Luckily a White Knight leapt up from the audience, in the form of Geoff Lindy, a senior fund manager at JP Morgan and himself a former leading light on the NAPF's council. Mr Lindy uses exactly the same strength glasses as Ms Ruddick, and she was able to read her speech notes on encouraging greater shareholder activism with no further incident.
At least she didn't make a spectacle of herself (sorry).
THE GOVERNMENT is feeling a bit sensitive about its scheme to sell half the nation's gold reserves, not least since it has managed to unite Nelson Mandela, the trade unions and the Tories in vehement opposition.
Just how sensitive emerged last Wednesday, my Whitehall spies tell me, when James Motlatsi, the head of the South African mineworkers union, unexpectedly bumped into Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, at a London drinks reception - without a Government spin doctor in sight. Whitehall officials had told Mr Motlatsi he would only be meeting civil servants, not ministers.
The union leader takes up the story. "I was at a cocktail party and Gordon Brown was there. I met with him and I greeted him," he said.
"But even before I could say a word he said: `Let's not discuss this here. I know you are meeting with my department tomorrow', and within a second he had disappeared."
Mr Motlatsi said: "I think the Labour government has taken a political decision to run away from us."
A Treasury spokesman said the Chancellor behaved entirely appropriately. "Meetings had been scheduled and they took place as planned," he said.
ANDRE ENGELHARDT, a German businessman, reckons he is about to reap the rewards of an investment he made in 1997. A few days after the Princess of Wales' fatal crash Mr Engelhardt paid DM200 for a German patent on the brand name "Lady Di". He is about to launch a range of skimpy, lacy underwear under the brand, using the advertising slogan "the secret of a perfect body", alongside perfumes named "Touch of Romance" and "Royal Esprit".
The underwear manufacturer involved, Klaus-Juergen Kubach, can't see why there should be any fuss about using the name of someone who has just died to make money.
"Nobody bothers about Mozart balls these days," he argues, referring to chocolate-covered or spherical marzipan sweets wrapped in paper carrying portraits of the composer who died in 1791.
I WAS intrigued to learn that the codename for the recent merger talks between London law firm Clifford Chance and the American outfit Rogers & Wells was "Project Water".
Does this mean the new entity, the largest law firm in the world, will be flush with cash - or just a damp squib?
Speaking of which, lawyers are a surprisingly vulnerable bunch, if a survey from the NatWest Professions Unit is anything to go by. It found that 44 per cent of the lawyers surveyed would not tell people at a dinner party what they did for a living, and a further 10 per cent would choose to weigh up the situation first before coming clean about their job.