Mitt Romney: advice about how to make it on the after-dinner circuit

by awindram

20121001-142714.jpg At $50,000 a head for dinner (or a grand total of $100,000 if you also brought your better-half along) you can be forgiven for expecting a little more pizzazz from the speaker.

It’s not as if you’re looking for too much, is it? A pleasant night out in Boca Raton, Florida, a few laughs as the celeb speaker recounts some amusing anecdotes – preferably ones about drinking with Bob Carolgees – to really get the laughter flowing as you tuck into your pie and peas. And if Mitt is really serious about this and really does intend to make a go of a career on the after-dinner circuit then he has to considerably buck up his ideas.

From what I could see, in Florida Romney suffered from numerous novice mistakes. Fair enough, you might say, but as he was not charging novice prices he really needed to deliver much more. Than he did His content, at times, was way too heavy – I’d love to have Geoff Boycott spend a few hours with Mitt giving him some tips as he’s discovered the hard way that you can’t be too heavy in these situations – and from plain old poor delivery. The end result was awkward, hesitant, and with zero comic timing.

When couples have ponied up a whopping $100,000, you have an obligation, as a top-draw after-dinner speaker to bring your A game to the event.

And yet Mitt seems to think he can walk before he can crawl. It looked, to me, like he was constantly going off-script. Again, this is another novice mistake. This was neither the time nor the place for improv – certainly not at the prices he was charging. This is not the way you go about getting repeat bookings. Sure, maybe because it was in a private home and not in front of a local rotary group, Mitt thought he could freestyle a little, but think how many social secretaries of rotary groups throughout the country have now seen the leaked footage? Exactly, and I doubt they would have been too impressed with what they saw. Never make assumptions about your audience, you never know who he is watching and whether they’ll be interested in hiring you at a later date.

One of the major problems facing Mitt is that it’s an extremely competitive market out there. Not only does he have to worry about other after-dinner speakers that he’s competing against, but there’s also a whole array of other entertainment choices that are competition for the consumers’ time and dime. This speech was in Florida. If he wants to go back there, he needs to remember that there is an abundance of choice for the Florida resident. Instead of spending $50,000 for a ticket to Mitt’s improv show, all of those diners could have been enjoying a three-course meal and a jousting tournament at Medieval Times for the bargain price of $59.95. When Mitt next comes into town, are they going to want to sit through his improv again, or are they going to want to drive the three hours to Medieval Times instead? You just get one shot with an audience, Mitt. You have to show them that you have the wow factor.

Now I’ve had a look online at some of the top after-dinner speakers available, as well as reaching out to their representatives about booking fees, and it really seems that Mitt’s pricing has to come down significantly. $50,000 as a total fee? Perhaps. But as the on-the-door price for each guest? Ridiculous. That’s an amount even Stephen Fry wouldn’t expect. And he has Alan Davies anecdotes.

Mitt has to remember that for under a grand the likes of Marc Leder can get themselves cheeky-faced comedian Dominic Holland. You didn’t realize he was still working in show business? Neither did his agent. Still, he is available. Arguably a little pricey for what you get, and bear in mind he also expects remuneration for travel costs and a warm meal, though the warm meal is, I understand, negotiable.

A little higher up the scale at around ten grand, but I’d have to say well worth the extra cost and still well within Marc Leder’s budget, is Kriss Ackabusi. Now what Kriss does might seem effortless, but that’s all due to years of experience and honing his technique. Mitt just can’t expect to swan in and be at the same level as a Kriss Ackabusi. It’s going to take years of dedication to get to Kriss’s level – dedication is what you need. And frankly when Mitt shouts “awooga”, as demonstrated at the RNC convention, it just doesn’t stir the soul in the same way as when Kris does it.

Another problem for Mitt is in a crowded market he needs to be able to have a gimmick to differentiate himself from the rest of the competition. That’s how you end up commanding top dollar. It’s really no surprise that the top earners are the likes of Paul McKenna and Rory Bremner. I would advise Mitt to spend some time taking a leaf out of their books and working on a hypnotist routine or on his impressions. I hear he does a mean Ruth Bader Ginsburg. If he could incorporate both of those skills into his after-dinner routine . . . well . . . you can’t knock value like that. Particularly in this economy.