As well as speaking for a living, I often act as the MC or compere at an event.
It’s not rocket science. I tell people where the fire exits and toilets are located and glare at them until they switch their mobile phones to silent.
Then I pop up in between speakers, make a few light hearted comments, based on what they’ve said. I always challenge myself to think up new comments for each event, based on what the previous speaker has said.
That way, people think, ‘what he says isn’t brilliant, but at least he’s made it up today, and it’s specially for us, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and they clap and maybe even pretend to laugh.’
At least I think that’s what they’re doing. It’s so hard to focus when they start throwing things.
There was an episode of Friends, where Ross made a list of five celebrities who Rachel would allow him to sleep with. It was like a Get out of Jail Free card allowing him to crack off with someone famous, without risking his relationship. Off the top of my head I remember that Uma Thurman and Winona Ryder were on the list, along with Elizabeth Hurley and an ice skater. Possibly Michelle Pfeiffer as well, but that might have been on Chandler’s list. Anyway that’s not important. What is important is that he’d laminated the list.
By covering the list of his five chosen women, he’d set them in stone. He could carry that list around in his pocket without it getting creased. It meant he could have that list ready at all times, just in case Winona or Liz were down the laundrette. He could produce it triumphantly and claim his reward. Maybe after hearing his chat up lines about dinosaurs and robotic dancing, they would decide to forgo the chance of a bit on the side with a fossil hunter, in favour of a return to Beverley Hills, but at least he had the card with him.
And so we come to the point of my story. You’ll be glad to hear that there is one, and you haven’t read this far for nothing.
When I speak at an event, I hand the host a laminated cue sheet. On it I have typed my introduction. This is how I would like to be introduced. It does not vary. It is always the same. I know if off by heart. I can make sure that the MC gives me just the right build up.
My laminated introduction takes away the wildcard element. Occasionally I’ll be introduced as Jeremy Nichols or Nicholson, but at least the bulk of what I want them to say will be correct. You can’t cater for hosts who are stupid, sloppy or have forgotten their reading glasses. But at least you’ve given yourself a fighting chance of getting off to a flying start. I think of my laminated introduction as a golf tee. I may end up playing in the rough at various points during the next hour, but at least I know my opening shot will be off a raised tee, giving me every chance of hitting it straight down the middle.
But how many of my speaking colleagues have a printed introduction which they hand to the compere at an event? In my experience it’s less than half, which I think is a disgrace. OK you don’t have to have it laminated, that’s just me . I get nervous before speaking and often spill things!
As the host of events, I’ve lost track of the number of speakers who say they are happy to be introduced however I see fit. Worse still they hand me their biography and want me to pick something out of that! I give them a chance to get off to a flying start and they don’t take advantage.
Here are a few comments from speakers who I’ve asked how they want to be introduced to the stage:
*Just say I’m a Marmite speaker, you either love him or hate him. (really? I hate you already)
*Just say he’s written a couple of books and he speaks all over the world. (no kidding, you’ve written some books, whoopee do)
*Just say he’s a professional speaker who is well known in business circles. (you’re well known? Maybe I don’t need to say anything?)
One speaker at a recent event, who had no printed introduction, handed me a few handwritten lines, scribbled onto the back of a flyer. There were a couple of very good points, which made me think his talk would be brilliant. Unfortunately, he mentioned those very same points in the first minute of his talk. The audience must have thought, yes we know that mate, the compere just said that.
I hope he didn’t see me roll my eyeballs into the back of my head. But I think he did.
Avoid the hazards and the rough with your opening shot. Write your introduction out on a sheet of A4. And if you really want to make my day, stick it in the laminator.
There’s a lovely laminator here.
Jem – pulling out what’s left of his hair- 26th February 2010 London, England