To the Royal Society of Art on the Strand, where I'm chairing a public round-table discussion on Telecoms Leadership. A selection of senior bods (and one bodesse) from companies like BT, Cable and Wireless and Motorola are paraded before the attendees, and I attempt to steer the discussion into areas that I hope the audience will find interesting. It's mostly about convergence, wireless, the future shape of the industry and so on, and pace a rather slow beginning it seems to run OK.
I'm always very nervous on these occasions: it's worse than telly or radio, where there's an interviewer there to steer things and which in any case feel far more intimate, and it's more nerve-wracking than just giving a talk. There you can rehearse and have a degree of control over events: getting four opinionated alpha types to talk interesting stuff while avoiding marketing blurb or anodyne bluster is a skill I've got a lot to learn about.
There are few such lapses this time, although the BT man is a new hire following 10 years at Microsoft and he lapses into a short spiel on "how Microsoft is doing so much to sort out spam in Outlook" before being brought back to reality by a ripple of laughter from the audience and a pointed quip from C&W.
Still, it's a relief when the allotted hour is up and we enter the quarter hour of Q&A. The trouble with this is that a number of people have been saving up not Qs but enormous great statements of their view of the world. A chap from Qualcomm takes issue with the panel's view of 3G (which is not, it has to be said, positive) and lectures us on how amazingly successful it's been in America, while the ripest piece of cheese is delivered by a chap who writes for another IT publisher. He gets up on his hind legs and lets rip with his vision of the future, replete with his own special acronyms, backed up with a scathing critique of the way he thinks the discussion has gone. He has an amazingly loud voice too, so there's no chance of fading him out: microphones not required. I thank him sarcastically -- you don't really expect hecklers -- and finally find someone with a question.
I must learn to spot the troublemakers and avoid them.
We mingle with the crowd afterwards, where nibbles and wine are served. "At least you didn't embarrass yourself!" says one punter cheerfully, but redeems himself by being charmingly indiscreet over famous acquaintances. It transpires that Paul Allen -- co-founder of Microsoft -- is fond of popping over to see Dave Stewart, him off the Eurythmics. Stewart has project-itis; he can't stop making things happen and is involved in many whizzo schemes and wheezes. Paul Allen just likes hanging out and playing guitar with one of his heros, but of course gets to meet various interesting pals at the most inconvenient times. It sounds like a sitcom, but then so many tales of Mr Stewart do...