JLA in the Press

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.

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