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

My stadium gig

I

So we’re up and running again. It was great to be at the Boleyn for the pre-season friendly against Deportivo La Coruna for the SBOBet Cup.  Even better to win it on penalties.Avram Grant has won silverware in his first home game.

It was a hot day. I could have done without wearing the tie to be honest.

Outside the ground beforehand, everyone was smiling. I think there’s a sense of optimism about the new season, the new manager, the new kit and a new beginning.  I nearly said ‘a new hope’ but that’s a Star Wars film..

I thought I better take a few pics to spice up the blog. I snapped a few of the ground, which I’ll be dropping in over the next few weeks. Andrew the ‘Over Land And Sea’ fanzine seller took the top picture of me outside the ground, so it only seemed right that I returned the favour and took one of him. Nice ‘Only Fools’ tee shirt mate.

Football chairmen often need security for their own protection when they arrive at grounds.

Our David Gold is a bit different, he’s worn the claret and blue and he’s popular with fans. He needs the security escort otherwise he’d never get through the crowd of autograph hunters. He did sign plenty though.

In the tunnel pre-match club photographer Steve Bacon was snapping the mascots.

Meanwhile the other mascots, the furry ones, seem to have spent the summer hiding in the shower. I share a changing room with Bubbles and Herbie. It always makes me laugh when I arrive to see their heads sitting patiently waiting for the human inhabitants to arrive.And always smiling.

I did my best to pronounce the Spanish names as I read out the team sheets. I didn’t want to ‘go native’ as there’s a danger of sounding like an Italian with a lisp. I wrote them out phonetically after consulatation with a member of the Deportivo coaching staff and then did my best, using the English abroad approach of loud and confident.

As it wasn’t a premier league game there was no TV coverage to worry about, so the ref wasn’t waiting for a floor manager to give him the nod to ‘walk’ the players. That makes it so much easier to coordinate the playing of ‘bubbles’ so it reaches a crescendo as the teams emerge from the tunnel.

Avram Grant was given a great ovation for his first home game. The new players were all warmly applauded before the game and as they came on as subs. When the Sir Trevor Lower fans sang ‘Avram, Avram, give us a wave’, he did and was cheered. That’s was an important moment for me and a promising sign for the season. Gianfranco Zola would never respond to chants for waves. It was because he was ‘in the zone’, but it’s important to acknowledge your own supporters.

The match itself certainly wasn’t a cracker, but the penalty shoot out was. All of our penalties were scored with certainty and Robert Green made a great save. If you are looking for further comment on the match itself, you’ll need to look elsewhere on the web. That’s not the aim of my blog and it would clearly be a conflict of interest with my role as MC Hammer.

From the announcer’s point of view, the match was notable because there wasn’t any time added on in either half.  After announcing five Deportivo subs and three for us, I thought there might be a few added minutes in the second half, but no. I asked the fourth official if he was sure. He smiled. I cheekily asked him if it was his first ever game in charge. He smiled again and said he couldn’t remember any subs. I smiled, in case he booked me.

My favourite sub for Deportivo, was Riki, who I announced as Bianca’s favourite.If you can’t chuck in an Eastenders gag in a pre-season friendly, when can you?

As each Spanish sub pulled on their shirts, I noticed they were all wearing heart rate monitors. It seemed strange, but it’s OK in a friendly, as long as you have the ref’s permission.

On the way home I notice someone had put an England flag on the World Cup Heroes statue.

My journey home was slow. My regular short cut through the Isle of Dogs was scuppered by road closures for  a triathlon the next day. I listened to 5 Live and cheered on Derby County as they beat Leeds at Elland Road. Nigel Clough had stopped the Derby bus short of the ground before the game and his players had walked the last few hundred yards through the Leeds supporters. It was an echo of Don Revie’s actions when he took his Leeds team to the old Baseball Ground to play a Derby team managed by Nigel’s dad Brian. It was a scene I’d watched on TV a few weeks before in the  film ‘The Damned United’. It seemed to work. Having braved the fans outside, the fans in the ground held no fear for the Derby players.

606, the football phone in followed the match. What a joy, no  Alan Green or Spoony,  it was presented by Mark Chapman, who is always entertaining. I hope he’s got the gig for the season. Better still Derby captain Robbie Savage finished the match and then joined Chappers to co-present the show.I’ve never known that before.

Robbie is carving out quite a career as a media pundit. Of course he loves the sound of his own voice, but he is a good listen. He could do very well. There’s not many footballers who come across as well. I’ve regularly interviewed him at Leicester and Derby when I’ve been working for BBC East Midlands Today. He’s as charming in real life as he is irritating on the pitch.

So Robbie and Chappers accompanied me all the way home. On arrival I found the house full of children’s clothes hanging out to dry. My wife had met a Nigerian family in Twickenham Tesco. They were on holiday and staying in the hotel at the rugby ground. They asked my wife for directions to a launderette. Instead she had brought them home and done the washing for them. Slightly strange if you ask me, but that’s why I married her. She’s a lovely woman. And she does the washing.


Meeting the viewers

I’ve spent the day meeting the public in the centre of Leicester.

I pulled on a large red BBC East Midlands Today tee shirt and an even larger smile and joined up with my colleagues to meet real people. That may not sound scary to you, but trust me it is.

In general I really enjoy meeting them. Most of them are lovely, but it’s the questions they ask. Because you are on TV  people feel as if they know you, and can ask you anything.

Here’s some questions I was asked today, along with my answers. The bits in brackets I only said in my head. And the very last Q and A sequence only happened in my head in the car on the way home.

But these first ones are all real:

Q. What’s your golf handicap

A. Eighteen

Q. How many golf balls have you got?

A. Eighteen.  (if in doubt I always say eighteen)

Q. Can I knit you a scarf?

A. No I don’t really wear scarves. (a lie obviously, but I was worried they would come round my house for fittings)

Q. Why aren’t there any pictures of you?

A. Well the postcards are really only for the big name presenters.

Q. Where do you live?

A. London

Q. Where exactly?

A. I’d rather not give my full address.(in case you come round)

Q. Do you have any signed photos of Lucy Kite?

A. Sorry no.

Q. Why not?

A. Because she’s on ITV, We are the BBC, look it says here on my tee shirt.

Q. I never watch ITV

A. Oh OK.  (but I think you do)

Q. Do you have any photos of Penny Smith?

A. No, she used to work on ITV  too but she doesn’t any more. Have you read my tee shirt by the way?

Q. Are there any pictures of you?

A. I’m sorry no. Can I sign this information leaflet about the programme for you?

Q. Go on then. Who are you by the way?

Q. Why isn’t Sara Blizzard here?

A. Well somebody has to stay back in the studio to present the programme. (Ms Blizzard is our appropriately named weather presenter!)

Q. Can I have a key ring?

A. No sorry we don’t have any.

Q. Why not?

A. We’ve got presenter photos, notepads, pens and if you go round the corner you can try your hand at reading the news and weather.

Q. Do you have a key ring?

A. Yes

Q. Can I have that?

A. No

Q. Why not?

A. Because it has my car keys on it.

Q. Have I seen you on the television?

A. I don’t know, you might have done, I do the sport and the funny And Finally reports.

Q. What have I seen you doing?

A. Well only you would really know. We can’t see out of the screen to see who’s watching.

Q. I know I’ve seen you on TV. What was it?

A. I don’t know. (I refer the honourable gentleman to the answer I gave a short time ago)

Q. Why aren’t there any picture postcards of you?

A. Well what happened was, there was lots of them, but we had a rush of young women who snapped them all up early, so we’ve only got pictures of the ugly presenters left.

Q. What a shame, I really wanted a picture of you. Will you sign this leaflet for me?

A. Of course what’s your name?

Q. David

I’m doing the BBC East Midlands Today roadshow again on Thursday when we are at the Bakewell Show in Derbyshire. Bakewell is famous for it’s tarts, so I’m looking forward to it.

Come and say hello if you are there. I’ll be the one in the large red BBC  tee shirt with the large red smile and the slightly scared look in my eye.

Jeremy Nicholas  2nd August 2010   Beeston, near Nottingham. (While Nat and Wayne are watching Corrie.)

Speaking oop north

It’s good to be back in the land of the long vowel sounds. I’ve just spent the week on the road oop north where baths and paths are much shorter than I’m used to.

On Tuesday I was in Nottingham reporting on the British Open Wheelchair tennis for BBC TV.It’s just the same as abled bodied tennis, except the ball is allowed to bounce twice, and there’s not as much arguing.

I stayed the night with Natalie and Wayne, my regular East Midlands hosts, who are lovely people even if they do make me watch Coronation Street.

Never mind marmalade cats on rooftops, on Wednesday I was off to the real north.  I spent a lot of the morning at Woolley Back services on the M1., That might not be it’s exact name and the term services can only be loosely applied in this case. . It’s free broadband was intermittent and I spent a long time putting the finishing touches to my powerpoint slides for my talk that night. I was speaking at the Holiday Inn at Garforth, just north of dirty Leeds. Oh the glamour.

The speaking world is split down the middle on the issue of powerpoint slides in keynote talks. The purists don’t like them. I do like them.I like them very much indeed.
I have terrible trouble remembering my talks. I know the general outline but I often find myself going down comedy cul de sacs and can’t find my way back to the main road. If the audience think you don’t know where you are heading and suspect you don’t either, it can be a problem. I use powerpoint as a sort of sat nav. When I deviate off the route for comedy purposes, a click on the clicker, my next slide appears and I’m back on track.

Most of my slides are photographs that I have taken myself. I think they add to my stories. The traditional speakers might be turning in their graves at that, especially those that aren’t fully dead yet. But, in a world where attention span is…..sorry what was I saying, oh yes, attention span is shortening all the time, I think slides are great. In our interactive world, a man talking on stage on his own, needs to be very good to hold the attention. I am good, often I’m very good, but the photos add value and make me better. In my view.
And of course they keep me from repetition, deviation, hesitation and repetition.

Obviously I don’t use slides when I’m doing my after dinner talks. When I roll up at a golf club and they are tucking into chicken in a basket, it would seem a bit rum if I suddenly powered up a projector and rolled out a screen. Thinking about it they probably wouldn’t mind as long as I had my shirt tucked in.

With my powerpoint slides in order, I set off for Snaith to spend my afternoon with Phil, my old mate from journalism college. He’s something important at the BBC in Leeds. It’s twenty four years since we left college, but it was just like the old days straightaway. Except we talked about diabetes, baldness and second properties instead of acne, exam stress and demo tapes.

If ever a man should take up after dinner speaking it’s Phil. He’s a natural storyteller. So I dragged him along  to see me in action at the Holiday Inn that night. He wasn’t that keen, as he had to be up at four thirty, as he’s currently revamping Radio York’s breakfast show, but the promise of a free ticket was too much for a Yorkshireman to resist.

People had come from as far afield as Sunderland and Cumbria for the talk.  I did my best to be entertaining. Especially as a few people revealed they’d seen the talk before, but enjoyed it so much, they thought they’d come again. I put in a few topical bits, so it didn’t seem too much like the previous talk, and again my old friend Dr Powerpoint ensured I found my way back to the main road, without too much trouble.

The next morning waking up in Snaith, Phil was long gone, to make sure the good people of York were woken by a quality breakfast show before heading off for work at the chocolate factories.

I had breakfast with Phil’s wife Vicky.  I studied with Phil and worked with Vicky in my first ever job as a reporter at Viking Radio in Hull. I’d introduced them on a holiday in Ibiza in 1987. They’ve been together ever since.Vicky now works as a correspondent at Look North. They have three lovely girls. Daisy who’s about to go to big school. Flora who’s home from university and was worried about going for a filling a the dentist. And Isobel who was on holiday somewhere in Europe, so I stayed in her attic room up the steepest ladder you ever climbed.

The other member of the family is a Scottish terrier, possibly called Bonny. I don’t have much interest in dogs, so I can’t remember. Bonny or whatever, was very yappy, as she was being kept in the kitchen. She was in season. Little did she know that today she was off to be serviced by a boy Scottish terrier, who was to be paid the princely sum of three hundred pounds. He probably didn’t keep the money himself though. Apparently Scottish terrier puppies sell for five hundred pounds, so it was a good investment. A good seed to plant, so to speak.

This sort of thing happens all the time, so they tell me. The internet is full of personal ads for puppy love. Girl dog seeks boy dog, must have GSOH.

I left Snaith on Thursday morning for an early start in Bradford. It was the first proper meeting of my speakers mastermind group. Chatham House rules dictate that I can’t tell you what went on. It was very good though. A mastermind group is an informal group of people who are typically at the same stage of their careers in a common profession. The idea is to help each other by sharing knowledge and experiences. It’s a bit like the masons without the funny handshake.

As the former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond used to say, ‘but what I can tell you is this…’

The members present were John, Geoff, Jem, Rod and Andy. The sixth member Ayd couldn’t make it as he was actually speaking for money that day, which was a shame and a surprise.

On Thursday night I headed back to Nottingham for the night with Wayne and Natalie. They are moving house soon, so I won’t be able to stay with them for a while, which is very selfish of them.

Friday was a lovely day to be outside. I was stuck inside though planning next week’s outside broadcast from Loughborough. Tuesday  marks two years till the start of the London Olympics, so we’re doing a special from Loughborough, home to the GB and Japan teams. The main talk at the BBC is about the changes to the pension scheme. Everyone is very unhappy about it. As a freelance it doesn’t affect me, but there’s talk of strikes.

Back in London today, it’s good to be home. The planes are a bit noisy. Little Miss Afrikaaner isn’t happy because the Springboks lost again. And our Potterton boiler is on the blink. What does it mean when the green light keeps blinking and the boiler fires up all the time?

But it’s good to be back home.

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

Public speaking shouldn’t be scary

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!)

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

Get back on the stage

You’re brilliant. You should be on the stage. And there’s another one leaving in fifteen minutes.

This is an old joke from the days of the Wild West, as told by members of the National Speakers Association of Dodge City.

Of course, stage coaches are long since gone. They would have been gone a lot quicker if their wheels hadn’t gone backwards in the old films. Something to do with motion capture and frames per second.

But the point remains. If you are good, you should be on the stage. If you speak for a living, get on that stage. If you have to speak at events because of your expertise, get on that stage. If you are invited to a venue, to speak to an audience and there is a stage at the front of that audience…..stand on it. Do not get off it. No matter how much the room starts spinning, plant your feet firmly and command that stage.

If you get off that stage and start walking about in the audience, you have stopped being a speaker and you have become a trainer.  Not that there’s anything wrong with trainers. I own several pairs. They are very comfortable and supportive and make me feel like running.

Of course when times are hard, like most speakers, I do my fair share of training. But I keep it quiet. The training page of my website has a WordPress widget which is an animated librarian who makes a Shush noise.

No of course it doesn’t, but here comes the point of this article. (It’s a bit like the L’Oreal advert where you have to sit through a lot of hair flicking, before you come to the science bit.)

I compere events, where there are many speakers across the day. I watch in horror as speaker after speaker, leaves the stage to wander among the audience. They’ve probably been to some session on presentation skills, where they are told it makes them appear more human, if they connect with the audience. Let me tell you, this is nonsense.  If you are on the stage people can see you better because you are in the light and you are raised up. They can hear you better because that’s where the microphone works best, without feeding back on the speakers.  Besides who wants to be human? No-one pays to hear a mere human speak, they want a guru.

The other week I was at an event, where six  out of eight speakers left the stage during their talk.  It meant the people in the front were having to crane their necks round to see them. The camera operators were struggling to find them in the dark. The shorter speakers might as well have been in a hole, for all we could see of them. (Yes I admit it, I’m only5’8″, that’s why I like the stage.)

You don’t have to stay on the podium or behind the lectern. It’s OK to move about, whatever Toastmasters tell you. But it’s not OK to get off the stage. It just isn’t. Not unless you are luminous, tall and have a very loud voice.

God invented stages so we could stand on them.   OK maybe it wasn’t actually God, but Jesus was a carpenter and he probably built a few stages for the Nazareth Speakers Association in his time.  When he was talking to his followers he probably couldn’t afford a stage, so he would stand on a hill. We’ve all heard of the Sermon on the Mount. Well we wouldn’t have heard of it, if it had been the Sermon in the Hollow, because no-one would have been able to see or hear Jesus.

So the next time you are onstage talking to an audience and you are tempted to go amongst the people, please don’t. It’s not big and it’s not clever.

I would have given individual feedback to all the so called speakers, who wandered off the stage in search of the common touch, but they wouldn’t have thanked me for it. I’m not Simon Cowell.  Besides, they all had more than enough feedback on the day, because they wandered too close to the loudspeakers!

Jeremy Nicholas  – 19th May 2010 – David Lloyd, Hampton, Middlesex, UK

(If all the world’s a stage, where are the audience going to sit?)

Speaking in South Africa

I’ve just arrived in Cape Town after a brilliant three days at the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa (PSASA) in Johannesburg.

I was the only European speaking on  the main stage at the event at Emperors Palace.

It was a brilliant convention and I met some lovely and inspiring fellow speakers.  I’ll post some pictures and audio clips  in my speaking tips blog over the next few days, so pop back later in the week to have a look.

But at the moment, I’m shattered and I want to spend some quality time with my wife, drinking wine and listening to the ocean.

Jem       Peninsula Hotel, Sea Point, Cape Town      2nd May 2010