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

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

November 18, 2012 Leave a comment Go to 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.

  1. Daniel Priestley
    November 20, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    I feel bad that you lumped me into the basket of selling. The speakers were contractually asked to sell something. My talk was 90 minutes. I spent less than 7minutes talking about a product strategy workshop we would run for interested parties. I specifically made mention that it would only be suitable for businesses with between £100k – £2m revenue. For a business with 6-7 figure revenues a training program can provide an acceptable ROI. At no time did I say “follow my system and I’ll make you rich” or even allude to anything like that. I’m sorry that your expectations were not met however I think you’ve been a little unfair on some of the speakers that did not lay on a hard sell considering it is normally acceptable at an entrepreneurship event to discuss products to an extent.

    • November 20, 2012 at 11:11 pm

      I thought your ATM model was good – and also how you applied it to Apple. (I see you are also an Apple fan – I use Apple as a case study in a lot of my workshops too, and have just finished a mini-case study on Apple for a workshop I’m doing in Dubai in December).

      I guess I saw what you were doing was leading up to the sales pitch at the end – which, for me, damaged the content. I also agree that you did specify that it was for existing businesses above a certain size, and not for the Instagram type “wonder-business”.

      In general my feelings on Entrepreneurs 2012 was that most speakers seemed to be targeting those who didn’t really have a business model and so needed somebody to tell them what to offer. I found this a bit insulting. I saw it as a similar sort of pitch (but much higher pricing) to Kleeneze, Herbalife, Forever Living, Amway and so on. Each of these MLM companies tries to get people to buy in to being an “entrepreneur” where they can work for themselves and the skies the limit. They make lots of promises, but only those people who are brilliant networkers actually make it. (I’ve had experience with MLM both through supporting my wife who loved selling Dorling Kindersley books until Penguin bought them and killed that business, and also doing research on behalf of an MLM company that was entering the UK market and needed to know competitor sales tactics. Along the way I’ve looked at several companies to understand their approaches and models).

      What I’d hoped to experience at Entrepreneurs 2012 was stuff on creating a strategy (which you touched on) but also something on how entrepreneurial businesses succeed – so what not to do / what to avoid; the importance of networking; the importance of tapping in to new trends and being aware of new sales channels; and so on. Perhaps something on how to be disruptive (as in being a disruptive innovator). The emphasis was mostly sales rather than strategy. Worse, often sales was called marketing when the two are different. I also expected more sharing and networking opportunities among the attendees. This would not have been hard to do. (Tell everybody to make a group of the 6 people nearest them and spend 15 minutes talking about what they do, problems they have and so on. And then instead of getting people to wave their hands in the air, get them to change places with somebody in another part of the room).

      For me, there are many ways to be an entrepreneur. The one thing it is not, is following somebody else’s route. That’s generally a recipe for failure. (The statement “differentiate or die” is really true). Yet this seemed to be the approach being advocated. For example, Simon Coulsen’s “anybody can publish an ebook and make money” is not true. Yes – some people can, but half of self-published authors make under $500 per year. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/may/24/self-published-author-earnings). Simon did it because he was in at the start. Doing it now is much harder. (I’ve always made money from my web-site – which is my main promotional vehicle. However I was also early – I’ve had my main domain name since 1997 and my original website was up in 1995). Similarly Andy Harrington’s implication that anybody could be a public speaker is also false. You have to love speaking in public to do it. If you do, then you can earn money from it. (I’m currently changing my whole business strategy towards more public speaking/executive training workshops. I’m leaving for Singapore on Thursday to lead a workshop. I’m in Dubai the week before Christmas and already have a date for Malaysia in 2013 and hopefully Prague).

      There was nothing on the real dangers that entrepreneurs face (and I’m still trying to overcome some myself – even though I’m aware of them). E.g. avoiding a product or production mentality or a mentality which focuses on sales. Virgin is successful because from the start, they emphasised the customer and customer needs. That wasn’t really mentioned.

      As for discussing products at events. Maybe I’m sheltered, but this was the first conference I’ve attended where speakers were encouraged to sell products from their platform. Every other conference / event I’ve been too that’s the one thing speakers are told NOT to do – i.e. to convey knowledge and have one slide at the end saying how to be contacted if you want more or to buy what they have. If people want to sell then it’s via exhibition stands. So part of the aim is to show expertise in the subject so that people want to come back for more.

      I wasn’t originally going to write the blog post but after Marco’s speech I felt I had to write something. He showed complete insensitivity to his audience that were effectively tied in as they wanted to hear Clinton. A good speaker should notice when the audience aren’t paying attention and if necessary change tack completely. I was really annoyed that a good morning session was destroyed by him – hence the blog post.

      However you also have a point and I was probably unfair on you. I’ve changed what I wrote – and maybe we should get together for a chat or drink at some point. (I’d have said at the Ecademy X-mas do but I don’t think that they’ve had one of those for many years 😦 ).

  2. Daniel Priestley
    November 22, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    I agree with almost everything you’ve said. I’m away December/January but would be happy to meet up for a chat when I get back in Feb or to have a skype chat. Please contact my PA on info-at-entrevo-dot-com.

  3. sam smith
    June 4, 2014 at 9:12 am

    “We are a group of Australians that has been totally ripped off by Marco Kozlowski. Before you spend a cent with him, please get in touch so that we can share our experiences and save you from getting yourself into some major trouble!!! Marco is a great marketer, but he “Marco, why are you walking away and failing to honor your refund commitment after promising you would to lots of Australians and New Zealanders? Why did you tell us you were shutting down your LHG, LHGN and LHS businesses that we signed up under – and were therefore unable to pay us – when clearly the sites are still operational?”

  4. Ron
    December 7, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Hi, Just would like to share my experience with Andy Harrington three days session.. In one single sentence, he is big con, very smartly will tempt you to purchase his three days product to pull in his in Elite program which cost around 20K and… please think twice before investing in money on his course… Good luck

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