An all female line up at this month’s event inspired by Emmeline Pankhurst and the centenary year for the vote for women.
The event was opened up by enthusiastic MD Jason Roper who spoke about the recent change to HMO licensing and what those changes mean for the property sector.
In short the changes have been made to assist the Government in helping to raise safety standards in privately rented properties.
These changes are being welcomed by tenants who privately rent however the changes do bring added pressure for private landlords.
To make sure you are up to speed with the changes to HMO and other mandatory or additional licences checkout latest information at Gov.Uk link:
Jason then introduced the first of our two guest speakers, our very own MPG Partner Fiona McKay, owner of Lightbulb Leadership Solutions and FionaMcKay.com.
Inspired by Emmeline Pankhurst and the fight for gender equality Fiona has just launched a new and refreshing training programme called ‘Feedback First’.
This programme has been developed to tackle the negative differences between the types of feedback given to men and women in the workplace. The detriment it is currently having on women specifically and how businesses can look to change the way they and there people feedback to women for the better.
Fiona has been conducting research for this programme for over ten years and this has been done in a wide variety of workplaces spanning the globe.
If you would like to learn more about Feedback First and what the training programme could do for your business please see the link below which will allow you to download a complimentary e-book of Fiona’s research:
Up next was our second guest speaker Bex Schindler, Fundraising and Development Manager for the Pankhurst Trust.
The Pankhurst Trust merged with Manchester’s Women’s Aid in 2014 so in addition to a museum showing the history of the suffragette movement the centre is also a women’s only activity space providing vital support to women suffering domestic abuse and violence.
Bex talked proudly of Manchester’s very own heroine Emmeline Pankhurst, who unbeknown to some of the room was born and raised in Manchester’s Moss Side.
The trust is based just outside Manchester’s city centre at 60-62 Nelson Street. This was the home of Emmeline Pankhurst and the birthplace of the suffragette movement.
The centre has recently been listed in the top 20 places to go in the world for Political Inspiration, what an amazing destination we have right on our door step.
However, due to the trust being reliant solely on donations funds for property repairs etc are low. Bex explained the trust has applied for a grant from the Heritage Lottery fund to renovate and re-create the buildings which if granted would allow the centre to become and support so much more than they do currently.
One catch with the grant is that they must contribute a minimum of 10% and with the grant being £3.96 million that’s some target!
Bex is looking for support from everyone who is willing to help hit the centres ambitious target so if you would like to get involved or contribute check out the website at:
Our next event in November will see the results of Man V Machine, a fundraising event in support of our chosen charity Mahdlo.
Two of our very own MPG members will be going head to head in a race across Manchester in morning peak time traffic.
Man (Roger Dean on his bicycle) V Machine (Matt Gibbons in his Aston Martin sports car).
The race will take place on 16th October starting at 8am from Arighi Bianchi in Macclesfield ending at Alberts Chop House, Manchester. Please feel free to join us at the finish line to welcome both Man and Machine over the finish line.
Please get in involved and make a bet in support of this amazing charity:
In addition to this, November’s event marks MPG’s 1st Members Birthday! How time flies when your having fun. So along with an invite to celebrate with us we also have some fantastic renewal offers coming soon so watch your inboxes!
Thank you to this months champagne sponsor NRL Refrigeration – John Hartley - http://www.nrlrefrigeration.co.uk/
The winner of our monthly business card draw Michelle Thornley.
A fitting end to another fantastic MPG event.
If you would like information on how MPG can help you and your business get in touch with the team today at :
We look forward to seeing you next month on 1st November where we will be having our 1st Members birthday event along with finding out who won Man v Machine!!
An honest reality check from MD Jason Roper to open this months event.
With standing room only Septembers event was eagerly anticipated by members and guests.
Jason continued to open the event with an eye opening talk about the UKs growing Peer to Peer (P2P) lending market. With over 300 companies in the sector competition is tough.
Did you know that 88% of Commercial loan applications that are declined by High Street banks, 56% of these loan applications aren’t taken elsewhere?
This is purely down to businesses not knowing where to go, if this sounds like something you have experienced talk to one of our team today to see how we can help:
Our first guest speaker this month was Michelle Dale, VAT specialist and manager from MPG partner UHY Hacker Young.
Michelle started off with Making Tax Digital.
Making Tax Digital is a key part of the government’s plans to make it easier for individuals and businesses to get their tax right and keep on top of their affairs - meaning the end of the annual tax return for millions.
Michelle explained that over £11.4 Billion is lost each year through avoidable errors and fraud.
There are exemptions from the rules however these are few and far between!
Businesses will not be mandated to use the Making Tax Digital for Business system until April 2019 and then only to meet their VAT obligations. This will apply to businesses who have a turnover above the VAT threshold - £85,000 per 12 month rolling period. Smaller businesses will not be required to use the system, although they can choose to do so voluntarily.
If you would like to hear how UHY Hacker Young can help you and your business contact Michelle today:
Up next was our 2nd guest speaker Pavitar Mann, Head of Local and Devolved Government at Newington.
Pavitar has worked as a political consultant for over six years and specialises in the planning, development and devolution sectors with a focus on mixed-use schemes, the private rented sector and education.
And that’s not all boasting an impressive CV Pavitar is also a Labour councillor having been elected for her third term in 2015.
Pavitar spoke intelligently about the political impact of building schemes across the country and although the Government definitely wants development it is dependent on how local councils, who have a high level of autonomy, apply the national plans and policies.
Each council has a planning committee which is made up with various individuals who may or may not have much experience in the sector and depending on who has political control the composition of the committee and its goals can change quite considerably.
Given the above we are advised to try not to submit planning applications around election time if possible.
‘Political Intelligence is your friend!’
If you want to hear more from Pavitar about how Newingtons can help your business get in contact today:
Followed by a Q&A this months event concluded with our prize draw!
This month winners were guests:
Paul O’Shea who chose the meal for two at Alberts Chop House
Dean Gormley who took home the bottle of Champagne
Our next event is set for 04/10 where we will hear from MPG Partner Fiona McKay and Becky Shindler The Pankhurst Trust.
We look forward to seeing you there.
Sign up now to avoid disappointment!
Author Sarah Peel, Marketing Director
This month saw enthusiastic MD Jason Roper along with MPG Partners and Ambassadors come together with members old and new to celebrate the last 12 months.
Once again the event was fit to bursting with Manchester Property folk and professionals. MPG continues to be the place to be for great business and conversation.
As we cast our minds back we relived great memories of new relationships, exciting business and inspirational people, keeping up with hot topics month to month highlighting what to watch for and how we can help.
We have been privileged to host top speakers such as Tom Bloxam MBE Chairman of Urban Splash, Jon Wilkins England Rugby League player, David Russell, Property Alliance Group and Tony Lloyd former Manchester Mayor to name just a few, each bringing their passion for property and vast wealth of experience with them to share with us.
Not only is MPG continuing to provide a diverse and dynamic platform in which to meet and do business with like-minded people but it is also offering a raw and unscripted insight into Manchester’s driving force - it’s people!
Along with this, our members are privy to a steady flow of property and land opportunity as MPG is pathing the way for investors offering priority purchasing to its members.
Looking to build? We can help there too! MPG boasts a black book of property must have contacts from top lenders to tax specialists.
For more information on what investment opportunities MPG currently have available please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Why not talk to us today to see how WE can help YOU and your business!!
Our next event is on the 6th September and we hope to see you all there, please sign up now to avoid disappointment.
Guest blog by Sarah Peel.
An energetic opening from MD Jason Roper talking all things sunshine and football was followed up by our first speaker Darren Grimes of UHY Hacker Young, partner of MPG.
Darren had prepared a succinct and factual presentation explaining the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) and what it means for the property sector.
Dating back to 1970 the prescriptive scheme was devised to reduce the risk of non payment of income tax by subcontractors.
With monthly reports and payments due to the revenue this is something that demands attention.
Darren went on to explain what it took to gain and then maintain a Gross payment status.
This involves some very detailed conditions, an Annual review and a slew of financial and compliance tests.
Any mistake could cost you your status as Darren explained as he walked us through a real life court appeal :
‘Ignorance of the law is not a reasonable excuse.’
In short get studying and be compliant!
If you would like further information on CIS please contact Darren directly on:
0161 236 6936
Up next a few words from MPG Ambassador Terry Flanagan.
Terry has an impressive CV boasting a dazzling rugby league career and successful business career too.
Terry briefly shared a thought that has been on his mind as of late:
Do we know for sure how we and our businesses are perceived by our customers or do we just assume we do?
Are you hot on the tail of modern day contact platforms to be ‘everywhere’.
How do your competitors compare and are you keeping up?
Something to consider in times of constant change and innovation.
Talking of innovation up next was our guest speaker, a man who MPG folk have had the pleasure of hearing lots about.
Michael Brennan Founder and CEO of Tootoot.
Michael spoke passionately about his motivation for developing Tootoot with co-founder, Kieran Hinn. Both of whom have recently been named in Forbes Top 30 under 30 Europe 2018.
Michael told of his own experiences of bullying throughout his school years and how this time has inspired him to want to make a change in the way bullying is tackled.
Tootoot have created the only App in the world that allows safe reporting for victims and real time dashboard views.
Tootoot is now live across the country in numerous schools, sport clubs and is now expanding into the work place with big companies such as AO.com and Morrison’s keen to sign up.
Tootoot has been created to remove barriers both personally and professionally and through the latest development the app can now be used however you require reporting issues such as bullying or suggesting a new idea straight to the CEO.
The application packages start from as little as £1 per employee per month, could this fit into your your business? Link below on how to contact:
Anther fantastic Manchester Property Group event finished off with the business card lucky draw and this months winners were guests Peter Lim and Jamie Dutton.
We are looking forward to the next event on 02/08 hope to see you there!
Sign up now to avoid disappointment https://www.mpg-nw.com/membership.html
Pineapples and a pound around the world for expensive property developments in costly concrete.
Jason Roper opened another MPG full house, these monthly events are clearly the place to be, events not to be missed for property folk in Manchester, Jason was talking marriage and stag parties in the costa del Blackpool, Jason sported a top tan and talked married life to his new bride. ‘Let’s get serious in the football fever.’ The June MPG event was rich in content and sorted for a fish and chip finish with advice on a tax free bargain on employees and some memories of pick and mix at Woolworths with a key note speech from MPG ambassador and logistics guru Carl Lomas who spoke cost of concrete and speculative development for e-retail sheds. Champagne sponsor prizes returned with free dinners and exclusive books, even a goody bag and don’t mention the cake to start, magic event, don’t miss the next one!
Clive Gawthorpe of UHY Hacker Young asked the MPG audience to stand, asking three questions and with each answer letting part of the audience sit down. The audience stood to the end, unaware the gem Clive was about to deliver. Back in the comfy chairs Clive showcased his point, tax free income for employees under a hundred K for tax free pay up to fifty five pounds a week. ‘We are talking child care benefits, key issue is that you must register before end October to get this benefit to your staff. Child care voucher from the employer is tax free, runs to older children, one client used it for the posh school fees, others for after school clubs. Get a call in to UHY urgently and bag a tax free bargain for your employees.
Carl Lomas talks cost of concrete in e-retail sheds for June MPG Key note delivery. Lomas, a long-time supporter of MPG opened with memories of being asked to ambassador the group, he was concerned not to be a sports man when he got the call but well chuffed for the responsibility of promoting the MPG group that has run from strength to strength.
Lomas talked shop for the logistics sector where he is national chair of the Institute of couriers, Transport for Greater Manchester TFGM chair of the urban delivery group. ‘e-retail, home delivery is exploding in numbers, retail is moving from high street bricks and mortar to home delivery e-retail internet shopping. Its new and it’s in our time.’ Lomas used a Pineapple example, goods around the world, in a supermarket or on the High Street and then delivered free to your door. ‘How does that fit with bricks and mortar on the retail platform of shops. Lomas took MPG on a short history lesson, first internet shopping was a Sting album sold in 1994, by 2010 50 billion pounds of retail was sold on line. ‘Let’s not forget Woolworths! Bringing the context of time, we all loved pick a mix from Woolworths and it’s not ten years ago when they closed, that’s when internet began the boom of explosion we see today. This is in our time!’ Lomas took the numbers to present day with thirty per-cent of retail value spent on line in 2017, and that does not include e-bay shoppers! Business model on the screen of the MPG floor asked the question of speed of delivery and challenged the sustainability of next day and same delivery. ‘What is the cost of the concrete to make these deliveries. Half million foot sheds, volume is key, pushing 45 metres high and even double-decker sheds, using the racks sets to prop the roof and bag every last inch of volume space in the mighty developments of the East Midlands gateway and the Magna Park sheds. Engineers are even maximising the camber space in the roof, using low oxygen systems to save the sprinkler space’ Lomas delivered an energetic speech engaging the MPG in some philosophy from his research time at Manchester Met University. ‘How do you see the world, what lens do you view through? He used the global brand logo of FedEx Logo as an example, if you want the answer ask at the next MPG in July.
This months event kicked off with a hot topic talk from founder Jason Roper. The monster merge of Asda and Sainsburys and huge job losses to be had at RBS following mass branch closures. The retail market continues to change so Property folk keep your eyes peeled for opportunity!
Up next was the first of this months speakers, Stephen Grayson from MPG partner UHY Hacker Young. Stephen spoke about GDPR aka The data protection act and how this will affect the property sector. Check out the PDF at the bottom of this blog for further information on GDPR. In short this will affect everyone and the deadline of 25/05/18 is looming although don’t worry, full compliance isn’t required by this time but a firm action plan to achieve compliance is! Breeches will cost you so don’t delay. Along with a handy 12 step guide to assist with compliance Stephens message was clear, if your aren’t sure employ a specialist and even if you are, employ a specialist!
Following on from Stephen was chairman Chris Wareing from our chosen charity Mahdlo. Mahdlo is a £2 million charity receiving only £400,000 per annum from Oldham council. They provide amazing opportunities for youths in the community helping them find passions and providing support to allow them to flourish.
Chris spoke proudly of his recent fundraising for the charity ranging from 24hour 5 a side marathon with Oldham Police Constabulary to a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro! If you feel inspired and want get involved there are still places available to join Chris up Kilimanjaro but if that’s not for you there are plenty of other ways you can contribute!
Check them out on the charities website at https://www.mahdloyz.org/
To finish this month's event was an insightful talk from John Barstow of BCR Limited ‘A full service advertising agency’. John started his career in 1966 and has worked in Marketing/ PR ever since. The saying ‘been there, seen it, done it’ really does apply to John. A nostalgic and factual presentation from John sparked personal reflection in the room...’Am I influenced?’ In today’s world more that ever we are subjected to advertisement, marketing ploys and PR schemes. Do they affect your daily lifestyle choices?
John ended reflectively stating, in this day and age of technology ‘creativity is suffering’. Something to take away is to not be afraid of offering up your originality.
If you would like to find out more about John, BCR Limited and what they can do for you and your business please visit his website at http://www.bcrlimited.com/
Winners of this months business card lucky draw were speaker Stephen from UHY Hacker Young and Paul Ramsey of Real Financial.
We are looking forward to a delayed event next month on 14/06 hope to see you there!
Sign up now to avoid disappointment https://www.mpg-nw.com/membership.html
MPG ambassador, Carl Lomas reports his blog for the Manchester must do diary date. He was with property folk, accountants, lawyers and surveyors who gathered in Manchester for their regular hot house of all things development. Chip butties, bit coins and a headline showcase on projects from the Gherkin to Harry Potter studio set the monthly event as a must do diary in Manchester. Then add a choice moment between deep fried Scottish Pizza and wild mushrooms for excellence in surveyor’s toolbox and you have a networking property event with a menu to die for.
Jason Roper opened with a spritely summary of the world since the last MPG, ‘Beast form the East’ jeopardised the March meeting, there had been no chicken at KFC, Maplin and Toys R Us closures drove big job losses and banks had closed 462 branches in the running year. Times in the High Street are changing!’ Crypto cyber currency dished up the starters for a full house audience in the Manchester Chop House venue, Nick from UHY Hacker Young, cyber currencies established only eight years ago, people were paying thousands of bit coins for a pizza delivery and a bit coin today is valuing at seven thousand UK pounds, if you have some beware of the tax on this gain! Recording the values of what you have when is critical to the gain.
Ian Ford followed the pizza trail and delivered the key note. Surveyor extraordinaire, todays MD of Watts, projects from Kings College Hospital helicopter pads to Scottish Pizza! Watts celebrating fifty years last year, a UK wide surveyor team on the big projects. Ian opened with a ‘Chamber of Horrors phot show’. Audi car garage, there was a hush in the room, bolt failure in a multi-storey frame left new Audi cars scatter between showroom floors in a concrete carnage. Photo snap of extreme downpipe corrosion, paint your pipes regularly! A 1930s DOY house gone wrong big time. Dry rot! When is it a Scottish Pizza? Ian tested the MPG audience on the peperoni spotting with a tour of deep fried fun centred on giant mushroom growths.
Ian handed over the spellbound audience to Watts man, Tom Kibblewhite for something academic. ‘Lets talk right to light’ The shadows of big buildings. Hands on explanation. Tom went technical, ‘Right to light is an environmental issue and dealt with through the courts, usually involves injunctions. Daylight and sunshine issues are planning regulations and land in the town & country planning office. Light is old school, regs work around desk height for time old trades like Taylors, how much light is on the cutting desk. Below fifty per-cent of natural light the stakes get higher.
Get your diary out, the next date is May 3rd.
February is the best month of the year. New beginnings for 2018, and insulation tucked up and tight with low CO2.
Jason Roper introduced the Feb 2018 Manchester Property Group
To a familiar full house of developers at the Manchester Chop House venue, MPG ambassador on the MBE team, Carl Lomas bagged some notes. Guests were in for a treat of technical detail on all things insulation with a healthy commercial property pension plan set of financials. Bubbly and dinner on the raffle for business cards courtesy of Lightbulb Leadership Solutions, a partner of MPG marked the first month of the year out of the January blues. This was fresher’s week for the MPG and taking a measure of interaction and the meeting the year ahead looks good.
Jason set a tone that motivated interaction, he explained; "January blues are out of the way. February is the best month of the year for new beginnings. February is like fresher’s week, it’s the week after the famine of January, New Year’s resolutions of gym visits and diets are out of the way. It’s time for Pancake Day with Nutella. Feb 18th is National wine day and February 14th Valentine’s day is time to get drunk with the love of your life."
Jason handed to the first key note speaker, let’s talk property, let’s talk insulation for buildings, technical detail on the lamba values with real world explanation on the supply chain.
Shaun Ryan – Director of Springvale EPS – Exploring some of the environmental and regulatory issues which are becoming ever more common in the development world and talked frankly on the Grenville Tower issues.
Shaun explained his production locations at Glossop and Newcastle and covered the evolving supply chain, product from manufacturer to site without merchant. Get the spec correct and get real world value. Technical talk focused on reducing heat transfer; "Performance is the most important factor. Fibre getting damp or even missing is a big issue. Shrinkage, compacting and settlement is all likely to fail performance on insulation. Carbon and the whole life cycle of the product you use is the measure, you must value cost balance between product and installation cost. Vapour, permeability, breath and not breath are all in the mixing pot for new build and refurb. Wool, natural and expensive, great thermal values, arrives at site in blocks and comes from shearing waste. Icynene spray foam, air tight, open cell, very good thermal. Foam board products, most of the chemicals to make them come from Germany, Brexit and the euro has driven price up as well as a great deal of the chemicals been taken by the Chinese market." A general discussion followed, supply direct from manufacturer to site, be sure you get the spec the architect ordered, it’s not just u value, it’s about getting product match to design, material and performance are the only measure to success for the future owners.
MPG is getting big attendance, developers in the NW are setting diary not to miss. with the familiarity of putting on two key notes, February followed that great combination, insulation sorted, it was time for commercial finance, SIPP / SAS commercial property purchase.
Paul Ramsey – Managing Director of Real Financial Services, City supporter, IFA and former banker was candid and interactive to talk turkey and tax solutions for commercial property. ‘Mind the gap – 15 points, what was the score.’
Back to finance, Paul was energetic with the titles that had big issues for developers and property deals. retirement planning, pensions and wealth preservation. Inheritance tax, critical illness, lending and mortgages to folk as old as eighty!
Talking turkey back in the tax zone, let’s look at capital gain into an EIS, your accountant needs to be more than a book keeper. Paul faced SIPP / SAS property deals, it must be commercial, student let does not count and it can’t be residential.
‘Tis the season to be jolly and our members certainly were this December 7th at our Christmas Cracker Manchester Property Group Event.
This month saw 2 of our partners and 1 of our ambassadors speak at the event along with our very special guest speaker Rugby League player Jon Wilkin.
Partner Clive Gawthorpe from UHY Hacker Young talked all things property related in November’s Budget. He raised some key points for property folk to look out for such as council tax mark up for empty properties and tax implications of overseas property - check the previous post here in our News section of the website for more info!
Next up was Partner Fiona McKay owner of Lightbulb Solutions who delivered a thought provoking insight into the lack of mental health support facilities within the workplace - is there a place for Mental Health First Aiders? Absolutely! In this society of ever increasing demand and high expectations are we and our leaders doing enough to support mental health?
Lightbulb Solutions is providing a 2 day qualification on 8th & 9th of January open to all - contact Fiona to book to avoid disappointment and for an early bird rate! www.lightbulbleaders.com/contact
Followed by Ambassador Terry Flanagan who provided an update on his involvement with Tootoot the award winning platform and app used in schools colleges and universities to help combat bullying. The platform is constantly evolving and branching out more recently into sports clubs providing support to young people all over the country - check them out at www.tootoot.co.uk.
Terry also updated us on the current activities of our chosen charity Mahdlo who provide a huge range of activities at there state of the art youth zone in Oldham. An absolutely fantastic charity to support check out there work and how you can get involved at www.mahdloyz.org
And last but by no means least was our guest speaker Rugby league player Jon Wilkin.
Jon started off his talk with a run down of his sporting career to date, a fascinating story which included playing through a broken nose and some great tales of team nights out. Jon went on to talk about his other passion, coffee and his specialist coffee bar Pot Kettle Black - PKB. Located in Manchester’s Barton arcade an absolute must visit for coffee lovers! www.potkettleblackltd.co.uk
Jon spoke excitedly about his future career which included expanding to new sites with PKB and continuing his punditry with BBC. Something we all took away from Jons talk was his live by mantra of R.E.F :
Resilience - do not give up!
Enjoyment - enjoy what you do if you don’t change it!
Failure - this will only make you stronger learn from them and keep going!
To top off the event was our monthly raffle which saw David Wilcox Architect win a meal for two at Alberts Chop house and MPG member Jim Connell win the bottle of champagne!
Lots of networking and festive drinks followed another fantastic event from the Manchester Property Group.
For information on how to become a member please visit our membership page of the website www.mpg-nw.com
Our next event is 11th January 2018 where we have Phil Cusack Chairman Chambers of Commerce speaking
Blog by Sarah Peel
On 22 November Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his first Autumn Budget. The Budget had good news for the residential building sector as the Chancellor set an ambitious target of building 300,000 new homes per year – a target which has not been met since the 1970s.
The Chancellor placed a further £15.3 billion in new financial support to house builders, bringing the total to £44 billion. This included £1.2 billion for the Government to buy land to build more homes and £2.7 billion for infrastructure which supports housing.
This target will be difficult to reach, especially with developers’ margins being reduced to increase costs with shortages of trainee staff, funding and materials. The Chancellor hopes the increase in the number of homes will reduce house prices to allow housing to become more affordable. This would seem to be counterproductive.
The reduction of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) for first time buyers is welcome. The first £300,000 will be exempt from all duty and the next £200,000 will be at the reduced rate of 5%. While this will assist the market, note that this only applies to England and Northern Ireland, plus Wales until March 2018, who will then follow Scotland on having their own SDLT system.
There were also some negatives for the property industry in the Budget, including a crackdown on empty houses, with the Chancellor announcing that councils will be able to charge 200% of the normal council tax rate to unoccupied properties.
For property investment companies the allowance for inflation on the cost of property will stop in December 2017 so future Capital Gains Tax within companies will increase.
Overseas landlords on commercial properties will be subject to UK Capital Gains Tax from April 2019. It is proposed that only the gains from April 2019 value will be chargeable.
Additionally, overseas landlords operating as a company will switch from paying UK Income Tax to paying Corporation Tax. This allows the current interest restrictions and loss relief provisions to apply. The plan is to roll this out in April 2020.
For private landlords there is to be a review of the ‘Rent a Room’ relief and its future, whilst there was a relaxation of rules for property rental businesses to allow them to claim mileage rates from April 2018.
If you wish to discuss how these changes may affect your specific circumstances, please contact me or another member of the team.
Read our latest news blogs about our events and guest speakers.