Black Tie Dinner at Claridges Hotel (Blog 3)

After having met Cilla about a month previously, you would have thought I was much less nervous for this second meeting. This was not the case. This was due to the fact that I had been invited to a Black Tie Dinner at Claridges Hotel in London. I was incredibly excited, yet nervous as I had never been to anything like this before in my life. To make matters worse (or better), Cilla had arranged for me to meet up with Peter Buchanan (who used to work very high up for COI advertising industry) beforehand for a chat about my future career in radio. This was a lot to take in before hand and I made my way down to London, with my grandad’s dinner jacket slung over my shoulder, full of nervous trepidation.

As was the case from my first meeting, I needn’t have been so nervous. Peter Buchanan was an absolute delight. We chatted for over an hour and a half about my current post of Station Manager of BurnFM and about how this could slingshot me into a career in radio. He gave me a long list of contacts and companies to apply for work experience and made me think about things which had never occurred to me, such as marketing strategies etc.  I left the meeting feeling very honoured and inspired.

After this meeting I made my way to Mayfair, a place which had previously only existed on a Monopoly Board. As soon as I entered the hotel and was greeted by the concierge the nerves began to set in, I was shown down to a changing area which was covered in beautiful marble and gorgeous paneling. I quickly changed into my grandad’s dinner suit which I had had tailored the previous week. After getting ready I headed back upstairs, checked my bags in and walked through to the ballroom where the dinner was held. I have to admit I did feel a little like James Bond.

It was a tremendous sight and one I will never forget. A beautiful marble floor stretched down a narrow corridor to a set of doors with three waiters on either side bearing trays full of champagne. They all beamed as I went past, bidding me a pleasant evening. The room was full of groups of incredibly smart men and women chatting away. Trying to look braver than I felt, I dived into the throng.

The next 20 minutes were a whirlwind of pleasant conversation with incredibly successful people, all of whom seemed incredibly interested in what I had to say. Again, I needn’t have been so nervous as everyone who I spoke to was incredibly pleasant. There was an awkward moment when I stepped back right onto someone’s foot, and as I turned around I was looking Karren Brady, a woman I’d only ever seen on the BBC’s ‘The Apprentice’, square in the eye. Even this was a pleasant experience (apart from the foot stomp) as she accepted my bombardment of apologies and we actually chatted briefly. Again, she was a very interesting individual and was an utter delight.

As we were lead through to the main ballroom, watching where to put my feet and champagne hand less a-quiver. We were shown to our seats. It was an ideal situation as I was sat right next to the CEO of Global Radio and his entourage. Throughout dinner I chatted with a young manager at the company and we got on very well indeed. We exchanged details and he told me to contact him if ever I had any questions. I was utterly thrilled at this.

After dinner three young entrepreneurs were invited up for a debate chaired by Karren Brady and the Government minister for Culture. This was incredibly interesting and inspiring as they each talked about how they began their companies and what difficulties they had to overcome. This heightened my respect for Cilla, who was CEO and group chair of the UK’s leading advertising company, as she must have had an incredible amount of difficulty along the road to her eventual success.

The rest of the evening was a whirlwind of chatting with very successful businessmen and women and was thoroughly enjoyable. As I left Claridges, I reflected on the last 24 hours. There was no need to be so nervous beforehand as it turned out to be one of the most exciting and interesting evenings of my life so far and I am deeply grateful to Cilla for inviting me along as her guest. Everyone I met was polite, kind and wonderful to talk to. It was my own preconceptions that made me unnecessarily nervous and I realised that this was very stupid indeed. I made some great contacts and I will be chasing them up in the very near future.

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