Archive for June, 2010

The Tie as a Giant Arrow

June 29, 2010

Tie = Giant Arrow

When we run a presentation skills training event at New Tricks Training we are amazed at how much time is taken over the “Tie, or No Tie ” debate (considerably more time than the “Trousers, or No Trousers” debate, I can tell you.) The opinion as to whether you should, or shouldn’t (wear a tie – not trousers) is divided – probably 50:50. Even doesn’t join that particular debate.

A point we always make is that presenting is about “Distraction Management.” If your audience expects you to wear a tie – then do so! (This point clearly isn’t just confined to ties. You can substitute the word tie here with suit, jacket, skirt, trousers, etc.)

If your audience expect you to look smart then, if you don’t, they will be distracted – probably to the point of not listening at all. They will become fixated on the fact that you don’t look smart. I remember one presenter (a very senior manager of a bank’s Franchising outfit) not for what he spoke about but because, I noticed, he had on scruffy shoes that had huge holes in the sole. I was livid. Surely on his salary he can afford a decent pair of shoes? “Sorry, what was it you were  talking about?”

Leave it!

Of course you could argue that, “This is who I am and this is how I choose to dress,” that’s absolutely fine (I defend anybody’s right to wear what they want) but be prepared for an uphill battle to win over the audience. If you’re brilliant you can wear what you bloomin’ well like – look what Eddie Izzard gets away with.

There’s something that says that if you adopt a quirky dress-code then you’ll be remembered. That’s absolutely true – but be careful that you’re not known only for your whacky dress-sense.

Before you go on to give a presentation look yourself over in the mirror to check for malfunctions in the wardrobe department. If your flies are undone, or your skirt is tucked into your knickers, then it’s doubtful that anyone will pay much attention to what you’re saying. (If your tie is tucked in your knickers, you’ll really set tongues wagging.)

So, Gents, please make sure your tie is tied to the CORRECT LENGTH, and ladies you can get involved here by making sure the tie-wearing men in your life take heed. Whilst our friends at show you how to tie a Four-in-Hand or a proper Windsor knot they make no reference to the length of the tie.

You see, the tie is a giant arrow that points at one of the three B’s. Your Belly (yes, I know it’s a status symbol in some countries, but we don’t want to see it), your Buckle or your (and whilst it points at exactly what you’re thinking – we’re in polite company here so we’ll say…) Boots.

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For “Distraction Management” purposes it’s much better that the arrow stops at the buckle on your belt – it draws a line under it. Now you know this piece of presenting etiquette you’ll know it can take quite a few attempts to get it tied the right length – a major contributing factor as to why I personally fall into the “NO” camp –  the 50% of people who reckon it’s best NOT to wear a tie!


Still Laughing all the way from the Bank?

June 2, 2010

Before setting up New Tricks Training in 2000 we had our equivalent of a “Gap Year.” Tim had had 29 years working for a bank and Ken had clocked up 19 years at the same organisation. Both of us were frustrated entertainers (hence our role in training!) and wanted to do “something completely different” before setting up our training business specialising in presentation skills. We both left the bank on 31 December 1999 and as the New Millennium kicked in we had real fire in our belly for an adventure.

Thus New Tricks Productions was born and we set about writing comedy sketches, learning to sing & tap-dance and before we knew it we’d hired Her Majesty’s Theatre in the heart of the West End (yes, that one!) home to Phantom of the Opera. And so began an incredible journey – if only twitter, blogging and iphones had been around then! Still we were flabbergasted to find so many of the stories still on-line ten years on.

Morecambe & Wise? No! It’s Norman & Lyon

We met a wonderful publicist named Tei Williams who specialised in arts marketing and she lined us up for a small article in the Daily Express and our world went crazy from that moment in May 2000! We became a National News story ending up with editorial coverage in The Daily Mail, The Sunday Times, The Evening Standard, The Independent – by virtue of the basic premise (and much used headline) “Laughing all the way from the Bank.” We were lambasted by Mark Steel (see Independent link) (for the sheer cheek of bypassing a gruelling and lengthy apprenticeship in comedy clubs) interviewed on Capital Radio by Paul Ross (charming) on Radio 5 Live Nicky Campbell (git) , on TV by Gloria Hunniford (lovely) and Esther Ranson (aloof), and featured on Channel 4 News and BBC’s Liquid News with Christopher Price (RIP). We were the Evening Standard Magazine’s Hot Tip of the week. The Guardian published an amazingly inaccurate article which muddled Ken & Tim’s back stories. Ken’s phone rang for days – family and friends wanted to know how his (Tim’s) divorce had passed them by!

We corresponded with Ronnie Barker (who lived near our home town of Chipping Norton) and he marked-up our scripts like a mad “Headmaster of Comedy.” We still possess those scripts and the pencilled annotations, “No! No!, NOOOO!” “Needs a stronger tag line!” “This one’s OK” make us smile to this day. Along the way we shared TV Green Rooms with the likes of Roy Hudd (fantastic bloke – great listener), Susan George (beautiful), Robert & Babs Powell (too good to be true), John Lenihan (hysterical), June Whitfield bloody marvellous) and Sir Norman Wisdom (nuts – completely nuts). And we met loads of other folk who made our journey such fun.

There was an inept photographer who just didn’t “get” us and consequently delivered some really “pants”publicity shots, Bernadine Sole who tried to teach us to dance, Robin Martin-Oliver who taught one of us to sing. There was Tei who for a small sum got us so much publicity, Mike Rowbottom of Central News who followed us around to make a “fly-on-the-wall documentary for itv,” Shane Barnes who, with his tractor, pulled our removal van full of props out of the mud and Richard “Minor Parts of Oxford” Plant who supplied and serviced the two Morris Minors we drove around in as characters Maurice & Morris. A good friend and ex-colleage, Martin (Martrain) Measures provided sound effects of a Deltic Deisel train for one sketch (very niche!) Ken’s sister Cathryn and her boyfriend (now husband) Tom did some amazing graphic design work for our enormous stage banners and programme. The costumiers at the RSC were fantastic and let us roam around their warehouse trying stuff on (sketches were written around some of the amazing costumes we discovered there!) The stage crew at Her Majesty’s were about as arsey as they could be to a customer paying nearly ten grand for a day’s hire!

We’d unwittingly chosen to put on our show in London slap-bang in the middle of the Edinburgh Festival 13 August 2000! Genius (we were about the only comedy on in London that night) and stupid (not a single agent, talent scout, comedy producer was in London.) We had but two reviews one by The Stage and the other by The Daily Telegraph who it seemed weren’t even there! Brian Marshall an agent who kind of took us under his wing in the build up to the event (“Yer’ll be alright with me I were script-writer to the Krankies”) offered us 23 weeks work on Babaccombe Pier (the apprenticeship Mark Steel thought we should do) but the picture here will explain why we turned him down!

No room for entertainers!

Still, ten years have slipped by (rather too quickly for our liking.) Goodness we had a laugh back then (much of the time we were crying with laughter) and whilst we get a buzz out of “performing” keynote talks at conferences and training others how to present – there’s a little bit of us that fancies giving it another go!

Perhaps we could be coaxed back out of retirement – but where should we play next. Having staged a show in the West End perhaps we should aim for Broadway. Broadway village hall in Gloucestershire! perhaps!

Delivery Skills from the Neck Up!

June 2, 2010

Well you asked to see Tim in action – here he is with his mate Pat Presenter.

In summary:

  • Ensure you give your audience eye-contact. Care when using PowerPoint! Many speaks gaze lovingly at the screen rather than at the audience.
  • Listen out for signals from the audience.
  • Remove distractions. Brush your hair and, on a similar note (below the neck) do up your flies, press your trousers/skirt and shine your shoes!)
  • For goodness sake, smile. Look pleased to be there. Unless of course you’re giving bad news in which case a maniacal grin just won’t do!
  • Use your voice. Vary the pitch, pace, tone and volume to keep the audience engaged throughout. If you can’t sound passionate (or at the very least, enthusiastic) about your subject – decline offers to speak about it!

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