Categories
Compering Performing Stand up

Audiences, authenticity and attention to detail

Having run lots of events I know how hard it is to pull a successful ‘do’ together. Booking performers, managing ticket sales, bringing in catering and often sweeping up afterwards. It’s a stressful business.

Today, I’m fortunate that all I have to worry about is performing but experience has taught me a successful event doesn’t happen by accident. Last night was one of those moments – Gossip Girl Gang IWD2020 delivered in spades. But what made it so special?

An attentive audience

With the event having sold out, organiser Rachel Bradley had to reconfigure the space to fit everyone comfortably. And because she’s worked so hard to create a community, and had clearly communicated the quality of the speakers, everyone was invested in making the most of the evening. From ‘solopreneurs’ to people who work for multinational companies, they all wanted the opportunity to learn from some phenomenal female founders.

As host and stand up for the evening, it gave me an audience to die for. The ladies were open, eager and – thanks to fizz on arrival – well up for joining in and having a laugh.

Authentic stories

What was so striking about the panel was their willingness to share extremely personal aspects of their career journeys. Getting beyond “Yay, go you!” into the real-life challenges that inspired them to set up their own organisations, and the difficulties that they’ve encountered along the way, made for a more interesting, relatable conversation. It is very easy to look at leaders at the top of their game and only see the success – yes, Scamp & Dude is stocked in Liberty and Selfridges but I challenge you to read Jo’s story without welling up.

Joy from Tech Pixies spoke movingly about the impact of the death of her father and being unemployable as a pregnant woman living in a country where she didn’t speak the language. Did she hide herself away for her own personal pity-party? No. She decided to set up a community to help others who found themselves in the same position. And then she created an organisation to help young people at risk of unemployment. And then she founded Tech Pixies, a business that helps women carve out new careers for themselves via free social media training. Awesome.

And as for Sarah…. Well, she founded Smart Works Reading after volunteering for Smart Works London. She loved the work but found the commute a challenge. Where many of us would have looked for something else, Sarah instead created a branch of the charity closer to home that has so far helped 1500+ women back into the workplace. And earned her an MBE in the process.

So what did I do? Well my role was to warm people up and keep the conversation flowing. I brought people into my world of hand gestures and village life and demonstrated that you can combine tough conversations with having a laugh. Here is my “You are all village people now!” face:

It’s all about the detail

From the branded goodie bags to the carefully selected panel to getting local suppliers to provide the refreshments, Rachel had everything covered. And then I opened the gift bag she’d given me and found it contained a bottle of fizz that was not only from a local business but branded especially for her event – now that’s attention to detail!

All photos in this post (apart from the Prosecco shot – sounds a bit rude that!) are (c) Jon Bradley Photography

On Insta? Follow all the people in this post! BTW – this is not sponsored, I’m just nice like that – call it my ‘value add’.

Need an event compere, stand up or panel host who is as professional as they are funny? Then you need look no further. Let’s talk – email me at toni@tonikent.co.uk

Categories
Compering Giving back Honesty Performing Stand up

Man Up? Time to talk about Mental Health

“Man up, sit down
Chin up, pipe down
Socks up, don’t cry
Drink up, just lie
Grow some balls he said,
Grow some balls..”

Powerful lyrics by IDLES on the topic of toxic masculinity. They make me think about the impact that language like this has and it’s why I’m supporting Emma-Jane Taylor by compering her event on male mental health in aid of Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.

men's mental health talk info

Featuring a panel of mental health advocates and experts (and a bit of stand up from me) it’s open to men and women. You are welcome to bring your teenagers too!

So, if you’re interested in exploring how to encourage open conversations about male mental health, come along to the Hotel du Vin & Bistro in Henley on Thursday 23rd April at 6pm.

Tickets are available in return for a donation – click here to book yours.


Want to find out where I’m performing next? Click here.

Got an event with purpose coming up and need a compere? Book me by emailing toni@tonikent.co.uk

Categories
Honesty Performing poetry Uncategorized

Why I Need a Wife

A few years ago I sat down and wrote a poem that reflected the frustration I was feeling with combining a career with parenthood. Before I share it with you, I should state that Mr Kent does his fair share of heavy lifting when it comes to family life – I definitely don’t have to go it alone.

But….but. There are just some things that seem to fall to a woman to do. And I’ll be honest, there are some things that I quite like to do. When it suits me. Having worked as a cleaner between the ages of 14 and 16, there are times when I love a bit of hoovering or scrubbing the grouting on our floor tiles. However, show me a toilet seat that has piss on it for the fifteenth time that week (par for the course with a boy in the house) and I am going to get very angry indeed.

And given that I’m self-employed, and work from home, it makes sense that I am the one who is there when the children are ill. Part of my reason for leaving corporate life was to be more available for the kids but it doesn’t mean that I always want to do it. When the children were much younger, it seemed like they were ill every other week – our nursery seemed to have a policy of checking the children’s temperature at the door. How I longed for the slap-dash parenting approach of my childhood where digital thermometers didn’t exist.

There was also the small matter of nursery and school assuming that everything should come to me first – why do I get top billing? Then there’s organising play dates which in my experience is almost exclusively a mum-to-mum conversation. Same goes for taking them to parties (oh the horror of having to hang around in a hot soft play), completing permission slips and sewing on badges.

It’s small stuff, I know, but bloody hell it’s wearing. Parenting is relentless, marriage is compromise and maintaining a sense of yourself without being a selfish arsehole can be a tricky tightrope to walk.

So I wrote the poem. And it opened up doors for me. It led to the publication of my book and dozens of paid stand up performances. My initial print run of 500 copies is almost sold out and the tally of people I’ve performed to now runs into the thousands. Not bad for something that was designed to help me let off steam.

You’ll find the poem below. If you want to book me to speak, perform or would like to buy a copy of the book, drop me a line at toni@tonikent.co.uk

I Need a Wife

I need a wife

Someone to organise my life

To do the shopping, pay the bills too

Someone to clean around the loo


Someone who remembers when term ends

When homework’s due. Someone who sends

Completed forms, and makes dates to play

Who never forgets an inset day


Someone who remembers all the clubs

Gymnastics….beavers…..judo….cubs

Who does the washing, the drying, the washing again

Who sorts darks from delicates, whites and then


Someone who can magically find

The one sock that got left behind


Someone to stem the tide of mess

Sew on badges, hem a dress

Insure the house and tax the car

Someone who knows where my bloody keys are


I look around my life and see

It’s chaos if you’re married to me

The kids’ shoes are missing

Disorder is rife

I’ve just got to face it

I need a wife

Review of I Need a Wife by June Sarpong
Categories
Compering Performing Smart Works Reading

What does a compere do?

Comperes just rock up and introduce people right? Wrong!

A big part of making sure everyone gets value out of an event (and a sign that you’ve got a great compere) is to interview people beforehand.

Today I had the pleasure of quizzing Health & Hart Founder and nutritionist, Joanne Hart, and CEO & Founder of the Cooking Academy and food scientist Kumud Gandhi, on their top wellness tips. This included:

  • The best first step if you want to make a change
  • Nutritional no-no’s
  • Wellness on a budget

I also happen to know now the most important five spices you should have in your kitchen. Happily, they are all ones I know how to use, rather than the myriad of exotic ones my husband has bought – Sumac anyone?

And why was I speaking to these two incredible people? They’re going to be panellists at the next Smart Works Reading Smart Talks: Wellness event. You can get a flavour of what these events are like from the picture at the top of this post – they’re focused whilst also being frank and funny.

From what I know about the Smart Talks: Wellness event so far, it’s going to be awesome. Want to come along? Buy a ticket!


Want a compere who knows what she’s doing, is a safe pair of hands and can bring great energy to your event? Get in touch with me at toni@tonikent.co.uk

Categories
Performing Stand up

Chortle!

I have been trying for some time to figure out where I might be able to pitch content that talked about my experiences as a stand up performer. I can’t believe it took me so long to consider Chortle. Having thought that they only focused on reviews, I had that preconception completely challenged when they published a report about the care home performance.

So I put fingers to keyboard and dropped the news desk at Chortle a line and ta-da! Last week they agreed to run my piece about performing at Sue Ryder. It feels like a fitting tribute to Bel and Paula.

Read the full article

Snip of the Chortle news article
Categories
Giving back Performing Stand up

Stand Up for Sue Ryder

It was my absolute privilege to perform stand up at the Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent day hospice in Newbury yesterday.

The decision to do so was inspired by the care that the hospice services in Berkshire showed my brother-in-law’s wife, Paula (pictured left with her daughter, Alice), and my beautiful friend, Bel (pictured right with one of her trademark mischief-making faces), throughout their illnesses.

Witnessing first hand how the Sue Ryder team focus on making you feel like a person, not a patient, is a testament to how important these services are. We joked about living in the bubble that is rural West Berkshire, the challenge of disguising the contents of your recycling ‘bin of shame‘ and the terror of men in extremely tight Lycra.

If you like the idea of stand up as part of diversion therapy, please consider sharing this post or, even better, make a donation to the Sue Ryder team. I’d like to thank Alison, Lucy, Rachel, Chrissie and the rest of the team for the incredible service they provide, and for trusting me with their audience 🙂

Thanks Alison & Lucy!
Categories
Honesty Performing Storytelling

A one minute story

What story would you tell if you only had one minute? This was the challenge last week when I participated in the regional heats for BBC Radio’s New Voices. The temptation was to go for something funny but this time I went with my heart, telling the story of my beautiful friend and a memorable walk to school.

A one minute story about a walk to school

If you’d like to hear the longer version – here’s the original:

Oh, and if you’re wondering, the judging panel said ‘yes’! Round two beckons but so far, no-one knows what it will entail….

Categories
Performing Stand up

Comedy in the Care Home

I’ve done some difficult gigs in my time – one in a pub with three punters, one in a boiling hot hall with terrible acoustics and one where choosing to take the stage from a place in the audience set completely the wrong tone. (Top Tip: stride from anywhere except the middle of the audience to the stage like you belong there, not like you’re just ‘having a go’).

Having a difficult gig is a great test to find out whether you want to continue doing stand up and a great example of why comedians put themselves through the wringer time and again. We just can’t help it. Our desire to perform, to be liked, to raise a laugh goes way beyond most people’s comfort zones.

So when Sam Michael asked if I would join him in performing a set at Gracewell of Newbury care home, I absolutely jumped at the chance! With MC Alex Farrow hot off a great run at the Edinburgh Fringe and accompanied by fellow comedians Ed Pownall, Ian Macdonald and Conor McReynolds it was a chance to perform for an entirely new audience in a fairly unusual setting.

Alex Farrow MCing the Gracewell care home gig
Always a winner when your MC wears a sparkly jacket

Preparation panic

Q: How do you prepare for a care home crowd?

A: With the same level of difficulty for any crowd but with perhaps a little more consideration and thought. Whether you can be heard or not is important regardless of audience, as is whether your material will be understood – Alex did a maths joke about Tan lines that completely went over my head.

I decided to go with what I know and deliver a typical set that covers marriage and kids. However, because there was the possibility that some audience members would have dementia, my plan B was to use a song. It’s one I’ve written about dog ownership and is sung to the tune of “If you’re happy and you know it”. My thinking being that if all else failed we could have a singalong.

Belly laughs, a heckle and a stage invasion

I can’t speak for the other acts but my view was that the performance overall was a success. One of the gentlemen had a filthy laugh, one produced a fantastic heckle and during my set there was a ‘stage invasion’ as one lady asked to be led out. We also had audience participation in the form of Audrey in the front row who took part in a magic trick and (by my reckoning at least) had managed to gain access to the bar before it officially opened as she seemed to have half a pint of lager on the go. And yes, I did use the song.

Performing at Gracewell care home was a real learning experience on a number of levels – from seeing the other acts to flexing my performing style on the fly. Best of all was the fact that everyone involved was completely up for taking their set to an audience that might not strike you as classic Comedy Club but are no less entitled to have access to comedy. They were a tough crowd but they were a great crowd too.


To find out more about my work – check out my stand up page and YouTube channel.

To see where I’m performing next – click here.


1st September – Update! You can now read what Ian made of the gig here and the official carehome.co.uk review, including feedback from the audience, here.

Categories
Performing Storytelling

Ten Tips for Writing a Speech Without Slides

If you’re writing a speech to be delivered ‘sans slides’ (as I’m currently doing for a client – thanks TED Talks for striking fear into everyone who’s not a professional speaker) I find the following works:

1. Create some stepping stones (it could be a classic ‘start middle, end’ of a story or a five point process).

2. Find a visual for each one and put it in a PowerPoint (even if you’re not allowed to use one, it works as a visual aid when writing).

3. Write the whole lot out verbatim.

4. Read it aloud all the way through and time how long it takes.

5. Compare how long it’s taken with the time you have allotted. Try not to panic 😀

6. Step back and view your stepping stones objectively – could they work in a better order? Is there another theme that’s coming through that’s stronger than your initial idea?

7. Repeat steps 3 & 4

8. And again. And again for good measure.

9. Start chopping out the bits that you don’t need written down – part of the rehearsal process is establishing the points you know off-pat so any speaker notes you need will be prompts – not a script.

10. Keep the rehearsal process going – use time in the car / when the house is quiet. And finally….try to relax!


Want a hand writing a speech? I’ve written them for fathers of the bride, sales directors, marketing VPs and even a best man! As a writer I’ll help you capture and project your voice in a way that makes you look great and feel comfortable – whether you’re delivering a TED Talk-style speech, a corporate presentation or something for friends and family.

And if you want to check out my delivery style, hop over to my YouTube channel. *Warning – the language in some of my pieces is a little bit fruity!*