Paul Walsh waited his turn to speak at a Business in the Community conference looking like a nightclub bouncer as he balefully surveyed his audience. Would it be a menacing presentation, I wondered?
He launched into a talk called 'Global Brands: Local Citizens', employing a good voice with a gentle and endearing Lancastrian accent He recounted how he joined Grand Metropolitan 20 years ago as a finance manager. Sadly, Walsh still presents like one. He wasn't helped by whoever wrote his speech, which was totally uninspiring and sprinkled with hackneyed phrases such as 'shared vision' and 'equitable partnership'.
The content was potentially quite exciting, particularly the story of the Portman Group, which brought drinks manufacturers together to provide education on the dangers and correct use of alcohol. But it was all high-level stuff with precious few examples. Walsh told us he was passionate about corporate social responsibility but did not sound it, even when he announced the launch of Engage, a new programme to help international employees become involved in their own communities. There was scarcely a flicker of interest in his voice.
Forget CSR. Business in the Community should exert its influence in championing better-spoken communications in boardrooms and beyond.
Key moment: Five hundred medical students a year receive their alcohol education from Portman (no doubt topped up by the Rose & Crown round the corner).
Key lesson: Anyone can read out loud. Making an effective speech requires much more input and effort.