At some point in the last couple of years it has apparently become OK to swear onstage at business events. What the flip is going on? Continue reading “Mind Your Language”
I’m not taking any more after dinner speaking gigs until the end of June, otherwise I’ll never get the book finished.
Once it’s safely handed in to the publishers I’ll be back on the chicken dinner circuit.
If your firm, golf club, sports organisation needs a speaker, please consider me.
Details of my fees, subjects of talks and testimonials are at the buttons at the top of the page. Plus there’s lots of videos so you can see I’m not too bad.
PS I also run a referral scheme where anybody who finds me a gig gets 10 percent of the fee. So thinking caps on. Do you know anybody who needs a speaker?
Jeremy Nicholas, London, UK
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.
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.
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.
How I became the West Ham announcer.
I moved to East London from Cambridge when I was six. I think my parents may have done the driving, but I imagine I did most of the packing and dealing with estate agents.
Growing up in Clayhall it was a no-brainer that I should be a Hammer. There was a Spurs fan and a Chelsea fan on our street, but nobody really spoke to them. When I was twelve we moved again, to sleepy Suffolk. By then I had claret and blue flowing in my veins, but took me a while to find my way back to London.
I studied in the beautiful university cities of Bradford and then Portsmouth, before my first job as a radio reporter in the fragrant coastal resort of Hull. Bradford, Portsmouth and Hull? How I escaped without a tattoo is anybody’s guess. West Ham were having their best ever season in the top flight and I was miles away listening on the radio and occasionally watching on Ceefax.
I spent three years with the BBC in Nottingham, winning a New York Radio Academy Award for commentating at the Hillsborough disaster. It was the worst day of my life and we didn’t go and collect the award. It felt wrong when 96 people had died.
In 1990 I returned to London, to work on GLR, which is now called BBC London 94.9. I presented the breakfast show alongside the late, great Kevin Greening. I used to bang on about West Ham a lot. Little did I know someone at the club was listening and one day I would get the call.
I went freelance in 1994, and moved into television. It was inevitable. All good looking radio presenters eventually move into TV. I fronted shows for Talk TV and then the fledgling Channel 5. I anchored most of their sports shows for the first couple of years. In fact a colleague described me as the complete anchor, but I may have misheard.
In the early days the Channel 5 signal was a bit fuzzy. Once they sorted the transmission problems, someone noticed my hair was thinning at the back. Baldies didn’t score well in the focus groups. The schedulers were aiming for a young audience. I was replaced by Steve Scott who is slightly older than me, but much hairier.
I would return to TV in the noughties, but in the meantime I scuttled back to the GLR breakfast show, this time co-presenting with Claire McDonnell. I talked about West Ham a lot again. This time something happened.
In the summer of 1998 I received a phone call from Paul Aldridge, managing director at West Ham, asking if I wanted to be the new stadium announcer. Curiously I said no. I enjoyed letting off steam from my seat in the West Stand Upper. I wasn’t sure shouting at the players would be in the job description. Paul asked me to come in for a chat. So I did, just to poke about behind the scenes if I’m honest.
After three days he asked again, and this time I said yes. I’d had a recurring dream the previous nights that Rio Ferdinand would head the winning goal in the World Cup Final at France 98. I dreamt I would announce him as a hero at the start of the new season, like Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst were greeted in 1966.
The trouble with dreams is their habit of fading and dying. Rio was an unused substitute at the World Cup. England were knocked out by Argentina in the second round. David Beckham was sent off for petulantly kicking out at Diego Simeone and quickly became public enemy number one.
When the fixtures came out for the new season, West Ham’s opener was away at Sheffield Wednesday, followed by David Beckham’s Manchester United at home. I went to Hillsborough on the opening day, the first time I’d been back since the disaster. It was strange and I felt very emotional. I got through it because I was sitting next to curly haired pop star David Essex. His twin boys had the largest bag of pick and mix sweets you ever did see. Reluctantly at their father’s suggestion they even shared some with me.
Veteran striker Ian Wright scored on his league debut for us, and I found myself singing, ‘Ian Wright, Wright, Wright. Ian Wright, Wright, Wright’. With Wrighty a long time Gooner, it wasn’t a song I ever thought I would sing. Fortunately I discovered I knew all the words.
Driving back from Hillsborough I couldn’t wait for my debut at the Boleyn Ground the following week, announcing my team against Manchester United, David Beckham and all.
But we’ll save that for the next column.
Up the Irons
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 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)
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
Public speaking shouldn’t be scary. It’s just talking out loud, which most of us do every day. If it’s on a subject you know about and have prepared for, it should be no harder than talking to a group of friends or colleagues. Unfortunately for many people that is not the case. It is one of the scariest things they ever have to do. Some surveys have said more people are worried about speaking in public, than they are of dying. I don’t really believe that. If it is true, it’s because people haven’t grasped how bad dying is, because no-one who’s died ever speaks about it.
I’m lucky, because I love showing off and have made a career out of it, but I still get scared. I mainly worry about dying on stage. Not in the Tommy Cooper sense, where he actually did die on stage, but in the drying up, forgetting my talk, getting booed off sense of the word dying.
On that cheery note, this week I was delighted to be a judge for the Jack Petchey Speak Out Challenge. It’s the largest youth speaking competition in the world. The event is open to schoolchildren in London and Essex. Having judged in previous years in Hounslow, Newham and Tower Hamlets, this time it was in Teddington, with school speaking champions from the London boroughs of Merton and Richmond.
Seventeen brave youngsters stood up and spoke for around three minutes each. They’d all received coaching from Speakers Bank, an excellent organisation that provides free training in public speaking for fifteen year olds in state schools. The standard was as always impressive. The courage these youngsters show is inspiring. When I was fifteen I would have been scared stiff.
I’ll pick out one youngster for particular praise. Let’s call her Liffey. That’s not her real name, but I don’t want to embarass her, so I’ve used a cunning Irish river based pseudonym. After about a minute she lost her way and completely forgot her talk. She looked petrified for a few seconds, but as the audience shouted out encouragement, she took a few deep breaths and continued. I think she missed some bits out, but the important thing is she carried on, and her talk still made perfect sense. During the moments when she was struggling, she pushed both hands slowly downwards as though she was on a set of parallel bars. It seemed to s help her rise above her nerves.
Of course she didn’t win, but she was a winner in the eyes of most in the room. Every one of the seventeen was a winner.
It always amazes me the subjects that the youngsters speak about. They are so diverse, from being an orphan to coping with being short. Of course there are a few favourites that seem to crop up every year. Bullying is always popular, along with knife crime and body image. Respecting your parents seemed to be a recurring theme this time. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks often get a mention, which is fine by me, but if I hear another speech that starts, ‘I have a dream’ I will scream.It’s great to quote famous people, but it’s far better to tell your own story.
The actual winner on the night was Richard who spoke about gay marriage. He was incredible and should do well in the Grand Final in the summer if he qualifies. Second place went to Samuel who reminded me of a young Kris Akabussi. He was hilarious and a natural performer talking about computer games. There were seven judges in all. On my scorecard I was pleased to have correctly picked the top two, albeit in the wrong order.
At the end of the night, I spoke with a couple of the youngsters. I wished Richard all the best if he reaches the Grand Final. And I found Liffey and told her she must not give up, because she’s going to be a great speaker. I didn’t want her to feel bad about losing her way, so I told her the story of my first ever stand up comedy gig.
I was so nervous that I’d forget my material, I’d written prompt lines on the back of my hand in felt tip pen. Unfortunately, nerves made me really hot. The back of my hand was soon dripping with sweat. When I glanced down for a prompt, all I saw was a sea of blue felt tip, and no words visible at all. I did exactly what Liffey did, I took a deep breath, jumped back into the routine a bit further down the line and finished a little early. I didn’t use the parallel bars technique because it hadn’t been invented then.
No-one in the audience realised and I left the stage to applause. It was by no means a standing ovation, but at least they didn’t throw anything.
Liffey said she would carry on speaking. I hope she does. If you have children in London and Essex encourage them to take part next year. Hopefully it will roll out to the rest of the UK in future years. And if you are a professional speaker, volunteer to be one of their judges. It’s always fun and I left Teddington with a bottle of Rioja, which I’ll be sampling as soon as Lent is over.
You can find out more about the Speak Out Challenge here
Jem – Greedies Cafe, Isleworth – 1st April 2010 (but it’s not an April Fools Day trick, honest!)