Ask Timpo: How do I break the ice at networking events?

A: I’ve lost count of the times I’ve cringed when a mediocre speaker tries to tell a mildly amusing story. It’s bad enough listening to the best man at a wedding, but at a business function, jokes are often totally inappropriate.

Here’s a way to save yourself any embarassment. “I’ve been asked to tell you a joke. Fortunately, I heard three good ones at the golf club last weekend – one about two Irish bricklayers, another about a meeting of the Women’s Institute and, my favourite, one about a Russian girl who went wind surfing.

“I went home and tried them all out on my wife who sat expressionless until I’d finished all three. She said: ‘The first story is racist and will upset any Irish people in the audience; the second is sexist and will offend women’. 

“‘What about my favourite – the one about the Russian girl?’” I interrupted. ‘The joke was okay, but you forgot half the words and messed up the punchline – it proves that you should never try telling a story in public.’

“So, luckily my two minutes are up and I have no time left to tell you about the Russian girl who went wind surfing.”

John Timpson runs high-street cobbler Timpson, which has 800 branches nationwide and sales of £150m. Got a question for him? Post it in the comments box below.

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