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Interview An Interview with David Rowan

An Interview with David Rowan

The former editor-in-chief of WIRED magazine's UK edition from 2009 to 2017, David Rowan is a keynote speaker on the corporate circuit who shares his insights into consumer behaviour, the digital era, social commerce and media.

David Rowan

What tech can you personally not leave the house without?

My life is in my MacBook Air. It contains slides from my last 150 presentations, details of every plane I need to catch, a thousand notes packed with trends and insights. I'd be naked without it.

How did you get into corporate speaking?

I've always been a journalist and broadcaster, so the stage is just a more interesting platform for storytelling. Through my job editing WIRED magazine, I get to meet so many of the people changing the world – from start-up founders to scientists and inventors - that I come away with compelling stories that I just like to share. And so much of what I learn from the front lines of innovation is so important for the corporate audiences to understand. So, the corporate stage proved an inevitable attraction.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?

Being taken seriously by the geeks of Silicon Valley when secretly I can't adjust my thermostat, let alone code a web page.

Why do you enjoy being a speaker?

First, it's real-time feedback. That's precious to an editor of a monthly publication. Second, I learn as much from the people I meet at events as they do from me. And third - what's more fun than telling stories?

If you could speak at any event, past or future, what would it be?

It would have been fun speaking in Versailles when they were signing that rather troublesome treaty after the first world war. I'd like to think I'd have warned the victorious powers that maybe the severity of the terms being dictated could possibly have caused a later aftershock. Though I imagine I'd have got too excited about some new battlefield technology that I'd have forgotten to warn about a second world war.

What do you see as the future for the press?

We'll continue to need trusted journalists to probe, ask questions, investigate, report and entertain. But we probably won't read their journalism on printed paper for very long - and they may have to find new funding models as advertising drops off, from events to philanthropy.

Who would you most like to share a platform with?

It was fun interviewing Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak on stage - sadly I never got to interview Steve Jobs. Today's iconic entrepreneur is Elon Musk, who has a spaceship company as well as an electric-car company. He's not that comfortable at public speaking, but I figure I could get a story or two out of him.

What can a corporate audience learn from your experiences?

How to keep their businesses from becoming irrelevant this year or next year. And how to use technology-led disruption to their advantage.

What personal ambition must you fulfill before you die?

The inventor Ray Kurzweil thinks we'll all become immortal sometime around the year 2045 - which wouldn't be a bad ambition to fulfil. More realistically, I'd like to give a talk in space. At least if I left my audience feeling queasy, I'd have an excuse.

What’s your favourite way to spend a Sunday?

A run and swim on Hampstead Heath with friends, a cycle outing with kids, and then being the last person on the airplane to go and give a talk in some unexplored far-flung place. Well, journalists need to rush up against deadlines, don't we?

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