Don's diary

February 27, 1998


A big presentation to give in Buenos Aires next Wednesday: 8,000 people. I have been invited by the Organisation of Services for Company Directors, a medicare foundation, to talk about work trends. There will be 1,000 people in the auditorium. The 90-minute talk will be broadcast by satellite to audiences in seven cities, who can fax questions after. I am often invited to talk but never on this scale. How do rock stars cope?


I check my presentation disc. It is in Powerpoint Version 7 - with plenty of graphics and visual movement. Important when you are talking to a non-English-speaking audience. It is even more important when your talk is being broadcast by satellite.


A glorious day. I have developed denial symptoms about the presentation. Instead of "internalising" it so I would not need notes, I sunbathe in the garden. Right until the taxi arrives for the airport at 4pm. Which airline am I flying with? The boarding card is Air Canada, the livery of the plane is Viva Air and the ticket code is Aerolineas Argentinas. That is the problem with strategic alliances. Business class with seats that almost collapse into beds, ideal for a good night's sleep.


Two am and I am still not asleep because the cabin crew insist on excelling in customer care. I decide to learn the presentation. Arrive in Buenos Aires at 1.20pm but by adjusting my watch to local time, I am back to 8.20am. I may have arrived but my luggage has not. Panic - my suit is in there. A group of us go to the officer in charge of baggage reclaim expecting confrontation but we get charm. No problem, this happens every Monday morning. "The luggage will be here in 30 minutes on the next flight from Madrid." For some strange reason there are two flights from Madrid within 30 minutes of each other. Probably another result of a strategic alliance. But sure enough, our luggage arrives.

I am met and driven to the Intercontinental Hotel in Buenos Aires. My suite of rooms is huge. I also check out the area where I will be giving the presentation. It is big. Spend the rest of the day touring the city, which is not what I expected. I conclude Buenos Aires is an upmarket version of a Spanish-speaking Italian town. But as everybody tells me, Argentina is not really South America.


I am introduced to my host organisation, the foundation, which has gown rapidly and is expanding into other countries in South America (the "real" South America, I am told). Five years ago, it organised one seminar with an invited international speaker. Today, thanks to sponsorship, it arranges an event every three months. I am told that this is the biggest event so far, and that all tickets went six weeks ago. This just makes me anxious. Can I deliver? No way can I let so many people down. I hope the computer graphics do the trick. There are posters with my photo on them everywhere.

In the evening, it is rehearsal time. There are two huge screens on either side of a large elevated stage. One for the Spanish and the other for the English version of the presentation. There will certainly be nowhere to hide. There are TV cameras and a control box for lights, sound, transmission etc. How much is this costing? I run through the graphics. Everything is fine. Everything is ready, but is my head? Today for me is a no alcohol day.


Wake up at 5am. Still not recovered from jet lag. Have breakfast. Take a swim. Do anything to relax. At 11am I am interviewed for a feature in a national newspaper that will appear on Sunday. The talk is scheduled for 3pm but by 1pm people are arriving.

At 3pm to the second, a television presenter introduces me. On cue, I get up from the audience and walk towards the stage. I start talking and press the mouse that kicks the graphics into action. We are off. My topic is the way in which information technology is leading to a fundamental restructuring of the global economy. Geography does not count, and medium and large-sized companies in Argentina can compete with European businesses for markets in Europe. Ninety minutes later - it seems like ten - it is over. Everything is now plain sailing.

At 6pm the event closes. The delegates and the foundation seem happy. The interpreters collapse in exhaustion and I take the lift up to my room. I have a drink. And another. At 9pm my charming guide takes me to a "themed" tango nightclub.


Lunch with senior foundation personnel. Everyone is relieved. In the afternoon I'm taken on a guided tour of Buenos Aires. It is a great city. In the evening I catch the night flight for Madrid, then on to London. On Monday it is back to the University of Kent for part one undergraduate seminars. Someone has to do it.

Richard Scase. Head of marketing and recruitment and professor of sociology and organisational behaviour at the University of Kent at Canterbury.

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