Image-wise, David Varney doesn't have a lot going for him. With his bald pate and beard, he looks like a mad professor straight out of a Gerry Andersen puppet series. Not to worry, though. As chairman both of mmO2 and Business in the Community, he had great examples to illustrate his theme of corporate social responsibility. The problem was, it took him more than 10 minutes to get to it. Why? Because of the leaden prose of the awful speechwriter, who clearly doesn't understand the difference in structure and form between the written and spoken word. Combine that with a dreary, one-pitch voice, and the audience at the Institute of Directors convention began to drift off under the Morphean influence of such tired words as 'stakeholder' and 'strategic'.
We came to when he told us about something we hadn't heard before - coltan. Vital for making mobile phone components, coltan is mined in Australia and the Congo. With the boom in mobiles, coltan has jumped in price from dollars 30/lb to dollars 350/lb. Illegal mining in the Congo threatens the habitat of the lowland gorilla. A hue and cry is being got up and even Leonardo Di Caprio (Varney raised a laugh by calling him 'that seasoned guardian of the environment') is calling for gorilla-safe phones.
If only Varney had started with: 'I want to tell you about Leonardo Di Caprio, the gorilla and the mobile'. We'd have been on the edge of our seats.
Key moment: The suggestion that the war in the Congo has been sustained by the quest for coltan.
Key lesson: Start your presentation with a real grabber, otherwise you might never get your audience back.
Foot in mouth?