"Power Corrupts. PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely."--Edward Tufte
How Harvey Mackay saved the day!
I have been going to Direct Marketing Days New York (DMDNY) for 40 years.
In the early days, the conference was held every year at the Hilton Hotel & Towers. The booths on the exhibit floors seemed jammed together and the aisles narrow so you had to bump into people and make eye contact. The speakers had all rehearsed their presentations down to a gnat's eyebrow. The seminar rooms were mostly small, which meant a SRO crowd. The electricity in the air was palpable.
But DMDNY got greedy to get bigger. It moved to perhaps the dreariest venue in the world, the Javits Center on the far West Side of Manhattan. The place is so grotesquely out of the way that the lines of people waiting in 90-degree heat for taxis can stretch half the length of a football field. No decent restaurant is anywhere nearby. The final knife in the gut of the conference was its acquisition by the Direct Marketing Association, an organization that apparently judges the success of a convention by how much real estate the exhibit hall can cover.
Instead of an intimate, high energy gathering, it has become a listless, sparsely attended affair with wide aisles, little eye contact and exhibitors spending much of the time talking to one another.
But what is really killing it is PowerPoint.
Reporting on a conference
My favorite technique in covering a convention is to drop in on every session, wait for a pithy, information-rich quote delivered with relish that elicits gasps of astonishment from a surprised audience. Then I move on to the next session. The result, a story filled with hot quotes that not only fascinate the reader but also generates interest in the presenters and their services.
On day one of DMDNY, I attended the keynote session in the early morning. The opening address was by Donald Evans, former Secretary of Commerce. He was elegantly dressed and had stage presence, but his delivery was so-so. After a few pleasantries, he announced the meat of his talk--how optimistic he was about the U.S. economy and all the wonderful things Bush 43 was doing for it. In my opinion, the current Commerce Secretary, Carlos Gutierrez, is an articulate, charismatic, Horatio Alger-type guy who would keep my fingers flying across the keyboard at 65 wpm for the full 50 minutes. Alas, his predecessor came across as an empty suit--out of office and parroting the same information I get from the 20 or more news sources I scour every morning about an administration he was not a part of. It was clear Donald Evans would not be making any news, so I left.
I then went into some of the breakout sessions in my quest for quotes and came up dry. Picture if you will a speaker at a podium staring into a laptop computer with PowerPoint slides on a screen. At the adjoining table are three or four panelists, each with a laptop and surrounded by seemingly more wires than McDonald's has Freedom Fries. Each time a new panelist is introduced, a weird seated dance occurred. The laptop at the podium is clumsily passed left and the new speaker's laptop passed right with eight desperate hands trying to deal with the hopelessly tangled skein of wires. Finally, when the new speaker and laptop get to the podium, a long pause occurs as the screen goes blank, then to a test pattern, then to the boot-up pattern of the new speaker's computer. After fussing around with the cursor, the new speaker clicks on an icon and on screen appears a series of unreadable mousetype bulleted points that the speaker starts reading to the audience. For the most part, the speeches were poorly rehearsed and haltingly delivered, with zero eye contact, not one scintilla of enthusiasm or excitement and punctuated with occasional pathetic little attempts at humor.
Enter Harvey "Mr. Make Things Happen" Mackay!
Harvey Mackay is founder of the $100 million Mackay Envelope Company, a syndicated columnist, inspirational speaker and author of four New York Times bestsellers that have sold millions of copies, been translated into 35 languages and distributed in 80 countries. His titles include "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," "Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt," and "Sharkproof: Get the Job You Want, Keep the Job You Love."
The 72-year-old Mackay, who was a keynote speaker at DM Days New York, marched to the podium, shook hands with his introducer and promptly strode past the podium to the front of the stage and flashed a dazzling smile. Dressed in an elegantly tailored blue suit that was accented by a bright red tie and matching red pocket square, Mackay has a square jaw and a rugged, tan face beneath a full head of beautifully trimmed white hair.
No PowerPoint here. On the two giant screens on either side of the stage was Harvey Mackay live and twice as large as life. He spent 50 minutes regaling his audience with anecdotes, bon mots, business philosophy and an endless string of ideas on how to push the envelope and differentiate yourself from rest of the herd. A few of the highlights:
* Mackay Envelope salesmen do not make cold calls. Before making an appointment, the prospect is Googled and everybody who may be a friend or colleague is called in order to get as much information as possible, right down to hobbies and names and ages of children. This data are filled in on the "Mackay 66 Customer Profile" (http://www.mackay.com/howhelp/Mac66.html), which is kept in a confidential file and added to as more information becomes available. His rationale:
It's critical to have information about your customer. Armed with the right knowledge, we can outsell, outmanage, outmotivate and outnegotiate our competitors. Knowing your customer means knowing what your customer really wants. Maybe it's your product, but maybe there is something else, too: recognition, respect, reliability, service, friendship, help--things all of us care more about as human beings than we care about malls or envelopes. Once you attach your personality to the proposition, people start reacting to the personality, and stop reacting to the proposition.
* The Mackay Envelope Company mission statement is very simple--just five words. "TO BE IN BUSINESS FOREVER."
* If you find something you love to do, you'll never work a day in your life.
* Mackay Envelope people love their work and say "TGIM!" (Thank God it's Monday!)
* Once asked how many sales people Mackay Envelope has, Mackay replied that he had 600. "Six hundred sales people!" the person exclaimed. "I cannot believe that. How many employees do you have?" Mackay replied, "Six hundred."
* A goal is a dream with a deadline.
* Never be bound by rigid perceptions, Mackay said. He pointed out that for hundreds of years the four-minute mile was deemed an impossibility. Man's lungs were too small, his legs were too short, his frame too puny. On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister ran a mile in 3:59.4. Later that year, three others ran a sub-four-minute mile and hundreds have done it since.
* Every time comedian Red Buttons would make an appearance, he would collect names and addresses and business cards of people on the committee that invited him. When he got back to his hotel room that night, he would write their Christmas cards and address their envelopes. When the cards arrived the following December, people thought he was a genius for remembering so much about them.
* "Nobody remembers Christmas cards. At Mackay Envelope we send Thanksgiving cards. People remember those."
Harvey Mackay is a star with star looks, star charisma and star power.
The only power he lacks is PowerPoint.
* Have the text in front of you--printed in very big type. The analogy is that of an orchestra conductor who knows the music so well that the score in front of him is for occasional reference only.
* President Bush and members of his administration are given loose-leaf notebooks containing each speech and they turn pages as they proceed. I suspect the president has the invisible glass TelePrompTer system to his right and left so he can maintain eye contact with his audience while he is also reading his speech. If so, he turns the pages of the loose-leaf book as back up, just as the conductor turns the pages of the score at the same time he is making eye contact with the musicians.
* Rather than the loose-leaf notebook, professional speechmakers and presenters more likely have the speech printed in large type as a loose manuscript on the podium. Rather than turning the pages, which is obvious to the audience, they unobtrusively slide the finished pages to one side while maintaining eye contact with the audience.
* Remember, PowerPoint was never used by the great communicators of our time--Winston Churchill, Huey Long, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Suze Ormond, Billy Graham, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Jimmy Swaggert and members of Congress.
* An actor friend of mine once spent a long alcoholic evening with John Carradine, who pointed out that young and inexperienced stage actors who find themselves losing the interest of the audience start to talk louder. Seasoned performers know different. When the audience starts to get restless, they begin to speak softer and softer, forcing the audience to lean forward in order to hear. Once attention has been regained, increase the volume again.
* In short, audiences come to see and hear YOU, not to ooh and aah over your art director's clever PowerPoint slides.
Web Sites Related to Today's Edition
You are urged to click on some of the hyperlinks below and come away with a blizzard of world-class business tips, ideas and actionable advice you can take to the bank, as well as order Harvey Mackay's books.
And be sure to download Mackay's checklist of 35 invaluable tips and tricks for giving speeches in any setting
PowerPoint Is Evil
By Edward Tufte
Harvey Mackay's Private Website
The Mackay 66 Customer Profile
Mackay's 10 Biggest Networking Mistakes
Mackay's Checklist to Rate Your Competitor
Public Speakers 35-point Checklist