In 1992 Doug McWilliams won the Golden Guru Award for Best UK Economic Forecaster. But is he worthy of the coveted Silver Tongue Award? That's the real question. Well yes, but only just.
He was invited to give the keynote speech at the 1999 HR Summit in Amsterdam - where HR professionals get together to hear about the latest HR trends and talk to potential suppliers of services.
For an hour plus 20 minutes' questions the professor, who was once chief economist for IBM UK and now runs the Centre for Economics and Business Research, addressed 200 delegates. They'd had a long journey and it was just before dinner. It had to be good. It was, but he relied rather heavily on his intrinsic ability with the spoken word - the presentation was unstructured and at times bordered on the verbose.
He started by telling a joke against his profession - the one about economists' brains costing £5 million an ounce because you had to kill so many to find an ounce of brain. The audience also liked the one about the Clinton computer - a six-inch zip drive and no memory.
The speech, however, was an econospeak stream of consciousness with far too many graphs and slides. After half an hour it was clear that this was an 'off the shelf' number with little attention to the needs of his audience hungry for 'news you can use'. What they got was a lot of features about the economic outlook and not much translation into any benefits for them.
McWilliams has good natural speaking skills and a Pentium PIII brain. Unfortunately it runs ahead of his mouth. If he slowed down he'd have greater impact.
Key lesson: Be ruthless with time.
Key moment: The revelation that UK economics are tied much more to the US cycle than that of other EC countries.
Silver tongue or foot in mouth?