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  • Writer's picturePeter Smith

Saturday January 8th 2000; Laughs Lighten the Load

My speech at the Banner conference goes well. It is amazing how a bit of humour lifts these things, particularly when the audience is expecting something pretty dull. I suppose the concept of the purchasing director of a major customer speaking is not going to get them in a state of breathless anticipation, so when I start with a couple of football related quips, which get more laughs than they deserve, I am benefiting from their low expectations! I suggest they won the contract because their sales director and I have enjoyed intimate trips to Paris (a joke), and tell a rather dodgy story about Rupert Pennant-Rea, who chaired HMSO (Her Majesty's Stationary Office) when it moved to the private sector. I then suddenly wonder out loud whether he is still their Chairman, and regret telling the story, at which point my unfeigned panic gets the biggest laugh of the session.

I also do the serious stuff about why they won the contract, and tell them that they have done the easy bit; keeping NatWest happy and maintaining or growing the business will be tougher. At the end of my half an hour, Geoff (their sales director) thanks me and says he may ask me back next year. I tell them that I may well be looking for a job by then and would be delighted to do it for a small fee. This gets another laugh, which proves this is a much easier audience than the Footlights revues I starred in so unsuccessfully 20 odd years ago!

I get home late afternoon to find a fax from Mike N who has totally rewritten my latest Redgrave paper "to make it punchier". It is now half a dozen pages of bullet points - which I thought we had agreed was not the way Richard Delbridge liked to see things presented. I really feel like telling them all to get on with it and spending a couple of weeks somewhere a long way away. If it wasn't perilously close to bonus award time I probably would.

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