Tight-lipped and ashen-faced, he surveyed his audience. As he waited for the last bum to hit the last seat, he cleaned his specs with his tie - classic displacement activity. Tim Waterstone, doyen of the speaking circuit, was nervous. Good. A speaker who isn't nervous will underperform. But why wait up-front? Better to stand to one side and make an entrance.
Like all good speakers, Waterstone told a story. His watchwords are 'openness and candour'. He was certainly candid. At the genesis of Waterstone's it was all going wrong. He'd just got divorced. His house was suffering from subsidence. He had only pounds 6,000 in cash. His ex father-in-law lent him pounds 16,000 'out of guilt', but he needed a total of pounds 100,000. He got a further pounds 4,000 from 3i, which introduced him to a bank that might give him the rest. Its manager asked for 16 copies of his business plan and took them on a training course to illustrate the type of business no self-respecting banker should invest in.
And so it went on. A gentle, revealing meander through the Waterstone phenomenon with homilies on entrepreneurialism and business ethics woven in. 'Don't worry about mission statements. Worry about a clear vision'; 'Deliver bad news like lightning'; 'Manage for cash - businesses with cash don't go bust'. He quoted Greg Dyke, who, arriving at the BBC, allegedly diagnosed it as 'over-managed and under-led'.
Key moment: The revelation that Waterstone was once engaged to the sister of the then 11-year-old James Dyson. Is entrepreneurialism genetically linked?
Key lesson: Telling it warts and all wins the audience.
Silver tongue or foot in mouth? Silver tongue.
Khalid Aziz is chairman of spoken communications specialist the Aziz Corporation - www.azizcorp.com.