picture of Warrington panel by David Lake
I’ve mentioned the “town hall meeting” style of events already this year. This was the third and drew in the best elements of the previous two in Wigan and Manchester. The panel was mainly private sector – so there was a great deal of common sense honesty and hard headed realism. The two opening speakers were quite a refreshing contrast to their types – a politician, Councillor Terry O’Neill, who spoke briefly and a property developer, Matt Crompton, who thought about the bigger picture.
The question and answer session was busy and lively. The trick with events like this with a big panel, was not to ask each panel member to answer each question, but to select who can take the debate on to the next level of understanding. If I’ve got one regret it’s that we were all white guys in ties.
The Insider coverage of the event is here.
When is an event not an event? When it’s a round table. For accounting purposes I never used to account for round table seminars as events – but they are. People come together, I need to prepare the content and the supporting material and most importantly of all I need to make sure that guests arrive on time and are ready to take part in something unique.
For a small and tight group it’s really important that everyone participates fully in the discussion. I always make sure everyone is comfortable and familiar with the other participants beforehand. It’s also really vital that they know it is being recorded for editorial purposes.
The prime purpose is to create a unique piece of content, but the gathering also has to work as an event in its own right, as if the coverage wasn’t a factor at all.
I’ve done three so far this year. The coverage of two has been included in a new directory I’ve been working on.
The coverage of the Thames Valley International Trade breakfast round table however was slightly different. It works quite well as a series of sound bites and quotes from those present, and I picked an angle about Chinese corporations looking at UK business assets.
Another important element is the photography. The above picture of me at a recent round table in Manchester is by David Lake who has a good eye for those key moments in a discussion when faces light up and the spark is there. Or, just a good contemplative portrait.
The news story of the Thames Valley event is here.
The round table web coverage is here.
Michael Taylor, Declan Kearney and Symon Ross promote the Viscount Awards at Belfast International Airport
I’m delighted that I’m going to be involved in the 2012 Viscount Awards, an event to encourage businesses in Northern Ireland to export and to trade with other businesses in Great Britain. In order to drum up support for the event I was involved in a photo shoot with the sponsors, Aer Lingus, and the Northern Irish media partner, Ulster Business magazine. The photo is pretty good and was taken on the runway at Belfast International Airport , but I have to say, I have never been as cold in my life, does it show?
A link to the promotion for the event is here.
A link to a microsite for the awards is here.
Picture by David Lake
I joke that these awards give me that occasion to walk out at Ewood Park to applause, a lifetime’s ambition. But opening with jokes isn’t the best idea. I found that out last night. I had a well written script, good information, detail on the awards and I really know who is who. But I’m no Gyles Brandreth. He can do the jokes to warm everyone up – I bring something else. I suppose it’s what I brought with the script last week to his script at the South East event.
The awards went well, but it wasn’t a rip roaring raucous affair – serious, but warm. It’s highlighted by the above award, The Flat Cap Award – a personality award which always goes down well.
There were 160 at the event. It’s a friendly occasion, lots of friends renewing connections. I ended on a poem, something I was quite pleased with as it gave something of me, my style and my strengths.
Coverage of the awards is here.
And my joke? I told the story of how I was stumped for something to say when I met the Prime Minister – ask me anything he said, so I asked: “What does swan taste like?” I know.
I just had to make a short speech at the beginning of these awards held at Effingham Park in Surrey. I tried to get across the importance of high growth businesses to the economic recovery and how the national media tends to talk down business success. I used a bit of humour and a few lines about banker bashing and Knockabout politics, but at heart it was a serious speech before dinner.
My main role, in reality, was the script work I did before the event and on the night with the host and compere Gyles Brandreth. He likes to flirt and titillate the audience – he is much loved for what he does and has that lovely mix of camp and warmth. He also manages to switch from jovial to sincere very effectively.
Me and my good friend and colleague on these events, Ian Wolfendale, feed Gyles with local and industry anecdotes and the odd one liner. More than any other compere I have worked alongside, Gyles really seems to appreciate these. Some, believe it or not, resent it; they think they can write their own material. But the constant feedback from business events is that level of research fosters a sense of intimacy. As a result, we tend to over-prepare. Gyles can then discount what he is less comfortable with yet feel he has fall back material. If he wants these are the safer lines about the award winners and shortlisted which he can still deliver authentically.
Gyles also playfully strikes the balance between taking the awards seriously but not taking life too seriously. It’s a narrow line. But these awards should matter, and it is an important job of a host to ensure they do.
Overall, it was a successful night. Gyles was on good form and most importantly the audience enjoyed the whole show. It also gets me tuned in for my first event hosting job of the year next Thursday at the Lancashire Dealmakers Awards at Blackburn Rovers.