What do you enjoy most about public speaking?
I love getting the feel of a room. I love turning sceptics around. You can see them melt as you start speaking; watching them transform as you speak is massively fulfilling.
There is nothing like the live performance where it is just you, some well-designed slides and a tiny microphone, and it is up to you to take the audience through a journey of twists and turns, highs and lows that leaves them feeling that they made good use of their time that day
The most interesting person you’ve ever met?
My wife and, increasingly, my children. Their brilliance astounds me.
Your best audience to date?
No single audience - but the ones that give me their energy. Occasionally, I have audiences that absorb what I tell them and can leave me quite drained; the best are audiences that energise me. When that glorious feedback loop works optimally, it’s magical.
A very awkward moment? Or a time you were lost for words?
There was a time when I’d thanked Bill and Hillary Clinton for traveling to SA to share their wisdom with 4000 of SA’s most high-powered businesspeople at the Sandton Convention Centre. As they were leaving the stage, I was told to pad as President Cyril Ramaphosa wanted to have a quick word with them as they were leaving, before he would finish his talk. After what seemed like an eternity and with no signal from the organisers, I was wondering whether my store of witty anecdotes was running thin and I announced I was going hunting for the president, who, as it turned out was waiting patiently to be called up. I’d just not got the message. The longest seven minutes of my life.
There was also the time during the dying days of the Zuma administration when I arrived at a staff gathering of a bank’s credit card division. It was pandemonium. The Hawks had just charged Pravin Gordhan in a very obvious ploy to intimidate him in the early stages of the now long running battle against state capture. Everyone was on their phones. There was no time to adapt my slides as they were lined up and ready to go. I managed to get hold of the charge sheet, which was obviously, even to my untrained eye, spurious, at best. The MC called me up. I called for the head of legal affairs to come up and see the charge sheet. She concurred that the charges would never stand up in court and the tone of the room changed immediately. People put down their phones and listened to the talk. Years of radio experience teaches you to think on your feet and make use of all resources at your disposal in a tight spot.
Don’t get me started on the day, in the early days of load shedding before our radio studios had proper systems in place, when there was a power cut which meant just one microphone was working. While speaking, I frantically gestured to my studio guest, whom I’d just met moments before, that he would have to scoot around the desk and sit on my lap so that we could have a seamless conversation, sharing a single mic without anyone knowing the chaos unfolding around us, with technicians scrambling around the ﬂoor at our feet. We did it. No-one knew. But he does still look at me strangely when we meet from time to time.
A time you were starstruck?
I do try not to be. But it was great to meet Richard Quest in Davos in 2020 after years of phone interviews. He has a remarkable presence, a brilliant mind and a razor-sharp wit. Also, he is a really nice guy. There was of course Nelson Mandela, but my kids are sceptical of my credentials on this one as it was in the days before selfies.
Explain compound growth in a sentence?
Making money while you sleep.
Your favourite number and why?
My bank balance at the end of a particularly productive month.
Someone you admire and why?
My Dad. At 92 he plays golf twice a week. He has the charm of George Clooney, the looks of a movie star, the wisdom of Solomon, and the sparkle of fine champagne.
Your view on the South African economy in a nutshell?
Full of extraordinary opportunity.
Advice you’d give your children?
Whatever you choose to do, make a difference. Make your story matter.
An instantly recognisable ‘Brucism’… something you say a lot?
Something few people know about you?
I’m really quite nice.