

I kept repeating that no Forest fans were involved because I was conscious that I was only broadcasting to the Nottingham area and I wanted to reassure people with friends at the game. It was like saying: “People have lost their lives but it’s not your people.” I felt very heartless but, in the following weeks, I had so many thank me for letting them know that.

I went on to the pitch to interview Kenny Dalglish [the Liverpool manager]. I asked him a question, which he answered. He then paused for ages. So I said: “Do you think the match should be replayed?” He replied: “I haven’t finished yet.” I felt so small. I spoke with Graham Kelly [the FA chief executive]. I can’t remember what he said.

The police took a party of journalists to the Leppings Lane End. We saw the crush barriers, so thick but all mangled. What force could have done that? Then into the tunnel, where people had died. It was silent. No one said anything. Not until we came out did people start talking again.

When it was happening, the Forest fans had been restless. They didn’t know. I saw a guy carried out and put down in front of them. He was given the kiss of life. He sat up, he was OK. The fans applauded.

I went to a press conference at the police headquarters in Sheffield. They were saying 50 had died, maybe 60. I’d thought it was about ten. Returning to the newsroom at Radio Nottingham in the evening, a colleague said to me: “Well done, that was brilliant. It sounded really good.”

I remember thinking how it had been anything but brilliant. It had been the worst day of my life. I dropped off my equipment, handed over the tapes, then went home. I felt emotionally drained.

We won a New York radio academy award for live coverage of a breaking story but we didn’t go to collect it. It’s not the sort of thing you want to win an award for. What were we going to do? Hold it above our heads and celebrate?

I’d not listened to the commentary again until last week. We went to report on a football match and ended up reporting on a tragedy.

Jeremy Nicholas was talking to Russell Kempson

Union Jack

I’m greatly enjoying Chris Evans on breakfast on Radio 2. He’s quickly established the programme as a feelgood way to start the day that appeals to the whole family. Much as I loved Terry Wogan, he’d handed his show over to his contributors, and it had begun to show.

One feature I particularly enjoy is the Wrong Bongs. To the sounds of the Bongs of Big Ben, Sally Traffic runs through the mistakes they made on the previous programme, as spotted by the listeners. It’s a brilliant way to encourage interactivity. There’s nothing the British public like more than correcting mistakes.

On this morning’s show there was a correction. The Union Flag had incorrectly been referred to as the Union Jack by the sports Johnny. As anyone who’s worked at the BBC for any time knows, it’s a real bugbear with navy types. It’s only a Union Jack when it’s flying off the back of a boat, otherwise it should correctly be referred to as the Union Flag.

However, I think that is a load of nonsense. If enough people call it a Union Jack, then that is what it is. If you asked people to draw a Union Jack, they would draw a Union Flag. Everyone knows what you mean when you say Union Jack, and if you don’t I’ve carefully posted one at the top of this page.

English is an evolving language. Words change and we need to change with them. It’s not latin, it’s not a dead language, it’s a vibrant ever changing language. Mother Tongue is an excellent book by Bill Bryson which shows how British English and American English evolved in different directions. But it’s all English innit?

And that’s why I have no truck when people try and tell me stadia is the plural of stadium. I speak English not latin, so for me the plural is stadiums. Either form is acceptable, but try telling that to the Old Skool buffers who complain. They probably don’t spell skool like that either!

I once interviewed English football hero Jack Charlton who’d been manager of the Irish national team for a while. When he arrived in Dublin he was greeted with banners saying, ‘Go Home Union Jack.’ He should have told them he had never been tied to a flagpole on a boat in his life. But perhaps he had. I have no details about his private life. Although he did tell me he fell asleep in front of the Pope during a Vatican visit, which didn’t go down very well in Catholic Ireland.

Now how did I get onto football? This was meant to be a blog about radio and my old mate Chris Evans. Did I mention he used to be my regular squash partner? But that’s a story for another day.

Bong! It’s not Sally Traffic it’s Lynn Bowles. Bong! That’s probably not how you spell Lynne. Bong! etc, you get the idea.

Jem – Monday Feb 15th 2010 – Nottingham

Tim Gard with me

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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.