JLA in the Press

Former MI5 boss gets permission to start work as an after-dinner speaker at up to £25k a speech
Posted on November 21, 2020

The former head of MI5 has been cleared to embark on a new career as an after-dinner speaker earning up to £25,000 a speech, less than six months after stepping down as Britain’s spy chief.

Andrew Parker, who headed MI5 for seven years and oversaw the security service’s response to a spate of terror attacks inspired by Islamic State, has been graded “A”, the second-highest band for speakers by Jeremy Lee Associates (JLA).

In his new public speaking role, Sir Andrew joins Sir John Sawers, the former head of MI6 also ranked as an “A” by JLA, and Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, one of Sir Andrew’s predecessors at MI5, who is a “B” commanding lower fees of up to £10,000.

Only stellar speakers such as astronaut Buzz Aldrin and comedian Jack Whitehall are in the “AA” category where speakers command fees of more than £25,000.

During lockdown, the after-dinner speaking circuit has remained popular through video conferencing.

Cut-price celebs Zoom in for virtual Christmas parties
Posted on November 15, 2020

The duty mixed with drunkenness of the office Christmas party is bad enough. Joining the fun this year by video call makes the prospect even worse.

But what if Jimmy Carr hosted the quiz, Patsy Palmer was the DJ and Michel Roux cooked?

After a tough year for entertainment, celebrities are flogging their services for festive events, and charging as little as £200. Themes include comedy nights, quizzes, gin tasting and cooking skills.

JLA, which in pre-Covid times specialised in supplying speakers, has been testing people on its list to find out who has a knack for virtual entertaining.

Events held online were going to be “fantastically less expensive”, said Jeremy Lee, the agency’s director. “Companies don’t have to hire somewhere in Park Lane or a fancy hotel somewhere, and they don’t have to pay for dinner.”

So far Jimmy Carr and fellow comedian Al Murray, the pub landlord, have been confirmed.

If a quiz is too tame, Russell Kane is offering a stand-up comedy night, tailored to guests’ interests. The event is not without the usual element of risk as members of the virtual front row may be picked on.

JLA said prices would range from £2,500 for a lesser celebrity to £30,000 for a household name. In the basic option, the star calls in from home, whereas more expensive events will be broadcast from a studio.

Michel Roux, the two-star Michelin chef, will run a Christmas roast session — although guests will not be able to taste the results. Personal trainer Joe Wicks is available through JLA for group fitness sessions.

Original article appears here

Celebrities including Jimmy Carr, Emma Stone and John Barrowman offer their services on Zoom as speakers and quiz hosts for as little as £200
Posted on November 15, 2020

Celebrities including Jimmy Carr, Emma Stone and John Barrowman are offering their services on Zoom as speakers and quiz hosts for as little as £200.

Performers have been listed online by entertainment agency JLA, among others, for events to be held virtually for often far less than the cost of a physical appearance.

Jeremy Lee, the director of JLA, told the Sunday Times these events would be ‘fantastically less expensive’ as companies ‘don’t have to hire somewhere in Park Lane or a fancy hotel somewhere, and they don’t have to pay for dinner.’

Carr and comedian Al Murray are among those confirmed, with the JLA website quoting both their appearances as costing between £10,000 and £25,000.

Russell Kane is also available for the same price, with an appearance from Bill Bailey costing more than £25,000.


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The Londoner
Posted on July 8, 2020

Former Home Secretary Amber Rudd told a JLA speaking agency event yesterday that Dominic Cummings is “on top of everyone and everything” in Downing Street and “a raised eyebrow from him could spell the end of your career.” Avert your gaze.

At the same event, former Speaker John Bercow said the socially distanced parliament had benefited “calm and penetrating” Keir Starmer, while the PM showed “bluster, abuse … and not much substance”. There’s not much love lost there.

Original article appears here

How many American rappers can you get for one Theresa May?
Posted on June 26, 2020

Obviously nobody is speaking at big corporate events at the moment but Jeremy Lee, of the speaker bureau JLA, says that the market for virtual speaking via platforms such as Zoom is holding up well. Virtual gigs, he adds, tend to be discounted, often by 50 per cent, and there are none of the costly extras such as flights for the speaker and their people.

Original article appears here

Prince Harry and Meghan: How could the couple make money?
Posted on January 15, 2020

As part of their plans to step back as senior royals, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex say they intend to “work to become financially independent…

So far, they have focused on their plans to launch a new “charitable entity”. But what opportunities might there be for commercial ventures?

Public speaking

[A] potential avenue for the pair to explore could be after-dinner speeches and events.

Jeremy Lee, director at speaking agency JLA, says if they maintained a positive profile the couple could earn six-figure sums for each appearance.

He predicts demand would be higher in US, where Mr Lee says the pair could earn up to $500,000 (£380,000) per engagement.

However, he says companies in the UK would be more sensitive to reputational risk if public opinion turned against the couple.

Mr Lee predicts UK companies would only be willing to take the royals as speakers at an event linked to one of their campaigning interests, in return for a donation to their charitable foundation – rather than a fee – in the region of £100,000.

But in the US, there would be interest from “anybody that wants to show off and has got the budget”, he says.

Original article appears here


Boris Johnson to ‘charge £30,000’ for after-dinner speeches just a month after announcing divorce
Posted on October 13, 2018

The former foreign secretary has joined an exclusive agency for celebrity speakers.

Boris Johnson will reportedly charge up to £30,000 per-speech after signing up to an exclusive celebrity agency, just over a month after announcing his divorce.

The former foreign secretary has offered his services to JLA – an agency that provides famous after-dinner speakers for corporate events.

Last month Johnson announced he’d be splitting from his wife of twenty-five years, Marina Wheeler, after rumours of infidelity.

In a joint statement, they said they would ‘continue to support our four children in the years ahead’.

Now, a speaker for JLA, Johnson will share the esteemed company of famous names such as Buzz Aldrin and Richard Branson, as well as fellow politicians John Prescott and David Miliband.

Described in his JLA profile as ‘one of the most captivating political speakers of his generation’, Johnson is expected to charge a £30,000 fee every appearance, in which he’d be required to make a 15 minute speech.

Original article appears here

Boris Johnson set to give £30,000 after-dinner speeches to raise funds ahead of divorce
Posted on October 13, 2018

The former foreign secretary has joined JLA agency, also home to tennis player John McEnroe and TV chef Nigella Lawson

BORIS Johnson has signed to up give after-dinner speeches at £30,000-a-time as he looks to raise cash for his divorce.

The former foreign secretary recently announced plans for what could be a costly divorce from his wife of 25 years, Marina Wheeler.

The Daily Mail reports Mr Johnson has joined JLA, an agency which manages celebrity speakers on he after-dinner circuit.

Other star names on the firm’s books include tennis player John McEnroe, TV chef Nigella Lawson and fellow politicians William Hague and John Prescott.

The company’s website states Mr Johnson ‘is regarded as one of the most captivating political speakers of his generation, with a famously entertaining style of delivery’.

Original article appears here

Boris Johnson signs up to give after-dinner speeches for £30,000 a time as he raises funds for his divorce
Posted on October 12, 2018

Boris Johnson has signed up to give £30,000-a-time speeches on the after-dinner circuit as he seeks to raise cash to fund his divorce.

The former foreign secretary has joined JLA, an agency which supplies celebrity speakers for business dinners and corporate events.

It comes just weeks after Mr Johnson announced plans for a potentially costly divorce from Marina Wheeler, with whom he has four children.

Mr Johnson was banned from holding second jobs while in the Cabinet and is known to have complained privately about having to manage on his £141,405 salary, telling friends it was not enough to cover his ‘extensive family responsibilities’.

In 2009, he also described his £250,000-a-year fee for writing a weekly column for The Daily Telegraph as ‘chicken feed’. When he resigned from the Cabinet in July, Mr Johnson’s salary was cut to £77,379. But, with divorce proceedings imminent, he has moved swiftly to boost his income.

In August, he resumed his weekly column on an annual fee of £275,000. He has also resumed work on a biography of Shakespeare, which was put on hold when he joined the Government in July 2016.

Now he has signed up with the prestigious JLA agency, whose books include celebrities such as John McEnroe and Nigella Lawson, as well as politicians William Hague and John Prescott.

JLA’s website states that Mr Johnson ‘is regarded as one of the most captivating political speakers of his generation, with a famously entertaining style of delivery’. A source said he could expect to command a fee of about £30,000 a time for hosting corporate events at which he would be expected to make a 15-minute speech.

Mr Johnson and his wife announced last month that they were divorcing after 25 years. In a joint statement, they said they would ‘continue to support our four children in the years ahead’.

The former London mayor has since been linked romantically to the Conservative Party’s former communications chief Carrie Symonds, although neither has commented on their relationship.

His latest move risks a fresh clash with the parliamentary watchdog that polices the revolving door between politics and business. The advisory committee on business appointments has not yet given formal approval for Mr Johnson to take up the role.

All ministers are supposed to consult the committee before taking up any paid role within two years of leaving office.

Rules also ban ministers from taking up paid work for three months after leaving office.

Mr Johnson was rebuked by the committee for ‘failing to comply with [his] duty’ when he resumed his Telegraph column just days after resigning without seeking approval. Mr Johnson said he had not been aware of the rules.

But the committee’s chairman Baroness Browning later said the restrictions were enshrined in the ministerial code, which all ministers are required to sign.

Mr Johnson declined to comment last night.

Original article appears here

Sir Bradley Wiggins calls Sir Dave Brailsford’s marginal gains mantra ‘a load of rubbish’ and he wouldn’t put his mother in car from sponsors Skoda
Posted on March 27, 2017

Sir Bradley Wiggins has dismissed the marginal gains process at the centre of British Cycling’s success under Sir Dave Brailsford as ‘a load of rubbish’.

Wiggins was also critical of fellow Olympic gold-medallist Victoria Pendleton and sports psychologist Dr Steve Peters, who worked with Brailsford at British Cycling and Team Sky and created the ‘chimp paradox’ model for dealing with pressure.

Former Olympic champion Chris Boardman originally headed up British Cycling’s ‘Secret Squirrel Club’, now known as ‘Room X’ under head of technical development Tony Purnell, to find any slight advantage through modifications to bike technology and riders’ clothing.

Wiggins won eight Olympic medals, including five golds, as well as the Tour de France for Brailsford’s Team Sky but he said at a JLA motivational breakfast event on Friday: ‘A lot of people made a lot of money out of it and David Brailsford used it constantly as his calling card, but I always thought it was a load of rubbish.

‘It’s a bit like the whole chimp thing. At the end of the day, chimp theories and marginal gains and all these buzzwords – a lot of the time, I just think you have got to get the fundamentals right: go ride your bike, put the work in, and you’re either good or you’re not good.

‘Sometimes in life or in sport, whatever, you’re either good at something or you’re not. That’s what makes you a better athlete: your physical ability and whether you’ve trained enough – not whether you’ve slept on a certain pillow or mattress.’

Wiggins was also questioned by host Sarah-Jane Mee on Friday at the event that he was reported to have used a special mattress during his 2012 Tour victory but he was dismissive.

He said: ‘Yeah, but that was just the sprinkles on the top. Underneath it all was this dedication and this sacrifice and something mentally instilled in you from a young age that made you do what you did as a teenager and made you go out in the rain and all that stuff.’

Wiggins then added: ‘In some ways it’s almost a bit disrespectful for these people to come along and say, ‘Yeah, it’s because we made him sleep on this certain pillow, or he drank this certain drink before this race’.

Pendleton, who won sprint gold at Beijing 2008 and the keirin at London 2012, has credited Dr Peters as a major part of her success.

But Wiggins said: ‘Vicky’s a bit of a milkshake anyway. You can overanalyse things but at the end of the day, it’s about your ability and whether you’re a better athlete than the other person or not.

‘Whether you’ve come to grips with this other person living inside you, it’s all a bit… well, each to his own. That may work with some people, but as Roy Keane would say: it’s utter nonsense.’

Wiggins made no mention in the interview of the ongoing investigation into a medical package delivered to him at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine.

Meanwhile, 36-year-old Wiggins was also asked whether he would put his mother in a Skoda, in which he has an advertising deal with the car manufacturer.

However, in the Q+A, he was quick to insist that he would never put his mum in one of their cars, saying: ‘Nah, I wouldn’t put her in a Skoda.’

Original article appears here

Blazin’ Saddles: Bradley Wiggins slams ‘rubbish’ marginal gains
Posted on March 25, 2017

In his first public appearance since breaking a leg on The Jump, TV celebrity, occasional downhill skier and former cyclist Sir Bradley Wiggins has distanced himself from the hand that fed him by slamming the cult of marginal gains espoused by his old Team Sky boss, Sir David Brailsford.

Speaking at a JLA motivational breakfast event for corporate types in the City of London on Friday, the 2012 Tour de France champion and five-time Olympic gold medallist said marginal gains were “a load of rubbish” and labelled his former Team GB colleague Victoria Pendleton “a bit of a milkshake”.

At a time when Dave Brailsford’s ailing PR machine seems intent on aggregating marginal losses following a raft of scandals, the man at the centre of Sky’s apparent abuse of the TUE system took to the stage to distance himself from the team’s general manager and former performance director of British Cycling.

When asked by host Sarah-Jane Mee – the Sky News presenter whose limelight-seeking penchants for witty asides and pally rib-tickling should see her write her surname in triplicate – about his understanding of marginal gains, the bearded Wiggins was unequivocal.

“I think it’s a load of rubbish, if I’m honest. I do,” Wiggins, sharply dressed in a dark grey suit and a white shirt, said – much to the amusement of the 300-strong audience. “A lot of people made a lot of money out of it and David Brailsford used it constantly as his calling card. But I always thought it was a load of rubbish.

“It’s a bit like the whole chimp thing,” Wiggins added, referring to the life work of the British psychiatrist Steve Peters, Team Sky’s former head of medicine and author of management gospel ‘The Chimp Paradox’. He added:

” At the end of the day, chimp theories and marginal gains and all these buzz words – a lot of the time, I just think you have got to get the fundamentals right: go ride your bike, put the work in, and you’re either good or you’re not good. Sometimes in life or in sport, whatever, you’re either good at something or you’re not. That’s what makes you a better athlete: your physical ability and whether you’ve trained enough – not whether you’ve slept on a certain pillow or mattress.”

Reminded by Mee that he indeed was reported to have used a special mattress during his 2012 Tour victory, a game Wiggins was equally dismissive.

“Yeah, but that was just the sprinkles on the top. Underneath it all was this dedication and this sacrifice and something mentally instilled in you from a young age that made you do what you did as a teenager and made you go out in the rain and all that stuff.”

Now hitting his stride, Wiggins – who appeared on stage after a screening of his latest Skoda advert, and who mentioned his home London borough of Kilburn on just nine occasions throughout the 50-minute session – added: “In some ways it’s almost a bit disrespectful for these people to come along and say, ‘Yeah, it’s because we made him sleep on this certain pillow, or he drunk this certain drink before this race’.

” So I think that marginal gains are more for other people maybe to justify their jobs. I think it’s true. Fundamentals – talent, hard work and dedication – are more important. Because that 5% on top – that’s not going to make you win the bike race if you don’t have the other 95% underneath.”

Now milking the Middle Aged Men In Suits audience for easy dress-down-Friday laughs, Wiggins – with his trademark combination of self-deprecation and arrogance – boasted: “Me? I can sleep anywhere – even the floor here – and go on and win the Olympic gold the next day.

” I didn’t really matter to me. I think you get too wrapped up in all these things – this is what’s important, this is what’s going to make the difference – when actually I think you need to look at the broader picture, make sure everything else is right. The same with the whole chimp theory – that there’s a chimp living inside you. It never struck a chord with me. The people it struck a chord with are those who made fortunes selling it and telling you it’s the best thing since microwaves.”

When reminded that such a man – Professor Peters himself – worked very closely, and to much acclaim, with the likes of Victoria Pendleton and irascible snooker hotshot Ronnie O’Sullivan, Wiggins couldn’t resist caving in to the demon on his shoulders.

“But Victoria Pendleton said that without this chimp theory she couldn’t have won all her medals,” said Mee (Me Me), teeing things up for Bradley.

“But Vicky’s a bit of a milkshake anyway,” came the response, which had the (largely male) audience in raptures.

Perhaps keep to shift the focus away from Peters – previously dubbed “the man behind the medals” by British media – Wiggins concluded: “You can overanalyse things but at the end of the day it’s about your ability and whether you’re a better athlete than the other person or not. Whether you’ve come to grips with this other person living inside you, it’s all a bit… well, each to his own. That may work with some people, but as Roy Keane would say: it’s utter nonsense.”

Over the course of the event, Wiggins – who only mentioned his former Tesco shelf-stacking friends from Kilburn on three occasions, and his pals “on the fag counter at Waitrose” just the once – was on rambunctious form, eliciting more laughs from the crowd than a whole series of Live at the Apollo. Highlights included:

Mee: How did your mum cope?

Wiggins: She loved it. I mean, it worked out all right for her. She got a new fridge…

Mee: Did you get her a Skoda?

Wiggins: Nah, I wouldn’t put her in a Skoda.

Wiggins: You go and work at KFC and you know you’re going to serve chicken.

Mee: Or not…

Mee: Are you going to miss cycling now you’ve retired?

Wiggins: No. As much as I love cycling, it’s come full circle and I hate the thing now. I haven’t been on the bike since the Six Days of Gent back in November. I needed a complete break from it. I’ve taken up another sport which I’m doing just as a follow-up at the moment…

Mee: What sport’s that?

Wiggins: I can’t tell you. But that’s kept me busy. I don’t want to get fat. I’m paying a coach £90 a month to give me a monthly training plan.

Mee: Any regrets?

Wiggins: No, it all happened for me. I’ve been ticking boxes for the last four or five years. I can retire completely content. I’ve got five Olympic Gold medals. I haven’t got four. I mean, five sounds better. I’ve got no demons.

The London Olympics were phenomenal. I remember telling [rugby player and A Question Of Sport captain] Matt Dawson – who was famous for wearing gloves in the rugby World Cup final – that it’s never going to get any better than this. And Dave Brailsford was behind me and he said [putting on accent] ‘Don’t just say that, Bradley…’ But this was it, my definitive moment in sport.

And when it came to choosing between the Jam or Paul Weller, Wiggins refused to give an answer: “One comes from the other. You wouldn’t have sliced bread without a loaf of bread.”

At one point, towards the end of the Q&A, Wiggins even accused the host of yawning. Stressing that it was merely a “sharp intake of breath,” Mee quickly moved on to “one final question, because we’re running out of time…” to which Wiggins – bang on cue – breezily added: “… because we’re all getting tired, eh?”

Laughing it off, Mee said: “Look, I’ve had a busy week and me and you, we talk quite a lot and I’ve heard it all before.”

Which is quite apt because, to be fair to Bradley, we’ve all heard it before really, haven’t we? We know his story and his shtick. We know about Kilburn and shelf-stacking in Tesco and how easy it was to break the Hour Record because he had already done it in training.

But what we still don’t know is what was in the mystery package.

Of course, there were no probing questions at an event which was meant to be celebratory and straight-down-the-line. Presumably it was understood: no awkward questions about jiffy bags, prescription drugs, needles or asthma. And can you blame him? This was hardly the forum for such questions. It wasn’t, after all, a probing House of Commons anti-doping committee to which Wiggins was inexplicably never invited.

And in his defence, Wiggo did at least have the mirth to allude to the turbulent events of the last few months that have dogged Team Sky and questioned his own legacy.

“Cycling has become cool now,” Wiggins said during an anecdote about riding with a bunch of youngsters from Hackney, “or it had done in the last couple of years before British Cycling and the Death Star went into meltdown the last few months.”

Cue laughs from the crowd and a smile from Mee, who clearly knew that she couldn’t pounce on this for fear of a walk-out. Later, when she asked Wiggins whether or not he’d be happy if his son was to try his hand at following in his footsteps and becoming a cyclist, Wiggins said: “The way things are going at the moment – no.”

Instead, Wiggins felt much more comfortable looking forward, not backwards, and discussing his next moves – which, besides taking up a new mystery sport, involves more “self-indulgent” TV work. Starting this weekend with an appearance on Soccer AM alongside the band Kasabian where chances of a jiffy bag own-goal are minimal.

Original article appears here

Speaker-for-hire Hague earns £1.3m
Posted on January 27, 2017

William Hague’s formidable skills as an orator led to him being dubbed “the David Beckham of toasting” by Hillary Clinton. Since departing the Commons, the former foreign secretary’s verbal flourishes are now helping him to build earnings to match the title.

Freed from the constraints of high office, Lord Hague of Richmond carried out 54 speaking engagements last year, a rhetorical odyssey that earned him £1.3 million and saw him clock up enough air miles to take him more than twice round the world. A series of other directorships, advisory posts and writing jobs took his potential earnings to almost £2 million in 2016.

It is his packed speaking schedule that drove his earnings last year. His speeches are organised through the JLA agency, which rates him as an “AA” speaker — the highest cost band with a price per speech of over £25,000. Lord Hague, 55, even made more than one speech a day on three occasions. His engagements have included a cybersecurity conference and compering a business awards show.

The butt of his jokes is often the current foreign secretary. At the National Business Awards Lord Hague poked fun at Boris Johnson for describing Brexit as a “titanic success”.

More recently he has taken aim at Donald Trump. At the WhatHouse? awards he said the problem with political jokes was that “they have started to get elected”. He even read a mock letter from the president, stating: “I believe in the special relationship with your country — which is just as well, as I’ve already pissed off most of the others.”

Corporate clients have paid for his thoughts on Brexit. At a BNP Paribas conference he advised companies to start lobbying the government on tax and cutting red tape.

“Amidst all the disadvantages, find the advantages and start communicating rapidly with government about what are the regulations that can now be changed that make it easier to do business in Britain,” he said. “There might be ten years of rewriting laws and doing new regulations. Businesses need to get in on that very quickly.”

Those who have heard his speeches describe them as entertaining and frank. They tend to last for about 15 minutes and are followed by lengthy Q&A sessions.

Other posts have helped to boost his income. Industry sources said he would earn about £100,000 for chairing an advisory group for the law firm Linklaters and at least £200,000 for his role as senior adviser to the corporate advisory company Teneo Holdings.

He also has a fortnightly column contract for The Daily Telegraph that is thought to run into six figures and is the director of Intercontinental Exchange, which owns exchanges and clearing houses for financial and commodity markets. He earned £191,000 from the post in 2015. His earnings are set to increase further this year after he took an advisory role with Citigroup.

Lord Hague and his wife Ffion, 48, bought Cyfronydd Hall, a ten-bedroom home in Powys, Wales, in 2015. On sale for £2.5 million, it in fact went for £1.75 million.

A spokesman did not comment on Lord Hague’s earnings but said his advice on lobbying the government over tax and regulation before Brexit was “a commonsense observation”.

  • “The trouble now with political jokes is that they have started to get elected. This makes it a little more difficult.”
  • “I saw a bumper sticker just before the American election that said: ‘Cheer up, only one of them can win’.”
  • “When I first went to campaign for Boris [Johnson] in North Wales, where he was a candidate, I said: ‘How are you getting on, Boris?’ He said: ‘It’s going to be huge’ . . . and the Labour majority was huge in that particular election.”
  • “We have had foreign secretaries in bigger trouble. One of my predecessors was George Brown. He loved a drink. He thought you didn’t count as drunk if you could lie on the floor without having to hold on to it at the same time.”

Original article appears here


William Hague earned £1.3million as the ‘David Beckham of toasting’ by making 54 speeches last year charging more than £25,000 a time
Posted on January 27, 2017

On the face of things William Hague and David Beckham would appear to have very little in common – but that did not stop Hillary Clinton making a surprising comparison between the two.

The failed Democrat presidential candidate lauded the former Conservative leader as ‘the David Beckham of toasting’ because of his success on the public speaking scene since departing the Commons.

Lord Hague, 55, dashed around the globe for 54 different engagements last year and on three occasions even managed to squeeze two into one day.

His speeches last year accounted for around £1.3million of his £2million total earnings for 2016, with an evening with Lord Hague often costing around £25,000 for a 15-minute talk and subsequent Q&A session, according to The Times.

And he has not been scared to take aim at fellow top politicians, including the current incumbent of his former role as Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, as well as Donald Trump and other senior figures.

At the National Business Awards, he poked fun at Boris for labelling Brexit as a ‘Titanic success’ and said of Trump ‘The problem with political jokes is that they are starting to get elected.’

Lord Hague’s speeches are organised through the JLA agency, which rates him as a ‘AA’ speaker.

That is the highest cost band, with a price per speech of more than £25,000.

The former Foreign Secretary has even racked up enough air miles to take him more than twice around the world.

Speeches have proved an extremely popular way for MPs to cash in when they step away from the limelight, with George Osborne the latest to jump on the bandwagon following his dismissal as Chancellor.

Since his sacking last July, he has already amassed more than £600,000 from public appearances.

But this was met by criticism, given that he is still the serving MP for Tatton. Former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said: ‘The public expect MPs to allocate their time representing their constituents’ interests, not building up a massive income.’

And former Prime Minister David Cameron, who is no longer in the Commons at all, was paid an eye-watering £120,000 to speak for just one hour talk to Blackstone Properties in New York.

Meanwhile, Tony Blair has gone on to make an estimated fortune of £27 million since leaving frontline politics.

A spokesman for Lord Hague declined to comment on the figures yesterday.

Original article appears here 

Chakrabarti for hire at £5,000 a speech
Posted on October 16, 2016

Shami Chakrabarti, the ally whom Jeremy Corbyn made a Labour peer and shadow attorney-general, is hiring herself out for up to £5,000 a speech despite serving in the shadow cabinet.

David Cameron barred his shadow cabinet from holding second jobs while in opposition, after pressure from Labour.

Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader, tried to ban MPs from all directorships and consultancies and last week the parliamentary standards committee also proposed curbs on MPs’ outside earnings.

Chakrabarti advertises with JLA, “the UK’s biggest specialist agency for keynote, motivational and after dinner speakers, conference presenters, awards hosts and cabaret for corporate, industry and public sector events”.

The former human rights lawyer, who headed the campaign group Liberty, is listed as a “C” grade booking, meaning she commands fees of £2,500-£5,000. The agency’s website says she “turned Liberty into an effective campaigning organisation, leading debate on civil rights from ID cards to surveillance”, adding: “The Sun once dubbed her ‘the most dangerous woman in Britain’.”

Other JLA speakers include the physicist and broadcaster Brian Cox, who commands fees of £10,000-£25,000, and Peter Andre, the singer and reality TV star, who earns more.Chakrabarti declares her “occasional speaking engagements” on the House of Lords register of interests, noting that she has not had any since she entered parliament last month.However, the lucrative side-line risks fuelling anger among Labour MPs and peers who are unhappy over her appointment and promotion.Jewish groups have suggested Chakrabarti was given her peerage in return for carrying out a “whitewash” report into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, something she and Corbyn’s office have denied.There is also resentment among the parliamentary Labour Party over Corbyn’s decision to parachute her straight into his shadow cabinet.

Chakrabarti failed to respond to inquiries.

Former Tory leader William Hague earning £50k a week for after-dinner speaking engagements
Posted on January 24, 2016

Peer earns more as a public speaker than £134k he was paid while in the Cabinet

WILLIAM Hague is raking in £50,000 a week as an after-dinner speaker.

The former Tory leader and Foreign Secretary has been hired for a string of events since he left frontline politics. It means he can earn more in a few weeks than the £134,000 he was paid as a Cabinet minister.

Experts predict that with book contracts and royalties he will soon make £1million. Lord Hague is signed up with JLA, Britain’s top after-dinner speaker agency, which says he has “true Yorkshire wit and natural comic timing”.

Described as “the David Beckham of toasting” by Hillary Clinton, his AA rating means his fee is “over £25,000”.

Only a handful of others command the same fee, including astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

Ex-Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown gets £5,000 to £10,000, while former home secretary David Blunkett earns £2,500 to £5,000.

Lord Hague, who made £820,000 for writing, speaking and TV appearances in his last political break, recently made two speeches in eight days, according to Lords records.

The week after he flew to Dubai for two engagements in 48 hours.

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City Spy: Star power runs dry as talent agent JLA books up famous faces for birthday bash
Posted on December 8, 2015

Struggle to find a star turn for your end-of-year conference or Christmas bash this week? Spy may have found the culprit.

Jeremy Lee, who with partner Tom Mclaughlin runs the UK’s biggest specialist talent agency, JLA, is hosting the firm’s 25th birthday bash in Mayfair tomorrow. Speakers include former Dyson boss Martin McCourt, Alastair Campbell and Alistair Darling. Rory Bremner, Nick Hewer and Dara O Briain (pictured) will be providing the, ahem, glamour. Spy hopes the stars slap a bill on Lee’s desk for giving up their time when they could be fronting a paper-clip company’s annual knees-up.

Original Article Appears Here

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A world of aardvarks and minefields.
Posted on June 26, 2015

How do you bamboozle Tony Blair? Just ask William Hague. Yesterday, the former Secretary of State was in the City giving a speech at a breakfast arranged by motivational speaker organisation JLA. He let on his secrets on how he would confuse a seemingly unflappable Blair during PMQs when Tory leader (remember that 1997-2001). Blair, Hague said used to arrive in the Commons without notes but a few rounds of tough debate led to him changing his tack. “After about six weeks…he came out with these big folders that had the answers to every subject you could imagine in the alphabet; from aardvark to zoology, he could show you killed more aardvarks than he did when you were in office or you shut more zoo, and all subjects in between.”

Hague adapted accordingly, and also tried a clairvoyant approach called “the deep minefield.” ‘This takes a couple of years to work out,” he recalled. “You ask a question where nobody can work out why you’re asking it. And you may have your doubts. But you’re just sewing a minefield for the future…Then you sit back and think you know something nobody else knows – even though you don’t, of course, and you wait. Sometimes you wait for about a year and a half and a minister breaks the code of conduct and the bomb explodes. It was always Peter Mandelson in my time.” Oh Mandy.



Public Speaking. Turn Your Monologues into Masterpieces.
Posted on April 1, 2015

The public speaking industry has rocketed over the past couple of decades. From Alan Sugar to Brian Blessed, everyone’s after some after-dinner action. The industry certainly seems to be wide open to ex-politicians with the gift of the gab. “It absolutely is,” says Jeremy Lee of JLA (Jeremy Lee Associates), the UK’s largest speaker agency. “And we encourage them. I expect to hear from at least a third of the outgoing cabinet each time there’s an election.” There are 9,000 speakers on Lee’s books, which cater for more than 2,000 events every year. More and more people it appears are willing to pay a lot of money to have celebrities appear at their events and get behind the mic for 20 minutes. Flavours of the month – Felix Baumgartner and Usain Bolt, for instance will cost you more than £25,000. Who are the best speakers Lee’s seen? “One of the best was Neil Armstrong,” he says. “He was one of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever met, yet so extraordinarily humble, with an apparent lack of troublesome ego. In marked contrast to people who’ve done one or two appearances on Mock The Week and think that thereafter they should be treated as some sort of deity. I bought Armstrong over for a gig and I spoke to him on the phone. I said we’d have a limo waiting for him. And he interrupted me and said, ‘Jeremy, I’m a grown up. I’ll get a cab.’ Of course he can get a cab, because it isn’t actually very difficult.”

In today’s media culture, public speaking is more present than ever, especially in politics, with party leaders battling it out in The X Factor-style TV debates. If they don’t have what it takes to convey strength, confidence and charisma, they’re in trouble. Training, though, can’t take everybody all the way says JLA’s Jeremy Lee. “You can make yourself quite good. But you can’t make yourself brilliant. There are certain things that can’t be taught.” Natural likeability, for instance? “Yeah. All those kind of things. But, you can learn tricks. The key thing is to give them the impression that you’re there to pay for your new kitchen. If anybody gives that impression then why should the audience give a toss about you?”

Audiences will want to hear about William Hague’s bizarre friendship with Angelina Jolie if he takes up on the lucrative speaking circuit
Posted on August 21, 2014

Ex-Foreign Secretary William Hague claims he’s retiring from politics at the General Election to spend more time with his wife, Ffion. There is also the lucrative speaking circuit to look forward to. He can command £25,000 a pop as an after-dinner performing seal. His former agent Jeremy Lee predicts: ‘His recent experience in government will make him even more in demand.’ Is anyone really interested in Hague’s boring political travails? Audiences will more likely want to hear about his bizarre friendship with pouting actress Angelina Jolie.

Original article appears here

The Economics Of Book Festivals
Posted on June 27, 2014

There is a particular sound that for many, along with the cry of the cuckoo, the thwack of willow on leather and the hum of a distant lawnmower, now signifies the approach of summer. It is, of course, the amplified tones of an author trying to be heard as rain drums on the roof of a marquee.

With its mushrooming tents, ranks of deckchairs and orderly queues of readers waiting to have their books signed, the literary festival is now an established feature of British cultural life. Yet just over 30 years ago, in 1983, when the Edinburgh International Book Festival was launched, it was one of only three. Today, according to literaryfestivals.co.uk, a website that tries to keep up with them all, there are more than 350 in Britain alone and a further 100 in Australia and New Zealand. Not to mention others in Gibraltar, Colombia, India, Spain, Kenya . . .

A festival organiser who asked to remain anonymous, despite being bullish about the economics of book festivals and the remuneration of authors, said, “There aren’t terrific margins, so it’s all about making sure you book the right people and put them into the right venues and you sell enough tickets.” So, though authors might be tempted to look at the figures they’ve jotted on the back of an envelope and cry foul, the organiser is more sanguine. “I think authors overvalue themselves,” he says bluntly. “It’s the festival that is taking the risk.”

It’s a view shared by Jeremy Lee, whose speakers agency last year provided talent for 2,300 corporate events. These events, says Lee, pay anywhere from £1,000 to £30,000 for a speaker. But, despite what they might imagine, most authors just “ain’t a draw . . . being a fabulous author does not mean you’re a fabulous speaker”. In Lee’s half-joking view, “The only people who make money from these festivals are the caterers . . .”

Richard Kay
Posted on January 8, 2014

After-dinner speaking agency JLA has published a list of MPs, businessmen, TV presenters and sports stars on its books, offering a useful guide to what they consider their market worth to be.

BBC newscasters Fiona Bruce and Huw Edwards are classed as A-listers who expect to be paid an eyewatering £10,000 to £25,000 per engagement.

Meanwhile, Today programme presenter John Humphrys and Daily Politics host Andrew Neil are rated B, who will settle for a more modest £5,000 to £10,000 per talk.

I know who I’d prefer to listen to.

Original article appears here

SME Masterclass: How to make a speech
Posted on September 25, 2013

Love them or hate them, as an SME leader you are probably going to be asked to make lots of them. Be prepared.

No yawning at the back – Put your best stuff at the beginning or you risk lose your audience’s attention
By Rachel Bridge

If your business is doing well, you are likely to be asked to make a speech at a conference or industry dinner at some point. If you are not a natural, it can be an unnerving experience. Here’s how to do it right:

1. Know your audience. Find out everything you can about the people who are going to be listening to you before you stand up in front of them. How much do they already know about what you are going to be talking about, how much prior knowledge can you assume? Pitch it too low and you will bore them, pitch it too high and you will baffle them.

2. Stick to the time allocated. No matter how much the audience appears to be enjoying your speech, they still want you to end when you are supposed to. If you have been given a really long slot, don’t keep rambling on to fill it; stop and take questions.

3. Give your speech a structure so people get a sense of where it is heading. Organise your content so that, for example, there are three areas you want to look at, or five key points you want to make. But don’t do a long preamble at the start telling people what you are going to be talking about it. Just get on with it.

4. Start with your best stuff. Jeremy Lee, founder of JLA speakers agency, says: “You should always start with your best material because then you will hook your audience and they will listen. If you save up your best story until three quarters of the way through then frankly you might have lost them all by then.”

5. Treat the microphone with respect. If you have been fitted out with a wireless lapel microphone, act as if it on is on at all times. Because it may well be and then the whole room will hear you discussing what you had for breakfast before you go on stage. Or worse.

6. Be yourself. Speak in your normal voice, just at a slightly slower speed. Lee says: “Don’t act and don’t start declaiming in a Shakespearean way. It will make people switch off. Whether you are taking to your own staff or to potential clients, what you want them to buy into is you, not some bizarre amateur-dramatics version of you.”

7. Go easy on the Powerpoint presentations. If you must have one, don’t just stand there and read it. It is there to add value to your speech, not be it. Use pictures or phrases or even single words and explain what they mean. Including a short video can be a nice way to keep an audience engaged, but make sure you actually know how to make the equipment work, otherwise it’s just horrible and painful to watch.

8. Ditch the jokes. If you have secretly always wanted to be a stand-up comedian, this is not the time to see if you could have made a career of it. And never ever make jokes at the expense of your business. We all know what happens to people who ignore this rule. It never ends well.

And finally – don’t memorise your speech verbatim; write it down as a series of stories then put them in bullet points on a piece of paper in your pocket. That way it is there if you need it, and you may find that you don’t.

Original article appears here

Real Variety Show 2013
Posted on September 25, 2013

Jeremy Lee Associates’ annual comedy jamboree started with a minor hitch with host Russell Kane’s mic suffering from a case of the gremlins. However, it wasn’t long before the self-conscious, self-referential comic – not an act synonymous with corporates for those of us generally on the outside of this circuit – got proceedings back on track.

Riffing on the nuanced differences between the sexes on, for example, actively choosing singledom (men, he contends, are kidding themselves that they can pull this off), Kane drew an additional, regional, distinction by using his Mancunian girlfriend as a reference point.

From mapping out our sexual and regional foibles Kane proceeded to plan out our evening and brought on the first act, comedian and singer Charlie Baker whose screen credits include Dr Who and The IT Crowd. West Country boy Baker showcased his singing talents by giving Devonian renditions of Sammy Davis Junior and Frank Sinatra, and put together three dance moves that, he said, covered all musical theatre songs.

Amazonian Ellie Taylor, presenter on BBC3’s Snog, Marry, Avoid, kicked off her set with some height gags, for example how a person of impressive stature deals with people of restricted height, before mining her Essex background for some tried and tested quips.

Hip hop magic act, Magical Bones changed the page with his dextrous dancing and lively approach to card tricks. Richard Essien, who has worked with Madonna and the Black Eyed Peas, moved like a kind of animated mannequin, moonwalking and card sharking at the same time.

Sean Collins, a Canadian resident in the UK for ten years now, struck the most corporate-friendly note of the evening. He was suited and booted in his sartorial choice and had a gentle lyrical delivery which wrapped itself around domestic tussles from demanding toddlers to the importance of golf over your wife’s fashion choices.

Like the host, sketch outfit Four Screws Loose also suffered from a technical hitch, one that threatened to arrest any momentum. However, their pastiche of boy bands, from the Backstreet Boys to Take That and their abridged version of Titanic – a mimed soundscape using refrains from pop songs including Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance and Rod Stewart’s Sailing – made sure that they ended the first half on the crest of a wave.

Mitch Winehouse (father of Amy) and his band started the second half with a salvo of lounge hits including Something’s Gotta Give, Frank Sinatra’s Learning The Blues, and After You’ve Gone. All the money that Winehouse earns from his corporate gigs goes to the charity he set up in his daughter’s name.

Fresh from his nomination for the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award newcomer, Romesh Ranganathan gave a tight performance tonight. His experiences as a maths teacher provided a loose backdrop to his set. One of his conceits is that he gave up teaching so as not to have to deal with other people’s kids, but as a parent this problem returns. Fortunately for Ranganathan he has a nonchalant cheek more than capable to cope with such minor irritants.

Tom Rosenthal, a past winner of the Best Breakthrough Act at the British Comedy Awards and a star of Friday Night Dinner and Plebs, did not have the easiest of nights. The young comic started by cheekily inverting a line from Ranganathan, but lost focus almost immediately after. Rosenthal didn’t have the segues to move his material along and the choices of routines just didn’t gel with the demographic of his audience – an extended riff on computer game Football Manager a case in point.

Musical duo Johnny & The Baptists had the honour of closing the night and did so with gusto and charm. Two of their comedy songs stuck out: Scotland Don’t Leave Me, an R’n’B style ballad that portrayed England and Scotland’s Union as a flawed marriage that was still worth working at. You Are Not A Pub lamented the passing of old man’s drinking holes in favour of gastropubs, with pickled eggs ousted by hummus.

This battle between pita and bitter ended the night, leaving the assembled enough time to visit their own preferred hostelries and reflect on the flow of comedy talent they had just drunk in.

EXPERT CHOICE: Sean Collins, as chosen by Monique Farez, Capgemeni UK plc

Meet Middle East: Rules Of Engagement
Posted on May 16, 2013

Traditionally booked to sex up the corporate conference, motivational or celebrity speakers can garner extravagant fees in the Gulf, but does the investment pay off? Kathi Everden looks at the pros and cons of the big name stage show

For the client, where to research and how to source that show stopper is a process that can start with Google and a trawl of the latest motivational blockbuster reads, but should be augmented by expertise – either a call to one or two of the international speaker bureaux or even by consultation among work colleagues.

JLA’s Jeremy Lee puts the case for a speaker bureau that can act as an independent evaluator as well as having its own portfolio of tried and tested talent.

Founder of the UK’s leading speaker bureau, he’s been in the business for 23 years and is forthright about the need for objectivity: “The only three words that matter in choosing talent are audience, audience and audience. The least important factor is the personal taste of the organiser, sponsor or person signing the cheque,” he said, adding a caveat about the value of celebrity.

“Unless you catch a celebrity at the moment they hit the headlines, there’s absolutely no correlation between their profile and audience satisfaction at the end of the presentation. By all means hire a big name if your object is to attract an audience, imbue an event with authority or if you want people to boast to their friends ‘you’ll never guess who I’ve just seen’ – but not because you think it offers some kind of quality assurance. It doesn’t.”

The $50,000 dollar question…

For the best results, Jeremy Lee considers £10,000 ($16,000) a ‘reasonable’ budget where you don’t need the speaker’s name to sell tickets.

The priority is to get the right person for the job. “Book someone who speaks from experience, rather than an author or academic pontificating on any given subject,” says Lee.

He has one other intriguing suggestion – to halve the length of the average business conference. “There’s no need for it to be twice the length of a Wagner opera!”

Original article appears here

Last Night’s Viewing: Funny Business, BBC2
Posted on January 17, 2013

You can have 20 minutes of Ricky Gervais’s time for about £25,000, but Michael Mansfield is going to cost you a bit more – up to £40,000, according to Funny Business, Richard Marson’s intriguing series about the economics of the comedy boom.

These figures, as Ricky Gervais would probably be quick to point out, should not be taken as a simple measure of comic genius. They represent what corporate clients – very keen on mainstream telly celebrity, less keen on edgy affront – are willing to pay to sugar-coat their sales conference or annual general meeting. And not every comedian thinks it’s a good idea to ply for hire in this market: “It’s a kind of high-end prostitution without the sex,” said Jo Brand, one of those who is actually prepared to whore out her talent for the corporate client.

That’s a prejudicial way of putting it, of course, and much of the tension in Funny Business, between comics who do and comics who don’t, arose from the ambiguous status of the stand-up comedian, who occupies a position somewhere on a spectrum running from end-of-pier entertainer to priestly social commentator. Some practitioners think that comedy is show business and have no problem going where the big fees are. Others think that it has a duty to show up business, so that to do a corporate gig is selling your soul. To further complicate matters, several contributors suggested that the abasement involved in this particular line of work was actually good for their comedy and their soul, though it presumably helps that it’s the kind of therapy in which they pay you rather than the other way round.

It’s big business anyway, fed by talent-bookers like Jeremy Lee, a big hitter in the field, and Geoff Whiting, who started from a Bath phone-box and does a bit of stand-up himself. Rather poignantly, his account of his career trajectory mostly consisted of recalling the household names who got their very first booking through him and then sailed past to celebrity. Appearing for the refuseniks were comics like Rhod Gilbert (who became visibly distressed as he recalled a traumatic set he’d done for a Professional Footballers’ Association junket) and Mark Thomas, neither of whom could be accused of scorning the work only because they were never likely to be offered it in the first place. It was fascinating, though it rather lost focus towards the end as the documentary meandered into the realm of corporate-video production and then concluded in complete enigma. “Wherever you look now money’s spoiled it,” grumbled John Cleese. After which we got a shot of Monaco harbour. An arch comment? An illustration? A hint of what’s to come? I’m still not sure.

Original article appears here

TV Review: Funny Business
Posted on January 17, 2013

In Funny Business (BBC2), the first of a series, Eddie Mair narrated an investigation into the ways in which standup comedians can make big money, none of which is by telling jokes in comedy clubs.

Appearing in adverts is one way, but many comics find selling stuff on TV to be inconsistent with either their morals or their sense of humour. Not that many, actually. Less objectionable is the corporate gig. You’re just doing your act, albeit in front of a room full of company managers for an obscene amount of money. Ricky Gervais gets £25,000 for a 20-minute corporate set. Michael McIntyre gets £40,000. It’s not surprising that up-and-coming comedians on corporate booker Jeremy Lee’s roster fall over themselves to appear in his annual Real Variety Show, essentially a huge audition for an audience of events company managers. Again, it’s just a gig, you end your set with the punchline: “I’m available for bookings, and I also host!”

A lot of comedians won’t touch corporate gigs either, but not necessarily for the reason you might think. “I doubt there’s one comedian in the world,” said Arthur Smith, “who hasn’t died on his or her arse at a corporate gig.”

Jo Brand finds them bracing – “If you do corporates, you get the message that not everyone loves you,” she says – but Rhod Gilbert still gets heart palpitations just driving by the venues of old corporate failures. It may be filthy lucre, but it doesn’t sound like easy money.


Funny Business, BBC Two, Review
Posted on January 17, 2013

Michael McIntyre: £40,000. Ricky Gervais: £25,000. Jason Manford: £25,000. Jo Brand: £10,000-£25,000. Barry Cryer – who after that lot looks an absolute steal – is £2,000-£5,000.

This, according to Funny Business (BBC Two), is what it costs to hire the above to tell some jokes at a corporate event. The documentary was about comedians’ relationship with money: how much they earn, how they earn it, and how they feel about how they earn it. And when it comes to corporate events – hosting, say, an awards do for the burglar alarm industry, or the national association of actuaries’ Christmas party – some of them itch with self-loathing.

Rhod Gilbert, a Welsh comedian, said he had such miserable memories of corporate events that he no longer does them (he once did a set for the Professional Footballers’ Association. His efforts were met with total silence). Other comedians said they by and large found themselves going down well, but none the less seemed vaguely ashamed.

The same went for adverts: easier money but seen by many more people, which is the last thing comedians want. Glad as they are of the cash, many comedians talk about doing adverts the way other famous people talk about having their sexual misdemeanours exposed by the tabloids. They know they shouldn’t have done it, but they couldn’t help themselves, and they’re only human, and, and…

But is it so wrong? The venerated US comedian Bill Hicks sneered that if you do an advert “you’re off the artistic roll call”. Why a comedian should worry about “the artistic roll call” is hard to say.

Until about 30 years ago, it was thought fine just to tell jokes and be well-paid for it. Then came “alternative comedy”: liberal, leftish, notionally anti-establishment. Now no self-respecting comedian could be merely a jester. He had to be an artist. And an artist must hate himself for making money, or, if he doesn’t make money, hate peers who do.

Especially if that money is made from adverts, because adverts are made on behalf of firms with products to sell, and selling products is evil. The idea that selling products is good, because it keeps people in jobs and their children fed, rarely gets a look-in.

Maybe we’re having this debate 10 years too late, though. We’re now in the era of Jimmy Carr, a former marketing man for Shell who’s been upbraided by the Prime Minister for not paying enough tax. I don’t know whether Carr would make it on to the Hicks Artistic Roll Call, but I have a funny feeling he doesn’t care.

Original article appears here


BBC 2 – Funny Business: From Gags To Riches
Posted on January 16, 2013

BBC2 documentary revealing how top comedians can make a fortune from a wide range of corporate gigs, from after dinner speeches to TV commercials. Looking back at some of the funniest adverts ever made and revealing why for some comedians it is work that they covet, while for others it is a creative compromise too far. Also revealing what happened when one of Britain’s funniest men decided to set up a company trading on laughs.

The Real Variety Show 2012
Posted on September 25, 2012

The annual Real Variety Show, held by Jeremy Lee Associates, is an intriguing curiosity. For someone who generally sees comedians playing to paying customers, it’s quite refreshing to see them sing for their supper in front of a corporate crowd who have not yet splashed out on paying for them.

Jason Manford was a steady choice as host – brisk, businesslike, but with enough cheeky charm to keep proceedings bubbling along warmly. He brought some amusing tales of other corporate gigs with him tonight, including a builders’ event at which waiters were being asked for “glasses of champagne with six sugars”.

It was the job of highly regarded songstress/comedian Vikki Stone to kick off the cavalcade. She did so with a ditty about her love of Phillip Schofield, a YouTube hit, and a love lament set to the tune of the Jurassic Park theme tune.

Star of Balamory and of Rev, Miles Jupp was up next to regale us with his poshboy persona. “I’m privileged. Not just to be here but in general.” His supercilious shtick was inflicted upon Boris Johnson (“he always looks like he has come round from a general anaesthetic”) to the impossibility of ever getting a truly quiet coach on a train.

The Boy With Tape On His Face, Sam Wills’ marvellous mime, tickled an unsuspecting crowd with his clowning. Among the set pieces he squeezed into his short spot was his manipulation of an audience ‘volunteer’ into re-enacting the potters wheel scene from Ghost, with some playdough and a plastic container.

Yorkshireman and baby-faced circuit veteran Paul Tonkinson cut straight to the chase with his greeting of “hello corporate people”, but ultimately belied any misgivings he had about his turn by providing a really crafted set, largely about domesticity. “I get pleasure from denying my family heat” was his take on how being a dad made him start worrying about heating bills, among other matters he was hitherto unfettered by.

The CK Gospel Choir ended the first half with an energetic medley of four songs including the always incredible You’ve Got The Love a song that, no matter how it is arranged, is always impressive.

Lewisham lad Rob Beckett opened the second half. His ice-cream cone quiff hair and flashing white teeth, accentuated by his white shirt, had already made quite an impression before his knockabout material about his food and drink pet hates (cous cous and strawberry and kiwi Robinsons) kicked in.

“You might have heard of my brother – Colin” is the teasing opener of character and magic act Piff the Magic Dragon. His elaborate card trick tonight was aided by Mr Piffles, a chihuahua, whose canine wiles won over many of the audience.

Known already for his stints on Live At The Apollo and Mock the Week, Josh Widdicombe gave a taste of his ‘restrained hysteria’ and the nasal incredulity that he pours over the little things in life, such as the paradox that is an Argos Extra store and the paltry size of cereal servings.

Hal Cruttenden is another polished performer and capped off some slightly risque set ups with acceptable aplomb: “I saw this girl the other day – I thought if I was twenty years younger… I’d get really obsessed with her and do absolutely nothing about it.” As ever, Cruttenden got quite a lot of mileage out of his Northern Irish wife and admitted that when she said “I want to spend the rest of my life with you” he was too scared to say no.

Five-piece troupe, The Noise Next Door closed the show with two fast-paced improvised songs. One was based on a lady from the front row called Olivia who simply told the group that she liked red wine, hated fish and wanted to visit Australia. Before long the troupe were leaping about and singing her a boyband-style serenade complete with cork-popping innuendo.

An ebullient ending to a show that must have given its audience plenty to think about in choosing their favourite acts.

The JLA Real Variety Showcase 2011
Posted on September 22, 2011

It takes a real pro to admit the shortfalls of their act right from the off, but Rory Bremner – the host of this year’s Jeremy Lee Associates Real Variety Showcase – did exactly that.

Thanks to a bland, faceless cabinet, the master impressionist admits he is finding it hard to find any identifiable characteristics of the current crop, with the exception of William Hague’s dreadful drawl. He is, of course, doing himself an injustice. His David Cameron and Nick Clegg are even more oily than in reality. And while his set-ups between impressions may occasionally be a little forced, his Blair, Bush, Clinton, and cruel Blunkett are without equal.

Hannah Gadsby, the Australian comedian, is an expert in the understated. Like the lesbian daughter of Dame Edna Everage, she has a warmth and delivers her slightly naughty material with a wry smile. Life is a series of surprises for her and she assumes for the audience. While her take on growing up gay has an adult edge, she is gently endearing.

Complete with Poirot moustache and perfect RP, Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer reinterprets nineties rave hits on a banjo and beat box. He will literally get any party started. It’s a lazy cliche to add ‘on acid’ to a description to suggest wackiness, so perhaps it’s best to avoid ‘George Formby on Acid’ and opt for ‘Acid House on a cup of Earl Grey’. Either works.

With the popularity of comics John Bishop and Michael McIntyre, there is a trend towards everyman observational comedy. Add to the above Sean Walsh – a rougher McIntyre with great delivery and a punchy energy. His observations of modern life will connect to any audience and his lively stage presence could fill any size room. JLA has a knack for finding top comics before they make it big – Walsh could be next.

Pick of the night was The Horne Section, stand up Alex Horne’s musical act. It’s funny, musically brilliant, highly original and beautifully crafted to turn any event into a fun evening. His highly adept band will take suggestions from the audience for musical style, key, tune – their virtuosity is incredible. But it is the mass board games, that really captured the audience – watching a hall full of people playing Twister has to be seen to be believed.

As does Bruce Airhead. What event is complete without a well-oiled man in a Lycra one-piece fitting himself inside a giant rubber ball? Truly a variety act and one that will have water coolers bubbling for months after.

After the break, came up-and-coming comic Imran Yusef. Much of the likeable Yusef’s act is about his rich cultural heritage – born to Indian parents in Kenya, raised in the UK and schooled in America. While great material for comedy clubs or an Edinburgh show, it’s not quite strong enough for a corporate audience.

Nathan Flutebox Lee & the Clinic is great in concept but weak in delivery. Flautist Nathan is a human beatbox. While a highly original act – playing hip hop, dubstep and Eastern melodies – he failed to connect with the audience and seemed a little disorganised, his two band members, ‘the clinic’, almost wondering off the stage before the set was over.

Comic Simon Evans must have been created in a lab to play corporate events. His deadpan delivery in a cut glass accent perfectly suits his intelligent material. He carefully deconstructs a traditional joke formula and then puts it back together only to find bits left over. And he doesn’t miss a gag. Surely one of the ‘must book’ corporate comics.

The same can’t be said for Andi Osho. A solid comic on the circuit with some nice material, she pitched her set badly for the audience, leaving jokes hanging and often falling short of a big punchline. While she managed some laughs, fart, poo and fanny jokes are probably misplaced here.

For a glitzy drag finale, there’s none camper than Priscilla Queen of the Desert – or should that be dessert? This Tony and Olivier award-winning spectacle has fab costumes and pumping disco anthems. With an impressively large cast it’s a no holds barred show-stopper.

How Lord Coe Makes His Money From The London Olympics
Posted on June 20, 2011

Lord Coe’s Olympics ticketing system might have left consumers in the dark, but his athletic-turned-political career has certainly commanded its share of the limelight.

Going from the sporting and Olympic arena to Westminster, Seb Coe has most recently returned in the other direction to polish his reputation as Chairman for the London Organising Committee for the Olympics (LOGOC).

The Chair’s salary of £365,507 is not to be sniffed at, especially as the Lord gets £500 to £1,000 per committee meeting he attends.

He made £7,000 from attending meetings, in the last year for which LOGOC filed accounts at Companies House. It says these payments are: ‘Intended to recognise not only the time spent in preparing for and attending the meetings, but also the significant contribution made by Directors in carrying out their duties.’

Lord Coe also earns a small fortune delivering speeches for up to £25k a pop. Topics include ‘The Winning Mind’, ‘Taking on World Class Competition’, and ‘Maintaining the Appetite to Succeed’. Coe charges upwards of £10k per speech, according to his agent JLA’s website.

Brian Blessed ‘Throttles’ Savoy Diner And Storms Out Of Speaking Engagement After Being Told Flash Gordon Was ‘C**p’
Posted on December 1, 2010

Always leave your audience wanting more, the actor’s adage goes.

But Brian Blessed didn’t even give them a taste.

The Shakespearean actor stormed out of an after-dinner speaking engagement at the Savoy moments before he was due to take the stage.

And the reason? A guest sitting at the same table had declared that the 1980 film Flash Gordon, in which he starred as the bird-like Prince Vultan, was ‘c**p’.

Blessed, 74, is said to have grabbed the offender around the throat and boomed ‘I am not standing for this!’ before walking out.

It is thought that he believed the man had insulted him using a particularly offensive word, though this has been disputed by those sitting at the table.

Around 450 guests, including executives from Coca-Cola, Heineken, Nestle and Mars, had paid up to £2,300 per table to attend the black tie dinner for the Federation of Wholesale Distributors last Thursday.

Blessed had been due to speak for at least half an hour but organisers were left with no choice but to move straight to a charity raffle and then cut proceedings short. They are being refunded his £6,500 booking fee. Blessed, who has appeared in theatre, film and TV for more than 40 years, is marketed for after-dinner speeches as a ‘national treasure’.

His booking agency website says he is ‘unmistakable thanks to his physical stature, bushy beard and booming voice’.

It highlights his role in Flash Gordon in which, as Prince Vultan, he utters the often quoted line: ‘Gordon’s alive!’

Blessed had been due to speak about his acting career and adventures as a mountaineer and explorer.

An event source said: ‘He was just about to be announced to give his after-dinner speech when he grabbed a guy at our table round the throat.

‘He seemed to be in a very good mood all evening and then he just flipped. The guy admits saying that he thought Flash Gordon was c**p but that is all. Blessed claimed that the guy on his table had called him a ****. It was a small table and the guy in question and others dispute this.

‘We were all looking forward to hearing Blessed.

‘Somebody who had heard him speak before said that he was good, telling stories about his acting days and adventures in his famous booming voice. But we did not get the chance to find out.’

The man said to have provoked Blessed, a retail executive who did not want to be named, said: ‘All I said was that I did not rate Flash Gordon, that I thought it was c**p.

‘Blessed got upset, grabbed me and walked out. I honestly don’t know why. I certainly did not call him any names. I had my group managing director sitting next to me.’

Another guest told how Blessed had been in excellent form before the incident.

‘I had been speaking to Brian before the dinner and he was very chatty,’ he said. ‘But just as the last of the awards had been given out, he suddenly got up and just walked out. He looked a bit scruffy. He had trainers on and I thought he had been caught unawares and had gone out to change or go to the toilet before he spoke. But he never came back.

‘The MC on the stage was very surprised because he was just about to introduce him.

‘He jumped into his chauffeur-driven car and took off. He still had the sound microphone on him.’

Blessed was booked through London-based celebrity bookings specialist JLA, which also has Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen, QI host Stephen Fry and actress Joanna Lumley on its books. JLA refused to comment. Blessed’s agent Stephen Gittins said the actor had been too busy with work to discuss the incident with him.

Blessed is known for straight talking. When asked whether he was looking forward to co-starring with Pamela Anderson in the pantomime Aladdin last year, he replied: ‘Pamela ****ing Anderson? I wouldn’t touch her with yours. I’ve starred alongside Sophia Loren.’

Original article appears here

The Real Variety Show 2010 – JLA Showcase
Posted on November 24, 2010

The 20th year of JLA’s Real Variety Show kicked off with an introductory video of the great and the good who have graced this showcase. The show’s alumni include tonight’s host Alistair McGowan, Bill Bailey, Armando Iannucci, Jimmy Carr, Dara O’Briain and Michael McIntyre, to name but a few.

McGowan opened the show by reprising the Chris Eubank impression we had seen in the video. He was then careful to come up to date with warm, if not always completely winning, impressions, including riffs on William Hague morphing into Gary Barlow and Fabio Capello with his broken English.

Once McGowan became himself again, the first of his charges out of the trap was the dependable Canadian comedian Stewart Francis. This dry and self-deprecating gagsmith set the bar for quality with his jokes, including: “So what if I can’t spell Armageddon? It’s not the end of the world.”

Next up to squeeze their essence in to a seven-and-a-half minute slot was Irish comedy hip hop duo Abandoman. The pair won this year’s Hackney Empire New Act of the Year competition and fared well at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Though their charms did not work on me, I felt sorry for them having such a short time to peddle their improvised comedy raps. Nevertheless, they managed to win the crowd over – even if this just meant parroting back buzzwords related to the working life of ‘volunteers’ from the audience.

Sarah Millican, meanwhile, is someone who deservedly enjoyed an even better Edinburgh fringe, with a nomination for the Fosters Comedy Award. Her piercing Geordie voice seemed momentarily like it might be too much of a contrast with Abandoman’s rap rhythm, but Millican’s canny comedy was soon pressing the buttons of the (largely female) audience – with jokes about the etiquette of putting on a bra and about loving a pet so much you can see the whites of its eyes from stroking it too much.

Oompah Brass, resplendent in their lederhosen, kept time until the interval with their brass-band renditions of pop hits, including Britney Spears’ Toxic, without ever threatening to build upon this comic juxtaposition with any in-between comic banter.

Sharp-suited Mod, Ian Moore opened the second half with his take on being an Englishman abroad (he lives in France) and having to cope with young offspring who can speak better French than he does. Though a self-confessed hater of enthusiasm, Moore further warmed the room with his notion that self-service tills in supermarkets mean that we have all fallen short of the dreams we had at school of escaping mundanity.

Six-strong a capella group the Magnets used their brief time well, with a set piece medley that went through movie themes. Dirty Dancing’s (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life morphed into Easy Rider’s Born to Be Wild. The Great Escape theme was accompanied by a military dance routine and Indiana Jones included a choreographed sequence of extravagant deaths. Meanwhile, the idea that Sex and the City is the troupe’s favourite film got a justifiably big and incredulous laugh.

Micky Flanagan, who followed, made sure that the energy in the room was kept up, by briskly going in to a mimic of a ‘cockney walk’. He then revealed his own strict adherence to cockney values by relating the perils of ordering tomato sauce to go with a posh restaurant risotto. Not only a dab hand at punctuating the pomposity of others, Flanagan is self-deprecating and expresses a hilarious relief when a bouncer refuses him entry to a club that he no longer feels young enough to go to anyway.

One could surmise from this that Flanagan might have found the energy of hip hop dance troupe Boy Blue too much. But he most likely joined the rest of the audience in being moved by their street dance medley set to Messrs Timbaland, Tinie Tempah and Steve Winwood vs Eric Prydz.

Terry Alderton closed the show with his manic stylings. Alderton’s performance included his neurotic one-man duologues, in which he turned his back to the audience and the voices inside his head discussed with him how well certain jokes went and which audience member he should interact with next. For a shtick that is so unnerving, Alderton is very entertaining and adept at building the kind of energy that his inherently erratic act needs.

All told, this was a varied and enjoyable showcase for the casual and professional observer alike, and there is no doubt some of these appearances will be gracing the introductory video for JLA’s 25th year.

Gordon Brown To Hit The Lecture Circuit – At 64K A Go
Posted on August 19, 2010

By Tim Shipman

Gordon Brown is planning to cash in on his time in power by demanding £64,000 for speaking engagements in the Middle East and Asia.

The former prime minister told voters he would devote himself to good works after he left Downing Street, rather than hit the lecture circuit like Tony Blair.

But he has been taken on by a major international speakers’ bureau, which is offering his services at $100,000 a time.

He will address corporate events and private audiences on the lessons of the financial crisis – the subject of the book he is writing, to be published in the autumn.

Anyone wishing to hire him will have to pay for five-star hotel accommodation, a first-class seat plus three in business class for members of his entourage.

A spokesman for Mr Brown indicated last night that he is planning the public speaking spree when he has finished his book.

Mr Brown’s fee is considerably less than the sums attracted by Tony Blair, who reportedly pocketed $400,000 for a single speech in the Far East – around £250,000.

Mr Blair has accumulated private wealth of more than £20million since he left office.

His successor spent much of his political career stressing his frugal upbringing and lack of interest in the trappings of power.

He said in April: ‘Sarah and I might do charity or voluntary work, I don’t want to do business or anything else. I just want to do something good.’

However Mrs Brown is also being touted as an optional extra for her husband’s speeches.

The Spectator reported that for $20,000 – around £13,000 – she will present a prize at ceremonies where Mr Brown speaks.

JLA – Britain’s biggest speakers’ agency – expressed surprise that Mr Brown is putting himself forward for engagements and denied that he was on its books.

Original article appears here

How To… Shine At Public Speaking
Posted on May 24, 2010

‘You’ll be expected to say a few words after dinner,’ is, for many people, one of the most feared phrases in the English language – on a par with a pilot announcing: ‘We’re about to make this landing on water.’

If this is you, help is at hand. JEREMY LEE is founder of JLA (jla.co.uk), which represents some of the world’s leading afterdinner speakers – such as Mikhail Gorbachev, William Hague, Ian Hislop, Mary Portas and Gabby Logan.

Here, he reveals the secret of a successful speech.


We are called upon to speak in public far more often than we think. Most jobs involve speaking to colleagues or management meetings and in many occupations, such as teaching and the law, it’s done on a daily basis. Even if this isn’t you, weddings, work leaving speeches and even family get-togethers often require some form of public speaking. The truth is we could all do better by following some basic rules. One of the most common mistakes is misjudging the audience; telling them something that is entirely irrelevant to them.


Whether it’s 2,000 people in a conference centre or ten in a community centre, it’s essential to be aware of who you’re talking to. Think about who they are, where they’re from, what they are expecting and what binds them together. This will give you an insight into how to approach your speech. At a wedding, people will be more interested in hearing stories about the happy couple than in anything you can tell them about you.


Avoid cliches like the plague. Stock jokes and phrases often go down badly and can produce groans from the audience – which will certainly put you off your stride. If you’re nervous about remembering what you want to say, read from a script. It may not be the most scintillating performance, but at least you’ll say the right thing. When you become more experienced, you may wish to progress to a single cue card, with bullet points to spark your memory. If you do need a manuscript, hold it at chest height so you’re not constantly looking down. Don’t learn your lines verbatim, as it usually leads to memory failure.


Screen your material so that you don’t offend anyone and check your material for duration. If you’re not a seasoned speaker, don’t go on for more than ten minutes. On average, you get through 130 words in a minute. A good rule of thumb is to work out how long your speech is and then cut it in half.


A little stress can make you sharper. A lot can turn you into quivering jelly. But friendly interaction can relax you. Smile at the audience and you’ll get a smile back. When we’re nervous our breathing becomes fast and shallow, meaning you’re likely to garble. Take deep breaths to moderate this. As far as alcohol is concerned, the rule is one glass only. Try your speech out on someone, but not people who will only compliment. You need constructive criticism.


Use some of your best material at the beginning. If you don’t grab people from the start, they’ll start talking. In the middle you can vary the pace and tone. Your speech should tell the audience something they don’t know about something or someone they do know. End on something powerful, either a laugh or a call to action. That way you’ll keep them hooked.

Original article appears here

Richard Kay
Posted on April 13, 2010

Comic Frankie Boyle, who was last week criticised for making jokes about Down’s syndrome, clearly finds cruelty sells.
The former Mock The Week panellist has had his fees increased by public speaking agency JLA.
Last year, Glasgow-born Boyle caused offence on the show with smutty remarks about Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington.
His services were then being advertised by JLA at between £5,000 and £10,000 a time.
Now, perhaps commensurate with his public disapproval, the company have promoted him to their ‘A-grade’ speaker status, with fees of £10,000 to £25,000.
‘We don’t comment about the individual situations behind people on our books,’ says JLA boss Jeremy Lee.
‘But as a general remark, it’s self-evident that people’s fees can go up or down.’

Welsh Stars Available For Hire – And Here’s What They Charge
Posted on March 14, 2010

Mr Lee said that there are many Welsh voices on the circuit whose profiles – and fees – are rising.

He said: “It is interesting that we are hearing more Welsh accents on the circuit, that is true.

“But to some extent, someone like Rhod Gilbert has become a huge hit on the corporate circuit before his public fame, just because he is a funny man.

“He made his name well before making his name in the media – we are the biggest at what we do and we have championed Rhod for a few years so his profile was perhaps only bigger in Wales than on our circuit.

“People just seem to like hearing a Welsh accent. It’s rather nice to hear it and one could argue that it lends itself well to storytelling.”

The kind of people that might hire some of Wales’ finest range from corporations throwing swanky functions, an organisation’s awards ceremony and even some individuals’ lavish parties.

“Why would you book famous people?” said Mr Lee.

“There are only two rational reasons, every other reason is irrational,

“You either want to put bums on seats or impress your audience so much that they go home, lean over their garden fence and say ‘guess who I saw last night’.

“If you take Ian Hislop as an example – a speaker of his calibre tells the audience something they didn’t know, about someone or something they do know.

“It is his insider’s take on what many people see on Have I Got News For You and what happens in all the Private Eye libel cases. He will give you stuff that you wouldn’t have read elsewhere.

“Rob Brydon is a fantastic awards host. Perhaps a bit of his popularity is connected to Gavin & Stacey, but he had made his mark on this circuit long before that show.

“He can read an audience and the popularity of Gavin & Stacey probably helps in this respect because the audience instantly warms to his character – and how can that be anything other than good effect on a non-Welsh audience?

“I’m a believer that generally, nationality is irrelevant when it comes to whether someone is funny or not.

“But with some it informs their humour. Rhod Gilbert plays up the naïve Welsh village idea and bases his comedy on that with enormous flair. And he will see that as profile increases more likely the ‘market’ will be at work and he could command higher fees.

“Hopefully, there will be many more Welsh comedians following in footsteps of Gilbert and Brydon as they have fulfilled a very useful purpose.”

Other Welsh figures available for hire include several BBC presenters – Today programme host John Humphrys, newscaster Huw Edwards, BBC Wales news presenter Sian Williams and Middle East correspondent Jeremy Bowen.

This is despite the BBC ordering that the agency removes news presenters’ details from its website and issuing a ban on personal appearances without permission – and on the proviso that it does not affect the Corporation’s impartiality.

Bosses have been worried that presenters are seen to be cashing in while swingeing cuts are made to services – like controversial plans to close digital radio station 6 Music and the Asian Network.

But if you are looking for a bargain presenter for your party, look no further than Cardiff’s own Lynn Bowles – the Radio 2 morning traffic reporter is one of only a handful to fall into the E bracket and is available for a snip at “up to £1,000”.

Original article appears here

Paxo’s Stuffing 25k An Hour
Posted on March 7, 2010

BIG-EARNING Jeremy Paxman is leading a stampede of BBC news stars to earn a bit extra on the side – and boy do they charge!

Paxman: Earns £25,000 an hour

While lowlier Beeb staff face cutbacks and job losses, a News of the World investigation reveals Newsnight hardnut Paxo pulls £25,000 AN HOUR for personal appearances on top of his £1 million taxpayer-funded salary.

Our photo gallery price list shows colleagues like Huw Edwards and The One Show grouch Adrian Chiles command similar fees for speaking engagements on the side. Even lowly Radio 2 travel girl Lynn Bowles cops a traffic-stopping £1,000 a time.

Since 2003 BBC rules have decreed staff must ask permission first and should NOT sign up with agencies to promote their services. But prominent corporate agent JLA represents dozens and has only just been forced to remove news presenters and reporters from its website. But it adds: “They are still permitted to take on outside engagements providing it fits BBC guidelines – and many are keen to do so.”

Profiles of Paxman, Business Editor Robert Peston and talk show host Andrew Marr have already vanished from the site but a JLA agent assured an undercover reporter they were ALL up for hire.

The Beeb, which announced sweeping cutbacks this week, including the closure of BBC6 Music and the Asian Network and the trimming of BBC online, does not want to risk fresh controversy after weeks of negative headlines.

A BBC source told us last night: “The bosses are going to be jumping all over this. They never used to worry about the news guys going out and earning a bit extra. But with all the controversy over cost-cutting and big salaries it’s a sensitive climate at the moment.

“Now these gigs have to be cleared by management and can be really frowned upon.”

Richard Kay – PS
Posted on November 3, 2009

Comic Frankie Boyle – at the centre of a storm for insulting Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington – may no longer be on the BBC payroll after quitting satirical show Mock The Week. But his smutty humour is still in demand with public-speaking outfit JLA, who advertise his services for a one-off fee of £5,000 to £10,000.

Interestingly, his former colleague, Irishman Dara O’Briain, is also on JLA’s books, but commands a significantly higher fee. While Boyle is a ‘B-grade’ performer, O’Briain is ‘A-grade’ and costs £10,000 to £25,000

Original article appears here


Missing: Naughtie And Humphrys
Posted on June 30, 2009

Further mysterious disappearances from JLA, the up-market after-dinner speaking agency favoured by moonlighting politicos. Not long ago, Andrew Marr vanished from their online brochure citing “a bit of a kerfuffle” at the BBC over commercial activities. Now James Naughtie and John Humphrys – able to collect £10,000 per appearance – have followed suit. Confusingly, though, their soon-to-be co-host Justin Webb has just joined, with a starting fee of £2,500.

Marr’s Sudden Vanishing Act
Posted on April 17, 2009

Curious goings-on on at JLA, the up-market after-dinner speaking agency favoured by moonlighting politicians and celebrities. Andrew Marr, until recently one of the firm’s most-advertised clients, appears to have vanished from their online brochure.

“Yes,” observes Marr when Pandora calls. “There was a bit of a kerfuffle about certain more well-known BBC figures doing things that could be seen to be commercial like that. Personally, I’ve got no problem doing the speaking so long as I don’t breach any rules on impartiality or endorsements.

“But since I only do a very small number of things – I’m really so busy filming – we agreed that I shouldn’t be advertised online. I didn’t realise I was still up there until a friend raised the issue so I rang them up and they kindly removed me.”

How considerate! Pandora simply cannot fathom why they were so reluctant to explain that themselves. So far we’ve been met by an eerie silence at every turn.

Original article appears here

The BBC Presenters Earning Thousands Of Pounds For After-Dinner Speeches
Posted on March 29, 2009

Dozens of the BBC’s top journalists and news presenters are earning thousands of pounds a time on the public speaking circuit despite an attempt by the Corporation to curb the engagements.

BBC personalities offered for hire by Britain’s largest after-dinner speaking agency, JLA, include Fiona Bruce and Huw Edwards, the newsreaders, Emily Maitlis, the Newsnight presenter, and John Humphrys, Evan Davis and Edward Stourton, the Today programme presenters.

Some are available to make speeches while others can host corporate events or chair conferences.

Now they face investigation and a possible clampdown after Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat culture spokesman, said last night that he would refer the matter to the BBC Trust.

The disclosure will prove highly embarrassing for the BBC which introduced tough rules to restrict such activity.

The rules regarding what BBC journalists can say off-air were first tightened up in 2003 in the wake of a two controversies featuring Rod Liddle, the then-editor of the Today programme, who criticised pro-hunting protesters in a magazine article, and Andrew Gilligan, the then-defence correspondent for the same programme, who used a newspaper article to expand on his claims that the Government had misled the public over the war in Iraq.

Editorial guidelines for BBC staff, which also apply to presenters on non-staff contracts, state: “It is unlikely to be acceptable for any BBC staff member or BBC correspondent to be included on an agency list of those for hire for public speeches.

“Under no circumstances should they sign up with an external agency for public speaking without the written permission of the relevant Head of Department.”

The same editorial guidelines state that reporters and presenters, including freelance staff, must not appear in public to promote outside commercial organisations.

BBC staff who express a controversial or one-sided viewpoint on a particular issue in public can be barred from reporting on that issue on air.

The BBC last night declined to say whether its staff named on the JLA website had received the necessary written clearance. However, some individuals said they had been given approval.

Sian Williams, the BBC Breakfast presenter, now on maternity leave, said she had presented two events for JLA in the past four years, each time with the Corporation’s permission.

Other BBC figures offered for hire by JLA include Andrew Marr, presenter of Sunday AM, George Alagiah and Kate Silverton, the newsreaders, Robert Peston, the business editor, Mihir Bose, the sports editor, Bill Turnbull, the presenter of BBC Breakfast, Nicholas Witchell, the Royal correspondent, Rory Cellan Jones, the technology correspondent, Frank Gardner, the security correspondent, Jeremy Vine, the presenter of Panorama, and Declan Curry, the host of Working Lunch.

Several BBC staff have spoken directly about their brief or for organisations with links to their BBC positions. Roger Harrabin, the BBC’s environmental analyst, hosted an event organised by Powergen.

Mishal Husain, the BBC news presenter, has hosted events for government departments including the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

The BBC staff and freelance presenters on JLA’s website are listed in several categories depending on how much they charge.

Jeremy Paxman, the Newsnight presenter is classed has double AA and costs “over £25,000”. Mr Edwards, Mr Marr and John Simpson, the BBC’s world affairs editor, are all rated category A and cost between £10,000 and £25,000.

D category presenters, who include Sarah Mukherjee, the environment correspondent, and Reeta Chakrabati, the political correspondent, cost between £1,000 and £2,500.

As well as biographies and prices for all its speakers, the JLA website includes video footage of Mr Vine, Mr Humphrys, Ms Montague and Ms Silverton taking part in events on behalf of the company’s clients.

One video shows Mr Turnbull, who costs between £2,500 and £5,000, sharing some of his presenting secrets at an awards ceremony for council officials.

He tells his audience: “Most of the things we say are actually written down by producers on a computer and than it comes up on the autocue in front of you.

Louisa Preston, who anchors regional TV news bulletins, is shown presiding over an award ceremony for DIY products.

John Humphrys is filmed talking to an audience from a drugs company. During his speech he refers to a previous event for the Chemical Industries Association when he had offended some of the guests with his views.

In some cases, clients who hired BBC staff have rated their performance by leaving “feedback” on the JLA website.

Emily Maitlis, who is listed as one of JLA’s top five awards hosts and costs between £5,000 and £10,000 to hire, is described as “sure-footed and elegant with terrific stage presence” by the organisers of the Printing World Excellence Awards.

Nicholas Witchell has received glowing endorsements from both IBM and Vodaphone.

The website also uses BBC footage to highlight the skills of those on its books. Ms Maitless and Gavin Esler are both shown presenting on Newsnight.

Opposition MPs called for the BBC to enforce its rules more rigorously.

Mr Foster said: “This calls into question the adequacy of the rules and the implementation of them. I think the BBC Trust must view this as a matter of urgency.”

Jeremy Hunt, the shadow culture secretary, said: “This does appear to be a clear breach of the BBC’s guidelines.

“The only reason that these presenters are hot property on the after-dinner speaking circuit is because of their BBC role, so they are benefiting from the platform provided to them by the licence fee.

“The BBC needs to urgently clarify whether or not these kinds of activities fall within its guidelines.”

A BBC spokesman, said: “It is for the BBC to be the interpreter of its own rules, and no evidence has been put forward to suggest any of the people mentioned have done anything which could compromise our impartiality.”

JLA was unavailable for comment.

Original article appears here

Zilli Teaches How To Balance The Books
Posted on March 25, 2009

These are difficult times for that peculiar breed of cuisinier that is the celebrity chef, so those surveying the takings with despair could do far worse than tear a leaf out of Aldo Zilli’s book.

The enterprising restaurateur (also the face of Philadelphia cream cheese) has appeared on the website of after-dinner speaking agency JLA, with the offer of a day-long kitchen workshop for corporate groups.

At a cool £300 per person ( plusVAT), customers get an appetite-inducing eight-hour shift in the Zilli kitchen, as well as a dawn trip to Billingsgate fish market and quick lesson in filleting their finds. “It started out as being an occasional thing for a bit of fun,” Zilli, left, explains. “But these days we have groups of ten about once or twice a month.”

His place at JLA puts him in lofty company. As well as a choice selection from among the kitchen glitterati, the London-based company represents such illustrious figures as Neil Armstrong, Sir David Frost and Nick Leeson (who may be less useful in a recession).

Original article appears here

Thatcher Keeps Her Dinner Dates
Posted on February 6, 2009

Carol Thatcher’s brush with controversy hasn’t dented her earning potential on the after-dinner speaking circuit.

The former Prime Minister’s daughter, recently banned by the BBC for calling a black tennis player a “golliwog”, is a popular booking and can command a one-off fee of anything between £2,500 and £5,000.

Despite the current furore, her employer, the London-based booking agency JLA, insists it has no intention of dispensing with her services, providing demand remains.

“It all depends on whether people still want to use her,” says an agency spokesman. “We don’t know how they are going to react.”

Original article appears here

After-Dinner Speakers Face Slashed Fees
Posted on December 1, 2008

Leading after-dinner speakers, including John Prescott, Alastair Campbell and William Hague, face having their fees slashed to reflect the economic downturn.

John Prescott may face lower fees for after-dinner speeches due to the credit crisis.

Mr Prescott, the former Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Campbell, who was Tony Blair’s chief spin doctor, and Mr Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, are all among the high-paid roster of big name speakers boasted by the JLA agency.

Jeremy Lee, the chief executive of the agency, which also represents the actor Kevin Spacey, has signalled that the days when star speakers could command £25,000 for one appearance are over.

He told The Independent: “We are keen that everybody wakes up – and that we are seen to be doing so … our budget is tightening and almost every speaker will be more flexible.”

Mr Lee said that his agency would be conducting a pay review at the end of the month.

The news comes days after it emerged that Mr Prescott had been promoted to “A-grade” by the agency following praise for his BBC2 documentary Prescott: The Class System And Me.

The elevation from the agency’s second tier put Mr Prescott alongside Mr Campbell and Mr Hague in the £25,000 price bracket. Mr Lee said: “We have absolutely had an increase in demand [for John]. People loved it.”

Michael Portillo, the former Tory cabinet minister and Ken Livingstone, the former London Mayor, remain in the agency’s “B-grade”, in which the maximum fee is £5,000.

Original article appears here

Charge Much Less Or Be Speechless
Posted on December 1, 2008

By Alice-Azania Jarvis

John Prescott may be raking in the cash on the after-dinner speaking circuit, but elsewhere the credit crunch is taking its toll on the lucrative sideline.

Further to my story last week that the former deputy prime minister had received a pay increase thanks to his BBC documentary Prescott: The Class System And Me, I hear that other regulars at the agency Prezza uses are about to see their salaries move in quite the opposite direction.

Jeremy Lee, the chief executive of JLA, which books speakers, tells me he is keen to cut his clients hefty fees to bring them into line with the state of the economy. “We are keen that everybody wakes up – and that we are seen to be doing so,” he says. JLA’s celebs currently command up to £25,000 for one appearance, making the practice popular with leading figures in showbusiness, sport and politics. The agency’s list of clients includes such political luminaries as Alastair Campbell and William Hague, and the actor Kevin Spacey.

But the days of megabucks earnings are drawing to a close, says Mr Lee. He claims the company will be conducting a pay review at the end of the month with an eye to making their famous clients available at more competitive rates.

“Our budget is tightening and almost every speaker will be more flexible,” he adds.

Original article appears here

TV Show Boosts John Prescott’s Popularity
Posted on November 27, 2008

Since appearing in the BBC2 documentaryPrescott: The Class System And Me, the stock of the former deputy prime minister has well and truly risen. According to the booking agency JLA, who represent Prescott, he has moved up the public speaking ranks to “A-grade” status and can now command fees of up to £25,000 for engagements.

Jeremy Lee, the head of JLA, acknowledges the boost in interest since the show. He says: “It is determined by the market, by how in demand people are. John has been very popular.”

The news will no doubt delight “Two Jags”. While he is unlikely to match his former boss Tony Blair‘s earning power – he is said to earn £200,000 for his pow-wows about world affairs and in his first year out of office reportedly made £12m – he can console himself with the fact that the former Tory minister Michael Portillo, also represented by JLA, is a “B-grade speaker” who only earns £5,000 per engagement.

Prescott should be thanking his wife Pauline for his new-found popularity: most critics saw her as the true star turn of what was otherwise a rather dreary documentary. Says a Westminster source: “People are probably only booking him in the hope that she will come along too.”

Prezza The TV Star Makes The Grade
Posted on November 27, 2008

By Alice-Azania Jarvis

John Prescott’s brief stint on television appears to have paid off.

The former deputy prime minister won praise for his BBC2 documentary Prescott: The Class System And Me – although his wife Pauline seemed the real star, reportedly attracting offers of future small-screen work.

Now, however, I hear that Prezza has seen his own stock rise, with demand for his presence on the lucrative after-dinner speaking circuit higher than ever.

So in vogue is Prescott that he has been bumped up to “A-grade” status by his London-based agency, JLA. According to its website, the Labour veteran can earn up to £25,000 for a single booking – especially pleasing given the widespread mirth caused by his demotion to “B-grade” last spring.

Jeremy Lee, the boss of the agency, acknowledges the boost in interest since the show. “We have absolutely had an increase in demand [for John]. People loved it,” he says.

Now established as one of JLA’s top earners, Mr Prescott is in glitzy company: Alastair Campbell and his old Commons foe, William Hague, are among its fellow A-listers, while Ken Livingstone and Michael Portillo remain in the more modest B-band, where fees start at £5,000.

“It is determined by the market, by how in demand people are,” adds Lee. “John has been very popular.”

Talking Money Pays Off
Posted on November 16, 2008

Continuing on the theme of those who are defying the credit crunch, the BBC’s raven-haired business editor, Robert Peston, has firmly arrived as a celebrity speaker. According to the firm JLA – which purports on its website to be the UK’s biggest specialist agency for keynote speakers – Peston can demand up to £10,000 a night on the after-dinner circuit.

Don’t be so shocked. His real-life voice, compared with his special Beeb voice, is actually quite normal and his hair is awfully shiny.

Ex-MI5 Boss To Spill The Beans For The Right Price
Posted on October 26, 2008

By Oliver Marre

Forget the new James Bond film: very soon, you will be able to hire a real-life spy for the night. Eliza Manningham-Buller, who was director of MI5 until April 2007, is about to follow the likes of Tony Blair on to the lucrative after-dinner speaking circuit. According to friends, she has just signed a contract with the London speaking agency JLA, which represents John Humphrys and William Hague. Rates for its most expensive entertainers start at £25,000, though Manningham-Buller is thought to be on the market for closer to £10,000 per engagement.

Her decision is likely to prove controversial, since she has a history of making a splash with her rare public pronouncements. While still in office, she gave a speech saying: ‘I rarely speak in public. I prefer to avoid the limelight and get on with my job’, before going on to say there were 30 secret terrorist plots to kill people in the UK known of at the time. On retirement, having taken up a seat in the House of Lords, she strongly criticised the government’s plans for the 42-day detention period for suspected terrorists.

Most intriguing are the security implications of her new career. When Stella Rimington, her predecessor, published an autobiography, there were attempts to have it banned, then the text was scoured by government officials to make sure no secrets were given away. Public speaking is harder to regulate, although JLA’s boss Jeremy Lee insists she will not be in danger of contravening the Official Secrets Act. ‘She will talk about leadership,’ he tells me. ‘Her experience of running an organisation amidst a great deal of stress translates into all sorts of industries. She won’t be discussing how close MI5 is to [TV drama] Spooks.’

Original article appears here

Power Of Spoken Word To Get Staff Fired Up
Posted on October 2, 2008

By Rhymer Rigby

When it comes to motivational speakers, Allianz Insurance always looks out for a good story, says Stephen Flynn, corporate events manager: “The ones that work the best are those that are unusual enough to grab the imagination but generic enough that you can relate to them.” Mr Flynn says notable hits have been business coach and author Geoff Burch and rugby player Brian Moore – the latter’s tales of grit and determination even had some of the audience “in tears by the end”.

The use of speakers to fire staff up, especially at corporate events, is common. But anyone who has sat through a motivational speech that failed to motivate may agree that finding a speaker with the best combination of attributes so that they genuinely move staff and provide lasting value appears difficult to pull off.

Attributes that experienced organisers look for vary from fame to relevance, to the person’s ability to tell a good tale.

Mike Mair, head of training in product and supply chain at Cambridge-based Napp Pharmaceuticals, says the company has used speakers ranging from business author Paul McGee to the Olympic gold medal rower James Cracknell to motivate staff. “As long as the story is relevant and they are good enough, a variety of people can work. We have had seven external speakers in and not everyone is going to love all of them. That is why you need a range.”

The UK’s Federation of Small Businesses has invited speakers such as General Sir Mike Jackson and Jamie Murray Wells, founder of Glasses Direct. “We find the best are people with real experience of an industry or sector,” says Stephen Alambritis, head of public affairs. It has also heard a former pilot from the Red Arrows, the RAF aerobatics display team, “who was very good on teamwork and trust”, sports people, and people who have been through trauma, such as Beirut hostage John McCarthy. Good motivators, Mr Alambritis says, can come from any walk of life, although he generally finds that those from a sales background or politicians work less well.

Jeremy Lee, founder of Jeremy Lee Associates, a London-based speakers’ bureau, says: “A lot of motivational speakers give a bit of show and produce a good response. The next day you forget a bit and there is not much of a lasting return. But many others produce a more lasting effect.” While some of this is down to the presentation, the key to a message sinking in lies in follow-up by the company.

Perhaps surprisingly, Mr Lee says the effectiveness of a speaker has little to do with their fame. “There are reasons to pay the considerable premium for a celebrity – but these are mainly to put bums on seats and create a ‘wow factor’. Many of the most motivational speakers we use are not household names at all.”

Ben Williams, a business psychologist, agrees it is important to know what a company wants to get out of the speaker. “I was asked to do a speech for an oil company that said it thought it would be good to get a psychologist rather than a hypnotist,” he says. When someone tells you that you realise you may be there to provide a fig leaf of business value to what is essentially boozy staff entertainment, he says. As the speaker, you know that on this occasion a serious motivation session is probably not required.

Not knowing an audience can be a problem in other ways too, he adds. “I once saw an Everest mountaineer crash and burn very badly in front of a police audience. Many of them were mountaineers and he exposed himself as lazy and sloppy in thinking his audience would not know what he was talking about.”

Martyn Sloman, adviser on learning, training and development at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in the UK, is dubious about the genuine transfer of knowledge in many cases, in that very few people who work in offices are going to be climbing 8,000m mountains or competing for Olympic gold medals. “I’m not that impressed by those who knowingly put their lives at risk. It is difficult to see how that sort of thing relates to dealing with chippy subordinates all day and then going home an hour late and missing the school play,” he says.

Mr Mair has a solution to the question of can-you-really-relate-to-this? “For our next speaker we are using someone who is climbing a mountain [in the Himalayas]. But he is not external, he is a member of staff. If it is someone you work next to, then it does become real and relevant – you are not going to sit there thinking ‘How does this relate to me?’,” he says.

Original article appears here

Real Variety Show 2008
Posted on September 26, 2008

by Natalie Lambracos

You know the pressure’s on when you’ve been asked to take part in the prestigious JLA Real Variety Performance. Known throughout the entertainment industry as being the best in the business, what did this year’s bash at London’s Cadogan Hall have in store?

Impatiently clock-watching as the performance was late to start, my premature negativity soon dissipated when Rob Brydon bounced out on stage bellowing out the lyrics to Tom Jones’ Delilah.

Introducing, Far From Kansas as his backing singers, Brydon ushered the choir off stage and informed us that we would see more of them as the evening digressed.

First up was comedian, musician and writer James Sherwood. Described as the next Bill Bailey, Sherwood soon revealed his perfectionism for the correct use of the English language. Sat by a grand piano and performing renditions of famous pop songs, Sherwood’s compulsive obsession with grammatically correct sentences would cause him to stop mid-song and change the lyrics to what they should be.

Truly making me laugh aloud, this first act had won me over and even if the rest weren’t as good, I was still in for a good night.

Next out was Stephen K Amos who claimed to have upped the black population of Chelsea by 1,000 per cent. Winner of Time Out’s award for Best Stand-Up, Amos proved his worth. Ridiculing his family background, Amos painted a stereotypical black family living in England and comically poked fun at the challenges they faced.

Rainer Hersch and his Orchestra provided comedy with a difference giving the comedy circuit a musical twist. Under Hersch’s instruction, the orchestra played well-known classical masterpieces and encouraged the audience to guess which television advertisement they were from.

Hersch’s slapstick conducting provided amusing entertainment and the orchestra really came into their own when playing the Microsoft Windows waltz – an amalgamation of the opening, you’ve got mail and shut down sounds that a computer generates.

Continuing the musical theme, Far From Kansas are musical theatre’s answer to comedy. Dressed in black T-shirts and kilts with sparkly red shoes, they sung alternative musical style songs with jazz hands and generic, exaggerated movements.

Following on, Reginald D Hunter was next to hit the stage. Introduced by Brydon as the epitome of cool, Hunter certainly lived up to this description. The London-based American, drew comparisons between Britain and the States. Over here, according to Hunter there are so many different types of insult, there’s irony, sarcasm, tongue in cheek, it takes him three weeks to realise that he’s been insulted.

However, in my opinion Randy Thompson AKA Beardyman was equally as cool. Starting off by counselling the audience and telling us not to be afraid of ourselves, you truly felt that you were ‘on the couch.’

But, after a couple of minutes, revealing that he is not afraid of himself or what he can do, Thompson broke into DJ mode and became a human beatbox. Creating such an authentic club environment, you honestly couldn’t believe that the sound you were listening to was coming from another human being – it was mind blowing.

As Thompson exited the stage, the question on everyone’s lips was how will anyone top that? And that was exactly what the next act, Mancunian Jason Manford said himself as he stepped out on stage.

“Just pretend I was on before him,” Manford jibed to which the audience burst into laughter. “And I’ve got you back,” Manford added.

His anecdotal-style comedy revolved around Manchester, road rage and his lying, narcoleptic father. Proving to be a success, he had us in stitches and clearly succeeded in winning back his audience.

But the prize for the most unusual act has to go to Ennio Marchetto. Essentially a mime artist, Marchetto appeared on stage in a cartoonish cardboard cutout of a famous celebrity. Set to the soundtrack of one of their most famous songs, he would caricature a stereotypical vice. So, for example, as Amy Winehouse, he would stumble across the stage, downing paper cutout bottles of wine while miming the words to Rehab.

It was incredibly humorous and, as he re-appeared as another celebrity, you kept hoping that he had more up his non-existent sleeve.

Clearly doing what it set out to do, this show was a success with each comic providing versatility and variety. Each time a different act came out, I thought it was better than the previous, but, to be honest, I would be pressed to pick a favourite.

Talk Is Not Cheap
Posted on September 22, 2008

Mend your speech a little”, as King Lear said to his daughter Cordelia, “lest it may mar your fortune”. Lear’s advice fell on deaf ears and yet today his words have never been more resonant. For the modern media personality, the after-dinner circuit has become a crucial arena for building one’s brand, and making a fortune in the process.

Though cameras are rarely present, notebooks and recorders often frowned upon and audiences are bespoke, after-dinner speaking offers media personalities one of their most lucrative platforms. Almost all of the A-list of such oratory is made up of media figures; Sir David Attenborough, Angus Deayton, Alastair Campbell, Piers Morgan, Richard Hammond, to name a few. Almost all of them are men.

One man more than any other in Britain is responsible for this flourishing industry. With his open-neck pink shirt and rotund features, there is very little of Lear in Jeremy Lee, the charming brain behind Jeremy Lee Associates, the largest speaker agency in the country.

A graduate of York University, where he studied English, Lee’s early acting ambitions were soon inhibited by forces beyond his control. “I was just too short to be an actor,” he says. “I soon realised that my height [he’s 5ft 7in] would be too big an obstacle. Plus I can’t really dance”.

So he got a job booking “talent” – the generic word Lee repeatedly uses – for the agency MECCA. In 1990 he decided to blaze his own path, setting up JLA and acquiring an ever-growing army of speech makers. This year, JLA’s 18th, “was the year we finally came of age”.

JLA now boasts of booking over 1,600 engagements each year, with an army of speakers numbering several hundred. Increasingly, Lee says, those doing the booking aren’t just corporate entities; the public sector too is coming to value a good speech more than ever.

“Crudely put, there are two reasons why people want to see a speaker, and obviously they’re closely related. The first is that it can put bums on seats, which most people who send out invites are keen to do. The second is – and I’m afraid it’s a very objectionable phrase – the so-called “wow factor”. There are some speakers out there whose very presence is motivational, and who lift people just by virtue of their presence”.

On his website, Lee has graded his speakers from E to AA, with a price to match. To achieve AA status you basically need to have walked on the moon, like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Most after-dinner speakers will back themselves to make a good speech, which can be a source of satisfaction in itself. And with pay packets ranging from £1,000 for an hour (Band E) to £25,000 plus per hour (Band AA), the financial rewards are huge.

But there’s more to it than that. In recent years, politicians in particular have been heavily admonished for accepting huge sums for their after-dinner speeches. The publicity has not been all good. And in times of belt-tightening across the country, readers may find the discovery that a familiar face was paid thousands for not much work galling.

Why, then, should a media personality wish to court such danger? Largely, Lee explains, because of money. But it’s also partly because, so long as they manage it safely, the publicity needn’t be all bad, and the audiences are usually decent company. The public may tend to be intolerant of politicians lining their pockets; but an established journalist or television presenter doing so is usually seen as fair cop.

“High-profile individuals attract attention when they start speaking on the circuit”, Lee says. “But almost by definition, they are speaking behind closed doors. Apart from that burst of publicity, which is often written up as a “shocker” – so-and-so got paid x amount for speaking to blah, blah, blah – the circuit doesn’t actually get that much profile unless the speaker is already hugely in the public eye.”

Lee says that the motivation is rarely the kudos of speaking or the opportunity to network with an audience. “Yes, of course you’ll make contacts, just as you would if you went for dinner with friends of friends, but that’s not always explicitly what speakers are after. It’s often the slightly coarser fact of getting paid well”.

There are those in the media who decide that, because of the negative headlines generated by speech making, and the dangers of guilt by association with the wrong crowd, they want nothing to do with the “circuit”. Lionel Barber, the Editor of the Financial Times whom Lee describes as “a deeply impressive individual”, refuses on principle to do after-dinner speaking.

Lee claims that the system of banding speakers according to their price tag is his own invention. But though he has a role in influencing which band a speaker enters, he says he remains subservient to the market.

“I explicitly reject the idea that I am some sort of arbiter of social worth. Quite the contrary, in fact: this marketplace works according to the laws of supply and demand, just like any other. Where I do come in, if at all, is in recommending that speakers who are new to the circuit enter at a lower band than they think they’ll end up, because moving upwards is a lot more commercially sensible than moving downwards, which looks awful”.

Nevertheless, distortions exist. Award ceremony hosts from Bruce Forsyth to Stephen Fry can command huge sums, depending on the size of the ceremony. And somebody like Peter Fincham, the Director of ITV who was chosen to give this year’s MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, ranks only as a “C” according to JLA.

Though methods vary, the secret of a good speech can often be boiled down to a simple dictum. “Try to tell your audience something they don’t know about someone or something they do know,” Lee says. “Know your audience, and make sure to get your pitch right from the beginning.”

More famous speakers get an easier ride. “Someone like the comedian Dominic Holland, who is excellent, might have an awkward opening minute where he’s got to immediately win over a crowd that may be unfamiliar with him. Someone like Gorbachev [the former Soviet President] usually gets a bit longer”.

Over the past few months, Lee has been obsessively working on a new website for JLA, which will have expanded biographies and forums on which audience members leave moderated comments about speakers they have recently seen. Bookings for next year are up between three and five per cent so far, despite widespread economic gloom. “Ultimately, though much of the coverage of the circuit focuses on the money involved, it’s getting more and more popular with both audiences and speakers,” Lee says. “I think that’s because, at some level, everyone can enjoy a good speech well delivered. Most of our speakers leave their audiences feeling either better about themselves or enlightened. That’s a fantastic thing to be involved in, frankly”.

Original article appears here

Speakers Cornered: The Price Of Fame
Posted on March 6, 2008

By John Walsh

Who knew that there was such a strict hierarchy of after-dinner speakers out there in Celeb Land?

Astronauts, sportsmen, professional satirists and TV comedians make up the premier league of post-prandial monologuists, as do Top Gear presenters and a handful of actresses. At the topmost level of the roster of talent at the JLA speakers’ agency, there are just three names: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first men on the Moon, and (a little bathetically) P J O’Rourke, the irreverent right-wing American commentator. These are the Double-A-team: each can command more than £25,000 per appearance, regaling your dinner guests with their lunar memories or Republican views.

Immediately below comes the A-team of Ian Hislop, Angus Deayton, Richard Hammond, Matthew Pinsent and the like, alongside the more elegant figures of Diana Rigg and Joanna Lumley. (It’s bizarre to discover Pierluigi Collina, the Italian referee with the mad, staring eyes in this company – but would you argue with him?) All of them can trouser between £10,000 and £25,000 for doing a turn over the coffee and brandy.

But, as with Northern Rock shares, your stock can go up or down on the corporate entertainment circuit – as John Prescott learnt the hard way. Snapped up last autumn by JLA, the pugnacious ex-deputy PM was offered to the business world as an A-grade £10,000-plus speaker. That’s right, John Prescott, the man who cannot articulate his own name and address with any confidence, and who mangles every pronouncement into a kind of Esperanto gurgle. He’s just been demoted to B-grade status, and could pick up as little as £5,000 a night for his gilded rhetoric.

He is, however, in good company, with other washed-up MPs (Kenneth Clarke, David Blunkett,) Esther Rantzen, and the charismatic P Y Gerbeau, last seen in 1999 trying to persuade us to love the Millennium Dome. Spare a thought, however, for one Bob Curtiss, a “Comedian and Character Actor,” who inhabits a special E-grade all by himself. You could snap him up for “under £1,000”, if you hurry.

Original article appears here

Real Variety Show 2007
Posted on December 10, 2007

by Derek Smith

There’s nothing quite like nailing your colours to the entertainment mast, and with a title like The Real Variety Show, nothing less than varied, quality acts were expected by a clearly discerning audience for JLA’s annual, prestigious Cadogan Hall bash. For any such big hitting show, you always need a big hitting compere, and withLenny Henry you get exactly that – all sweat, effort and bundles of enthusiasm. Only let down by somewhat predictable material, he nevertheless instilled that essential early feel-good factor. “It’s good it’s not an awards evening – there’s too many of them anyway,” he said, with several nods in the audience.

Welsh comic, Rhod Gilbert, was the first of a number of performers on stage whose act showed just how much comedy has changed since Henry’s real heydays. Gilbert expertly weaved some surreal scenarios with twists on the mundane – like hassles with luggage arriving terminally damaged on the carousel at the airport. His skit on a Navy recruitment TV advertisement turned into an epic, becoming ever funnier and wonderfully silly.

Silly doesn’t even begin to describe the skills of Bruce Airhead, a one-off if ever there was. A man with a hugely inflated ego – in the nicest possible sense – his act, to quote that old cliche, has to be seen to be believed. Smothered in more oil than a chicken drumstick from the local take-away, he metamorphoses into a human balloon dressed only in minimal attire, only to emerge as the king of rock and roll, complete with quiffed coiffure. An act you just cannot take your eyes off, he is a brilliant throw back to music hall eccentricity – and a very welcome spesh talent on the worldwide circuit.

Comic Paul Sinha, described as ‘one of the new breed of Asian comedians’ in the programme notes, adopts a more cerebral style than others, preferring a slow burn approach, offering not so much one-liner gags but lengthier social observations with decent tag lines covering subjects like racism, football violence and gay issues. His relatively short set here didn’t lend itself to his style of slow-build comedy and his talents could only really be judged on a full routine. A practising GP, he should, of course, know if laughter really is the best medicine.

True to its title, the evening’s next act offered a nice switch to something altogether different. Celloman, the brainchild of Ivan Hussey, who has worked with the likes of Take That and the Rolling Stones, is a certainly interesting blend of classical, jazz and world music, one that worked extremely well here given the fine acoustics of the Cadogan Hall. Hussey’s talent is to immediately make you forget all the preconceptions you may have about the cello being a somewhat staid instrument and his opening solo here blew those away in just a few minutes. By the time he’d been joined on stage by two other musicians for the second part of his set, there was nothing left to prove – in his hands, the cello just could be the new violin.

It’s always hard to tell whether a comedian/impressionist of the calibre of Jon Culshaw treats such ‘showcase’ gigs as just a day at the office or they really do feel the need to prepare some new material. With a catalogue of voices claimed to number around 360 people though, he’s never going to be lost for words – or jokes – at such industry events. Even when, on asking the audience to suggest people for him to imitate, the name of Stephen Hawkins was shouted out. Only on a very few occasions was the material to go with the lampooning not that sharp, but with Culshaw hitting the bullseye time and time again with his impressions, that was never likely to matter to an audience that loved every minute he was on stage. Russell Crowe as Les Dawson? Just one of many all too brief highlights.

Genuine spesh act number two Raymond Crowe describes himself as an ‘unusualist’ blending visual comedy, ventriloquism and shadow puppetry. The visual comedy, which he started with, I wasn’t that keen on – a case of flamboyant style over much substance – but his shadow puppetry launched his act onto a whole new level. Brilliantly effective, it soon had the audience ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ along to his various creations formed on a big projection screen. A unique and impressive talent then – beyond a shadow of a doubt, as it were.

Apparently described by The Sun as “the funniest new comic in the English speaking world,” I certainly wouldn’t go that far, but Michael McIntyre definitely has the ability to tap into all manner of mundane things that affect mostly metropolitan folk. The trials and tribulations of tube travel and the ludicrous post code envy of fellow Londoners were right on the comic button and you could only warm to McIntyre as he became increasingly got worked up about various subjects. More than anything, he has that element that’s so vital for comics – that unmistakable air of originality.

As, to be fair, does male comedy trio, Lost Locos, as loony a musical, knock-about threesome as you’re likely to see on the circuit. Stars of the European cabaret scene, according to JLA, there’s no doubt that some of their act gets lost in the translation to the UK. Like the Three Stooges in sombreros, what you get with this act is fun slapstick, some flamenco music thrown in and decent visual humour. Quite whether it would hold the attention for a full set, I’m not sure, but it would probably be fun finding out.

Those corporate bookers on the night seeking sharp, uncompromising comedy needed look no further thanFrankie Boyle, the regular panellist on the excellent Mock the Week. Always daring to go into comic territory that many others would shy away from, there’s always a wicked “have I gone too far?” smile on his face – then he goes a bit further. Inevitably, some won’t like his material, and that’s a risk he’s clearly willing to take, but the best comedians never got far without taking risks.

Earlier in the evening, even when he had slipped in a quick Tommy Cooper routine, Lenny Henry’s style of comedy hadn’t quite cut it with what was a savvy, quite young professional audience. But, and I’m sure unknown to many present before the night, Henry has another string to his bow – as lead singer in the band Poor White Trash and the Little Big Horns. Suddenly, here was a whole new Lenny Henry stomping around the stage, working up a sweat Lee Evans would have proud of, and evidently having a ball of a time while breezing through some good old standards. Free of the pressure of having to make people laugh, he looked a new man – and one with a pretty decent voice.

Come the end, The Real Variety Show – true to its word – had offered quality, imaginative variety. The only criticism was that apart from some members of the final band, not one female comic or act was in evidence. I’m sure JLA must have a least a few on their books worthy of appearing at such an important event – it would have just given the evening an extra dimension.

So Will Vince Earn A Fortune On The Rubber Chicken Circuit?
Posted on December 5, 2007

By Henry Deedes

Vince Cable’s rather successful stint as the acting leader of the Liberal Democrats has seen his star rise in the Commons faster than a spotty pop hopeful on The X Factor.

As a result, and presuming that he accepts a frontline job from whoever wins the party leadership battle, he can expect a far higher media profile among his parliamentary colleagues from now on.

Cable, an accomplished ballroom dancer, has already revealed an ambition to appear on the BBC show Strictly Come Dancing. It seems he could also, if he so wished, explore a lucrative sideline on the public speaking circuit. After a string of impressive performances, Cable has caught the eye of the theatre impresario Clive Conway, one of the leading agents for public speakers, who counts the likes of Tony Benn and Alastair Campbell among his clients.

“He is entertaining but he also has that all-important gravitas,” says Conway. “Having seen how successful people like Tony Benn and William Hague can be, you get a feel for the kind of thing that attracts the public and he has those qualities. He has the kind of calibre that you need.”

Conway hasn’t made contact with Cable’s office yet, but not everyone agrees with his verdict. Jeremy Lee, who runs the prestigious JLA speaking circuit, will not be calling Cable’s office. “No, is the short answer,” says Lee. “In my opinion, one swallow does not make a summer. It’s nothing personal against Vince, but he is just not someone I can see us being inundated with requests for.”

Original article appears here

Prezza To Punch Weight As Speaker
Posted on August 3, 2007

by Celia Walden


The last day of the Labour conference will never be the same again: now that John Prescott has left office, who is there to fill the final rabble-rousing slot?

But if you are already missing the incomparably mangled rhetoric of the former deputy prime minister, I have good news: Prezza is now available for hire.

He has signed up with leading speakers’ agency Jeremy Lee Associates, which also represents the likes of William Hague, David Blunkett and Charles Kennedy.

The blurb from JLA highlights some of Prescott’s serious political interests – such as regeneration, housing and his experience at the Kyoto negotiations – not to mention trumpeting his role advising the Chinese Government on its plans to build a thousand new ”sustainable” cities. But his many brushes with scandal do not escape notice.

“Always a colourful character, Prescott is also known for a number of controversial episodes – not least punching the farmer who threw an egg at him during the 2001 election,” it states.

Jeremy Lee is delighted to have the political bruiser on his books – although he would not be drawn on what kind of fee he would expect to command. “I’m anticipating demand for him for keynote addresses and after-dinner speeches and in both cases there’s a lot he can draw on,” says Lee.

“The initial response has been a staggering amount of interest.”

Look Who’s Talking To Your Colleagues
Posted on June 18, 2007

By Rhymer Rigby

Josh Mendelsohn is a programme manager in online sales at Google. But in his spare time he, along with a team of dozens of volunteers, helps bring in speakers to talk to his fellow Googlers. So far, the roll call of people who have addressed the company is a pretty stellar one: it includes Senator Hillary Clinton, Martin Amis, the novelist, and Joseph Stiglitz, the economist.

One might reasonably wonder what the likes of Mr Amis have to do with Google, and the answer is not much at all. Rather, they are bought in to tell staff about their latest books. Such was the success of the [email protected] programme that it has now been renamed @Google and broadened out to include other categories of people such as filmmakers, political candidates and high-achieving women.

“It started as a programme to take advantage of the interesting individuals who stopped by at Google HQ,” Mr Mendelsohn explains.

The lectures take place during work hours and the programme has the support of Google’s senior management.

It operates in eight offices worldwide and employees who are not lucky enough to attend the lectures in the auditorium can watch them live online.

There are a few stipulations. Speakers must agree to their talk being put on YouTube and they must allow an audience question-and-answer session afterwards. Mr Mendelsohn says this is to ensure Google does not get US political style stock speeches with tame audiences. “John Edwards [the former US senator] was recently asked a question which he refused to answer. We want a lecture series that puts folks on the spot,” he says.

Law firm Clifford Chance runs a similar programme under the name Clifford Chance Conversations. Stuart Popham, senior partner, says some speakers are work related, while others, such as Sir Christopher Meyer, the former UK ambassador to Washington, are not. The company has even hosted Peter Blake, the man behind the Sgt Pepper album cover, talking about pop art and culture. On average, Clifford Chance has a speaker every two weeks and Mr Popham says it is always well received. The talks are advertised on the intranet and open to all. Indeed, sometimes the firm opens them to neighbouring companies based in London’s Canary Wharf.

Jeremy Lee, founder of the speaker bureau Jeremy Lee Associates, says that in many ways this is simply an extension of the older convention of having conference speakers who provide a “general interest” speech. “We have six to seven hundred live enquiries at any given time and a sizeable minority of them are from people who’ve heard someone speak on, say Radio 4, and thought: ‘They’re interesting. Let’s get them in.’ ”

This type of thing, Mr Lee adds, tends to be more prevalent in City firms than areas such as manufacturing. He suspects this may simply be because financial institutions are more likely to have in-house auditoriums – which tend to get people thinking about how nice it might be to have a lecture series.

According to organisers of these events, the benefits go beyond the warm and fuzzy feeling one gets from exposing one’s employees to the great and the good.

“The greatest benefit is for our staff to have major intellectual leaders engage with them,” Mr Mendelsohn says. “It’s part of continuing education. It makes people think and extends their boundaries and keeps them engaged.”

He also views the online lecture archive as a public resource. In fact, the company is looking for a broadcast partner.

“A 25-year-old won’t normally get a chance to meet Peter Blake or listen to an ambassador,” says Mr Popham. “In some ways it’s an extension of sponsoring art galleries and museums. Also, there’s been such a blurring of the work/life boundary that employers have a responsibility to provide these sort of opportunities – because people no longer have the time to pursue them.”

Mr Lee buys into this idea, although he warns that it needs to avoid becoming a PR exercise. “For employees to really benefit from it, you do need to see someone live and feel the energy in the room. If you watch it online or on television, the impact is greatly diluted.”

Original article appears here

Posted on April 5, 2007

By Oliver Duff

Ed Vaizey has come a long way since filling the wretched role of writing speeches for Mikey Howard.

Mate-of-Cameron Vaizey, a nice chap who has been touching up possible Lib Dem defectors for the Tories, is entering the potentially lucrative world of after-dinner speaking, signing for the London agency JLA. Says boss Jeremy Lee, whose books boast William Hague and Alastair Campbell: “We’re very excited to be working with Mr Vaizey. He is an interesting speaker.”

The MP becomes a “C-grade” talker, on a par with Christine Hamilton and snooker’s Steve Davis. Small potatoes compared to the £20k commanded by A-graders, but £2,500-£5,000 for a night’s work ain’t rough.

In Praise Of Perspex Pyramids And Their Winners
Posted on December 16, 2006

by Boris Johnson & Jeremy Lee

Has there ever been an autumn like it? Some have marvelled at the raspberries, some at the late profusion of the roses. But for some of us the real miracle of the season has been the fantastic crop of awards ceremonies.

Across the nation this November proud new places have been found on office walls for framed documents proclaiming that the recipient has been named the Personality of the Year 2006 by the Federation of Insurance Brokers or the Outstanding Performer of the Year by the Meat Packaging Association.

Tens of thousands of shiny new trophies now stand on the sideboards of UK plc: strange crystal chacmools; clods of bronze, ideal for braining a burglar; Perspex pyramids that you might use to scrape ice off the windscreen; and even today, with Christmas almost upon us, the national orgy of prize-giving is not quite over.

Somewhere in London, this very night, Andy Marr is compèring some soirée with his bony-fingered brio, and after a 15 minute spiel and cantering through the autocue he will trouser a sum not unadjacent to £20,000 for his services. Before some merry throng, Michael Portillo is telling the one about Holmes and Watson in the tent, while somewhere else William Hague is doing the one about the length of a farmer’s drive.

Before a chuckling cummerbunded Nuremberg at Grosvenor House, John Humphrys is knocking them dead with some nicely judged grouchiness; and in the Hilton or the Dorchester the very presence of top newscaster Fiona Bruce or Huw Edwards is imbuing the ceremony with national importance.

And then the speeches are over and the envelopes are opened, one by one, and the shrieks go up from the victors’ tables, and well-padded backs are clapped, and white bosoms burst with pride from their evening gowns, and as the cameras pop and the mobiles click the bashful winners mount the rostrum and their hands are shaken by the simpering sleb.

They turn to face the applause and a roiling tide of happiness washes round the room, and toasts are drunk and friendships forged, and as black ties hang loose about necks all manner of business is transacted; and no wonder we are becoming addicted to these orgies of self-congratulation.

Those in the know estimate that the number of industry-wide awards ceremonies has doubled in the last ten years, with 1,000 events of varying magnitudes, to say nothing of the tens of thousands of prize-givings held by individual companies.

They all need one thing, or rather one person. They all need a host, a speaker. They need a Pindar to compose the epinician ode, and as one who has now presided over several magnificent events, from the annual knees-up of the Reinsurance Brokers to the Gastropub Industry Oscars, I want to mount a wholehearted defence of these festivals, and of the deep human need for praise.

Silence, please, all you who protest at the all-must-have-prizes mentality of modern Britain. Hush your mouth, you who snigger at us poor funsters as we mispronounce the winners, and I certainly don’t want any criticism for the trifling honorarium we receive. Those of us who are MPs are obliged to declare it, and in any event the payment is peanuts in the broad economy of the awards industry. When you next find yourself in a dinner jacket, palpitating to see whether your name is on the Perspex bludgeon, remember that someone is making a fortune from this beano, and that someone is not the speaker but a struggling magazine.

It works like this. Every industry has at least one magazine, and members of that industry look to that magazine for good natured promotion of their interests.

So every year the magazine — and there are hundreds of them, from PR Week to New Civil Engineer — will organise an awards ceremony for the purposes of raising morale, esprit de corps and self-promotion of the magazine. Every year the prestige grows, the excitement intensifies, and the money gets bigger.

The magazine books a hotel, and of course the hotel is thrilled to provide up to 1,800 covers for dinner — the maximum at Grosvenor House. A bargain is struck. The mag then invites members of the industry to enter the various prize categories, and as many as a thousand firms are happy to stump up the £150-£200 entry fee, since their eyes are already glistening at the thought of the heptagonal hunk of plastic they stand to win.

Then the mag reveals that they are on a shortlist! Yes, and if they pay a further £1,000 to £1,500 they can have a table for ten at the dinner, and of course they can already hear the acclaim echoing round the ballroom, and they readily fork out; and then we come to the most financially ingenious feature of the whole event.

Every one of these 20 wedges or goblets will be sponsored by some leading name in the industry, at between £7,500 and £10,000 a throw, and who gets the dosh?

The magazine, of course — though I hasten to point out that The Spectator’s own generous Parliamentarian of the Year awards are entirely profit-free.

Now do the maths, and you will see the wonderful potential of these ceremonies to fund our hard-pressed magazines as they struggle with the internet; and even if that cause were not noble enough, I defend these awards ceremonies for the simple happiness they bring to all. Before we sneer, we should remember the joy it can bring to someone in a not especially glamorous line of work to be called on stage and receive a manly handshake from Andrew Neil or a broad wink from Floella Benjamin (or possibly the other way round) and be told they have excelled.

Before you jump in and complain that it is part of our primary school culture of giving gold stars to everyone, let me point out that most people leave without a plastic bibelot, without even a goody bag, and they wake in their overpriced hotel with nothing but a hangover and a bad feeling that they tried (and failed) to get off with a colleague.

The beauty of these multiplying awards is that instead of some stilted and terrifying ordeal at the Palace, your moment of supreme professional recognition takes place in a booze-up at some posh hotel, with the judgment of your peers, and unlike a peerage there can be no suggestion of corruption because, unlike the Labour government, the judges cannot be paid.

They simply have the glory of being judges. The winners have their Aztec bludgeons; the losers have the spur to do better; the mags make millions; and if you happen to own hundreds of awards ceremony-organising mags, like the great and noble Hezza, former member for Henley, you will not mind if the present member cycles home with a few scraps from your banquet tucked under his hat.

It’s win-win, I say, and take a medal, everybody!

Real Variety Show 2006
Posted on September 22, 2006

by Peter Heppel

Jeremy Lee’s showcases are different from the others, mainly because it is aimed at the corporate market. This means that many of the performers are from the Edinburgh Festival rather than the clubs, which the majority of them have probably never seen. Added to which is the fact that the venue was the Cadogan Hall just off Sloane Square, of which few of them have ever heard, for it is a conversion of a Christian Science church, though it is already well-known to lovers of classical music and is now beginning to book performers in the pop music field.

However, it was entirely suitable for the JLA event because of its spaciousness and comfort and most of the artists established an early rapport with the audience and did not present a challenge to artists who are more used to conference halls than theatres or clubs.

Simon Amstell, for example, was very much at home, letting us in to a few secrets of corporate entertainment, some of which were downright irreverent, in keeping with the reputation he has already acquired on Channel 4’s Popworld, to be continued no doubt with his forthcoming presentation of Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

Nevertheless he has a high likeability factor, which many of his fellow comedians seem have caught. Marcus Brigstocke, for example, was an eye-opener to those who know him only from brief but numerous appearances on the radio, in particular, and television. At full length, so to speak, he is a remarkably assured and witty comedian, made to measure for corporate audiences, preferably broad-minded ones.

The same applies to Edinburgh veteran Adam Hills, a good-looking Australian who finds the handicap of having a prosthetic leg of little moment. Indeed he makes it one of the major features of his act, assuring his audience that it is no obstacle to sex. He is particularly adept at the comparisons between Australian, American and British audiences.

Being broadminded is also essential to appreciate the comedy nuances of Tim Minchin. Something of a virtuoso pianist, he has written a series of hilarious songs, with lyrics which are hardly suitable for publication but steer clear of the offensive. One of the undoubted hits of the evening.

Justin Moorhouse, seen in Phoenix Nights and primarily a DJ on Manchester’s Key 103 radio, seemed to be something of a beginner in the standup trade but to judge from the reception of some of his material is a strong contender in this field.

Unbilled, veteran John Lenahan could hardly be left out of any JLA event because he is one of the most adroit exponents of magic in any branch of the profession. His one illusion was not really magic at all but a sensational effect achieved through natural means, another illustration that this comedian illusionist is a truly original and always watchable performer, with plenty of original effects in his locker.

Perhaps not quite so successful, mainly because their material was outshone by their props, were Big Howard and Little Howard and the Raymond and Mr Timpkins Revue.

The former is a completely original act, with Howard Read engaged in cross-talk with a diminutive cartoon figure seen only on the screen. Notably clever, it suffered on this occasion because the comedy material was on the weak side, but the timing and interaction is impeccable.

The Raymond and Mr Timpkins Revue was also commendably original, with two eccentrics rather outshone by their props. It is clever but intermittently amusing, more deft than daft, but essentially based on pop music of various styles. Interesting to hear again the distinctive sound of the stylophone, of which Rolf Harris was such a notable exponent.

The main musical exponent in the show was Keedie, whom I first saw in a Torquay talent contest a few years ago. Then partnered by her sisters in a pop act, she has now become a notable serious singer with a distinctly operatic voice, achieving success here with My Heart Will Go On and other demanding songs.

Opening the show with the Haka, for which the All Blacks are as celebrated as they are for rugby football, were Manaia Maori from New Zealand, an apt illustration that in the corporate field a spot of audience participation is virtually indispensable. There was no difficulty in attracting eager volunteers.

Hague Isn’t Giving Up The After-Dinner Circuit Just Yet
Posted on February 15, 2006

When William Hague re-joined the Tory front bench, he promised to give up the outside interests that had (briefly) made him Britain’s best-paid MP.

Claiming this would cost him roughly £500,000 a year in lost earnings, the new shadow Foreign Secretary declared: “I am obviously quite barmy.”

Maybe this proud Yorkshireman isn’t quite as barmy as he’s led us to believe, though. Just two months later, Hague has resumed his after-dinner speaking career.

The agency JLA includes the former Tory leader in its latest “corridors of power” stable, alongside such political luminaries as David Blunkett and Andrew Marr.

Hague’s presence on the list – his going rate, by the way, is between £10,000 and £25,000 – appears to contradict the impression given when he rejoined the shadow cabinet.

Back then, he was allowed to keep a few directorships, in return for dropping his News of the World column, and scaling back speaking appearances.

However, a spokesman last night insisted that Hague had never actually pledged to give up after-dinner speaking. Instead he had promised to cut down “drastically”.

“William Hague is still on the list and available, but it’s now very much a secondary thing,” he said.

Meanwhile, JLA’s director, Jeremy Lee, added: “He’s still going to do occasional speaking for us, but it will be far less frequent than before.”

Posted on October 3, 2005

Jeremy Lee reviews ‘Why Business People Speak Like Idiots’


Words matter, but this book’s banal bag of tricks won’t tell you how to keep slack language out of your presentations or how to make ’em laugh, laments Jeremy Lee.

When the new chief executive of Prudential proudly announces his intention to ‘focus one million per cent on the future’, we are reminded that business people from the top to the bottom have a problem with language.

Like football managers struggling to construct whole sentences in post-match interviews, the problem is that superlatives become meaningless.

You have to keep increasing the stake while the currency constantly loses value.

If you accept that the way a business communicates reflects its health and affects the way it’s perceived internally and externally, you must also accept that words matter a great deal. Everything from routine e-mails to the turn of phrase used to rouse the troops at the annual management conference deserves serious consideration.

This is the starting point for the three US consultants-turned-authors, and few would disagree.

But that’s as far as it goes. The book attacks banality with banality – mixed with a whole heap of contradictions. It advocates simplicity and economy, but takes 150 pages to tell you a dozen basic rules. It rails against overblown expressions, then alerts the reader to the dangers of ‘document obesity’.

The authors claim you don’t need to be a stand-up comic to raise a laugh in presentations, then recommend throwing in the odd Chinese proverb to ‘flex your humor’. They repeatedly call for ‘authenticity’, only to suggest we avail ourselves of some useful stories about the rich and famous at www.anecdotage.com.

With astonishing predictability, the authors fix their sights on easy targets such as PowerPoint and political correctness. Both are clearly inventions of the devil, the latter partly responsible for the Columbia Shuttle disaster in 2003. Twaddle. PP is an immeasurable advance on slides, while PC simply exists to encourage fairness. Of course, both succumb easily to ridicule, but there’s little wrong with the technology or the sentiment – only the way each is habitually abused.

Douglas Adams once told me that the internet would spread democracy by enabling ‘the many to speak to the many’. In fact, the proliferation of blogs looks more likely to breed conspiracy theories than encourage greater participation in the constitutional process. Similarly, alongside a tiny number of star players, we now suffer from a rash of bland corporate websites, mostly signifying nothing. These shortcomings are not caused by bad technology or even primarily by bad design, but by bad language. And I don’t mean swearing.

Fugere, Hardaway and Warshawsky are right to say that amid poor competition, the clever communicator can easily stand out – but you’ll find a more cogent argument and a far better roadmap in Nordstrom & Ridderstrale’s Karaoke Capitalism.

On a personal development level, the biggest fallacy Idiots and many similar books perpetuate is the myth that a few tricks and a little application are all you need to turn yourself into a magnetic public speaker. More twaddle. As someone who works with many of the most accomplished speakers in the country, I have learned that technique is almost useless without natural flair.

With the exception of the occasional sporting celebrity, the stars of the speaker circuit have a rare talent to engage – hence their stratospheric fees.

The best speakers, from Tom Peters to William Hague, take you into their confidence. They delight in sharing something you didn’t know about something or someone you do know. They paint pictures in your mind, like good radio drama, and turn messages into stories. They seem to look into the eyes of every member of the audience, never at an Autocue screen or that imaginary spot at the back of the room. They make every twist of the tale sound fresh, even if they’ve delivered it a hundred times before – and they invariably leave you wanting more.

At the other end of the spectrum are those speakers who move from the token opening joke to the meat of the speech with a pause, a slight cough and a perceptible change of tone. What they’re really saying is ‘and now I’m going to send you into a deeeep sleeeep’. These are the types who tell you what they’re going to say, then say it, and finally in a blistering coup de theatre remind us what they’ve just said. All too often, they are the victims of presentation skills training.

When Alastair Campbell takes on a corporate speaking engagement, he also makes two other speeches without payment: one for his party and one to raise money for charity. Perhaps we should also use this principle: if you insist on buying this book, promise me you will also buy two beautifully written novels. Not only might they help keep you sane, they should also stop you resorting to Chinese proverbs the next time you have to make a presentation.

– Jeremy Lee is the founder of JLA, the speaker bureau

Original article appears here

Lulu The Top Scots Star At 25k A Pop
Posted on August 7, 2005

By Karin Goodwin

IT IS normally the stuff of green room gossip or furtive conversations between celebrities and their agents. However, a price guide published by one of the country’s leading booking agencies has revealed the pecking order of some of Scotland’s biggest names.

The list reveals the identities of the AA-list stars, who command more than £25,000 to grace a corporate shindig, and the E-listers, who receive less than £1,000 for an anecdote-packed after-dinner speech.

The highest earning Scot on the books of the JLA agency — which counts Buzz Aldrin, John Major and Joanna Lumley among its clients — is Lulu, who is awarded the coveted AA ranking.

The butcher’s daughter from the east end of Glasgow, who made her name at 15 with the hit single Shout, commands a minimum £25,000 fee.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum is the D-list roster comprising Jackie Bird, the Scottish newscaster, Dougie Vipond, the television presenter, and Tommy Docherty, former Scotland and Manchester United manager. According to the agency, corporate clients can expect to pay about £2,500 for celebrities in this category.

Dougie Donnelly, the sports presenter, Gavin Esler, the Newsnight presenter, Clarissa Dickson Wright, the television chef, and Michelle Mone, the underwear entrepreneur, fare slightly better. Judged C-list celebrities, they command fees of up to £5,000.

JLA’s B-list Scots, such as Lord Robertson and Kirsty Young, the Five newscaster, can make double that on the corporate circuit.

Although Fred MacAulay is considered worthy of about £10,000 for an after-dinner speech, the comedian and radio presenter is listed only as a C-grade entertainer.

A-list Scots celebrities such as Kirsty Wark, Carol Smillie, Gordon Ramsay and the former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell can earn up to £25,000 for an appearance.

“I’m not surprised that Lulu can command big fees — she is an absolute icon, a superstar,” said Roddy Martine, an Edinburgh-based social commentator. “She is also a very together person and is great fun. She now has this quite posh accent, but I was in the back of a car with her one time and she saw someone she knew. She rolled down the window and started shouting out of it in an accent that was pure Glasgow. She’s never lost herself and I think people appreciate that.”

However, Martine expressed surprise at some of the other ratings, which he said were down to a London-centric perception of celebrity: “I would have thought that Jackie Bird would make a bit more than her rating suggests.”

Jeremy Lee, founder of JLA, said the fee bands are intended only as a guide. He denied that celebrities were motivated solely by the money.

“If they did it only for money it would very soon become soul destroying,” said Lee. “There are some — I won’t mention names — who have a reputation for doing a short speech and leaving as soon as they can.

“But when you see someone like Ian Hislop or William Hague at an event, it is obvious that it is not a chore — they really enjoy meeting people.”

Coe To Strike Gold – Whatever Happens To Olympic Bid
Posted on June 16, 2005

By Guy Adams

With three weeks to go until we learn who’s won the 2012 Olympics, the leader of London’s bid, Lord Coe, is making sure that – win or lose – he doesn’t end up on the breadline.

Should London emerge victorious on 6 July, Coe will carry on at the bid, and has already committed himself to London 2012 until December.

If London loses, things also look bright. For I gather that – with a nod and a wink to Cherie Blair – Coe intends to explore a career on the lucrative after-dinner speaking circuit.

The former Olympic athlete is on the books of JLA, an agency that counts William Hague and Alastair Campbell among its stars. As a “B-grade” speaker, he can command fees of up to £10,000 a go.

Although Olympic commitments have kept Coe occupied in recent years, there’s a good chance he’ll have time to spare after the International Olympic Committee’s decision. So I gather that – in a move that invites accusations of “cashing in” on failure – JLA is sounding out customers on Coe’s behalf.

“He already has interest in a large number of bookings after 6 July, not dependent on the outcome of the bid,” says the firm’s Jeremy Lee. “This shows that, regardless of what happens, he’s in big demand.”

Coe’s spokesman yesterday denied any profiteering from his position, and stressed that Coe hadn’t yet confirmed any dates. “You couldn’t find someone more dedicated – it would never cross his mind to cash in.”

Blunkett Junket
Posted on January 21, 2005

By Martin Waller
IT HAS not taken him long. David Blunkett, still enjoying his £3 million grace-and-favour Belgravia mansion despite losing his job as Home Secretary, has signed up with an agency to offer lucrative after-dinner speaking arrangements.

Large companies are being approached by e-mail with the news that he is on offer from JLA, one of the larger firms in the field, which has also recently acquired the rights to Sir John Stevens, the retiring Met Police Commissioner. No fixed fee — “I would discuss each individual one with David,” says JLA’s Tom McLaughlin — but a comfy five-figure sum should be assured for every rubber chicken dinner. Useful for a man whose salary dropped from £130,000 to a mere £57,000 when he quit.

The agency also represents William Hague, who has made quite a success of the after-dinner circuit, and Mervyn King. No, not that one — a South African judge who is apparently a whiz on corporate governance.


A Brief Guide To Booking Guest Speakers
Posted on October 1, 2004

By Jeremy Lee
Consol Magazine

Sometimes when event organisers are asked to book a guest speaker, their first reaction is one of dread. It will take a significant slice of the budget, and besides, where on earth do you find the right speaker? If the request is for an entertainer, hasn’t everyone heard horror stories about celebrities going down the pan at corporate bashes?

The reality is that money can be wasted and disasters can happen, but only if you ignore the basic principles.

Consider what a well chosen business speaker can bring to your event. He (or she) will have an impartial view of how your business or industry fits in to the wider world, and he can pose awkward but very necessary questions. Are you meeting the pace of change? Are all your people onboard? Are you ready to meet the challenge of global competition?

Likewise, a powerful motivational speaker might have successfully led a team in the face of major obstacles. In hearing how he reach his goals, delegates can draw real inspiration and make useful parallels with the hurdles they meet in their own lives.

Above all, a seasoned external speaker will be able to communicate on the platform – unlike some of the senior team. They may be outstanding in their jobs and a real driving force in the organisation, but embarrassingly inarticulate when faced with row upon row of expectant delegates.

So how do you go about sourcing speakers who will add value and make a lasting impact? How do you sort the wheat from the chaff – and how much should you be paying for their services?

The first thing to do, as with most specialist requirements, is to find a reliable supplier: a speaker bureau or agency who understand your brief. Otherwise you risk ending up with a minor-league entrepreneur from a by gone era dishing up hackneyed management theories, or an end-of-the-pier after dinner speaker doing impressions of Michael Crawford doing Frank Spencer.

Brief the agency yourself; never delegate initial contact to someone who doesn’t have the full picture or who isn’t sufficiently familiar with the subject matter.

Once you have decided you definitely want to book a speaker, there are only four considerations to take into account: audience, objectives, venue and budget. The thing to ban from this list is personal taste – either your’s or anybody else’s.

Start by looking at the audience. Who are they? What level are they within the organisation or industry? What is the male/female ratio? Which parts of the country, or the world, do they come from? These are common sense questions, but they’re easy to overlook especially if someone, somewhere has a different agenda.

What about the objectives? Are you trying to encourage your people to sell more, embrace change and/or pull together more efficiently as a team? Do you want to peer into the future and open their eyes to new markets? Are you looking to get business partners excited in a new product?

Is the object of the exercise to impress existing clients, or to win new business? Do you want to recognise top achievers? Or do you simply want to reward hard work and provide an opportunity for everyone to let their hair down and have a good laugh – whilst ensuring that nobody is offended? If you never lose sight of the objectives, and communicate them clearly to the agency, you will both minimise the risks and maximise the value of a guest speaker.

Venue considerations are straightforward when it comes to choice of speaker, but they’re frequently forgotten. If you are planning to put 1000 delegates into an aircraft hangar of a space, and the keynote speaker is scheduled to appear in the graveyard slot after the lunch break, you must make sure he has the energy and presence to hold the attention of the back row.

Or perhaps you have been asked to arrange a client dinner for thirty in a private room in a smart restaurant. If somebody says let’s have a comedian, the sensible response is ‘no’. It won’t work. This audience is much more likely to smile than laugh out loud – they need a raconteur, not a gag merchant.

The final consideration is the most straightforward of all: money. Do not book the biggest name or the most expensive speaker you can afford. Ask yourself, do we really need a famous face?

If you want to flatter the audience and provide a so-called ‘wow factor’, or if the name will help ‘put bums on seats’, you probably do need the celebrity element; but if there’s a captive audience there’s no compelling reason to pay the premium any famous name commands.

The speaker circuit is teeming with lesser known but extremely talented and clever individuals who can provide a real highlight at your event. Just book the best person for the job.

Cook Speaks Out After Dinner
Posted on May 4, 2004

By Spy

Resigning from the Cabinet last year might have put an end to Robin Cook’s political ambitions, but it’s done his bank balance no end of good. The former foreign secretary has already added to his backbench salary of £57,485 another £450,000 from the publication and serialisation of his book, The Point of Departure.

Now, Spy hears, Cook is plunging into the lucrative after-dinner speaking circuit. He has signed up with JLA, the leading agency that has Alastair Campbell and William Hague on its books.

Potential clients shouldn’t expect stand-up comedy routines and Rory Bremner-style impersonations from the gingery Scotsman. “Robin still sees himself as a very serious speaker,” I’m told. “Rather than being amusing, like William Hague, he sees himself holding forth on Europe and other geo-political issues.”

Life Lines
Posted on March 21, 2004

By Sarah Rile

Where can you discuss the meaning of life, should you wish to, with ex-Tory leader William Hague, BBC pin-up correspondent Rageh Omaar and World Cup winning rugby player Matt Dawson? Or ponder the implications of living to be 100 with Baroness Susan Greenfield and Sir Christopher Meyer? Why, at The Observer/JLA Agenda Debate on 31 March at the British Museum, of course. Hurry to www.jla.co.uk to join the business leaders who already have their tickets.

Original article appears here

After Dinner Circuit Loses A Favourite
Posted on December 30, 2003

By Friederike Tiesenhausen Cave

With the death of Bob Monkhouse, the circuit of after-dinner speakers has lost one of its veterans. His wise-cracking cheered up generations of guests at often dry and formal functions.

Monkhouse was so skilled at sharp one-liners that he became the only performer to win twice the Best After Dinner Speaker of the Year Award by the Guild of International Professional Toastmasters. Peter Prichard, Monkhouse’s manager for 38 years, said: “Bob has done after-dinner speeches throughout his career. He was incredibly experienced.”

Jeremy Lee, director of JLA, the speakers’ bureau, said Monkhouse excelled at customising speeches by tying in anecdotes about a host with news events: “This is something the contemporary comedy world would worship him for. Nobody would be more topical.”

Monkhouse’s success on the circuit was built on his television and comedy career. Many agents say he will be hard act to follow at functions held for well-fed middle managers from the insurance industry or members of provincial chambers of commerce. While fame in other walks of life is a prerequisite and can make a speaker pricey, not everybody can establish a link to a reluctant audience. Mr Lee said: “It is a special talent to relate to people who did not especially come to see you.”

Among speakers in the premium category are Sven-Göran Eriksson, the England soccer manager, whose ingenuity on management and the philosophy of winning can cost a host £25,000-plus. John McEnroe, the former Wimbledon tennis champion and commentator, offers words of sporting wisdom that command a similar fee.

Out of reach for all but the grandest of bashes is Bill Clinton, the most expensive speaker in the world for the third year running at £100,000-plus a time. “The only one who would probably create the same kind of exciting aura is Nelson Mandela,” said Mr Lee. “But sadly, he is not available.”

The most sought-after speaker in the UK, according to JLA, is William Hague, the former Tory leader, who gained speaking experience at the age of 16 with an address ataparty conference. Listening to the former opposition leader take the mickey out of senior politicians comes at a price ranging from £10,000 to £25,000.

“Hague humour” has become a lucrative sideline for the Yorkshireman who resigned from frontbench politics in 2001. Last month, however, Mr Hague found himself on the defensive after an aside to members of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders backfired. Gay activists were not amused by his take on the prime minister’s declaration that he did not have a reverse gear. “I, too, wouldn’t have a reverse gear if Peter Mandelson was standing behind me,” Mr Hague had said.

Alastair Campbell, a fellow former Westminster insider who charges similar money, is a newer recruit to the circuit but has so far avoided big splashes despite eager anticipation. Mr Campbell, who quit as Tony Blair’s spin doctor and media guru in the summer, has spoken at a number of fundraising dinners without spilling the beans about Number 10.

For £5,000 to £10,000, price-conscious hosts can decorate themselves with the medals and wit of sportsmen Kriss Akabusi and Matthew Pinsent. A touch of criminal glamour comes from Nick Leeson, the rogue trader, who recalls how he lost Barings £860m on the Simex money market and served four years in a Singapore jail for his efforts.

At a lower end of the market, Jilly Goolden, the wine critic, charges £2,500 to £5,000 for her thoughts on the merits of old world versus new. Tim Yeo, Tory health and education spokesman and a golf fanatic, intimates how he bends doctor’s orders by taking his clubs on the long walks he has been prescribed.

If the belt is truly tight, Ian McCaskill, the former BBC weatherman, charges £1,000 to £2,500 for jokes about the highs and lows of meteorology. Another contender in the budget category is Christine Hamilton, who is happy to dine out on her experiences in the reality TV show I Am A Celebrity – Get Me Out Of Here.

Stand Up If You Like Doing Corporate Gigs
Posted on December 12, 2003

By Steve Jelbert

The corporate show is scorned by some comedians, who feel that it is compromising their “artistic integrity”. But others embrace it, seeing it as a way of subsidising their careers.

CORPORATE SHOWS are the hidden ginger stepchild of comedy. No one really likes to talk about them, save the ubiquitous Jonathan Ross on his radio show. Yet they take place all the time, those after-dinner shows at which comedians are brought in to amuse dozens of post-prandial businessmen, comforted only by the fact that the huge fees they command effectively subsidise their more prominent — and less well paid — work.

Many of us will have been to such an event, in a group of several hundred drunks, heckling Gary Wilmot with an obscene chant which wouldn’t have disgraced the rowdiest of football crowds. Legend has it that David Baddiel once finished a set to a boozy crowd of City yobs with the words “You’ve been a s**t audience and thanks for the twelve grand”, before wisely fleeing, presumably aware that he would never again be as funny.

“It is a world of whispers. People don’t usually talk about it,” concedes Dara O’Briain, a stand-up comedian experienced at such events. “I think there’s an element of ‘artistic integrity’ involved, something which is massively overstated in the comedy industry, given that we’d hit ourselves on the head with a frying pan to get a laugh when it isn’t going well. It doesn’t make us whores. It’s not like you’re endorsing a product.”

Jimmy Carr, another comic familiar on this shadow circuit, has no illusions about the nature of the work. “I’m about as important as the starter in the run of things, and that’s always salmon or chicken,” he says. But he rather likes doing them. “If you get booked for the right thing they can be great. It’s like the whole audience are one gang, so if you hit it right it’s a brilliant gig, because it’s like a private party.”

O’Briain concurs. “I enjoy them, I have to say. Comedy is something where people don’t usually come to you, Edinburgh excepted. The other 11 months of the year, you’re trying to find their level. But with these gigs you’re not struggling to find it, because if you hit one of them, you’ve hit the whole lot of them.”

There are perks, too. Carr was flown to a company jolly in Mexico. “It was an absolute joy, because obviously everyone there had been flown to Acapulco. If you want to play to an audience in a good mood, that’s the environment. ‘There’s a comedian? Great! We’ll laugh at anything now’.”

But even corporate entertainment has its pecking order. The two best known firms dealing with the talent are the unlikely sounding Jillie Bushell Associates and the speakers’ bureau Jeremy Lee Associates, whose brochure is something of a comedy barometer, and features a code system which gives a rough guide to the fees involved.

“It always excites comedians because it has grades which go up and down, depending on how you stand in the industry,” O’Briain explains. “There is A to E, and the prestigious ‘double A’ for Bill Clinton and the like.” That represents the “price on application” level, though their website actually gives price bands for Category E as under £1,000, D as £1,000-£2,500, and so on, up to A at £10,000-£25,000, which includes well known names such as Frank Skinner and Victoria Wood. Nice work if you can get it.

It’s not all about glamour, of course. The winners of the Perrier newcomer award in 2002, The Consultants, Justin Edwards, James Rawlings and Neil Edmond, have worked at both ends of the scale.

“You’re just exercising crowd control over 50 people who throw rolls at you for three minutes,” says Edwards, though he has a few tricks up his sleeve. “I get the name of the boss and the name of some bloke from accounts who’s always drunk, so all I have to do is find the drunkest man in the room and go, ‘You must be Dave!’ Even if he’s not, it’s usually still funny.”

Rawlings goes on: “There’s a sense of trepidation about going on at nine in the morning to open a conference. But we make more for doing ten minutes than waiting tables for three weeks.”

Corporate shows are really about displaying corporate muscle, at whatever level. “Unlike any other gig you’ll do, there’ll be one person that you’ll meet at the start of the night who’ll look worried, and keep asking if you’re all right,” O’Briain says. “That’s the person who said, ‘I saw this guy at The Comedy Store and he was really good’, and they’ll lose their job, or at least their standing, if I mess up. If you do well, the handshake you get off that person is phenomenal. When you don’t work in that corporate world, you don’t realise that these people are walking on eggshells all the time.”

Sometimes the boss’s idea of a joke proves downright peculiar. Rawlings recalls a curious role-playing day. “A property firm had arranged for four of us to play people working at this hotel. Justin was the maitre d’, I was dressed as a waiter, another actor was supposedly putting together a PA for the speeches, and we gave the worst service imaginable, clearing plates while people were still eating, that sort of thing.”

“All the way through this lovely dinner. They really weren’t enjoying it,” Edwards says. “At the end they announced, ‘Thanks to the cast for amusing us all.’ But nobody got it.”

Who loses out here? “Every stand-up gig is about tailoring your stuff to the crowd and this is more honest,” says O’Briain. “I’m young and hungry and I have a tuxedo, so I’m happy to do them.”


SOME years ago a friend of mine was employed by one of Britain’s largest companies, and one of the perks was the annual Christmas bash, held in a London hotel. Rumours circulated that this year’s event would feature a comedian. Names such as Ben Elton and Alexei Sayle were bandied around.

So groans broke out when the warm-up act turned out to be a cosy veteran song-and-dance man. Still, surely the corporate giant in question would be aware of the tastes of its young folk. Sadly not. Instead one of the best known of Britain’s golf/ comedy performers leapt on to the stage.

But the star is the star after all, and free booze is free booze, so the crowd settled. Yet spewing forth some racially-charged material was hardly a wise move in front of a mixed audience typical of the capital. Some brisk heckling kicked off, until the white performer turned on one accuser and suggested that if he had anything to say, he could say it to his face.

Emboldened by liquor, the critic accused the star of racism. “Racist! Me! I’m no racist, son, and I’ll prove it,” the comic exclaimed, and called upon his black support act from the wings to join him in a number about their chumship.

Chastened, the heckler returned to his seat, only to be stopped by another punter. “Look what you’ve done, you stupid bastard!” the interloper shrieked. “He’s singing now!”



THE STAR ratings for corporate speakers and comedians:

AA (over £25,000): Ant and Dec, Clive James

A (£10,000-£25,000): David Baddiel, Angus Deayton, Jack Dee, Cat Deeley, Rory Bremner, Jasper Carrott, Bob Monkhouse, Lenny Henry, Phill Jupitus, Mark Lamarr, Patrick Kielty, Alistair McGowan, Frank Skinner, Victoria Wood, Jonathan Ross

B (£5,000-£10,000): Sanjeev Bhaskar, Ed Byrne, Jimmy Carr, Bobby Davro, Omid Djalili, Jeremy Hardy, Lee Hurst, Ross Noble, Emo Philips

C (£2,500-£5,000): Jeff Green, Rich Hall, Kit and the Widow, Derren Brown, Terry Alderton

D (£1,000-£2,500): Simon Evans, Sean Lock, Men In Coats, Sean Meo, Julia Morris, Colin Murphy, Dara O’Briain, Tim Vine, Jason Wood, Consultants, Rhys Darby

E (up to £1,000): Shazia Mirza, Ian Stone, Otiz Cannelloni

Ex-Tory Leader Is A-List Speaker
Posted on October 28, 2003

Given the current difficulties of the Tory leadership, it all seems plain sailing for its former incumbent William Hague.

The Richmond MP, who resigned as Conservative leader two years ago, was yesterday identified as being among the most in-demand after-dinner speakers in Britain.

According to speakers agency JLA, which has Mr Hague on its books, he is in the A-list of after-dinner speakers, costing between £10,000 and £25,000 a time.

Only the likes of England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, tennis star John McEnroe and actress Lauren Bacall command more.

JLA director Jeremy Lee said there was “universal agreement” that Mr Hague was a great speaker, who performed wonderfully well when it came to entertaining guests after dinner.

Mr Hague was unavailable for comment and the eulogy seemed to take his office aback.

A spokeswoman said: “We didn’t know about this but it’s obviously good news for William. He has his parliamentary commitments, which come first, but he will do a certain amount of after-dinner speaking every year.”

Mr Hague has previously held the reins for an episode of satirical news programme Have I Got News For You. His appearance went down so well that he was said to be in the running to replace former presenter Angus Deayton.

He later said he had underestimated how much politics involved who or what was fashionable at the time, adding: “More people noticed what I said on the programme than almost anything I did or said in four years as leader of the Conservative Party.”

Campbell Joins The After-Dinner Gravy Train
Posted on October 26, 2003

The Prime Minister’s former spin doctor is the ‘ultimate catch’ on the celebrity speakers’ circuit, reports Tom Leonard

Rory Bremner does it all the time, Alastair Campbell is thinking of doing it and John Culshaw would rather not do it with any more builders. As for William Hague, apparently he does it better than anyone.

Good evening and welcome to the lucrative world of after-dinner speaking. Reports that the Prime Minister’s former director of communications is about to dip his toe into the speaking circuit has come as little surprise.

Mr Campbell is understood to be about to sign with JLA, the biggest speaking agency, and as one of its “A-band” speakers he can expect to make as much as £25,000 for a single appearance. Even more lucrative engagements beckon in America.

How much he will be prepared to say on the subject people will want to hear about – his time in government – remains to be seen, but agency insiders have described him as their “ultimate catch”.

If he signs up to the circuit, Mr Campbell will join a list of 250 names on JLA’s books, each profiting – sometimes enormously – from that unshakeable belief in corporate entertainment that no event is ever really complete without a few words from someone famous.

Mr Campbell supports Burnley FC in the First Division, which is about where he can expect to be in the speaker league. The JLA assigns fee grades to all its after dinner speakers. The most expensive, the “AAs” who cost more than £25,000, are a small bunch. They include Sven-Goran Eriksson, John McEnroe, P J O’Rourke, Sir Peter Ustinov and Lauren Bacall. The “A”s – worth £10,000 to £25,000 – include the television presenters Angus Deayton, David Baddiel and Gary Lineker, the actor Richard Wilson and Mr Hague.

Spending £5,000 to £10,000 gets you a “B” – including Clive Anderson, Ken Clarke, Will Carling and the writer Meera Syal. Too expensive still? The “C”s (£2,500 to £5,000) include Kate Adie, the young explorer Bear Grylls, Loyd Grossman and the former government spin-doctor Martin Sixsmith.

The “D”s – a snip at £1,000 to £2,500 – will still get you a household name such as the cricket commentator Henry Blofeld, Trevor Brooking and Terry Waite. It will also get you Graham Cole, alias Pc Stamp from The Bill and Christine Hamilton.

Internationally, Bill Clinton currently sits at the top of the earnings tree. Next, is the former New York mayor Rudi Giuliani. Mr Clinton commands in excess of £135,000 for an appearance while Mr Giuliani is not far behind on £107,000, not including travel and accommodation. But who is most in demand in Britain? Mr Lee has no doubts – it is William Hague. “Whatever people think about him politically, the one thing on which there is almost universal agreement is that he’s a great speaker,” he says. “He was always well known for performing well at Prime Minister’s Questions and that translates itself wonderfully into performing after dinner.”

So why is Mr Hague not included in JLA’s premier league? Fees are not solely determined by the level of demand but factors such as their availability (some only make a handful of speeches a year) location and the audience. Some speakers prefer a cross-industry audience to one made up from a single company as it is more likely to lead to further bookings.

Addressing potential employers has its risks however. Anderson was widely reckoned to have scuppered his chances of getting another chat show after he made a desperately rambling speech to television chiefs at a Royal Television Society dinner in Cambridge last month. Some delegates remembered a past speech to the convention by Bremner – one of the busiest and most popular speakers on the circuit – which would have been far more hilarious had it not been pretty much a carbon copy of one he had given at the Edinburgh Television Festival a month earlier.

“There are a lot of thankless gigs out there,” says Mr Lee. “There are audiences who are very, very hard to please. There are people who think they’ve seen and heard everything.” So what are the tricks of speaking? Mr Lee knows a few: try to connect with an audience by referring to one person in the room they all know so you don’t look like a “complete hired gun who has only turned up for the money”, he says. Be careful not to patronise your audience – Mr Lee recalls the American speaker who produced a platinum credit card to illustrate a point during a speech in Manchester – “From the moment, he pulled it out of his pocket, he’d lost them”. Don’t tell your audience how to run their own business and don’t talk for more than 30 minutes. Finally, give the audience something to take away, such as a story they can re-tell.

The BBC presenter Jeremy Vine, a recent recruit to the speaker circuit, adds a few more. “I once did a speech for some computer operators. I tried some jokes about computers and the room went completely quiet – it was a disaster,” he says. “The more you work on trying to convince the audience that you’re one of them, the worse it goes down.”

Another lesson he has learnt is not to believe everything the host says. “I was once briefed beforehand that it would be good if I could fit in my ‘economic worldview’. As soon as I touched on it, I could see the shutters go down across the room. I knew I’d lost them.”

As for the funny lines, they should never be generic but preferably drawn from personal experience. “There’s a limited number of gags going round and most people have heard most of them,” he says.

As the star of the impersonations show Deadringers, Culshaw is predictably in demand for dinners and award ceremonies. Like many entertainers who work regularly with comedy writers, Culshaw gets help with his speeches from the same team who help with his lines in Deadringers. “There’s always a balance between taking the mickey and taking it seriously, because for the organisation involved, it could be the main event of their year,” he says.

He discovered the hard way that thorough audience research can be crucial. Some years ago, he was booked to address what he was told was a “group of builders”. He turned up with a portable disco and a repertoire of raucous party games to discover the audience were the top brass of an international construction company.

Meanwhile, the speaker business is growing – JLA will provide speakers for 1,200 events this year – and agents now hold auditions at which event organisers can watch a speaker doing a practice run.

Original article appears here

Will Anyone Listen To Tecwen?
Posted on July 3, 2003

By Spy

Who Wants to be a Millionaire? cheat Tecwen Whittock’s attempt to make a few bucks on the after-dinner speaking circuit is looking like a non-starter.

Whittock recently announced that he would be “available for any occasions which require a speaker in the UK or abroad”. But the leading after-dinner speaking agency, JLA – whose clients include Nick Leeson – has blacklisted the coughing college lecturer. “If he thinks he can cash in on this, he’s wrong,” warns a JLA spokesman.

“There’d be nothing positive to take away from a Tecwen Whittock speech.”

Finally, People Listen To Hague
Posted on April 10, 2003

By Spy

Almost two years after being thumped at the polls, William Hague’s star is back in the ascendancy.

Having prompted nostalgic recollections of his Dispatch Box days with his contribution to the recent war on Iraq debate, Hague is now much in demand on the after-dinner speaking circuit. “He’s shot to the top of our list,” says a spokesman for speakers’ agency JLA.

“His speeches on Iraq seem to have reminded people how good he is. He has the rare talent of being able to deliver keynote speeches as well as being a wonderful gag teller.”

What TV Stars Get For Dinner
Posted on April 24, 2001

By Rhymer Rigby and Jade Garrett

So Angus Deayton can earn £50,000 for hosting an awards ceremony. He’s not the only one. A famous face and a nice line in after-dinner patter can earn you a fortune

Angus Deayton’s £50,000 pay packet to host this year’s Bafta awards catapults him to the top of the super-league of celebrities who can earn more from presenting award ceremonies and after-dinner speaking than from their TV careers.

A few years back, Deayton charged £6,000 for a 20-minute after-dinner speech at the far less glamorous Gwent Training and Enterprise Council. Next month Bafta will fork out £416 a minute for the Have I Got News for You host’s two hours’ work delivering several one-liners and schmoozing back-slapping luvvies.

According to sources at some of the country’s top talent agencies, this places Deayton just behind Lady Thatcher, who can now demand up to £60,000 for a couple of hours’ work, ahead of David Frost at £25,000 and Carol Vorderman at £20,000. Davina McCall received what was considered a generous £15,000 to front the Brit awards for ITV last year, a similar amount to that offered to Ant and Dec, who hosted the ceremony this year.

Jeremy Lee, managing director at JLA, a London-based speakers agency, says the amount a star can earn is practically limitless.

“There is one artist, who shall remain nameless, who describes it as a ‘bank raid’,” he says.

“Their careers are like that of Premier League footballers. They have comparatively short careers in which they earn vast sums of money. A lot of them earn between £10,000 and £20,000 for each appearance, and they could feasibly be doing something every week. Some are in a position where they can earn more from the corporate circuit than from their TV careers, but they are all aware that it is their TV profile that enables them to earn so much, so that is always prioritised. Very few have any great longevity.”

He adds that demand for stars is huge because of their ability to add a level of prestige and glamour that only celebrity endorsement can.

This is the world of celebrities’ second incomes. For while most associate the wealth of Jonathan Ross, Deayton, Vorderman and pretty much every other star with the telly, chances are they are also pounding the after-dinner circuit, appearing at everything from surveyors’ soirées to oil-industry beanos. Anywhere, in fact, where the organisers will stump up the cash.

Even Michael Fish, the BBC weather man, is getting in on the act. The 57-year-old Fish has signed up as director of publicity for Wrinklies Direct Names and Faces, which specialises in finding work for ageing celebrities. His details are displayed on the company’s website along with those of 35 other ageing “celebrities” keen to cash in, including Cynthia Payne and Neil and Christine Hamilton, who are running corporate training courses on crisis management.

“It’s a very significant income for some,” says Khalid Aziz, chairman of the Aziz Corporation, a spoken communications consultancy. “It can be far more than they get from the BBC.”

From the celebrity’s point of view, it’s a lot of cash for what, even if they prepare assiduously, isn’t a great deal of work. “It remains a nice little earner,” says Dominic Morley, a former managing director of After Dinner Speakers UK, “and usually they’ll do it as often as they’re asked. It’s very good money.”

Fair enough, but what about the companies in question  do the celebs bring enough to the party to justify their enormous fees?

“If your objective is a morale boost for the troops,” says Aziz, “then a TV personality is a great help. You get success by association. Some, like Nick Ross, are very good. But others regard it as a bit of gravy and give the minimum possible.”

Speakers such as George Best may come with a health warning, though you have to suspect that most of those who’ve hired him would feel a bit let down if he didn’t fall over. Interestingly, repetition tends to reflect badly on the organisers rather than the celebrities.

“It’s pointless and ridiculous to suggest they start each speech from scratch,” says Lee, ” but ideally you wouldn’t book someone for events with audience overlap so close to each other.”

“With sporty people,” says Morley, “the truth is, many are hopeless. Just because you can kick a ball doesn’t mean you can speak.”

The financial rewards paid by British awards ceremonies pale in comparison with their competitors in the USA. The American actors Steve Martin and Billy Crystal each commanded fees said to be in excess of £500,000 for hosting the last two Oscar ceremonies. Even the value of the goody bags handed to the stars at awards events can outstrip a British compère’s fee. Top guests at last year’s Oscars received a £1,000 Cartier watch, a £500 bracelet, a £300 pen and a £120 crystal heart.

The presenters of last month’s Golden Globe film awards each received a Dior watch in an antique Chinese wedding-chest, a pair of Chanel sunglasses, a Palm electronic organiser, a Phillips MP3 player and 2lb of Godiva chocolates. Total value: £5,000.

For now English audiences are happy to be entertained for a couple of hours by a celebrity chef, ageing agony aunt or former politician. But when it comes to real professionalism and good value, one name comes up again and again. From audiences to agents, no one, but no one, has a bad word to say about Bob Monkhouse.

Looking For The Conference Hero
Posted on March 21, 2001

It’s best to turn the event over to the experts, says Michael Becket

YOU want to organise a conference and make it a really appealing event that everybody will remember with approval and will raise the company’s prestige.

Finding a venue is no problem – everybody knows of halls and hotels with the appropriate sort of space, and the people there can probably help with furniture and even displays. The problem comes if you want a really good keynote speaker to add not just glitter to the occasion but a bit of substance and insight. Where is such a person to be found?

Turn to Speakers’ agents in the Central London Yellow Pages and it advises looking under Conference facilities, Corporate Entertainment, Educational Services or Entertainment agencies. These categories are not much more help. Ten pages of conference facilities fail to include many of the large speakers’ agencies, even the ones in London. Corporate entertainment has advertisements for lap-dancers and adventure events but not speakers.

One answer, according to Jeremy Lee of speakers’ agency JLA, is to hand the event over to a major production company, which would certainly know the better agencies. Finding one sounds just as daunting but, as Mr Lee points out, most executives have been to a conference, or know another company which has organised one, or can turn to their trade body for help.

Getting a professional organiser might in any case be a good idea since conferences in Britain have become very slick and polished occasions – although on the Continent there are still the old-style events with a flip-chart to provide excitement. So there is a need to get expert help to prevent the occasion looking amateurish. There are some substantial companies in this area such as Imagination, Caribiner or HP:ICM which know where to turn.

There is still a need to sort out just what sort of speaker would be appropriate. Cheryl Goldhill of London’s Speakers’ Corner agrees that the three main categories currently in demand are e-trade, motivation and general business.

Brendan Barns, of Speakers for Business, said motivation is last year’s topic. This year, in his experience, demand has been for variants on a theme: e-commerce, the future of business and the impact of technology. The motivational type includes gold-medal sportsmen, fearless explorers like Sir Ranulph Fiennes, and other specialists in overcoming adversity.

A sub-set of this category is the expert in teamwork and how to persuade people to co-operate. The general business group covers management gurus of all types and varying levels of plausibility. Alex Krywald of Celebrity Speakers reckons most of the big experts he books tend to be American and cost between $5,000 and over $100,000.

At the top end of the fee range is when the distinguished speaker is acting almost as a management consultant, giving advice on the company’s own plans and so having to do quite a lot of preparatory work.

Mr Lee pointed out that some of the big American gurus charge similar sorts of fees without the consultancy and believes that to be “a total waste of money”. But then you do not always get what you pay for, Miss Goldhill reckoned.

On e-commerce, for instance, Mr Lee said you can get speakers keen to get their name and message better known, and who will therefore speak for nothing. Then there are some relatively unknown but experienced speakers who know what they are talking about who will cost about £2,000 to £5,000.

The better the name is known the greater the cost – although most of the stars vary their charge according to the appeal of the people, the topic, the site and the timing. Companies looking for a biggish name as a draw, and rather less interested in the substance of the talk, might go to last year’s stars because as they fall from fashion their fee also declines.

Mr Krywald, like the others, is concerned that “there is a tremendous shortage of experts”. Mr Barns agrees that “finding good speakers who can put forward the arguments in a humorous and inspirational way is quite difficult”.

What makes it harder is that “clients do like speakers who have been at the cutting edge rather than theorists and academics”. That means using successful businessmen who are not really bothered about the fee but take it all the same.

All of which tends to show it may turn out to be easier to find the speaker than to find the money for pay him.

Original article appears here

After-Dinner Soundbytes
Posted on July 14, 1996

by Godfrey Smith

“You’re talking about people’s dreams” avowed Will Carling. He was, in fact, talking about the England rugby team but reckons his philosophy could equally apply to your company. If you want to make sure he is the right chap to motivate your workforce you can now get a taste of his style on a video cassette called Speakers’ Showreel. You only get soundbites, but they have to get 32 movers and shakers onto the reel, arranged in coloured sections: blue for business, red for sales, yellow for politics and so on. After-dinner speakers are rather ominously coloured black, though the section boasts some jolly names: Ian Hislop, Bernard Ingham and other laugh a minute thrusters.

Will is under green for motivation and teamwork with Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the Arctic explorer (“the urine phials made excellent chessmen”) Heather Mills, the model and charity worker (“I had enormous boobs but have had them reduced”); Peter Moloney, former soldier and monk (“poverty is only uplifting if you choose it – like chastity”); and Flight Lieutenant John Nichol, RAF Gulf war navigator (“at 800mph and 100 feet above the desert I had to trust my pilot implicitly with my life. It’s the same with industry”).

The tape is the bright idea of Jeremy Lee, who argues that you can be spending tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands, but your keynote speaker may prove a flop, the after-dinner slot a minefield. This way, you can sample what you’re buying first. When you consider that the lowest-paid speaker on his reel comes in at £1,000 while the highest will set you back £6,000, it sounds like common sense. Indeed if you can get your staff to believe in Peter Moloney (“nothing is beyond your reach”) it may prove quite a bargain. Jeremy reckons his showreel will work even better when it goes onto CD-Rom. As it is, you have to fast forward till you get your dream speaker. That might take time and in this world time is money. Lots of it.


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