Archive | March, 2012

Northern Ireland Dealmakers Awards 29/3/12

31 Mar

I did the full hosting job for the Northern Ireland Dealmakers Awards at the Europa Hotel in Belfast. Just as I did for Lancashire, but there I’m on home turf. In Northern Ireland I don’t really know the people as well, so I play it friendly and safe but make sure the detail about local places and companies is accurate. The format also includes a charity appeal, which comes between courses so I don’t have to shift emotional gears during one whole stage appearance. There’s also a comedian, which rather reduces my burden of having to amuse the audience. The Belfast crowd are a lovely group though; generous, warm, welcoming and appreciative. There also isn’t that ingrained cynicism you can get from some business audiences. Comedian Ian Moore was very good – observational and dry without that mean spirited edge many modern comics suffer from.

There aren’t big speeches, but there is a chance to invite the big winner to respond to questions in a quick interview – Ian Coulter of Tughans, the Dealmaker of the Year was excellent, but my pre-event research suggested to me he would do. He gave a few rousing comments about how the hard work may be about to pay off for many in the room.

The fact that the event even takes place is a really positive move for the business community in Northern Ireland. It even made it to the 10.30 news on Ulster TV that night where I did a quick interview, link is here.


The Business of Social Housing – 27/3/2012

30 Mar

Panel discussion at Business of Social Housing conference at The Bridgewater Hall, 27 March 2012.

I hosted and produced the content for an Insider conference on the Business of Social Housing. It’s a new market and a new audience for Insider, but the same kind of principles of event production apply: have a panel that’s diverse and complementary; do on stage interviews with the chief execs with the biggest personalities and make the best of the sponsors, unleash their infectious sense of urgency.

A great deal is being asked of the social housing sector as they expand into non-core areas such as managing schools, delivering services that aid community cohesion and providing employment.

Questions for the panel discussion at Business of Social Housing conference at The Bridgewater Hall, 27 March 2012.

Choosing the speakers was a delicate balancing act – it’s rare for a sponsor in a commercial sector to invite leaders of similar businesses, but CityWest Housing showed great maturity. As a result, I think everyone was really pleased with the outcome. The questions from a very engaged audience were also thoughtful and intelligent. I was really impressed with a energy and the degree of social entrepreneurship in the sector and can see plenty more opportunities.

The Insider coverage of the event is here.

Media Masterclass – 23/3/2012

30 Mar

Heather, Jim, me and Gareth

Growing a business requires important attention to how that business is understood by the outside world – it remains vitally important for businesses to engage with the media, despite everything you may have read about the decline of traditional channels. It was in this context that I delivered a “masterclass” for management consultancy Winning Pitch, creators of the High Growth Foundation. The 40 or so attendees were all small business owners, so I had to pitch it quite broad.

I spoke for about two and a half hours in total, taking a break coffee, but tried to be interactive and conversational. The feedback has been excellent – I feel really humbled by it. I always brief speakers at events to focus on what they know and to give something of themselves. I suppose I put this into action myself at this event. I don’t think there’s anything magical about what I said, it just happens to be a collection of stories, observations from my experience that I tried to give to the paying guests.

It helped too that three of the people there were friends I recently went on a Learning Journey to California with (pictured above are Heather Lomas, Jim Clarke, me and Gareth Burton).

I enjoyed it enormously and would love to do more of these sessions – there are plenty of stories, hints, tips and insights that could really help a business get a better media profile.


Merseyside Property Dinner – Steve Morgan 22/3/12

28 Mar


This was the TENTH year of the Insider property dinner in Liverpool and I’ve hosted each one – and it has frequently been incident packed. There was the very first event when Wayne Hemingway stunned everyone with a horrible series of mistimed jokes, bad slides and poor attempts at challenging the audience. Then there was comedian Jason Manford sitting on the loo while I was introducing him – I had to fill for five minutes and it felt like five hours. Then there was me having kittens worrying if Frankie Boyle would behave himself, and the time when an unknown Scouse comic took the mickey out of Sir David Henshaw, the chief executive of the council. Some lad called John Bishop, we only paid him £500, wonder what he’s doing now?

Choosing the speaker is important and we got it right this time. Steve Morgan is a down to earth bloke who has done amazingly well for himself in construction and housebuilding. Whatever he had to say people listened. He was provocative, he was funny and he did use slides! But he could pull it off very effectively.

There was another issue to sensitively deal with. Many people in the room will have known Paul Rice who sadly died recently. I really wanted to pay a tribute to Paul and chose to do so in my opening remarks – he was a lovely guy, hard working and dedicated to Liverpool where he ran the city centre management company. I was pleased at the response and hope it was a fitting memorial to him.


One of the other factors in this and every other business dinner is the relationship with the sponsors. Brabners Chaffe Street have been with the event since the start and have been terrific. The dialogue with partner Jeff Gillbanks (pictured, above left) is honest, the aspirations are clear and hopefully that’s reflected in how the whole presentation of the event is conducted.

The coverage of the event is here.

Groundbreaking at MIPIM – 8/3/2012

9 Mar

This wasn’t really me working at an event. But this was hugely enjoyable nevertheless. Ear to the Ground are an amazingly creative Manchester-based events business. They do ambient and experiental events for clients like Umbro and Manchester City Football Club, as well as pop festivals – I mean, they’re putting on Elbow and Paul Weller at Jodrell Bank this summer. How cool is that?

At the MIPIM property event the Groundbreaking team – part of Ear to the Ground – which creates events in property spaces and livens up public realms – hosted an end of show party. They invite the guests to choose three tracks and play a DJ set. It’s a great idea, and floats the boat of old rockers and young bucks alike – it makes everyone feel that little bit more involved. This was my 10 minutes of fame. I chose a trio of tunes that would have rocked the joint at 2am when everyone was loaded, but simply got a few approving nods from proper veterans of the golden age of late 80’s house music. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you – Eric B & Rakim’s Paid in Full, Joe Smooth’s Promised Land and the epic It’s Alright by Sterling Void.

A little more conversation at MIPIM – 7/3/2012

7 Mar

My name in lights at MIPIM

This was a small and perfectly formed little event, for about 30 people, held over breakfast at the MIPIM international property conference and exhibition in Cannes, France. It was a conversation with Mike Emmerich, the chief executive of new economy,  Manchester’s economic think tank.

Mike gets a lot of recognition for his long term thinking and planning for Manchester’s economy. He also has the trust and the ear of Sir Howard Bernstein, the city’s charismatic and powerful chief executive. But the work of his organisation is something of a black box. This event was intended to lift the lid on that box and understand some of the intellectual exertions the city is going through to cope with a changing world. My questions were intended as a more conversational intro for the work of new economy, but also to stimulate open questions – something that can be tricky at a breakfast especially after a late night (not me, the guests).

Mike Emmerich also shares my zeal for getting conversations going between unlikely participants, thus enabling Manchester as a city economy to develop an intellectual tradition that links academics, financiers, teachers, artists, economists and creative people. Hopefully, that can start to fashion a unique place in the modern world – an original and modern way of thinking, for example.

Peter Saville, me and Mike Emmerich in the Manchester cafe

We were lucky therefore to have Peter Saville in the audience – he wasted no time in cajoling Mike and asking hard questions about the traditions of Manchester and how they can be built upon. The even better news was we carried on the conversation later into the morning in the Manchester cafe round the corner in Cannes.