Speaking Out

Nicholas Negroponte - Weisner Professor of media technology, M.I.T. What better way to ensure good early attendance than to jet in a distinguished professor to give the kick-off address?

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

What better way to ensure good early attendance than to jet in a distinguished professor to give the kick-off address? Negroponte has been right about most things techno and the Marketing Society booked him to top the bill at its annual summit. His subject was 'What will matter most to customers', but we heard rather more about 'What most customers will get from telecoms and consumers electronics'.

Not that he started badly. 'I'm not going to use any visuals, video or – perish the thought – PowerPoint. Instead, I hope the pictures I paint with words will be better.' Sadly, they weren't. He had interesting things to say: an entire national telecoms network was installed in Bolivia by Ericsson in just one month. Indeed, there were probably too many interesting things to say as Negroponte, pacing within a self-imposed three-metre box, tried to string them into a coherent stream. But the ideas and facts came out in a torrent, leaving the audience to pick out the bones.

We were invited to examine the world he called 'bits and atoms'. The imminent thing in telecoms is CDMA, which will be with us soon. It stands for... well, he didn't tell us. He was running out of time. Now it was time to look at consumer electronics. 'Complexity is out of control,' he said. The MIT prof realised he didn't have an ending, so: 'Er... that's it.'

Key moment: The idea that 'the last person to listen to is the customer'.

Key lesson: Being an expert requires you do more preparation to ensure your presentation has a cogent start, middle and end.

Silver tongue or foot in mouth? Foot in mouth

Khalid Aziz, a professor of business communications at Southampton University, is chairman of the Aziz Corporation – khalid@azizcorp.com

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