UK: BRAIN FOOD - Matters for the mind to chew on - Speaking out - Lord Marshall, Chairman, BA.

UK: BRAIN FOOD - Matters for the mind to chew on - Speaking out - Lord Marshall, Chairman, BA. - Edited by RHYMER RIGBY: rhymer.rigby@haynet.com.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Edited by RHYMER RIGBY: rhymer.rigby@haynet.com.

The menu promised: 'How to retain the best people in a modern setting.' Who better to answer this question than Lord Marshall, chairman of BA and trustee of the Conference Board, an organisation of 400 corporate members and 1,000 individuals who come together to share best practice.

Rather strangely, Marshall used the occasion to promote Britain's entry to the single currency. That might have been forgivable had he not fallen into the classic chairman's trap - his words had clearly been penned by someone else. Marshall rose, wrestled with the microphone, then promptly (although now slightly off mike) launched into his speech. He soon settled into a classic droning delivery, stressing every seventh word whether it required stress or not. We had to wait 15 minutes before hearing a passing reference to the advertised subject of the speech.

Given the audience was predominately human resources directors, Marshall's writer might have given more of a nod in that direction. Securing a captain of industry often involves a trade-off between relevance and the needs of the speaker to advance his view of the world, but here the balance just was not right.

A flash of brilliance did come at the end in the form of some Shakespeare-inspired sideswipes at the Cranfield University programme of management development. The best was a line about how managers might learn to control head count through studying Henry VIII. This brought a much-needed laugh - so at least Marshall left us on a high note.

Key moment: Marshall manages to be both funny and relevant with his Henry VIII gag.

Key lesson: Avoid giving a boring delivery of someone else's words. Silver tongue or foot in mouth? Khalid Aziz, chairman, Aziz Corp

e-mail: khalida@azizcorp.com.

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