At one time in the late 1990’s, I worked for a certain Wall Street investment firm that leased 6 floors worth of office space in the World Trade Center; the company generally used their space, with its accompanying auditorium, for employee training purposes.
In July 1999, I was working for the company out of a Washington D.C.-area branch office and was told I would have to go to NYC and attend a training session at The Twin Towers. Transportation and expenses would be covered and I’d basically get to meet and train with fellow employees from all over the U.S.; we’d get put up for a little more than a week in July at a mid-town hotel and get shuttled down to the Trade Center each day. I was generally looking forward to it and it turned out to be an enjoyable experience.
The recent events involving Hurricane Katrina have made me recall some of the specifics from my time in company training in July, 1999 at the World Trade Center. You might ask, “is this recollection caused by Disaster?… the fact that, 15 months after you was there in NYC, the World Trade Center and surrounding buildings were destroyed in the events of September 11, 2001? Actually, I’d say, “no, my recall actually relates to a company-sponsored “Contest” we had during the July, 1999 training session.”
The contest of which I am speaking was called the “Stock Presentation” contest. We had approximately 250 people in this training class and each of us was asked to present a stock of our choosing to the other members of the class. I chose, Iridium, the satellite-telephone company, a company I had a bit of an unjustified fascination with (and, which is currently enjoying a demand explosion in the wake of Hurricane Katrina).
The large, aforementioned training class was broken in to 12 groups, based on the region of the country in which you were from. The 12 winners from those groups would then go to the auditorium, mid-level in the South Tower of the World Trade Center and pitch their stocks to a large room full of classmates. The managers running the class would rate each presentation and an overall winner would be chosen.
So, I was in one of the 12 groups; I pitch my stock, did a good job and I become one of the 12 that got to present to the large Auditorium. In the initial presentation, I had done the job of explaining the merits of the satellite telephone and how a stock like Iridium was going to grow because its product could do things that existing cellular technology could not. I did well selling the stock to my classmates representing the heavily urbanized, deep-pocketed mid-Atlantic group. Now, it was on to the big presentation in front of people from all over the United States.
I figured, to win overall, I’d want to win the audience; there response might kind of clue the judges in to which presentation was best. Therefore, I needed to mention points about the Iridium service that might specifically benefit the audience in the areas in which they lived. Knowing that I was going to be facing an audience that included people from the west coast and the southern U.S., I thought, “these people in the west and south already have cellular phones…what would make a company providing satellite phone service appealing to them?” The only thing new I could come up with was “Staying on top of business during a Disaster.”
So, I did the following: I got up in front of this class full of people from all over the United States during the big bull market of the 1990’s and pitched not “Greed,” but “Fear.” As part of my Iridium presentation, I said, “if you live in the south or you live on the west coast and you are ever faced with Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Earthquakes which destroy your regions’ communications infrastructure, you can still do business using your Iridium Satellite Telephone… so, Iridium stock will do great!”
Well, in 1999, my pitch for Iridium ended up landing me 3rd place in a class of 250. Which wasn’t bad. The 1st place speaker sold Budweiser stock; 2nd place went to an IBM seller. So, maybe satellite-telephone provider, Iridium, was a little too exotic for business in the peaceful, go-go 1990’s. And, I’ll admit, the Iridium Company definitely seemed like an expensive solution for a problem that hadn’t really reared its head. Of course, Iridium went bankrupt and its billions in assets were purchased a few years later for approximately 25 million.
However, since “Katrina,” the stocks and sales levels of Satellite Telephone providers have taken off. So, I hope somebody is up in NYC pitching Iridium, Globalstar and other satellite-phone providers like it today; that somebody would likely win a “Stock Presentation” contest this go around!
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