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Smile When You Think That

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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 of. 

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."