Saturday, March 09, 2013

Downtown Show Me The Money seminars – February 2013

8515982212_16cd80755a_m Downtown in Business held three seminars in different cities – Manchester, Preston and Leeds (pictured) where we discussed how businesses can access finance in a world where the banks aren’t lending like they used to.
Off the agenda was bank bashing, not because we’re sucking up to them or anything, but because it’s counter productive.
Here was my challenge as an event host – cover quite technical subjects and keep everyone in the audience onside.
Sometimes it’s a tricky line to tread. Finance professionals – like any professional group – have their own acronyms and jargon. You assume the audience know something of balance sheets, factoring, fixed charges and VCTs, because they run businesses and want to learn something new. That’s why they’ve come along. But equally you can’t lapse straight into all this because some speakers know what’s what. As a journalist I always tried to present information in a clear way – always explaining acronyms and terms of reference. Same goes for events. You can’t stop speakers every two minutes to clarify a basic point. You can’t present this kind of material in a Ladybird style either.

8485491800_4e5a6d9358_oAll the panellists at all three events were top drawer. Some of them I’ve worked with before – Mark Fahey of the London Stock Exchange, and Paul Taberner at Enterprise Ventures are both really compelling speakers, as is Steve Charnock of Seneca Partners. The really pleasant surprises were Helen Clayton of Deloitte and Melanie Hird of Seneca, not just because the latter two are super smart women leading the way in a man’s world either. Both had excellent delivery and a real understanding of finance from everyone’s point of view – banks, businesses, suppliers, investors in a business. My job is to give them the time and space to explain themselves.

How do you judge whether the balance was struck right? Sometimes people tell you, but sometimes you have to read the expressions and body language. A couple of very young journalists from Huddled came along and gave the Manchester 4 stars out of 5. They weren’t too baffled by any jargon. And the more experienced finance people gave us very positive direct feedback that they’d got a lot out of the event.

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