Young Professionals Awards – 26/4/2012

11 May
Young Professionals Awards 2012, the winners

Young Professionals Awards 2012, the winners

I’ve been involved with the Manchester Young Professionals Awards since we came up with the idea in 2004. It’s in a loose partnership with pro-Manchester, the body that represents the interests of professionals (accountants, lawyers, bankers and others).

For the last five years I’ve also been the event compere. I put my hand up to do so after toiling over a script for a trio of minor celebrities with a good line in wit and a pretty face, only to see them struggle over the subtle differences between trades and the definitions of corporate finance and chartered surveying. Like I said here, I’m not a professional entertainer like Gyles Brandreth, or a sporting icon like Austin Healey with a backdrop of stories. But I know the markets I cover and I do my research.

I approached the event with a mission to cheer everyone along and make sure we had a few laughs. But I wanted to make everyone in the room feel they were part of something special – a cadre of young succesful professionals who are building careers in Manchester, and not in London.

Awkwardly, the previous winner of the Young Professional of the Year, Joanne Dennis-Jones from Drivers Jonas Deloitte (JDJ from DJD) has moved to London. It is protocol to invite the previous winner back to make a speech and this year Jo presented the award too.

Her speech was honest and inspirational, without being preachy or in any way apologetic for moving to London.

I opted to have some on-stage chit chat with sponsors and presenters, but nothing flirtatious or overly chummy. There is a subtle mix at work too. Getting people to take the awards seriously without getting the people to take themselves too seriously. I did this by inviting each winner to say a few words – not a speech, but a response to my questions that played to their characters and experiences. This presented challenges, but I was delighted at how it worked out.

One category award winner created a problem when I asked him who he’d like to thank. He initially said the name of his boss (who happens to be a friend of mine), then said, drunkenly, “but he can f*** off”. Obviously he’ll regret that in the cold light of day, but I think enabled him to recover and remind him of his success and his responsibilities. On the whole, it was a tricky moment that I handled well.

I got the measure of most of them – the ones who would be ready to say something sparkling and the ones who were a little overcome and had just a few words to say – it’s their moment, they can do as they please. The overall winner, Andy Thomas from Royal Bank of Scotland made some really heartfelt pleas to work harder: “We need to find a way to say ‘yes’ rather than looking for ways to say ‘no’. Banks are a big part of the recession and we must do out bit to find a way out of it.” Full story is here.

I ended with a speech about Manchester’s virtues over London. Citing the roll of technological and cultural honours – including a long list of musical great from the Hollies to the Happy Mondays. And what, I asked, has London done to compare with any of that? “Hedge funds, derivatives. And Chas and Dave. Thank you.”

It’s a nod to him, by the way.


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