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Comedy at The British Library – What’s So Funny Live

It’s Friday and so time to lighten up a bit.

Actually it was on Monday evening that I was lucky enough to attend What’s So Funny Live, an evening of comedy as part of our Evolving English exhibition.

Five comics took over our rather serious Conference Centre with the challenge of making their audience laugh.

Each of them succeeded in their own way, with Ida Barr being particularly – or perhaps peculiarly, unique.

Doc Brown the rapper and performance poet-turned comedian (who prefers not to be known as the baby brother of author Zadie Smith), was the host for the evening, and contributed some excellent laid back humour. In particular his story about listening to his ‘brothers’ outraged tales of police harassment as they go about their illegal activities.

Susan Murray focussed on regional accents with some self deprecating jokes about the unimpressive nature of her West Midlands accent.

Old timer Arthur Smith followed with sketches about how everyone will eventually become a BBC Radio 4 listener – however hard they try to resist (certainly true for me). He also persuaded the audience to sing along to “I am the Mayor of Balham / oh yes I fucking am / I am the Mayor of Balham / I fucking fucking am”. Taking much delight in polluting the otherwise pristine air of  the British Library with foul language. However, he finished on a joke that was so clean it would be suitable for children and involved balloons and letting people down.

Next came Ida Barr, the creation of Chris Green. She is an ‘artificial-hip-hopping’ former Music Hall star, doddering around the stage but peppering her talk with the street language of ‘innit’ and ‘aks’. Odd, but also hilarious.

Finally came Richard Herring, famous (or perhaps infamous) for his 2009 show Hitler Moustache, in which he attempted to reclaim the toothbrush moustache for comedy… by growing one on his upper lip. He was enormously relaxed and confident with the audience, and has a great deal of excellent material to call on. He successfully unnerved us as well as making us laugh at ourselves and him. He has a great sketch about the potato of the sky…

 

Appeal for empty niche brand water bottles

As part of my presentation, during our Practical Market Research workshop, I have a slide showing three very different types of bottled water.

The images nearly always trigger an insightful discussion about branding and niches within markets, and how entrepreneurs need to think very carefully and strategically about their product and service. Are they going to target the top of the market populated with ‘high net worth individuals’, the growing green consumers, or perhaps the ethical demographic?

As you can see from my screen shot, I cover all of the above sectors with my examples.

The first is called bling h20 and costs $40 for the limited edition Paris Pink bottle. They justify its price tag by putting Swarovski crystals on the bottle and making Paris Hilton its patron saint.

The second brand is Tasmanian Rain and claims: This uniquely pure rainwater is captured on the pristine island of Tasmania, Australia where the air is scientifically proven to be the purest in the world. The air currents travel over Antarctica and 10,000 miles of open ocean eventually reaching the western most part of Tasmania, “the edge of the world”. Here, TASMANIAN RAIN is collected before ever touching the ground, therefore never absorbing impurities, and resulting in a water that is ten times more pure than other premium and artesian waters.

Finally, Belu is an ethical brand and claim to produce the UK’s most eco-friendly bottled water.
It is 100% carbon neutral with the UK’s first plastic bottle made from corn not oil. We deliver one month of clean water per bottle we sell and donate all our profits to clean water projects.

All of this is a rather long winded way of getting  to my appeal for empty bottles of these (or any other niche filling bottled water brands) as example for me to hand round in my workshop.

If you happen to be passing by The British Library and could drop them off at the front desk for me, I would be very grateful.

Website Design: Ten Areas Where You Can Learn From User Behaviour

website_design_user_behaviour.jpgI am currently working with my SLA Europe colleagues to build a shiny new website for our association so these tips are timely.

Many of the clients we see in the Business & IP Centre are not planning to build their own websites, but all too often they come in with horror relating to their experiences with web designers.

In many cases they have paid a self-proclaimed ‘professional’ web designer a great deal of money to produce a site they are not happy with. As with all aspects of bringing in professionals to deliver a service your business needs, whether it is accounting, contracts or web design, the more knowledge you have the stronger position you are.

So this short guide from Alistair Gray is a good start to get you thinking about what you site should (or shouldn’t) look like.

Website Design: Ten Areas Where You Can Learn From User Behaviour

10 Unexpected Online User Behaviours To Look Out For
by Alistair Gray

1. People Have Banner Blindness

2. People Develop Tunnel Vision

3. People Skip Your Homepage

4. People Need Answers

5. People Follow The “F” Pattern

6. People See But Don’t Watch

7. People Hate Scrolling

8. People Don’t Read

9. People Are Lazy

10. People Want Directions

Green and ethical month in the Business & IP Centre

May is Green and ethical month in the Business & IP Centre.

We have been inspired by our very successful Web in Feb month of activities to produce a Green in May month (except that it doesn’t rhyme).

As we know from our customers coming in to the Centre, Green and ethical business is growing fast.

Surveys show that 79 per cent of consumers would rather buy from companies that limit their environmental impact.

Throughout May we’re holding special events that explore green and ethical business: the opportunities, the practicalities and the reasons to get involved. Hear from eco-experts and meet entrepreneurs who are making a difference with their businesses.

We have also updated our guide to useful information sources for starting a green or ethical business.

Week one

Get more local
Get More Local
Tuesday 6, 18.00 – 20.00, free

Week two

Green money – beginner’s guide to business finance
Johnny Martin
Monday 10, 16.45 – 19.45, £9 – a special price for social enterprises

The cutting edge of green
Insider Trends
Tuesday 11, 18.00 – 20.00, £10 when booking with discount code “BritishLibrary”

Make the trade
London Community Resource Network
Wednesday 12, 10.00 – 13.00, free

Legal milestones for green business
Keystone Law
Thursday 13, 18.00 – 21.00, £25 – with a 50% discount for British Library contacts, quote “BL2010”

Week three

Raising money for green and ethical businesses
MessageLab and the Funding Game
Monday 17, 13.00 – 17.00, £25 +VAT

Managing an ethical business
Red Ochre
Thursday 20, 14.00 – 17.00, £25 Inc VAT

Social entrepreneurs without limits
Unltd World
Thursday 20, 18.00 – 20.00, free

Week four

Developing organic and ethical skincare products
She’s Ingenious!
Tuesday 25, 11.00 – 13.00, £25

Starting a social enterprise
Red Ochre
Thursday 27, 10.00 – 16.00, £50 inc VAT

Our ‘Green and ethical month’ events
Week oneGet more local
Get More Local
Tuesday 6, 18.00 – 20.00, free
Week two

Green money – beginner’s guide to business finance
Johnny Martin
Monday 10, 16.45 – 19.45, £9 – a special price for social enterprises

The cutting edge of green
Insider Trends
Tuesday 11, 18.00 – 20.00, £10 when booking with discount code “BritishLibrary”

Make the trade
London Community Resource Network
Wednesday 12, 10.00 – 13.00, free

Legal milestones for green business
Keystone Law
Thursday 13, 18.00 – 21.00, £25 – with a 50% discount for British Library contacts, quote “BL2010”
Week three

Raising money for green and ethical businesses
MessageLab and the Funding Game
Monday 17, 13.00 – 17.00, £25 +VAT

Managing an ethical business
Red Ochre
Thursday 20, 14.00 – 17.00, £25 Inc VAT

Social entrepreneurs without limits
Unltd World
Thursday 20, 18.00 – 20.00, free
Week four

Developing organic and ethical skincare products
She’s Ingenious!
Tuesday 25, 11.00 – 13.00, £25

Starting a social enterprise
Red Ochre
Thursday 27, 10.00 – 16.00, £50 inc VAT

Ten top tips for presenting from Jacqui Harper MBE

I was going through some old notes today and came across these top ten tips for presenting. Although many are familiar suggestions, numbers four and eight are less so, and worthy of attention.

They come from a Top Tips for Presenting workshop delivered by Jacqui Harper MBE, M.D. of Crystal Business Training, way back in November 2006, but are just as relevant now.

1. Start by identifying the purpose of the presentation for your audience.
The key thing to ask yourself is ‘what’s in it for the audience?’ Once you know the answer to this you’re on your way to creating a great presentation.

2. Use key messages and a simple structure to convey your points.
The best presenters communicate clearly and concisely with key messages that are easy to follow.

3. Make your material relevant and interesting for your audience.
Keeping an audience’s attention is quite straightforward if your material is adapted to their specific needs and interests. Audiences like to know you’ve done a bit of homework for them.

4. Rehearse your presentation at least twice.
It’s even better if you can tape your rehearsals with a camcorder. This speeds up familiarity with your material and dramatically improves your fluency.

5. Make sure your presentation has a strong impact at the beginning.
Your audiences are most attentive at the beginning of a presentation – if you engage them at the start you’re most likely to keep them.

6. Show the audience you care about your material and them.
Showing passion for your subject and a genuine interest in your audience always goes down well.

7. Use light touches of humour when you can to build rapport.
It doesn’t need to be a stand up routine. Occasional humorous comments instantly build rapport.

8. Only use PowerPoint when you absolutely have to!
PowerPoint will generally send audiences to sleep unless it’s really well used. It’s far better to ditch the slides and speak directly to the audience.

9. Dress in an outfit that makes you feel good and is appropriate.
A smart, well-groomed appearance will boost your confidence and impress your audience.

10. Get training!
All good speakers have had training. The cheapest way to train yourself is to buy a self-help guide like ‘Voices of Experience: The Expert’s to Making Great Presentations’. The quickest way to learn is to do a public speaking course with specialist companies like Crystal Business Training.

I also remember her advice to practice vocal exercises before every presentation.

What’s not to like about LIKE?

LIKEIn a year that has seen cuts in commercial library and and information services resulting from the UK recession, and the sad demise of the City Information Group in the summer (CiG – RIP), it is good to have something new and positive to talk about.

LIKE (London Information and Knowledge Exchange) is a networking group for Library, Information, Knowledge and Communication professionals, who meet on a monthly basis to share stories, learn and exchange knowledge in an informal and relaxed setting.

According to one of their fans: “The best thing about LIKE meetings is that they attract interesting and friendly people. It’s rather like a very good dinner party.”

They are already up to their tenth meeting, to be held on 28 January in The Perseverance in Lamb’s Conduit Street, featuring Liz Scott-Wilson Head of Information Management at Tube Lines talking about Information behaviour & culture change.

At their previous get together in December they looked forward to the coming year, and recorded some LIKE members’ New Year Resolutions.

Business and IP Centre launches New Business Podcast featuring… me

I have to say I was somewhat nervous about being interviewed for Business Bytes. This our new monthly podcast narrated by business journalist Jamie Oliver, and designed to give inspiration and practical advice with the challenges in setting up and growing your own business.

Actually, I just do the inroduction and the really interesting content comes from designer Sebastian Conran of Conran & Partners, business expert Jane Khedair from Business Plan Services, and Dee Wright  founder of The Hair Force.

Each month, Jamie will be interviewing entrepreneurs, business experts and some of the Library’s success stories, who are just at the start of their entrepreneurial journeys. But we have hit he ground running with a mention on the Telegraph newspaper website.

Episode one: From idea to business
19 October 09
In our first pilot episode, Jamie introduces himself and the Business & IP Centre, and interviews a range of experts and entrepreneurs about the importance of ideas, how to take them to the next stage, and why you should protect them.

Starting a business is like playing at Pooh Sticks

Bryan Mills

During a recent training event I was fortunate to hear Bryan Mills speak. Bryan has had a long and successful career creating and managing IT related businesses (although without an IT background himself). His particular claim to fame is building CMG from a two person business, operating from the founder’s homes in 1965, into a multinational FTSE1oo business.

During his fascinating talk recounting lessons learnt from a lifetime as an entrepreneur he used the analogy of playing Pooh Sticks for business start-up.

As both a fan of the game from early childhood, and having grown up very near to the home of Winnie-the-Pooh the inventor of the game in Hartfield, West Sussex, Bryan caught my attention.

When you are planning to start a business you look down into the swirling river below (the market place for you product or service), you try as hard as you can to see where the current is flowing strongest and is least turbulent (assessing the market opportunity with published and field market research). You drop your stick in as carefully and accurately as you can (detailed business plan preparation). And once it is in, you follow it with Eagle eyes, watching every bob and weave (you track every activity minutely in your newly founded business).

However once the stick goes under the bridge it moves both out of your control and out of sight, and there is nothing you can do to influence its route down the river, across into a bank of reeds, or dropping down to the bottom of the river bed. This is very much the situation once your business is up and running. All kinds of unpredictable events can knock you off course, or sink the business altogether.

Perserverance and the achievement of goals

I don’t usually get too philosophical on this blog because I know most people are looking for practical solutions to problems.

However, on my recent holiday up in the beautiful Langdale Valley in the Lake District, and then on to the Highlands of Scotland, I managed to achieve something I first attempted 25 years ago.

Although climbing Ben Nevis does not compare to the serious mountains of Europe and the Americas, it does feel good to have finally conquered the highest mountain in Britain. Especially as my two previous attempts had to be abandoned due to bad weather, leading to dangerous conditions on top.

It made me think about how much perseverance entrepreneurs need in order to succeed in business. They will need to overcome a great many obstacles and challenges on the way if they are to succeed in the long term.

To quote Roy Castle from his Record Breakers days,  “what you need is dedication”.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/04/Ben_Nevis_south_face.jpg

CiG – RIP

Irony is a tricky topic as Alanis Morriset discovered a few years ago.

And perhaps ‘tragic’ is a more appropriate term for hearing the news halfway through Wednesday night’s SLA Europe Summer Soiree to celebrate 100 years of the Association, that the City Information Group was no more.

As a member of the group for nearly 20 years, I was saddened to hear of its demise. As Tim Buckley Owen points out in detail, they had a distinguished past. I certainly found their educational sessions to be of great interest and relevance to my career development. And of course their summer and winter parties were legendary.

Melanie Goody (one of the founding committee members) also recalls its glory days when it boasted over 1,000 members, on the TFPL blog.

On her View from the Hill blog Sue Hill says it is ‘A time to weep for the departed and to celebrate the survivors.’

It will be interesting to see if the existing GiG membership decide to join one of the remaining information bodies and associations.