Ben Verwaayen, CEO, BT Group

Ben Verwaayen kicked off FT Conferences' two-day telecoms event and batted not an eyelid as he was almost introduced as Mr Volkswagen.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Ben Verwaayen kicked off FT Conferences' two-day telecoms event and batted not an eyelid as he was almost introduced as Mr Volkswagen. He went for the pacing-tiger style as, without a note or slide, he set out his overview of the state of play. His message was simple: telecoms companies had spent the past few years rebuilding their balance sheets; now it was time to expand again with innovative services. 'Telecoms has become like oil. It is the vital ingredient for competitiveness in companies.' His big new thing was convergence between telecoms and IT - ICT is now the hip acronym in telecoms. But we've been hearing about convergence for years, and Verwaayen offered little new except to say that it really is coming and that companies will have to sharpen up to consumers' demands.

Before long, you'll be able to decide that what starts as a phone call to you can be turned into an e-mail. 'What's holding back the new stuff is all the old stuff,' he said. Most people would have to think when they last received a fax, but 'you probably received an e-mail in the last 12 minutes'.

Verwaayen is still very Dutch, but that makes him more interesting than his image. He could smarten up. He had a nice pink silk tie, but a crumpled grey suit with one pocket flap in and one out, and scruffy shoes. Maybe he's waiting for his bonus to kick in.

Key moment: The disclosure that it takes 100,000 computers to control the BT network. The company hopes to reduce that to 30,000 with the new one.

Key lesson: If you're on top of your subject, audiences find it impressive if you speak without notes or PowerPoint.

Silver tongue or foot in mouth?

Silver Tongue

Khalid Aziz, a visiting professor of business communications at Southampton University, chairs the Aziz Corporation - khalid@azizcorp.com.

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