John Helmer: thought leadership

August 7, 2017

 

“I think it’s that one over there: the one with the bloke outside dressed like an ostler.”


Our cab disgorges us at a hotel in Knightsbridge, and my boss and I rush up the steps. Liveried staff show us to a private dining room, where I unload my laptop and plug it into the waiting plasma, and pull notebooks and charging leads out of my backpack. Tonight I am facilitating a discussion over dinner for a dozen or so Heads of Learning from large corporates. I’ll record what they say on my iPhone and my company will publish a report. Sounds like a doss, but actually it’s work.


Only what happens next is that I go to take a picture of the table setting but can’t because I’ve lost the phone. This is frankly so terrifying that my brain won’t take it in, and I search the pockets and pouches of my backpack three times over before admitting the truth to myself and rushing down to reception. 
“Happens all the time,” they say, and log me onto my iCloud account so I can put the phone into ‘lost’ mode. “It’ll be fine. Unless it’s stolen. By the way, your guests have started to arrive.”


“Bollocks, they’re half an hour early”. I fish one out of the bar on my way back up, a Hungarian woman with a brilliant smile who works for an online shopping site. I take her to the room where the canapes are served and introduce her to another guest. “This chef’s supposed to be top notch, so I hope you really are Hungary,” he quips.


Her smile disappears. “I’ve heard that one before.”


I introduce them both to the crew we’ve hired to film mini-interviews, and go back to the dining room to check my slides. I notice a really important quote has been missed off one of them – a quote that says how dependent we have all become on digital technology... oh yes, the irony. It’s like the universe is trying to kill me with irony. An irony coronary. I go back down to reception and by the miracle of GPS they show me on a computer screen exactly where my phone is. Parked outside the Victoria and Albert Museum, waiting for a fare. I left it in the cab.


Still, at least I have my laptop, which suddenly I remember I can use to record the dinner conversation. Except that the software screws up when I try a test and there is no possibility of making a recording. Nevertheless, things turn out OK – because our guests are happy and loquacious, because towards the end of the meal my phone is handed back to me, and because in some perverse way I actually enjoy scrawling fragmentary notes between mouthfuls of Michelin-starred food in a scruffy reporter’s notebook whose Cabernet-splashed pages hold the true and only record of the evening.

 

Illustration by Chris Riddell

 

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