Landlord Law Conference time
It’s Landlord Law Conference again this week.
Seems like only a few months since the last one, not a whole year. Where does the time go?
I recall very much enjoying the 2018 conference, it was my last task before jetting off to Thailand the next day and I was on a high. This year I’m jetting off to Barbados to meet the in-laws, albeit a few weeks after the conference and yes, the song by Typically Tropical does keep popping into my head.
I do loads of conference presentations, have done for years. I’m doing a two-day event at Warwick University to 300 homelessness unit managers a couple of days after I get back from my Barbados trip and when you see what it takes to organise a large event I’m always amazed that Tessa, Graeme and Patrick do it all themselves instead of bringing in events organisers.
Many of the speakers are regulars, friends and colleagues of Tessa’s. That’s why it has a family feel despite its size and there a sense of celebration about it for Tessa. If you ever want to see her relaxed, take a glance at any point in the afternoon, when the organising is done, the event is running itself and she is usually sitting somewhere at the back with a satisfied smile on her face.
Not all events are that well planned
Events don’t always run so smoothly, as any regular presenter will know.
I once travelled up to Great Yarmouth to be a keynote speaker at a homelessness conference. When I got there they had jemmied in a second speaker and asked when I would like to do my bit. Out of courtesy, I let her go first, without knowing what she was going to be talking about and sat at the back for the next hour, horrified as she covered every single thing I had on my slowly dwindling list, including some of the same statistics.
I was on straight afterward and had to improvise an entire hour of my own with completely random material.
Speeches can go wrong as well
Experience got me through and I managed to look confident and relaxed, even though I didn’t know where a sentence would be ending once I had started it. I painfully recall my first ever presentation 20 years ago, to a group of around 90 uniformed Metropolitan police officers at The Warren, a training venue they use near Croydon.
I was explaining the difficulties of obtaining criminal convictions against rogue landlords under the Protection from Eviction Act and in particular the frustration you feel when you know what they have done but don’t have sufficient evidence to satisfy the court and I said:-
“It’s so frustrating not being able to get a conviction. Its no wonder that you lot fit people up from time to time”.
There followed a horrifying 2 seconds of silence, during which I thought I had gone a joke too far, when the room exploded into laughter. All these years later, all I can remember of that presentation was those 2 seconds of silence.
And the worst 30 minutes of my life, came via a disastrous appearance for the Welsh Assembly and around 300 housing civil servants and public sector managers at the Metropole Hotel in Llandrindod Wells.
I was doing the final slot on a Saturday lunchtime to round off 3 days of talks and workshops, with the brief to entertain and inspire and send them off feeling positive about themselves and their jobs. I decided to talk about Jeremy Bentham and Utilitarianism.
My speech and format
The aim was to tell them stories of the madness of measuring things and trying to fit life in boxes just to meet statistics and data. The arc of the narrative was to get them laughing about humorous examples of pointless rubbish and then end with a rousing section on passion and commitment being the things that really matter in life, except 10 minutes in, nobody was even cracking a smile.
I couldn’t figure out why nobody was finding the stories, as funny as I did until with horror, mid-speech it dawned on me.
The entire audience was made up of people who measured and collected housing data for a living and there I was, walking around the stage with a microphone, essentially telling them that they were all wasting their time and their jobs were rubbish.
I still had 15 minutes to do and my eyes fixated on the clock on the back of the wall which moved painfully slowly. For some reason, sitting dead centre of the throng was a man and a woman doubled up in laughter. I still don’t know if they found what I said funny or if they were just enjoying watching me die on my arse.
I finished to a smattering of polite applause, shook the hand of the disappointed looking organiser, mumbled something to him and took off through the fire exit for a waiting pub and several calming pints.
I got paid but curiously they never asked me back.
So now I’m an old hand
20 years of experience has also allowed me to master the inappropriate remark. Stepping up to the microphone at a Nottingham conference for the Chartered Institute of Housing on a very hot summers day, I announced to the audience that I was sweating like a Scotsman with a fiver on a horse, only to remember straight away that the MC who had introduced me seconds before, was clearly from north of the border himself.
That’s the problem with presenting. You do all you embarrassing things in public.
Hopefully, at the Landlord Law Conference 2019, I’ll manage to get through without insulting anyone or falling off the stage.