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LIV President's Blog 2012

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Lord of the Gavel tells all

Lord of the Gavel tells all

August 22. A sad day for some (i.e. me). But for one – the anointed one – the brightest of days. For on August 22, I must relinquish the gilded Gavel-Crown that these past 7368 wondrous hours  has rested awkwardly and uncomfortably on my head,  and surrender it to a new head, a worthier head, a funnier head.

Because August 22 is Golden Gavel Day.
As the ancient poet hauntingly prophesied:

Mark it in your dairies  (moo)
Mark it in your diaries too
Mark my words, you’ll laugh if you do

Profound stuff.

The question is: will you be counted among the Gavellers of 2013?

Two ingredients were crucial to my decision to Gavel.

First, I thought it would be fun, even though as far as nerd pageants go, the Golden Gavel is the nerdiest of the nerdy.  And if (like me) your nerd pageantry resume is a little thin, the whole prospect can be somewhat unenticing.

That’s where key ingredient number two comes in: goading. One colleague in particular shamelessly goaded until, worn down by incessant emails and communicator messages, I caved and entered.

And I’m glad I did, because the whole experience was an undeniable hoot.

So if you think one of your colleagues might have just enough ego to think they can make a room full of lawyers laugh, but might need a leeeedle bit of encouragement, start goading now! And if you like fun, enjoy having your nerves shot to pieces, and notice a bit of not-so-subtle nudging by your peers, you might just be 2013's Lord-of-the-Gavel-in-waiting.

What makes a successful Gaveller?
Well there’s no question that walking away with the trophy Gavel-Crown on the night is largely a matter of fluke. But for what it’s worth:

Know your material inside out
This helps you stay calm and connected with the audience, pause appropriately for raucous laughter, and keep a steady pace. One 2012 Gaveller spoke entirely (and flawlessly) without notes, which was both impressive and hilarious. I resorted to writing out my speech verbatim, but by the time I was at the podium I’d been over it so many times there was room to ad-lib and go with the flow.

Think about the audience’s perspective
They’re the ones you want rolling in the aisles, so if you approach your spiel-writing from their perspective, it's easier to sift the shiny nuggets of comedy gold from the dull grains of comedy… sand? Oh, and a bit of audience participation always goes down a treat.

Let your inner nerd run wild
It truly is a nerd pageant. The audience is mostly bona fide dags lawyers, so in-jokes are fine, especially quirky references to seminal cases, High Court judges and the joys of legal practice. Bonus points for bad (i.e. exquisite) legal puns.

Outsource gag writing and research to your colleagues
You only have 24 hours to pen your spiel, which is a surefire recipe for mental constipation blockage . Rest assured your work pals will have loads of great ideas, and even if they don’t zing at first pass, it’s fun workshopping them until they do.

Use audio-visual stimuli (but not too much)
Last year we had powerpoint presentations, song-and-dance routines, the works. Everyone loves a visual joke – just try not to let it distract the audience from the flow of your pithy pearls of wisdom.

Flirt shamelessly with the judges and the audience
There’s not a shadow of a doubt that flirting is what got me over the line in 2012. I spent most of the night doubled over in  laughter at the other Gavellers, and couldn’t believe it when the Gavel-Crown came my way. The only difference was my un-subtle flirting. Do it shamelessly, do it often, and the Gavel-Crown is yours.

Q. What tips do you have for the pretenders to the 2013 Gavel-Crown?

 If you are game enough to enter the 2013 Golden Gavel Competition, Register here.

Tim Cannon is a lawyer at Minter Ellison and the winner of the 2012 Victorian Golden Gavel Competition

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