Seize the Day!

Yesterday I attended a wonderful event called “Seize the Day,” in which 11 speakers discussed business, motivation and personal empowermentover 8 hours. The presenters in order of appearance were Les Brown, Tom Hopkins, Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, Phil Town, Ben Stein, Laura Bush, Than Merrill, John Smoltz, John Maxwell, and Terry Bradshaw. This post is not a full recap, but I will mention some highlights.

As a Toastmaster and aspiring professional speaker, I arrived eagerly anticipating the speeches from Les Brown and John Maxwell. However, I took notes on all* the presenters–not just what they said, but what they did. Some of these nuances are things I would have changed, and some are things I’d like to emulate in my own future presentations. Therefore, in this post, I’ll give you a list of quotables and speaker evaluations.

Highlights and Quotes

Les Brown – “Some people are so negative, they can walk into a dark room and develop.” Detailed post forthcoming.

Tom Hopkins – “To succeed in business, you have to become a master questioner.” Detailed post forthcoming.

Sarah Palin* – I didn’t review her. As soon as she greeted us, I took off to get my breakfast, and when I returned 20 minutes later, a break was in process. The last time I attempted to “hear her out” was during her hour-long interview with Oprah, and I honestly don’t have anything favorable to say about Ms. Palin. But to be fair, I asked someone else about any takeaways from her speech, and he remarked that he started drifting off as she talked, but overall felt that the things she said were not applicable to the purpose of this conference (business/leadership/motivation).

Bill O’Reilly – “You can almost always turn a negative into a positive… When you do something you like to do, and you get paid to do it, that’s success.” Detailed post forthcoming.

Phil Town – “It’s important who your teacher is.” He studied investing under a person who learned from Warren Buffett.

“Almost everybody who gets rich [does so by] owning [pieces of] businesses. Ask yourself 3 things before deciding to invest with a company [that is, buy their stock]: 1) What do you know about the company, 2) Does it have a big moat (a great brand that is hard to compete with), and 3) What do you know about their management? ”

“Warren Buffett said Rule#1 is: Don’t lose money. Rule #2: Don’t forget Rule #1.” I’ll be attending his Rule #1 workshop next week, and I’ll share things that I think may help you financially.

Ben Stein – “Saving is unbelievably basic. Get a basic foundation of saving and investing carefully.”

“I live near stars like Barbra Streisand, Nick Nolte, and Beyonce, but the real stars are teachers, firefighters, police, military, and people taking care of the disabled–not performers. We should respect them a lot more. We can live without Wall Street and Hollywood, but we can’t live without our military because they give us freedom.”

His closing: “We ask God to go to work for our great country, but God’s work is our work.”

Laura Bush – She started out briefing us on the goings on of her Bush in-laws, her husband and kids. She then introduced  her talk as “a heroine’s transition into an uncertain century.” She said that upon beginning the 8-year term, people wanted to assign a personality to her, asking if she would be like Barbara Bush or Hillary Clinton. She replied that she would be like Laura Bush, as she has gotten to know her[self] pretty well over the years. She recounted 9/11, but not Katrina. To her critics and others who complained about her and her husband’s motives, she said, “I know who I am, and I know who George is.” I appreciated that she mentioned the Obamas but did not criticize them like Bill and Ben did.

Than Merrill – This speech about flipping houses was the hardest one for me to pay attention to, but I caught one thing: “When you wanna get somewhere, you study somebody. Tony Dungy is my life mentor. He’s a man of faith, he controls his team without yelling or cussing, and he’s the first African American man to lead a team to the Superbowl.”

John Smoltz – “Never think you’ve made it. Someone is always waiting to take your spot, so don’t get complacent and think that you’ve arrived.”

“To be great, you need tension. God will stretch you and use tension to create movement. Stretch your comfort zone and achieve greatness.”

“If you complain, compromise, or water down, you won’t be great.”

“Never be the one on the sidelines watching someone and saying, ‘Oh, I could’ve done that.’ ”

“If you let fear stop you, you’ll never grow. But you will experience success if you keep on.”

“You’ve got to experience failure to appreciate success. SUCCESS = Striving Under Constant Challenges, Enduring Stressful Situations. FAILURE =  Fear And Insecurity Lead to UnRealistic Expectations.”

John Maxwell – Opening sentiment: “Let your children live and give you grandchildren. Grandchildren are God’s reward for not killing your children.” He talked about attitude, adding value, and assessment. Detailed post forthcoming.

Terry Bradshaw – “A bad day is when all three of your ex-wives have made the Forbes richest list and you haven’t.” Terry was by far the most hilarious and animated speaker of the day, Terry has a way of storytelling I never knew about. Terry mentioned that he was a Baptist and he had several inspirational notes sprinkled throughout his vivid anecdotes:

“Be thankful for being alive.”

“The most important thing we can do is get along with others.”

“Feed your soul, feed your spirit, and smile! Love yourself.”

“Be still and listen. God will speak.”

“Happiness comes and goes, and it’s based on material things and circumstances. But joy? You can’t touch it.”

“Get yourself a plan. Get a business plan and understand it. People are your key.”

On aging (he’s 62): “I told someone I pulled an all-nighter. Yep, I slept all night without getting up to go to the bathroom.” And, “I got lucky last night. I found my car in the parking lot.”

“If you know the heart of a person, there’s no misunderstanding, and no miscommunication.”

“I am what I am. I speak to me more than I speak to you [that is, his messages are as if he’s preaching to himself–and I can relate].

“God gives you gifts in your suffering.”

“If you have parents that are still alive, call them and tell them that you love them.” As soon as I found my car (and it took awhile– I actually got lost and I’m almost half Terry’s age), I called them.

Want more? I will write a detailed posts on a few of the best speakers next week. To make sure you don’t miss anything, subscribe to my RSS feed.


Speaker Evaluations

All in all, each speaker had effective points in their presentations. However, my perspective leads to subjective commentary. For example, I am not a Republican, so I had to try my best to filter the critical references to President Obama by a few of the speakers so I could glean any gems they gave. On the other hand, I’m a Christian, so the numerous references to God did not offend me or put me off. Here’s my two cents.

Les Brown – Les integrated his personal story with points, audience interaction and jokes. He often shifted to different points without many pauses. The square stage was in the middle of the arena, and he walked around it using a hand-held microphone, making sure that he didn’t keep his back to any side of the stage for more than a moment or so. At one point, his mic went out, and walked to the edge of the stage for a moment, waiting for assistance. When he received a new mic, he proceeded from where he was without mentioning the malfunction except to say, “That was my daughter, checking to see if her daddy was alright. Give a hand for my daughter.”

Tom Hopkins – Tom did not use many personal anecdotes, except for one engaging and funny story at the beginning. He mentioned some typical business scenarios to illustrate his points. He used good body language and varied his voice. He used a few PowerPoint slides, which were full of text in a small, sans serif font, so they were hard to read. Like Les, Tom used a hand-held mic and kept moving.

Sarah Palin – Sarah was the first presenter to use a lectern (not quite the same as a podium), so I guess she had notes. The lectern was placed on the stage just before she was introduced. It was removed when she left.

Bill O’Reilly – Bill used a mic with no lectern present. He used a lot of references to scripture, presidents (not just Obama), and little background about his upbringing. Bill moved around a little too much for me– it seemed that he was pacing a lot and  the movement didn’t always have purpose.

Phil Town – Phil was the first person to use a headset or an ear mic (not sure of the correct term). He started with a long, funn anecdote that built rapport with the audience and interjected questions to get audience participation. However I didn’t understand the point of his story, nor how it related to his topic of investing, until the very end. He used vocal variety and body language very well, and moved around the stage with purpose. He used several crutch words, but it didn’t detract much from his presentation. However, what left me in the dust was the pace with which he went through his PowerPoint slides of charts and graphs. He talked fast and didn’t explain many financial terms. He solicited four single mothers from the audience in a brief demonstration before offering details on his financial workshop and inviting us to sign up as he was still speaking.

Ben Stein – Ben used the lectern and used a lot of notes and didn’t connect to his audience well to me, although he slipped in a few jokes here and there. I could see the stage well, but since his back was facing me, I watched him onscreen. He didn’t move away from the lectern.

Laura Bush – Laura read her whole speech from the lectern, and again, since her back was facing me, I watched her onscreen. She put a bobble head of herself on the lectern as part of her introduction, but left it there even as she discussed some serious moments in her speech. When we applauded, she often stopped late to let us clap, instead of allowing a natural pause. She was poised and pleasant, not neglecting eye contact in spite of her reading.

Than Merrill – Than used an ear mic and enthusiastically moved around the lectern without using it (to me it seemed to be in the way. He used slides as well, but didn’t linger on them long enough to process them along with what he was saying.

John Smoltz – John S. gave a preview of what he was going to talk about, and for how long. This was reassuring to me, and gave me a kind of signpost so I knew what to expect. He ran through his points a little fast, and did not use stories, only a brief background. He used a hand-held mic but paced near the podium so he could get to his notes but still move freely.

John Maxwell – John M. also gave us a preview of what he was going to cover, and his speech duration. The lectern was removed, and he had a stool and an ear mic. Sometimes he moved around while still seated on the stool, and sometimes he got up and moved around the stage. He paced himself, paused at appropriate points, and told us to write certain things down. He read two anecdotes from laminated index cards to illustrate points, and they were very effective (one was funny). He remained connected to the audience, and recapped all his points.

Terry Bradshaw – Terry was very energetic. To say he used body language and gestures was an understatement. With every story, and every point, you were right there with him. He used lots of humor and stories, acting them out. I am not a huge football fan, and don’t know much about the game, but I was still able to follow him. I was born in Pittsburgh, so I rep the Steelers by default 🙂

6 thoughts on “Seize the Day!

  1. Thank you so much for updating me on the main two people I wanted to see. But I had to go to work; John Maxwell and Terry Bradsahw. This was a very good insigt on what I missed. Also a great insight on what I saw as well.

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