Introduced as an executive from
corporate headquarters, Dick Steiner walks to the podium and, addressing
the sales force gathered at the banquet, promises them training on a new way to
win over customers: the ability to read their minds.
He begins to demonstrate.
First, he asks the group to shout out five customer concerns, and asks one of
the women to silently concentrate on what she considers the most
important. To general astonishment he circles the one she is thinking
This continues, each feat less
believable than the last. By the end of his talk, he has asked someone to
open to any page in a book and concentrate on any word. He writes a word
down on a piece of paper. It's the same one.
"That's where people say,
'Wait a second...'" Steiner says.
In fact, Steiner isn't from
corporate and he's no executive. He's a mentalist and a magician who
performs exclusively for banquets, conventions, conferences, sales meetings,
parties and other business events.
Steiner, a retired lieutenant
colonel with 21 years in the Army, has been reading minds and performing
strolling sleight-of-hand tricks for several years in the Washington and
Baltimore areas, for the likes of such companies as AT&T, MCI, Alex. Brown
& Sons and the Baltimore Orioles.
His military training serves him
well: "You learn poise and confidence and how to deal with people,"
he says. "It prepared me for impersonating the senior vice
president of a corporation."
Naturally, most people
eventually catch on that the mind-reading seminar he promised is a hoax.
But sometimes "the
district manager or regional manager will call me and say, 'You know, I had
five people come in the next day and they wanted to sign up for this,'"
Steiner says. "That blew my mind."