This year's Leading Edge conference gave young managers the opportunity to learn how to influence the culture and performance of their company. Sarah Dowding reports Making An Impact was the title of this year's Leading Edge convention ­ and it certainly lived up to its name. The day opened with fireworks and a short film modelled on the trailer for the film Mission Impossible ll. More than 250 delegates attended the conference held at Royal Institute of British Architects headquarters in central London. It had attracted 470 applications from Leading Edge members The first section dealt with ways companies could make their presence felt in the food industry. Clive Beddall, editor of The Grocer, interviewed chief executive of the IGD Joanne Denney on her view of the industry today. Director of communications for Safeway Kevin Hawkins followed with a talk on how the supermarket chain had turned round their fortunes with suppliers, customers and competitors with the Carlos Phenomenon'. The final part of this section was conducted by Melanie Copeland, account director with Bartle Bogle Hegarty, who told delegates how to make the most of brands, emphasising the need for each to have a unique visual culture. The second section of the conference looked at how individuals could make a difference in their organisations. A talk by Alan Clayton from highlighted ways to influence for either short or long-term change. Graham Prentice, director of human resource development for Nestlé, explained the difference between positional power ­ the ability to pull rank ­ and personal power ­ a more desirable attribute. The ability to exercise personal power requires self-belief and a rapport with others. Prentice recommended constant reflection and focusing on past successes in order to project the associated feelings onto a future task. His words struck a chord with many delegates who said they would be putting the techniques into practice. After lunch Michael Maynard from Maynard Leigh Associates stormed onto the stage with his humorous and powerful account of how to give the perfect presentation. His life's aim, he said, was to stop people giving boring presentations ­ or imposing death by PowerPoint as he put it. Five Ps' were key to a good presentation, he said: - Preparation ­ know your content, practice it. - Purpose ­ why are you there, what do you want the audience to gain? - Presence ­ stand tall and proud. - Passion ­ be enthusiastic about your topic. - Personality ­ be yourself and let it shine through. The final section of the convention was devoted to managing the impact of change, introduced by director of community affairs and trade relations for McVitie's Alan Coates. Coates outlined the main changes to the food industry during the past 30 years and told delegates of the changes that had to be managed at United Biscuits as a result of the merger of the McVitie's and KP divisions of the group. The final guest speaker was John Peters, the pilot who was shot down over Iraqi territory during the Gulf War. He and his navigator were captured and subjected to four days mental and physical torture before being forced to appear on Iraqi television. The two men then endured seven weeks of further torture and interrogation that tested them to the limit, he said. His talk was passionate, powerful and moving, and will be remembered by delegates for a long time to come. My thanks to all the day's speakers and the Leading Edge members who took part. Planning for the 2001 conference has already begun in earnest, to ensure that it will be even better than this year. {{LEADING EDGE }}