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Leeds Business Week is one of the annual events of the business calendar and this year has been no exception. I’m always really intrigued by the variety of seminars and talks that are on offer and in particular those that are either very low cost or free.

Once upon a time there wouldn’t have been the trust there is today; to encourage so many people to come together to share their thoughts, ideas and specialisms, but thankfully things have changed.

Today I attended my second Leeds Business Lunch at Bibis restaurant. I was invited last year and was really impressed by the speaker (I know, let’s be honest this is usually the part that you dread) and this year I came face-to-face with a… legend.

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I’d heard a lot about ‘Tony’ from Leeds Arena but had never had the chance to meet with him. We’ve talked and emailed but never actually taken the time to meet up – such is a busy work schedule and life in general.

I’m always really cautious when people take to the stage – I’ve known some great speakers and some dreadful ones – you know, those people who are so chatty generally, humorous and personable yet come across like a bad Mr Bean sketch when the spotlight is on them *groan*.

Thankfully Tony was none of these things, he had us all laughing from the off.

Rather than talking at the audience Tony chose to present through song – I’m not absolutely convinced he didn’t just plug in his iPod play list and hope for the best but it worked amazingly and went a little something like this…

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  1. First was a blast of U2, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. Well, you can’t argue with that. The concept behind the song choice being that if there is a gap in the market for something – such as the Arena in Leeds – then there is also a business opportunity too.  It was also to reiterate that although it can be hard work to get approval on an idea, it will be worth it in the end.
  2. Madonna, Like a Virgin (confession time, I once sang this to my coal man and my Dad has never forgiven me – I was 4 years old!). The thought behind the song choice was that it symbolised the first time that in business we do anything and to remember how you did it and most importantly what you learnt.
  3. Michael Jackson, You Gotta Be Starting Something. Tony explained that in the city there is a trend to start things and not finish them – I don’t think this is exclusive to Leeds but have to admit that he has a point. The idea was to plan and think about how you are going to finish a task before starting it. Good advice that is often dismissed but should be considered, very carefully.
  4. The Troggs, I Can’t Control Myself. The theory behind this was that people aren’t always creative and ‘STOP PRESS’ this doesn’t make them wrong. We need a mix of individuals and characters in a business to make it work; some creative and some not. Without the planning and controls nothing can ever be delivered and although the ‘big idea’ is exciting the doing makes it happen.
  5. David Bowie, Loving the alien. This did make me giggle. Right from launching Open Comms we have always said that we don’t want to be a PR team of clones, and we aren’t, but I wouldn’t go as far to say any of us are aliens. That said I did understand where Tony was coming from. He said that we should accept people for their quirky personalities and different characteristics because the person you consider ‘an alien’ could one day be your biggest asset.
  6. Lady Gaga, Bad Romance. This one was simple. If you have a negative atmosphere in the workplace and you do nothing to try to address it then, like a bad romance, it will continue to deteriorate until there is nothing left. I like this analogy and have seen this happen to businesses in the past.
  7. Freddy Mercury, Great Pretenders. Again, one that is close to my heart. It’s ok to pretend but then you need to be able to substantiate the claims and promises you have made with actions and results. Time and time again we come across this in our industry – promises of names in lights but not even a dimly lit candle to show for the budgets invested! It’s important to be honest and to be realistic with clients’; they will thank you for it in the end.

And so, that was the end of Tony’s talk and what a cracker it was too. I would like to personally thank Tony for making me laugh until my sides hurt. If you would like to hear more about him then follow @FDArenaTony or @JKTChallenge.

 

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