Stop & Examine
Hosting a virtual conference.
“And it wasn’t just the conference. I was also co-hosting the industry’s supply chain awards ceremony with pop impresario and rail enthusiast Pete Waterman, including a cocktail-making masterclass. This became one of the most bizarre things I have ever done.
“As we did a last-minute technical check, Pete caught me out by appearing in formal evening wear, so I had to dash to the wardrobe in search of a black tie I hadn’t worn in nearly a year.
“Moments later, we launched into the event - Pete at his home in Cheshire, me in my kitchen in Wiltshire, followed by cameras and blinded by studio lights, chopping a lemon and chucking gin into an old jam jar - because I don’t have a cocktail shaker.
“But guess what? It actually worked. I didn’t think it would. Two Government Ministers, a Shadow Secretary of State, both the Chairman and Chief Executive of Network Rail, the new Transport Commissioner for London, and more top-table captains of the rail industry than you could imagine, all joined me virtually in my study at home, debating questions submitted by a Zoom audience that none of us could see.
“Fortunately, I’ve known many of these people for decades. The rapport was there, without the stilted false bonhomie and chasms of painful silence that online meetings so often produce.
“Without exception, everyone stepped up to the plate. These people aren’t broadcasters. They don’t talk into cameras for a living. This was well outside their comfort zone. If they can lead from kitchen tables, spare bedrooms and home offices in this peculiar brave new world, the railway is surely in safe hands.”