Greg Shapiro Hosts CitizenM TV Episode 2
20 June, 2022
Thanks, Covid! After the 2020 Lockdown canceled Christmas, CitizenM hotel group had to reinvent their annual Christmas party as a TV show in January. Thus ‘CitizenM TV’ was born – with me as the host. It went so well that I was invited back to host the live Christmas party in 2021. But would we be able to have a live Christmas party…?
NO! The latest Covid lockdown kicked in on 18 December, and canceled everything. Which is EXACTLY what CitizenM had predicted when they decided to make CitizenM TV Episode 2. Again, with me as host.
I must admit: when I’d hosted the first CitizenM TV, I’d never stayed at a CitizenM hotel before. I’d been to meetings at the Amsterdam Zuid location, just because it’s a cool place to meet. For Episode 2, I did my homework. I got to do an overnight ‘staycation’ at the Amsterdam Amstel location. And since then I understand their motto ‘affordable luxury.’ More than that, they recognized me from the TV show, and they treated me like one of the family.
The concept for Episode 2 was to show me warming up before the show – IN a CitizenM hotel room. Hence – WARNING: CONTAINS SOME MALE NUDITY. Episode 2 was again produced by Dutch media company GRNDPA. And this time they gave me more to do: I got to interact with CitizenM office staff, dressed as ninjas. And I got to play a mustachioed gym coach (inspired by Ted Lasso’s alter ego Led Tasso). That’s why you can see me yelling at CitizenM employees like Boyan.
Again, I got to chat with founder Rattan Chadha and CEO Klaas van Lookeren, and I noticed that yes they felt even more relaxed and on-message than in Episode 1.
Looking forward to seeing a live Christmas event this year… But if it ends up being CitizenM TV Episode 3, I won’t complain.
Comedian Greg Shapiro hosts CitizenM TV, Episode 2 (Dec. 2021). Produced by GRNDPA, NL.
Greg Shapiro and the Office Jester Team Up for Trump Video 24 May 2022
We were both experts in corporate speaking, specifically comedic corporate speaking. Yet we came to our positions from completely different routes. I was a comedian / corporate speaker, and he was an academic / court jester.
1) Comedian / Corporate Speaker. Me, I started out at theater school, and I quickly transitioned to improv comedy. I came to the Netherlands to work with the Boom Chicago comedy theater in the booming 1990s – when every Dutch business became an e-business, and every Dutch office transitioned to English. Hence, Boom Chicago was quickly called upon to perform comedy for business events. Many, many business events: for Philips; Heineken; KLM; Shell; Unilever. All the biggies.
According to most comedians, corporate entertainment is the worst. “Vanilla jokes for boring events, just to get a paycheck.” But I quickly realized it can be the opportunity to ‘speak truth to power.’ We comedians can make jokes about the boss that the employees can’t. It doesn’t have to be ‘vanilla jokes.’ It can be more like a roast. Closer to the comedy speech at the White House Press Correspondents Dinner: you make jokes about the president to their face. Or, as I put it at Boom Chicago years ago: “We make fun of your boss in front of your boss, and the one who has to pay for the whole thing is your boss.”
2) Academic / Court Jester. I met Juri Hoedemakers at a networking event for Speakers Academy in Rotterdam. Juri was the man who had done his PhD on the role of the jester in the modern ‘court’ known as ‘Upper Management.’ Sounds familiar! It turns out we had come to the same place from different directions.
Juri had just written his book Gezocht: Hofnar. Reflective voor Leiders en Leidinggevenden.
Of course he did this all in Dutch (at Erasmus University). And now he’s speaking for corporate events about the importance of reflection for business leaders. According to his research, every leader has a blind spot, which is to take oneself too seriously. Leaders need jesters to help their message connect with their teams.
Juri was of course a fan of the Trump voice I did for the ‘Netherlands Second’ video on Zondag Met Lubach. So I did a quick voice recording to promote his book.
And here it is. [Video created by Jeroen Smolders]
HOW NOT TO LIVESTREAM: a Greg Shapiro Online Mini-Show
25 March, 2022
Comedian Greg Shapiro follows up his tutorial ‘How NOT to Zoom’ with a new livestream mini show: HOW NOT TO LIVESTREAM.
Now that we’re all ‘Post-Covid,’ who knew The New Normal would still include Working from Home? Well, surely by now we’ve all mastered the basics of Home Studio video conferencing… NOPE.
Time for a new training strategy: HOW NOT TO LIVESTREAM. Kick off your next online meeting with 5-10 minutes of ‘Sharing WORST Practice.’ Whether you use Zoom, Teams, or whatever – Shapiro’s interactive presentation will parody the Seven Deadly Sins of video conferencing.
Including: Flimsy Webcams; Unflattering Angles; Terrible Lighting; Embarrassing Backgrounds; Green Screen Fails; and yelling at your kids when you think you’re on mute.
Do yourself a favor and start your next video meeting with a guaranteed icebreaker. How NOT to Livestream. Because sometimes the best HOW-TO is How NOT to.
“Hi, it’s me Greg Shapiro. Here to remind you how livestreaming from your home studio can be easy and fun! [knocks over camera]
Now that we’re all working from home, your internet connection has never been more important. So give your cable a little jiggle to make sure it’s secure. [livestream froooo-zen]
If you’d like a pro-tip life hack, you can make sure that your lighting makes you as attractive as possible. Me? I’m using a diffuser, which I got from the camera shop for just €60. [injures self with fold-out prop]
Who needs an expensive home studio lighting system, when you can rig a series of desk lamps tho this clothes hanger? And who needs an expensive laptop stand, when you can use this simple household ladder? [displays embarrassingly amateur setup]
Now, if you want to look really professional, you need to make sure you have a virtual background. And that means you need to get a green screen! [injures self with fold-out green screen]
Once you’ve got your green screen and your lighting in place, it’s time to pick an appropriate background – and start livestreaming, like a pro. [shows wildly inappropriate virtual background]
Remote Meetings Are Dead; Long Live Hybrid Meetings!
7 March, 2022
In February I was called upon to do two separate events for Janssen Pharmaceuticals in Belgium – both remote meetings. Now that Covid restrictions are lifting in the Netherlands and Belgium, you might expect a return to 100% live events ! And you’d be wrong. Looks like hybrid meetings are the New Normal.
The first remote meeting was an expat event, and I was asked to make a 20-minute tailored video.
Would there be enough material about cultural quirks in Belgium? Oh, yes. But how far should I go in making fun of Belgium? I started out with “Who knew one country could drink so much beer? Even the children drink to excess – at least that’s what I assume since the national mascot is a boy urinating.”
I sent in my video – via WeTransfer. Would they approve? Would they even watch it before plopping it into their meeting? I didn’t hear anything back… until after the day of the meeting. The subject heading said “LOVED IT!” Phew. “We used your video at our event yesterday and it was great. It really hit the right note and was enjoyed by all. We hope to see you again – hopefully F2F next time.”
Indeed, we were hoping for F2F Face to Face next time. But the next time was a hybrid meeting. Which was fine! The second Janssen remote meeting was produced by Co-MANA, who created a pop-up studio in Belgium. There was a giant LED wall, with projections that could change themes for the two-day event.
There was a dedicated screen with a dedicated link to the internal Janssen team leaders. There was a live monitor. And there was a prompter screen, which doubled as a link to the Q&A moderator. And we ended with a live band, who played during the interactive quiz.
It would have been nice to have the team leaders on location, as well as the band. Heck, it would have been nice to have a fully live event. But if Hybrid Meetings are the new normal for now, i gotta say this meeting was great.
Greg Shapiro Presents: HOW TO BE DUTCH – THE QUIZ SHOW 7 Feb., 2022
Hi, it’s me Greg Shapiro – the American Netherlander. I grew up in America first, and I moved to the Netherlands second. Along the way, I took the Dutch citizenship exam, and I wrote a couple books on the subject – including HOW TO BE DUTCH: the Quiz. All the questions that SHOULD be on the Dutch citizenship exam, by the American Netherlander who’s been living here 25 years.
And now it’s time to play HOW TO BE DUTCH – THE QUIZ SHOW!
Which nationality traditionally scores the worst on the Dutch citizenship quiz?
How many times does the Dutch national anthem reference other countries?
In the opening line it starts talking about Germany.
Next up is Orange, which is a city in France.
And in the final line – just when the the world is thinking “surely this will be the name of their own country” – NOPE! ‘Spain.’
And guess which 3 countries have ever invaded and occupied the NL?
Germany, France and Spain.
Meaning – It’s not so much an anthem as it is a self-hating checklist.
And this explains why the Netherlands never come in first place in the World Cup.
HOW TO BE DUTCH – THE QUIZ SHOW!
“I take the Netherlands a little bit on the hook, yes?”
Greg Shapiro (Boom Chicago, Comedy Central, ‘Zondag Met Lubach’) has written a book about Dutch culture: HOW TO BE DUTCH: the Quiz. As a comedian, Shapiro starts by looking at the questions on the actual Dutch citizenship exam. Sometimes a simple analysis of the actual questions reveals more about the Dutch mentality than the exam ever intended. Next, Shapiro introduces his own exam, with questions that will test your knowledge on Dutch pride, Dutch stereotypes, Dutch politics – and yes Sinterklaas.
Shapiro has written so many quiz questions, he can tailor-make a quiz for your event. Previous quizzes have featured: Dutch Office Culture; Dutch Housing and Dutch Sustainability.
Quiz Shows are generally 15- 30 minutes. Tailoring is available, Pre-meetings are available.
Greg Shapiro Hosts Second ‘CitizenM TV Show’ 19 January, 2022
Previously, on CitizenM TV…
CitizenM Hotels: “Greg, help! Our annual offsite event is going to have to be a livestream. Can you host it and make sure it’s not boring?”
Greg: “Yes And – What if the interviews feel like the executives are on a TV show?” CUT TO – December, 2021.
CitizenM: “Greg, help! Again, our annual event is going to have to be a livestream! Are you available for…”
Greg: “CitizenM TV – Episode 2? YES.”
Again, CitizenM HQ hired Dutch production company GRNDPA to make the livestream something special.
PRO-TIP: Your Livestream doesn’t need to be Live! Again, we had 3 days of production, with plenty of time for me to meet the C-level execs and get to know everyone – and get the best out of everyone.
Episode 2 didn’t just use 4k screens to patch in remote guests. This time we had an enormous video wall.
The script went high-concept for Episode 2. This time, I got to demonstrate the new contactless user experience with the help of Kabuki / Ninja actors in morph suits. (Actually, they were employees on the CitizenM team, and they were surprisingly good.)
And I got to play the World’s Worst motivational speaker – a cross between Ted Lasso’s alter ego Led Tasso and Yosemite Sam.
Most importantly, I convinced the lighting team to let me use the LED tubes for their obvious purpose: light saber battles with the director Victor Zwiers.
The priority on-set was to keep the vibe of a normal offsite event, as much as possible. Guess what? Top management is always going to be too dry – in the first take. But with a couple of retakes – and me more actively engaging them – the managers managed to loosen up and feel like they were talking to their team, in person.
Again, the studio set required a negative Covid test – hence, we employed the ‘Bubble’ protocol. And we were able to give at least a one-arm hug. Hopefully next time we can do it in person!
GREG SHAPIRO ADDED TO NEW TEAM: MODERATING.EU
28 December, 2021
Since the Covid lockdown hit in 2020, I’ve been using the opportunity to branch out. One area that has been calling out to me is right around the corner in Belgium. It’s the EU HQ and the community known as ’The Brussels Bubble.’
A friend of mine in Brussels has been organizing a monthly EU-themed talk show called ‘Brussels Bubbles.’ And what do you know – they even have a website called ModeratingEU. ModeratingEU is a booking agency dedicated to creating EU-themed events that are NOT BORING. And I offered my help. https://moderating.eu/
I can now be hired via Moderating.eu to make your event less boring and tedious. Unless you WANT your EU meeting to be boring and tedious, in which case – just keep doing what you’ve been doing. https://moderating.eu/greg-shapiro/
Here are some examples of what you can find on my profile:
GREG SHAPIRO – Using humor to make your message hit home.
For 20 years, I’ve been using my background in comedy and improvisation to take dry subject matter and make it more fun – and more memorable.
– Laser-focus on your Main Message – and how to use humor & interaction to make it stick.
– Native English speaker, but also fluent in ESL ‘English as Second Language.’
– Experienced improviser. Even when your event doesn’t go according to plan, I make it look like part of the plan.
A Gentleman Onstage.
Greg uses humor, but always with a diplomatic touch. Literally. He has performed for the Netherlands Embassy, as well as hosting events for French President François Hollande, and once for King Willem Alexander of the Netherlands.
An Onstage Veteran.
Greg has experience hosting events where everything goes right – and when it goes wrong. According to Judith de Lange from Dutch Data Center Hub: “Greg provided lots of laughter in an otherwise very serious crowd. And although confronted with some technical difficulties, Greg was well-equipped to improvise and let the show go on. I would definitely recommend Greg as a host!
A Published Author.
Greg Shapiro is the author of 3 books, such as THE AMERICAN NETHERLANDER: 25 Years of Expat Tales, available internationally. Greg uses his experience with dual nationality to bridge the gap between cultures, between organizations, and between the presenters and the audience.
“Greg’s hosting was sharp, tactful and very, very funny. We did not make things easy for him! He dealt brilliantly with the tailored EPO material.”
– Bert Lockhart, European Patent Office
“Greg made the difference between a pretty-good event and an excellent event. His total understanding of the content, his humour, and his optimistic persona gave the event depth and made it sparkle.”
– Sylvester Lindemulder, Logica Innovation Day
“Greg brought humor to our theme, mixed with a serious note. It gave energy and fun to a serious discussion, which led to more enthusiasm and interaction with our audience.”
– Marike Scholten, Windesheim Univ. Sustainability Event
“We had a lot of fun with Greg as our host for our young professionals event. A great mix between humor and serious interviews onstage. That led to good energy in the audience.”
– Marit van Heugten, Drecht Cities
ABOUT GREG SHAPIRO
Greg Shapiro graduated from Northwestern University in the US and then moved to Amsterdam to work with comedy theater Boom Chicago. He now has 20 years’ experience hosting events for multinational clients such as Philips, Shell and ING. Shapiro has hosted the tv show Comedy Central News in the Netherlands, and he is the voice of the ‘Netherlands Second’ video from 2017. Shapiro has published three books on Dutch culture. He has hosted events for the King of the Netherlands, the French President, and NATO. And he has performed in the Business Class section of a 747 flying to Chicago.
Greg Shapiro ‘How to Be Dutch’ at NBTC Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions
3 June, 2021
I remember when the NBTC was simply called the NBOT ‘Netherlands Board of Tourism.’ (That’s when I did my first events for them back in the 2000’s.) These days, it’s the ‘Netherlands Board of Tourism AND CONVENTIONS.’ Which is handy, because – during a pandemic – tourism you can’t do easily online. But conventions, yes!
As the Corona rules loosen, it’s time to ask: What is the future of conventions and events? Back to Live and In-Person? More online? A bit of both? Will conventions and events ever be the same? The NBTC organized an online event in early June. As it happened, it was right before Step 3 of Loosening the Dutch Corona restrictions. So, if they had rescheduled by a few days, then they could have had up to 50 people in a live audience. !
The fact they did NOT reschedule perhaps proves their point: the role of online and hybrid events is here to stay.
As it happened, I was glad they went with the online setup. The stage was inspired by the TV show Even Tot Hier, with the audience projected onto an enormous back wall. So yes, I could see the audience on two big monitors under the livestream camera. And also the audience could see themselves behind me. Okay, maybe it’s not a great recipe for laughs – being able to see yourself and get self-conscious every time you laugh. But I got laughs anyway!
I was asked to give a reading from my book The American Netherlander: 25 Years of Expat Tales. It’s a module I like to call ‘Culture Shock Therapy.’ And we had a ‘bubble’ set – everyone on set had to have a negative Covid test. And between the speakers and the crew, there were just enough live bodies to be able to play to audible laughs.
Thanks to Host Sophie Hoytema for recommending me for the gig. Thanks to Producer Paul Gruijthuijsen for making us look great. Thanks to the location CitySense in Utrecht. And thanks to NBTC’s Eric Bakermans for having me – and for making the photos of my performance!
Typical 2021: “Will the Covid lockdown end in time for our AGM Annual General Meeting?” In the case of CitizenM Hotels, nope. Every year, these guys have an off-site event for their whole, global team: Someplace exotic; someplace inspiring; something to keep them going for the rest of the year. But in 2021, it was time to face the ugly truth: they were going to have to livestream it.
Luckily, CitizenM HQ hired Dutch production company GRNDPA to make the livestream something special. And they hired me to host the ‘First-Ever CitizenM TV Show.’ Luckily, I have some history with the CitizenM folks. I was at one of their 2018 off-sites, to perform my ‘Dutch Culture Shock Therapy’ masterclass. It was a good show! I liked these guys.
PRO-TIP: Your Livestream doesn’t need to be Live! We had 3 days of production, with plenty of time for me to meet the C-level execs and reassure everyone. We pre-recorded the transitions, and I spoke in the voiceovers. The priority on-set was to keep the vibe of a normal offsite event, as much as possible. And yes, the top management were way too dry in the first take. But with a couple of retakes – and me more actively engaging them – the managers managed to loosen up and feel like they were talking to their team, in person.
I really appreciated hearing it back in the comments, like “You made us feel comfortable Greg, it was a joy. Many thanks!”
Was everyone nervous? Of course. But not me. Which is why I also appreciated hearing “Your years of experience shine through, seeing how smooth it went.”
HOW DID IT GO? See for yourself:
Do you know CitizenM? It’s a Dutch start-up, launched in 2008 with the slogan ‘Affordable luxury for the people.’ They were most notable for the things they didn’t provide, like bellhops. They provided automated check-in, so you could skip the check-in chat and just go straight to your room. They basically designed their dream hotel, based on the years they’d spent traveling for fashion brand Mexx. And by ‘they,’ I mean Mr. Rattan Cheddha and family. I’d performed for them at corporate events with Boom Chicago for years.
[In fact, I think it was 1997 when Seth Meyers and I performed a birthday show at the Cheddhas’ house. That was the time we did an improv scene, where Seth had to guess the word ‘Mallorca’ – a place he had not heard of, at that point. Have you ever seen an improv guessing game performed so brilliantly that you wonder if it’s all pre-planned? Well, this was one of those times we proved conclusively it was definitely improvised. To this day, Seth will still grind his teeth anytime someone brings up the Mediterranean Island of Mallorca.]
Yes, it IS possible: THE ZOOM IMPROV WORKSHOP Team Building by Videoconference
Watch the teaser, below
Recently, I had a client ask: “Could you lead one of your classic improv workshops via Zoom?” I said YES. Or more specifically, “YES AND.”
Already, I’ve been performing my ‘HOW NOT TO ZOOM’ videoconference mini-show for over a year. And I’ve been incorporating some interaction. For example, when I’m demonstrating Worst Virtual Backgrounds, I might say, “Look at Gareth, who has chosen to be located at Hogwarts Castle. Well, let’s take a moment and ask which Hogwarts House are you?”
The Zoom Improv Workshop builds on that kind of interaction. I interact with you, partners interact with each other. It serves as a wake-up call! Even though we’re meeting remotely, we can still activate our eye contact. We can amplify our Give-and-Take. And we can make the most of non-verbal communication.
Online meetings don’t have to be boring!
So many team meetings seem like they started out with a warning from the Legal Department: “Don’t say anything that could incriminate you! If you display any honest emotion, we could be held liable.” An improv workshop is specifically designed to immediately inject Spontaneity and Vulnerability. Two things that are desperately missing from most corporate culture.
The Zoom Improv Workshop starts with:
– Introducing yourself to your team in a whole new way.
– Sharing WORST practice in video conferencing.
– Showcasing Special Skills.
And it builds up to:
– Allowing yourself to be an expert, based on virtual backgrounds, assigned to you at random.
In essence, it’s just a bunch of fun exercises with your team. But in the end, you realize your team has been practicing:
– Active Listening.
– Thinking outside the box.
– Trusting your instincts.
– Empowering your team dynamic.
Afterward, you’ll realize: “This meeting could NOT have been an email.”