Making a speech to open the stylishly put together 'moving objects exhibition' at the Royal College of Art, celebrating 30 years of vehicle design, is a tall order.
It is an even bigger challenge to a designer. After all, designers express themselves principally on paper rather than through the spoken word. It becomes even more difficult when you have invited 300-plus people to the opening and then crammed them into a hot, low-ceilinged room.
But that was the task that befell J (sic) Mays, head of design for Ford Global. Yes, he is the man who is responsible ultimately for the shapes of one of the most popular brands of cars in the world.
Mays kept his comments to a well-measured five minutes. He quickly engaged his audience - primarily design students and graduates - by assuring them that he understood where everybody stood when it came to cars. 'If you take one thing away from this exhibition it should be this,' he said, 'nothing handles like a rental car!'
He then went on to hit us with his message - unsurprisingly that design was 'a good thing'. But he did it so enthusiastically and with so much passion that it really did make all the difference between an ordinary opening speech and a truly stunning one. Students of any kind are not notably open to over enthusiasm from someone twice their age speaking to them in a hot and sticky room, but they whooped and cheered at the end. He had moved them.
Key moment: Mays' insight into the human psyche. 'When you see someone in their home that is how they are. When you see them in a car that is how they would like to be.'
Key lesson: Engage your audience by celebrating their enthusiasms.
Silver tongue or foot in mouth?
Khalid Aziz, chairman, Aziz Corp e-mail: email@example.com.