Archive | May, 2013

Downtown welcomes you to TechHub

27 May

One of my priorities foBLCrCWACUAA7IPkr Downtown Manchester in Business is to introduce groups of people to one another so they can make the city a better place to do business.

This was my motivation behind an event at TechHub, the incubator and shared workspace in Carver’s Warehouse in the Northern Quarter. It was a great success, Doug Ward from TechHub, Gareth Burton from Burton Beavan who provides me and techHub with financial advice, and Josh from Melbourne Hosting all gave their own perspective on how this ecosystem can connect in Manchester.

I’ll mention the context a little more – the event was informal, laid back and we served pizza and bottled beer. It also took place at 4pm on a Friday before the spring bank holiday at the end of May, a complete no-no in every events handbook I’ve ever read (or written). But it worked. All to do with the spirit of thinking differently.


An audience with Cass Pennant

19 May

BKf8lcxCUAEL0eZWell, when I started on my own I wanted variety – to be involved in live events beyond just business. I also wanted to work with different festivals and different events companies to learn new methods and push myself.

On Friday the 17th of May at the National Football Museum I did a live interview on stage with the author and film maker Cass Pennant. It was an introduction to the live screening of Casuals, the DVD which charts the history of this much misunderstood and ever evolving youth cult. Cass had been a major face on the hooligan scene in the 1980s and is long since retired from West Ham’s Inter City Firm. His exploits there, and since, have been immortalised in books and a film Cass, starring Nonso Anozie.

The event was the third in the Fanatic series of fan events promoted by events company Ear to the Ground. I did the first one last year which was a very academic and intellectual examination of fan culture.

So, how did it go?

This is what Cass said on Facebook: “Last night at the National Football Museum in Manchester had the opportunity to bring the film to a larger audience when screened the documentary Casuals as part of the – Fanatic Live event and it was a great success. I attended and held a Q & A session which certainly added value. Everyone that went (some 150) left the screening feeling the film was very well-done.”
Cass is a great story teller and he gave a great tease into the film, cueing up some of the subjects, looking into some of his career highlights, and telling the stories he weighed up very skillfully that the audience were here to lap up.

All I can do as the questioner is to lead him. As this blog is about the event craft I wanted to mention how well Cass dealt with the young lads who were clearly in awe of his hooligan legacy. They raced to the front to sit in the front row and really enjoyed his old war stories. But Cass didn’t patronise them, as I may have been tempted to, or cut them off, instead he made the point to me that this is a great opportunity to open their eyes to the rest of the museum, to films and books. You just never know how that might then go.

I was also chuffed to get a good reaction from Cass for the questions I prepared beforehand. He does a lot of events and is always ready to be interviewed, but he did say how he gets fed up when people haven’t bothered to prepare. So there you are. A lot of people will know I can do business events, technology seminars and a bit of politics. I was really pleased with this as it shows I can work in other areas of popular culture as well.

It was also a good opportunity to sell a few copies of Northern Monkeys by William Routledge, the book I published and am actively promoting. I am delighted with how this is going and there is plenty of scope to do more live events around this fantastic subject.



Working at a new venue: Salford City Stadium

14 May


It’s always a bit of a nervous thrill to work on an event at a new venue. Today I hosted a conference for my client the ICAEW at Salford City Stadium. My friend Andrea Wolfendale, the events manager at Insider, has told me she rated it and the facilities were good.

The layout of the long room was with the stage lengthways, which I always prefer. As it is a stadium there is a large frontage to the pitch, just like The Point at Old Trafford cricket ground. It makes for a dynamic backdrop, but the trick is to adjust the blinds to ensure the screens are properly visible. This was very important for this educational conference, which the ICAEW always ensure has good quality supporting material.

There was another aspect to the event worth mentioning, the sound. Having a decent desk is vital, especially when you have speakers who don’t project and need levels adjusting. We could have done with an extra tie mic, but the support from Humphries Audio was first rate.

The City of Manchester Business Awards – and some general points on presenting awards

3 May

Insider's North West Young Professionals Awards 2011 at The Lowry Hotel.My last awards presentation job was in March hosting the City of Manchester Business Awards for Downtown, of whom I am chairman in Manchester. It seems a good opportunity today to remember seven golden rules I have which I implemented at this event and many others over the years, such as the Manchester Young Professionals Awards (pictured).

1. It’s not about you – the stars of the show are the people coming up to get an award. Be confident, have authority, but don’t hog the stage and project your personality all over the event. And don’t tell jokes.

2. On no account be sleazy or flirty with women on stage, swear or remove articles of clothing. This is the most toe-curling thing you can do. As these are business awards making comments and drawing attention to how someone looks is a massive show of disrespect for their abilities as a business person.

3. Let everyone know how the winners were chosen – so many awards lack credibility. Rightly or wrongly they are seen as a sop to sponsors. Making efforts to explain exactly how the awards were won is essential.

4. Make the winners and shortlisted feel special. This is an important occasion for them, it matters. Make sure you congratulate them, discourage triumphalism, encourage humility. Make eye contact and shake hands with them. And get their names and company names right. Check everything.

5. Keep a pace to the event. There’s a thin line between rattling through categories too fast and making everyone else there engaged. The important time to get this right is at the script stage. Edit and tune the script, check everything. If there’s time, encourage a winner to say a few words of thanks, but not if they seem intoxicated. The very best way is to do a short question and answer with a handheld microphone. You can always politely remove it if they’re rambling.

6. Never tell the audience to shush. I’ve made this mistake once and it just makes things worse. If people are talking then there are many more devices to get round this. You don’t have to demand they are quiet. It’s their night too – help them enjoy it.

7. Enjoy it. Be warm, be natural, but above all have fun. I’ve seen highly paid professional comedians and public figures treat the whole thing as a chore. This is so disrespectful to everyone there. Instead, show how much fun you are having by sharing in the joy of others. Remember it’s a celebration.

I say all of this because of some feedback I had from the Downtown Manchester event. I took it in good stead, it was basically comparing my role as an awards host that night with my interviewing style when I interviewed Fred Done on stage a couple of years ago. It’s chalk and cheese. That was about Fred and me having a chat and making him shine; just me and him. Awards are so very different. I actually don’t want anyone to remember too much of what I do at an awards. I want them to remember the winners, like the woman in the picture above, Joanne Dennis-Jones from Deloitte.