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Entrpreneurs 2012 – Con-Trick or Conference: a review!

November 18, 2012 5 comments

Wow – what a line up. Bear Grylls, Caprice, Ruby Wax, Julie Meyer, Carol Vorderman…. Just look at what was promised:

And look who was promised:

(Click for larger image)

(Click for larger image)

All these as keynote speakers. The conference blurb said that

Hundreds of the world’s most successful chief executives, from the likes of Google, Paypal, Acer and Bentley will gather to debate, share ideas, network and enjoy the last day of Entrepreneurs 2012.

It sounds like an event not to be missed, with tickets priced at £120 for seats at the back to £3000 for a front row seat. The promotional material said that I’d “have the opportunity to learn from the best with hundreds of like-minded people at our unique and exciting event” and that

YOU will network with entrepreneurs and high-achievers from Leading Global Brands.
YOU will meet some of the World’s most Successful Entrepreneurs.
YOU will Enjoy & have FUN with celebrity guests and your peers
YOU will take away a most memorable experience that will propel you and your business toward continued success for 2013!”

How could any serious entrepreneur turn down an opportunity such as this. Even better, the event was then advertised on Groupon – with tickets for only £17.00. So I jumped.

The first day started with “motivational” speaker, Andy Harrington – who describes himself as the “world’s leading public speaking expert”.  He failed to motivate me. After around an hour of hoping for something better, I walked out and got myself a coffee. I returned to see if he was still going on – and it looked as though he had stopped “motivating” and moved to some content. This was actually quite good – he talked about his “System” for being a better public speaker  – covering aspects such as the importance of standing up straight, maintaining eye-contact, using different vocal tones, and being in the right mindset. Unfortunately after covering this he went back to “motivating” again – with a sales pitch for his training programme costing £1000s. Amazingly this worked on enough people that I reckon that if all pay he’ll have made over £200,000 from this 3 hour or so talk. Not bad work – and definitely entrepreneurial on his part.

Next up (I think) was Daniel Priestley – the CEO of a company called Triumphant Events.  Priestley put over some interesting and relevant content but his talk ended with a sales pitch, as did Simon Coulsen‘s who followed – talking on selling via the Internet. Strangely Coulsen seemed more genuine although this was still a sales pitch and not a talk that fulfilled any of the event promises. Certainly no real networking opportunities (except to complain with the people sitting next to me – who were also hoping for some genuine content that wasn’t delivered by a snake-oil “follow-my-system and you’ll get rich quick” salesperson). So far no real hints on running a genuinely entrepreneurial business or case studies and life stories to learn from. Just hard-sell schemes at high-prices. These speakers certainly profited from their slots – making tens of thousands of pounds in just a few hours.

Day 1 was supposed to be about How to Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset. No – it was how to be conned into spending lots of money on training courses to turn you into a public speaker, or to systematize your entrepreneurial idea, or to sell self-help books on the Internet. I did learn a little – and got some ideas. For example, I do a lot of public speaking, leading executive workshops globally, so I got ideas on how I could earn more from this. However the entrepreneurial content was minimal.

Naively I hoped day 2 would be better – especially as the promised programme on the website for Entrepreneurs 2012 (now down) stated that the topic was Uncover New Technologies to Give your Start-up Business the Edge. This seemed right up my street so I was hopeful. I arrived in the afternoon having had to do some real work in the morning – and just missed Caprice who apparently gave a very good talk. So I was hopeful that day 1 was bad and things would look up. Unfortunately the promise was quickly dashed – as the speakers were, again, purveyors of “get rich quick” type snake-oil schemes. I’m not even sure who the speakers were as no schedule existed. (I asked. Not even the event staff – from a company called Blak Pearl – had any idea).

I haven’t a clue about day 3 – as I was unwilling to be subjected to more sales pitches – despite having paid and scheduling all 4 days in my diary. From what I was told by people I spoke with on day 4, it was more of the same, punctuated by shortish talks by Levi Roots of Reggae Reggae Sauce and Kate Hardcastle.

Day 4 however looked more promising with some panel debates on topics that looked interesting.

The published programme for day 4 of Entrepreneurs 2012 The day started well with Bruce Dickenson of Iron Maiden giving a genuinely interesting and motivational talk that didn’t include a hard sell. The panel debates followed – with several of the “keynote speakers” on the panel. (Point of information to the organisers: keynote speaker does NOT mean panel participant). We were also told to expect that the event star – Bill Clinton – would be speaking at 1.00pm, after the panel debates. At 12.30pm three of the “motivators” who had spoken on the earlier 3 days got up and were given 10 minute slots. At around 1.00pm some bozo called Marco was then given the stage.  Marco claims to be one of the top 3 platform speakers in the world. (He doesn’t say which world. Based on his performance in London, it can’t be this one). After 30 or so minutes, the twitter feed (hashtag #ents2012) looked like this.

A snapshot of a handful of the tweets sent during Marco Kozlowski’s talk at Entrpreneurs 2012

Unfortunately I had to leave at 2.00pm and so missed the remaining speakers, including ex-President Bill Clinton, who based on the twitter feed was amazing. C’est la vie. 

My feelings on the event were that:

  1. it was badly organized – with no time schedule or formal programme. Nobody seemed to know what was happening or when.
  2. there was far too little content. The event was aimed at entrepreneurs i.e. people who want to work for themselves or are already working for themselves. Yet most of the speakers were selling systems that were closer to pyramid and multi-level marketing schemes than genuine entrepreneurial support. They were supposed to be motivational and instructive. They were far from this – and some were positively de-motivational and destructive of any entrepreneurial mindset.
  3. there were almost zero networking opportunities – no break-out sessions or discussions or even real interaction with anybody. I spoke to a few people but this was because I made the effort. Most didn’t.
  4. promised speakers didn’t appear – no Ruby Wax; no Carol Vorderman, no Kevin Spacey (as named in the video) … and keynote speakers turned out not to be keynote speakers at all, but panel members.
  5. no evidence that any of the promised chief executives from Google, Paypal, etc. attended. (The one exception was Olaf Swantee from Everything Everywhere who was a panel member on day 4 – and who made several points that were worth noting).
  6. the few genuine speakers had something to say and didn’t name-drop. You could almost guarantee that a speaker that started name-dropping Richard Branson, Alan Sugar, Donald Trump or other genuine entrepreneur or leader would turn out to be another quack opportunist – especially when this was accompanied by a photograph of the entrepreneur looking extremely uncomfortable standing next to the speaker who exhibited a massive cheesy grin.

My views on this event were echoed by others – for example: CelebStorkey’s “10 reasons it went wrong”.

The lack of a programme meant that I gave the event more of a chance than I should. Was the event a con-trick to get people who want to work for themselves into pyramid schemes and similar? Possibly – certainly the management of the event seemed to encourage the speakers making “sign-up now” sales pitches. At the same time, buried among the 80% of useless hard-sell there was a small amount of material worth listening too and speakers like Brian Dickenson had something to say. Personally I will in future be vary wary about allocating so much time to any similar event without doing many more checks on the actual format.

The last day was billed as a “Leaders First Finale” where the “movers and shakers of our business world will be networking and rocking our boats” and where I’d “benefit from the incredible knowledge and experience” of these “great leaders and business champions” who we were told would “head-up the presentations and debates on the main stage”. Unfortunately this also turned out to be hyperbole. There was a buzz in the room after the panel debates, but this was quickly destroyed by Marco (described in lots of tweets as like Kermit the frog). Had I known he was going to drone on for so long I’d have left earlier and not had to suffer his spiel. As compensation for this additional waste of my time, I’ve sent Blak Pearl an invoice – with a request that the sum be paid to charity. They should pay the money – not just for me but all attendees – as it was insulting to subject so many real and budding entrepreneurs in the room to such nonsense. If they do pay, I’ll update this blog and give them the credit for the honesty and authenticity they lost in their event promotion.

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