"When did it become the norm for everyone to talk through the speeches at these sorts of bashes?" asked the chairman of the improbably-sized investment company Prandeamus Asset Management as I returned to our table last night.
I had just been onstage extending my welcome to the 2017 Professional Adviser Awards but it was debatable how many of the gratifyingly large audience had noticed.
"I don't want to burst your bubble," the chairman continued, "but I swear the noise levels have actually dropped since you stopped talking. I mean, the bits I could make out of your speech didn't seem that bad - so what's it all about, do you think?" "Oh, I'm certainly not taking it personally," I replied - not altogether truthfully. "I think it can come down to a number of things - the shape of the room, for starters.
"Then there's the PA system, which though a perfectly professional level tonight is going to be cranked up to ‘11' next year, if I have any say in the matter. And I don't think you and I can be too pious about the noise - we've been chatting through awards dos for years." "True," the chairman nodded. "But at least we had the grace to whisper - to begin with anyway."
"I guess most people these days have learned to skip the whispering bit," I shrugged. "I think I first noticed the trend about five or six years ago and, if you think about it, on one level it isn't that surprising. OK, most businesses have worked out it is probably sensible, and certainly humane, to scale back the awards on offer from a peak - as I seem to recall a rival once inflicting - of 60.
"But we still have the inevitable welcome from the publisher or editor and the obligatory plug from a charity. So I think, as well as trend, it also comes down to expectation - and this audience wasn't expecting me to tell jokes or that very nice lady from Mind to offer such a measured plea for support." "Hang on," said the chairman. "Your speech contained jokes?"
"I like to think so," I nodded. "Didn't you hear my line about how, this being the first PA gig ‘to take place in the post-truth environment, I want say how delighted I am to see so many thousands packed in tonight at this, the 412th Professional Adviser Awards'? Or that one of the aims of tonight is ‘to have a thoroughly enjoyable, thoroughly sociable and - above all - thoroughly complied time'?
"I went on to reassure everyone present our Events team had been working ceaselessly to ensure tonight comes in below the level currently acceptable to compliance departments - £8.43'. To that end, the staff at The Brewery were even now queuing up down the road for industrial quantities of chicken McNuggets, the bar was fully stocked with Sunny Delight and all tonight's music would be provided by our publisher playing a kazoo."
"Very droll," said the chairman. "Again - I like to think so," I repeated. "But surely you heard me pretending that I myself had taken on the responsibility of providing the after-dinner entertainment and would be doing a 45-minute routine of financial ‘knock, knock' jokes? And then I interspersed the rest of the speech with a few examples." "Those were ‘knock, knock' jokes?" asked the chairman, looking surprised.
"Er … yes," I said slowly. "Why else would I be saying ‘knock, knock' so often?" "I don't know," the chairman shrugged. "I thought you were maybe having some sort of an episode onstage. So go on then - tell me the jokes." "OK," I said. "But you understand that the joke was that they weren't funny - apart from the last one, perhaps." "Your risk warning is duly noted," said the chairman. "Knock away."
"Knock, knock," I said. "Who's there?" the chairman obliged. "FAMR" "FAMR who?" "FAMR doing 45 minutes of these, I'm really going to need some better material." "Knock, knock." "Who's there?" "Miffitt." "Miffitt who?" "Oh, you've heard that one." "And finally - knock, knock." "Who's there?" "Robo." "Robo who?" "That's the spirit." "Actually that one is quite funny," the chairman said begrudgingly. "Hear, hear."
"I don't think anyone did," I sighed.
The chairman isn’t answering his email
Reforms not enough
An economic cocktail
To encourage consumers to shop around
Will report to Pat Shea