Brain Food: Speaking Out - Neil Holloway, President, EMEA, Microsoft

Accept an invitation to address the plenary session of the Global Leadership Summit 2005 and you'd better have something important to say.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Neil Holloway didn't. Here was a chance to give his London Business School audience some insight into the workings of the Microsoft mind, but he did little to address the title 'Creating Customer Value through Innovation'.

He'd looked bored all afternoon, and for good reason. First, LBS's professor of marketing told us the tired tale of the birth of the 3M Post-it note.

Then a VP of Orange read a turgid script that finished with the usual 'the future's bright, the future's Orange'. Holloway's failure to top this was quite a feat. His seven-minute speech had some stunning statistics, though. To date, a billion PCs have been shipped around the world, a figure that will double in the next three years, and Microsoft spends $7 billion a year on research. We could have heard more, but it wasn't forthcoming.

Holloway's delivery was plodding, with few highs and lows. He raised half a laugh when he told us 600 million people use Microsoft products worldwide, 'not all of them legally', but when he talked about future audiences having his slides and voice recording beamed to their handheld devices in real time we were past caring. Even current technology undermined him - the Holloway projected on the large screen was a full second out of sync with the live version. If you're talking innovation, get the existing stuff right first.

Key moment: None.

Key lesson: Don't accept big speaking engagements unless you're going to work at saying something interesting.

Foot in mouth? ...

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

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