Become the next Donald Trump – start by paying just £199 a month...
Tom Peck endures the motivational high-fives and hard sells of world ‘business gurus’
“You. Are. An. Olympic Champion. YOU ARE AN OLYMPIC CHAMPION!” The bellowed words reverberate around the cavernous halls of London's Excel Centre.
Not that long ago it would have been true - this after all is where Jade Jones, Nicola Adams, and the like punched and kicked their way to gold. But this is not the Olympics, it is the curiously titled National Achievers Congress, and it could hardly be more different.
In its 18th year, the National Achievers Congress is a conference that travels the world, placing inspirational leaders before huge audiences keen to learn the secrets of their success.
Tony Blair addressed it in Kuala Lumpur in 2010, though the vast majority of speakers have success stories heavily focused on the self-help industry.
Thousands of ticket holders are packed inside, to hear from leaders in "business, sport, personal wealth creation [a popular one, this], success and fulfilment."
On Saturday evening Lord Coe was here, taking his first Blairlike tug at the teet of the ever-lactating cashcow that is the public speaking circuit. "Sport is the hidden social worker," he told them.
Last night, after almost 30 hours or seminars spread over three days, it culminated with the "Mega-successful entrepreneur" Donald Trump. "You've got to think like a warrior," he imparted, before reminding attendees how "most of the guys here, they never made 10 cents doing anything but public speaking." Compared to those who had preceded him, he was remarkably restrained.
"You are an Olympic Champion. You won a 25 centimetre swimming race not so long ago, didn't you," Alex Mandossian, an American "electronic marketing and international domain expert" had earlier told the assembled masses, many of whom have paid with more than £1,000 to be here and celebrate their world beating success as sperm.
"Now turn to the person next to you, give them a high five and say, 'I am a winner. I am a winner!'" They duly oblige. It is not long before we are stood on our feet being told to jump up and down and repeat the words: "I am great. I am great."
Though everyone seems fine with it, Mr Mandossian is strangely apologetic.
"Do you feel uncomfortable doing all this? Do you feel a bit silly? Well I tell you Oprah Winfrey felt a bit silly when she got fired. FIRED!," he says, suddenly shouting. "FIRED! From her job as a newsreader for being too emotional. Well. Oprah Winfrey became the first black woman billionaire in the world. What does that tell you? Billionaires don't mind feeling a bit silly." Of course it does.
Next is Andrew Reynolds, an affable balding Englishman and the author of Cash on Demand, "Grew up in poverty," he says.
"I was preconditioned to thinking I would fail. I would never be successful."
We are showed videos of baby elephants tied to trees. "They're not strong enough to pull away from them," he explains. "Then when they're adults, they're being made to pull trees around all day, but they still don't think they've got the strength to pull away from the one they're tied to. You can!"
Suddenly brave herds of the majestic beasts are sweeping across the African savannah beneath a blazing red sunset and the sounds of gospel choir music. The crowd goes nuts. Then the sales pitch starts. You only have to pay Mr Roberts £199 a month and he'll send you all the products you need (self-learning DVDs, by the way), the customer databases, the lot, to start making millions online right away. Or you can attend his weekend training courses for £10,000.
Don't believe him? A "national reporter" challenged him to prove it not so long ago, he says and we see a video of an "investigative reporter" doorstepping Reynolds and setting him a challenge to make £500,000 in a week. Unsurprisingly, he succeeds. "We were going to show it on the Entrepreneur Channel, which I used to own," says Reynolds - not quite how Panorama works. "Listen," he says. "If you think I'm full of shit don't do business with me, I don't care."
But doing business with Reynolds clearly pays. His final VT flourish contrasts the lives of two alternative Andrew Reynolds, side by side. In one, where he started his DVD sales business, the red wine flows, salmon steaks and new potatoes are served up in glorious technicolor, while adjacent, in black and white, a handheld tin opener forlornly punctures a tin of Tesco Value Baked Beans, bills pile up on the doormat and first the car and then the house are put up for sale. The better Andrew, meanwhile, has parked his Bentley and taken off in his helicopter.When he finishes his ninety minute presentation, he is mobbed by people frantically filling in their forms, clamouring to start making their monthly payments.
"You heard what he said," claimed one, an Eastern European woman in her fifties who wouldn't say her name. "I just take these DVDs, start selling the stuff online. It's only £199 and I can make millions."
Do you think you will?
"Why not? If he can, so can I."
In the lunchtime queues, ticket holders dole out business cards like Vegas black jack dealers. They are an extraordinary mix of ages and nationalities. One woman, in the £1,300 "diamond" seats, who is later dragged on stage by Trump and called beautiful, says she has flown from South Africa that day just to be there. Others carry Lidl bags and sit on the floor eating packed sandwiches.
"Bronze" tickets were available free of charge online yesterday, but there are still plenty of opportunities for 'investment.'
At desks down the sides of the hall, countless more courses are available. American Anthony Robbins offers a four day seminar in "Business Mastery" for £5,995.
Adam Ginsberg, a tall American in the trademark black suit, black T-shirt, black shoes, made $20m selling products on ebay, and quite a bit writing a book about it too. His seminar costs £1,797. "I do this because I want to change people's lives," he says.
But the loudest cheer of the day goes to Mandossian. "I've got some great news," he says. "Every one of you is going to become a millionaire. EVERY ONE OF YOU IS GOING TO BE A MILLIONAIRE."
But there's a catch. The key thing is how quickly you do it - crucially, whether you can move a bit faster than simply being carried there by the power of general inflation. He shows a picture of an African villager pumping away at a water well.
"They key to wealth creation is to pump when you're not thirsty," he informs.
It is also probably the key to driving humanity towards its painful, premature end, but that's not what the National Achievers want to hear. Well, not unless you shout it loud enough, in an American accent, then they'll clap like their lives depend on it.
- 4 #JeSuisEd: People share photos of themselves eating awkwardly in solidarity with Labour leader
- 5 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Mysterious 'X-Files' sounds heard miles above the Earth
Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Who should I vote for in the general election? Take The Independent's interactive quiz to find out which party is the right choice for you
General election: Conservatives mocked online over Boris Johnson's claim of SNP 'jockalypse'
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
General Election 2015: Sturgeon claims Scots 'appalled' by Ed Miliband's refusal to work with SNP
£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...
£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...
£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...