By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Try to come off not as a salesperson, but as an expert adviser.
Give buyers choices: Shall we meet at your home or your business? Today at 3:00, or tomorrow at 9:00?
Don't saycost, saytotal investment ortotal amount. Don't saysign the contract, sayauthorize the agreement.
Men, check your beards for stragglers after lunch.
Match your prospect's speech patterns.
Say this out loud three times a day: Today I will win, because I have faith, courage, and enthusiasm.
Hopkins's tips seem to run 180 degrees counter to Mackay's and Covey's insistence that the real key to success is having something the world wants and offering it up in a principled manner. But people are writing down his instructions as fast as he can spit them out. He builds to pitching his collected works, on sale in the lobby.
Next there's a grown-up Valley Girl speaker coach who does a funny bit on presentation mistakes, ranging from over-reliance on PowerPoint slides to making sure that your shirt is properly buttoned.
By now I've heard enough of this to pick up on some of the formula. We raise our hands a lot. We are asked to agree a lot. Each speaker mentions some early mentor, a high school teacher, coach, or in two cases, one's long-suffering single mother. There are typically some funny, pointed stories (which Lenny astutely describes as "competitive cruelty"). There are some statistics, perhaps a study, and quotations from a handful of big thinkers on their own moments of failure or self-doubt. Two of today's speakers quoted Helen Keller.
Inevitably, every talk winds around to the new, less secure economic era--67 percent of jobs in this country "soon" will be part-time jobs with no benefits--after which the speaker argues that surviving the change is a matter of choice.
The last speaker of the day is the only African American on the bill, Les Brown. His speech is entitled "Overcoming Adversity," and the adversity part is pretty compelling. His mother was a domestic in Miami Beach, and along with hand-me-downs from the wealthy families she worked for, she brought home tales of the spiritual impoverishment that accompanied their plenty. Brown credits her with teaching him to look beyond his circumstances.
"Most people never achieve their goals because they suffer from possibility blindness," he insists. "The most difficult thing I've ever done is to believe that I could do what I have done.... I am a speaker."
This is resonating with two middle-aged black men sitting in front of me. They're nodding and clapping and answering back like members of a congregation. One of them is wearing impeccably clean pieces from three different suits. I wonder whether, like Lenny, they got their tickets for free. I also wonder whether they really believe that one's mindset is the biggest obstacle to getting ahead in America.
THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING
At lunch on day one, I sit next to two people who used to work together. They still work for the same company, but one of them transferred offices and they're catching up. When I sit down, the woman is complaining nonstop about someone named Felicia. Felicia wants to move to Peru. Felicia has visited Peru, but the woman still thinks Felicia has no idea what she's doing.
The man, meanwhile, wants to talk about the workshop. "You need this kind of pep talk if you're in sales, or if you own your own business," he says.
She looks at him, brow furrowed, and keeps ragging on Felicia. Back and forth they go. Eventually, he sets down his fork and starts to defend Felicia's decision. Why shouldn't she move to Peru? Her chance to do something daring like this is while she's young. Plus, she's got a great marriage, so she has someone to share her adventure.
Apparently, this is too good a segue for the woman to let pass. She lets up on Felicia but starts complaining about her year-old marriage, which is much harder than she thought it would be. Her dining companion takes one more shot. He's recently divorced, he confides, and trying to look on it as an opportunity to make some big changes. He's excited to be at the event, and really ready to hear so many people talk positively about reinventing yourself. She gives him the same squinty look, and returns to complaining about her husband.
By the time I leave, they've both fallen to dissing Felicia.
THE GLOBAL VISION
Things get started very slowly the next morning. The folks who put on this event, BetterLife Media, have plans to start a television "life improvement" channel and they're taping these speeches to repackage as their first 12 shows. To that end, they're trying to get us all to move down into the front rows and into the center seats so they can tape an audience in the throes of motivational rapture.
The same thing occurred yesterday between speakers, as the number of people present dwindled. Despite the fact that they told us last night we could all bring a friend for free today, this morning there are even fewer people.
"Help us set the stage," BetterLife co-founder Eric Worre keeps saying. "You'll have a better experience down here, I promise." Those of us who are here don't appear inspired to move, and it's turning into a minor standoff. The first speaker should have taken the stage some time ago.