The World’s Greatest Pitchman

Making a speech? Study this guy. No kidding

Picture this scenario in a packed auditorium:

  • A presenter carrying a laptop walks to the podium and begins to fiddle.
  • A long pause occurs as the big screen goes blank.
  • Then on-screen is the giant boot-up pattern of the speaker’s laptop.
  • After fussing with the cursor, the speaker clicks on an icon.
  • What follows: a series of slides, bulleted points, charts and graphs—all in mouse-type.
  • Not even those seated in the first row are able to read what’s on-screen.
  • The speaker—with eyes glued to the screen—reads the mouse-type in a halting monotone with zero audience eye contact and zero enthusiasm.
  • “Power corrupts,” said professor Edward Tufte. “PowerPoint corrupts absolutely.”

TV’s Greatest Pitchman
I vote for Kevin Trudeau.

Working from a home office, I frequently take a break and head for the kitchen—coffee or a bite of lunch. For company, I turn on the TV and channel surf.

Years ago an infomercial starring Kevin Trudeau would invariably come on screen.

Trudeau was selling books with titles like:

  • “The Weight Loss Cure (They Don’t Want You to Know About)”
  • “Debt Cures (They Don’t Want You to Know About)”
  • “Natural Cures (They Don’t Want You to Know About)”
  • “Free Money (They Don’t Want You to Know About)

As a salesman, Kevin Trudeau was mesmerizing

  • He did not use PowerPoint.
  • He was natural. I could not tell if he used a teleprompter.
  • He talked to a live audience, but his manner was so intimate I felt he was talking to me through the TV set.
  • Trudeau did not have a little microphone pinned to the top of his shirt. Nor was he wired-up with one of those weird ear attachments from which a distracting microphone hung next to his mouth.
  • Instead, a hand-held microphone was his one prop. It was the same model as those used by pop singers. However, musical performers frequently hold the mic right up to the mouth and scream into it. Not only loud, but their faces are mostly half-covered.
  • Trudeau kept his microphone at bay, always showing full face with many endearing expressions and never shouting.
  • Above all, he was enthusiastic, believable and radiated honesty.
  • Kevin Trudeau made millions. His weight loss book alone sold 850,000 copies and generated $39 million in revenue.

Takeaways to Consider

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at

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  • JerryS

    Personally, I think Billy Mays ran rings around Kevin – and Billy was never fined or ended up in jail. It’s just too bad he couldn’t stay from drugs and died so young (age 50).

  • Rainer Fischer

    "What a waste of a great talent." Right on.

  • What One Do?

    I agree that a great pitchman is something to admire and emulate, however, should we be glorifying swindlers and cheats? And what does it say to all of the great sales people out there who work hard at their craft without cheating people out their money?

  • Sales Professional

    Did you think about the implications of this article before you pushed the Send button? Your hero, Kevin, was fined millions of dollars and now is in jail for a reason. He is nothing but a silver-tongued crook. If you are going to glorify his ability to sell, then why not include Bernie Madoff? He bilked even more money from innocent people than Kevin. Or maybe Jim Jones? He convinced 918 people to commit suicide. Now that’s a piece of real selling. A true work of art, right? Using your forum to laud a person like this is inappropriate and irresponsible.

  • GeorgeM

    My mom told me that when I was 5 years old, she asked who I was watching on our black and white television. I said I was watching God. It was Bishop Fulton Sheen. Great presenters are a special class of talent in the category of great musicians or super athletes. All of them have human flaws that we tend to overlook while mesmerized by their grandeur. They are, literally, amazing. Thanks Denny!

  • Rik Shafer

    "You call a spade a spade. And what’s cool is nine times out of 10 you’re dead on the money."

    ONLY 9???