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You’re busy, I’m busy.  So I keep these blogs to five pithy paragraphs — all based on an idea nicked from my many years working in a TV newsroom. 

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Picture a Sunday roast without gravy, or a pile of plain pasta.  It’s an image I keep in my head when I’m putting together news reports on subjects that are really important, but a bit boring.  And I think it’s a useful image to keep in your head if you’re planning to deliver a presentation.

My secret is to remember to add the sauce.  In news reporting, the facts and figures of any news story are the potatoes/veg/pasta.  The sauce?  That’s the case study that brings the whole thing to life.  Take a boring story about health policy reform.  It’s not so boring when you hear about the child caught up in it all.   And this sauce rule applies to presentations just as much.  Here’s an example from a conference I was recently invited to host on the General Data Privacy Regulations (GDPR).  They’re the rules that are keeping business people awake at night ahead of their introduction in May.  And yes, those rules are potentially rather boring.

But the event wasn’t boring at all.  It had been elegantly put together by Pragmatic, a Brighton based company that’s proud to call itself the leading specialist wordpress agency in the UK — as producers of websites, they can claim to be the Go-To people for an overview of what the big issues are.  What became clear during the afternoon seminar that sunny September afternoon was that they know what works, and what doesn’t.

The audience was attentive throughout, but the moments when people really sat up, it seemed to me, were the many moments when the sauce — the case-studies — were added.  There was the Horror Story (google “Dido Harding — TalkTalk” for that one.)  There was the Cautionary Tale (Uber’s recent tangle with the US’s Federal Trade Commission.)  And to encourage us all, the Heartwarming Tale (how Comic Relief came up with a clever way to make data collection reasonable.)  Each example made the issue make sense, and actually matter, to me.  A potentially indigestible topic became almost mouth-watering.

I consider these sweet and sour stories to be the sauce in any presentation.   Of course, whether you’re a journalist or a web-designer, you need the potatoes and pasta of facts and figures, graphs and charts — but if you forget to spice it up with real examples, you’re offering very stodgy fare indeed.  Thankfully, Pragmatic knew that the secret was in the sauce.

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If you’d like me to MC one of your events, give me a call.  Or if you’re planning an activity ahead of the Christmas party this year, and want something that’s fun as well as thought-provoking, how about my Newsroom Bootcamp for Business?  

Pic of lovely Pasta Neapolitan from thespruce.com

You’re busy, I’m busy.  So I keep these blog posts to five pithy paragraphs, all based on thoughts nicked from the newsrooms I work in every week.  Thanks for taking an interest.

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I’ve just been catching up with a good journalist friend of mine who I worked with back in the nineties.  We were  both reporters at the local TV newsroom in Newcastle upon Tyne.  It’s reminded me of the bitter north-east winter morning when one inspiring News Editor gave us all a bit of a shock — and succeeded in getting us all out of a rut.

It was the first blast of winter.  Snow had fallen hard overnight.  In radio and tv newsrooms, this poses challenges for the Early News Team who have to battle their way into their studios before the snowploughs have done their work.  The early newsreader will find a set of news stories, ready to go to air, prepared by the Late News Team,  who’ll have left around 11pm the night before.

On this occasion, I was that early newsreader.  Relieved to have got in by 5am at all, I carried out the routine check calls to police and fire headquarters for any news that had broken overnight (there wasn’t much), and at around 6.15am entered the studio to read, more or less, the six or seven stories that had been left for me the night before.  I can’t remember them now, but they’re likely to have been updates on court cases, a row over school funding perhaps, maybe a local council health campaign.  Good, solid, regional news, rounded off with a twenty second summary of the weather.  Except that wasn’t the news people needed that icy morning as they headed out for work and school.

At around 9am, our News Editor arrived.  His job is to hold the first meeting of the day, to set the day’s news agenda.  It was normally held in a warm conference room with a big desk and lots of chairs. But that morning, a tannoy went out inviting us to gather in the car park.  We grabbed our coats, scarves and hats, puzzled, and headed to the door.  Our Editor was waiting for us.  “So, what’s the lead story today?” he asked, muffled by his scarf, but glancing at me.  “Is it really that on-going court case?”

Twenty years on, I look back on that news meeting as one of the most effective I’ve ever attended.  Tough, perhaps.  But brilliant at making me spot my mistake: the weather was the only thing that mattered for an early morning audience, and I should have given it a lot more than twenty seconds.  By jolting us out of a sterile conference room and into an icy car park, he’d given us an in-your-face reminder of why we hold news meetings in the first place.  It was, truly, a breath of fresh air.

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If you’d like your team to work, think and laugh a little faster, give me a call to see if my Newsroom Bootcamp workshop might fit the bill.  Or come along to my next ticketed event in November, and try it for yourself!

Thanks to northeastexposure.co.uk  for the photo image — happy memories of Gateshead 

Try it for yourself ...

 

 

Every few weeks I create my TV Newsroom in a funky events room above a pub next to Brighton Station.   It’s a great venue to try it out, whether you’re a sole trader wanting to enjoy its benefits, or a manager wondering if it would be right for your team.  It’s also a chance to meet other like-minded business-people, without the awkwardness of a formal networking event.

My next event is pencilled in for Friday 9 February, 2018.

Here are details of my most recent event -- do give me a call or email me to go on the waiting list for February!

Get in Touch

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