Entries in repeat bookings (21)


New venues, old friends - all in a speaker's month

I have mentioned before that the summer months can be quiet for a speaker as many clubs and societies won't meet again until the autumn. Nevertheless, June 2009 produced five bookings, each with some tips to pass on.

Waterford Probus. Dorset

On 1 June, I was booked to speak to Waterford Probus again. My last visit was in December 2007 when it was a mixed meeting. Since then, they have moved, after two decades, to a new venue - Hoburne Park, Christchurch, and they seem very pleased with it.

It was an extremely warm morning but the meeting room was air-conditioned and comfortable (unlike the one where I have so often spoken at Hoburne Naish a couple of miles away!) My Groucho Marx talk was well-received by the 35-or-so present and, after a good question and answer session, we had lunch, where a manager was very attentive to the club.

It was a real pleasure to speak in such a comfortable room and to see a club so delighted with their new venue. I hope this continues. Of course, I have sometimes also come across clubs who have changed to a different meeting place which has definitely not been an improvement!

Public Speaking Tip #327: If you are making a return visit to an organisation who you have spoken to before but they have moved from their usual venue, bear in mind that the whole atmosphere may be different for speaker and audience. It should be an improvement (but sadly this isn't always the case!)

Bashley Afternoon Women's Institute, Hampshire

June 11 found me speaking to Bashley Afternoon Women's Institute for the first time since early 1998 and the title of my talk was the same as last time: My Life as a Freelance Comedy Writer! But of course, it wasn't exactly the same presentation because it has evolved a great deal since then; some material has gone, whole new sections have been added and existing content reworked, both in terms of language and delivery. I can now choose from a couple of hours of relevant, tried and tested to fill 45 minutes under this title. Add to this the fact that many members would have moved or passed away, new ones would have joined and those who were still there might not have remembered too much about what I did eleven years earlier! Nevertheless, I tried not to repeat myself too much.

Public Speaking Tip #328: It is possible to deliver the same talk to the same organisation if a long period of time has passed/there has been significant turnover of audience members or material.

It was another very hot day but the talk went well with the audience of around 35 ladies. I am grateful to their President's husband for the lift from New Milton station and back.

Fugelmere Ladies' Luncheon Club, Hampshire

On 15 June, I was back at Peppone's restaurant at the Bownhurst Golf Centre, Crondall near Fleet for another after lunch talk for the Fugelmere Ladies' Luncheon Club. As with the meeting last June, it was a hot day and an audience of around 50. Something which didn't happen last time but which I was warned about over lunch this year was the proprietor of the restaurant interrupting the speaker and trying to get in on the act. Apparently this was becoming a regular occurrence and, sure enough, halfway through my talk, the doors behind me opened as he chose that moment to show a couple of ladies the room (presumably for some forthcoming function!) I have been interrupted by all manner of events over 14 years as a speaker so this didn't throw me and he said 'You are so cool!' and left. Now, Patrick Campbell, who I had been talking about when I was so rudely interrupted, was famous for appearing on a certain TV quiz show so after the manager had left, I looked in the direction of the doors and held up a card that said 'BLUFF'. It got a laugh. Alternatively, I could have held up one saying 'TRUE' after he'd said I was cool!

Public Speaking Tip #329: If you need to ad-lib around some unexpected interruption, props may be as effective as language.

This literary talk can be a challenge after a lunch (especially on a hot afternoon) and it requires a different approach so perhaps I was on my toes. The audience enjoyed it and once again, thanks to their President Pam for the lift from Fleet station (no delay getting in this year!) and back.


The following afternoon I was back speaking to the Longbridge and New Barn Active Retirement Association near Gravesend following their AGM. The last time I was there was in November 2005 when I was guest speaker at one of their Ploughman's, Puddings and Personality Lunches (I hope you will be kind when trying to work out which of these I represented...)

I have blogged before about how much I love speaking to Kent audiences and this one is no exception. There were about 140 present, the response was fantastic right from the start and the result was a word-perfect delivery of my Patrick Campbell talk.

Public Speaking Tip #330: A large audience can really lift a speaker.

Afterwards, I sold copies of Nick R's in a Twist! and was pleased to learn that one of these will soon be winging its way to Baton Rouge.

My thanks to Peter Darvile for the transport from Longfield station and back.

Merley Evening Townswomen's Guild, Dorset

The next evening I was a little closer to home, delivering My Life as a Freelance Comedy Writer for an audience that was new to me, Merley Evening TG, and at a community centre that I didn't even know existed (I thought I had spoken at every Merley venue!) There were about 35 present and the response was excellent.

Afterwards, I chatted to fellow speaker Mrs Doswell who is in her eighties but still gives regular talks (including Experiences of a Wartime Lady Brewer!) and was recognised by the mother of someone I was at school with. Over the years, at speaking engagements, my audiences have included pupils who I was at school with and teachers (there are a few who I don't want to be bumping into again!), former adult education students, old work colleagues...

Public Speaking Tip #331: If you do enough of it, public speaking can sometimes be a bit like Friends Reunited!

Many thanks to Mrs Bawn for running me, not back to Wimborne Minster for the bus, but all the way to Bournemouth.

Three talks on three successive days in three different counties? Maybe not such a quiet month after all!


A safe Haven for a public speaker

Brendoncare Haven Club, Mudeford

On March 5, I gave my fourth talk this year for a Brendoncare Club Dorse t  meeting, this time for the Haven Club which meets at All Saints Church, Mudeford  in Dorset, a venue where I have often enjoyed speaking . My topic was Patrick Campbell  and I wondered how this, one of my more literary talks, would be received at a pensioners' club of this nature where I had never spoken before (I usually tend to give this presentation on my second or third booking for any group, after delivering my own experiences, anecdotes and observations in My Life as a Freelance Comedy Writer or The Power of Humour in Everyday Life for earlier visits) but I was given a great build-up in the introduction and I was really pleased with the response from the 40 or so members and helpers present.

So, to summarise my talks for this organisation this year:

1. Alpha Club , subject Patrick Campbell (return visit), well-received.
2. Juniper Jumpers Club,  subject The Power of Humour in Everyday Life, a struggle!
3. Castle Club,  subject The Power of Humour in Everyday Life, a great response!
4. Haven Club, subject Patrick Campbell, very good.

On this basis, I would be happy to speak to other clubs run by this organisation (perhaps after asking a few questions about each) and to accept bookings to return to most of these clubs.

Public Speaking Tip #294: If you speak to a number of groups run by the same organisation, you cannot assume that the audience response will be the same in each case. You need to try a few and then decide what questions to ask if you approached about speaking to more.

What I have observed is that Brendoncare and its volunteer helpers do a fantastic job in running these clubs for OAPs, providing transport and refreshments and entertainment for people, many of whom might otherwise be totally isolated in our increasingly ageist society.


Precious seconds

Alpha Club, Highcliffe

My first speaking engagement of 2009 was on 7 January when I made a return visit to the Brendoncare  Alpha Club in Highcliffe, this time to speak about Patrick Campbell. 

Anyone who has read this blog since its earliest days might remember that one of my very first posts was about when I spoke at this club in July 2007 and was delayed by transport problems. This time, I turned up early and got everything set up in very good time, ready to speak to the friendly audience of 24 members and helpers.

Public Speaking Tip #281: If something goes wrong at a speaking engagement but you still get a repeat booking, this is a great opportunity to put things right!


Two new audiences for my public speaking

Reading East Probus Club

After so many repeat bookings, my last two engagements for November were for groups where I had never spoken before, the first of these being a talk after a luncheon at Reading East Probus Club  on 24 November.

Public Speaking Tip #268: Repeat bookings are gratifying because they demonstrate that an organisation wants you back  but they are less of a challenge than speaking to a group who have never  heard you before. First-time bookings also offer more scope for referrals and merchandising and they should, in turn, lead to repeat bookings for that group.

There were about 60 members and guests at Sonning Golf Club  and My Life as a Freelance Comedy Writer went really well. Berkshire audiences seem to be very responsive!

My thanks to Doug for the lift back to Reading afterwards.

Waterlooville U3A

I delivered the same talk two days later for Waterlooville U3A  in Hampshire. There were around 90 there but I was told that the attendance was lower than usual due to the funeral of a member taking place in the church next door. I was also warned that on a previous occasion, the sounds from the church's PA system had been picked up by the U3A's microphone! This didn't happen during my talk and it was gratifying that some members who had been at the service gathered at the back of the hall for the end of my humorous talk.

Public Speaking Tip #269: Latecomers boost audience numbers and, provided you have not spent your whole presentation teaching some complicated topic, they can still benefit from the parts of it they get to hear. Learn to view them as a welcome addition to the crowd!

A great response and a nice testimonial email from their Chairman:

"...your wonderful talk. We did so enjoy your visit".

My thanks to Mr and Mrs Daley for transport from and back to Havant Station.


Some September speeches

Cranborne Women's Institute

23 September saw me giving an evening talk on My Life as a Freelance Comedy Writer for Cranborne Women's Institute in North Dorset. This was a small audience - just 13 - but much more responsive than another tiny crowd  I wrote about previously!

I am always looking for local references to include, wherever I speak, and for this, my first-ever talk in this village, I mentioned that when I was writing for BBC Radio 2's News Huddlines, a familiar face at the end-of-series parties was the character actor Jonathan Cecil  whose aristocratic family have connections with Cranborne going back over many centuries (in fact the meeting was being held in the Michael and Richard Cecil Memorial Hall, a very pleasant venue.

Public Speaking Tip #251: if you think about it for long enough, you should be able to come up with some reference that links you to the place or organisation where you are speaking. It doesn't have to be some great long story or even terribly recent - just something to add that little touch of personalisation amongst your other material.

My thanks to their Chairman and Speaker Secretary Mary for running me in from Wimborne Minster and back. Since then, this WI have celebrated their 89th anniversary!

Solent U3A

I spent part of my birthday on a speaking engagement. No hardship - there are few things I would rather be doing! This was a return visit to Solent U3A in Titchfield in Hampshire. The audience of 80 was very sharp and picked up on the subtler references in my Algonquin Round Table talk. The interesting thing is that there were so many present; the last time I spoke to this group in April 2006 there were about half that number but their membership has increased so rapidly that they have had to move to a bigger venue,

So many of the organisations I speak to are struggling to keep going and sadly a number do have to close, usually because they can't attract enough new, younger members or no-one wants to take over a committee position when someone finally stands down after many years. But there are some organisations which seem to be booming and this certainly is the case with the University of the Third Age. There are also a large number of Probus clubs with waiting lists with the result that new ones are constantly forming.

Public Speaking Tip #252: If you are a speaker for clubs and societies, you should be able to identify a market among certain organisations which are constantly growing in popularity - whatever the trend where others are concerned.

The recent improvements to my Algonquin talk have now made such a difference that I wonder how I ever managed without them. My thanks to their very well-travelled Speaker Co-ordinator Valerie for the lift from Swanwick station and back.

I was home in Bournemouth in time for my partner Val to treat me to a super birthday meal at a favourite Bournemouth restaurant - which I first heard about when it was recommended to me by someone I met at a talk years ago! 

Downton Good Companions

My last booking in September was on the afternoon of the 30th for the Good Companions Club in Downton, Wiltshire. There were about 25 there to hear My Life as a Freelance Comedy Writer and, as with all my bookings in this village, I was very pleased with the response. I also ran out of copies of Nick R's in a Twist!  to sell.

Public Speaking Tip #253: If you run out of merchandise at a speaking engagement then look on the bright side - you should have some customers for that item the next time they book you! Of course, in order to get re-booked, you need to a) deliver a good presentation and b) add further titles!

I enjoyed chatting to the members of this friendly club afterwards and, as always when I speak in this area, I took the opportunity to head into Salisbury after the meeting. It was a good way to round off a pretty busy month for speaking - but then September usually is!