Tuesday 24 April 2018

Disaster at the Lectern

When a dear radio colleague lost his life, I was invited to speak at a fitting post-funeral celebration. His wonderful brother suggested I might present a tribute of the individual’s radio career, spiced with vintage audio, video and poignant pics.

The presentation was lovingly assembled in good time, but I harboured some doubts about the multi-media facilities at the beautiful old church.

A battered old PC, with cables dangling across the aisle to an antique projector, was charged with the task of coping with a jumbo PowerPoint presentation. What’s more, the startled tartan-skirted church assistant seated at the AV trestle table failed to fill me with confidence as she stared at the PC desktop with the look of someone who’s frightened of a mouse.

My painfully-chosen words of tribute flowed - before gently pausing to introduce a clip of dear John in full flow. A poignant moment. Hearing his distinctive voice resonating through this building in the village he loved.

Or it would have been, had the audio worked.

I improvised around its absence. A much easier task over a music bed up to the news on a radio show than it is in mid-funeral. And then the second item failed too.

All turned out well in the end, as we adjourned and tried again, and I hope we gave dear John a send off which would have made him smile more than was anticipated.

But we should forgive the Church. I rather hope they have more important things on Earth to worry about than my Clipart* I guess.

We don’t.

The multimedia presentations we give always have a critical goal. Every time we trouble to stand up in front of a few folk, we are there to help them to think, feel or do something. Otherwise we wouldn’t be there.

How often have you sat writhing on a hard seat at a radio conference, witnessing a nervous speaker fiddling with the laptop on the podium long after their welcome applause has ebbed away.

Rather than be moved by their great opening line, we witness an embarrassed cough and a reference to those bloody ‘gremlins’. Ahem. ‘A few technical issues here.”. Nope. Not technical issues, it’s just that somebody along the chain didn’t plan well enough. And then when we see the presentation, it's full of blurred badly-cropped pics and over-wordy slides which the presenter insists on reading to us.

As for the audio. There’s a pregnant pause and a desperate second attempt at cueing it in. Or it’s the wrong bit. Or it’s distorted. Or you can’t hear it. Or it’s played to an audience of 100 on your laptop’s tinny 3” speaker. Or they can't find it on the desktop, visible to all, where it sits next to bobappraisal.pdf.

There are exceptions. Next Radio is always a fast-moving, impressive and well-disciplined conference. Roger’s done good things with the RadioFestival; and RadioDays Europe addresses its international challenges well. But too many really don’t go as well as they easily could.

It’s the same in smaller internal meetings too, whether a staff meeting or a presentation to a few clients. The intended enhancement that presumably our presentation is designed to provide is diminished by ten minutes staring at the backside of the implicity-blamed chap from IT.

How much UK productivity is at risk because someone forgot to think through their performance. Or bring an HDMI lead.

Why is it that the one thing that’s rarely right in radio-related presentations is the audio. 

One of my roles currently is as chairman of Notts TV, based in the impressive Confetti Media premises of Nottingham Trent Uni. Arriving early and preparing a room alone for a presentation one morning, I looked up to see a smiling angel enter with a straggly beard. ‘I’ve come to check you have all you need in this room. Does everything work. Do you need any help plugging in?’. It transpired that this is policy in this immaculate organisation. Meeting rooms booked for presentations get this courtesy call from IT. Whilst I’ve been lucky to have had some brilliant IT support since they invented it, in my 35 years of working in media, I have never experienced quite this degree of proactivity. 

A few minutes of planning before a presentation and arriving that little bit earlier to make sure it works as you imagine is probably the difference between people leaving the room feeling as you wished - and not. It should not be a challenge to get it right. One meeting can change the course of a business.

Or, of course, live without  the props. That can work perfectly well too, if you are ready to shine.

Hey - next time we’re in a badly planned session, maybe we should just boo and walk out. 

*Just a gag. I never use Clipart. Certainly not at funerals.

Grab my book 'Radio Moments'50 years of radio - life on the inside. A personal and frighteningly candid reflection on life in radio now and then. The drama - the characters - the headaches - the victories.

Also 'How to Make Great Radio'. Techniques for today's presenters and producers.  Great for newcomers - and food for thought if you've been doing it years.

Need a conference speaker or help with strategic projects - or coaching or broadcast training? If we get on OK, I'd love to work with you.

Wednesday 18 April 2018

Goodbye, Dale

Dale was always going to be a star.

He told me as much, as we sat in the Radio Trent offices in the early ‘80s.  His dream was specific. He told that a tacky game show would be his big break and he talked about the people he wanted to call his friends.

In time, his dream was to become a colourful reality. Supermarket Sweep was to be the break, reinventing daytime TV. I recall he clutched the VHS demo video as he emerged from Tottenham Court tube station as I bumped into him again. ‘This is it, David’.  It was.

Dale had lived a complex life. His mother, an accomplished actress, committing suicide.

He didn’t necessarily want to work in radio, he just sought fame. He was nevertheless gifted and ahead of his time at the wireless art. His beginnings were in the clubs, and then the closed circuit biscuit factory Radio, UBN, before graduating to Radio Trent in 1977. 

He grew to own his city and Trent listeners would seek only to speak to him. For a period he was Radio Trent. He would screech up to the station just before the programme started, run downstairs in a variety of outfits rarely seen In provincial cities and deliver energy and perfection. He perfected feelgood Radio before we knew what it was. A true Gemini, this highly social charismatic animal could get away with anything.

On leaving the Trent job in a typically dramatic Dale style, he retained his status. One memorable night, he came across to us in a restaurant, flicked his head back and introduced himself to my friends ‘I used to be Dale Winton’. Dale owned any room he chose.

From Trent to Beacon and beyond. Life again was challenging. His earnings and inheritances dwindled, not least because he’d always lived the life of a star, and Dale looked at normal jobs to make ends meet.

With support from close friends, which he always garnered readily with his charm and the generosity of his company,  he secured early TV opportunities which grew into Supermarket Sweep, a programme he quickly made his own. On the National Lottery, his now less chubby figure and smart suit would quickly become well-known. The Cilla he’d idolised became a confidante.

Dale had become ‘our Dale’ and the public recognition he’d sought so long radiated.

The period beyond I know less well, although he opened up about his challenges on Loose Women. Dale was always going to be a man of highs and lows.  In my mother’s words, he would never make old bones. That’s just not Dale. He will leave in the headlines, as he would have wished.

He was an inspiration. His life told you can achieve anything you want if you try hard enough. But that you need to be careful .

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