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In June 1995, after I left the corporate world, I was appointed as a marketing consultant for the world’s largest poster company. I travelled all over Asia-Pacific appointing agents and marketing paper art products.  It was profitable and enriching, allowing me to visit new countries and revisit countries I had been before.  The travelling took me about two weeks per month and I was left with 2 weeks, wondering how to occupy my time profitably.

An idea flashed crossed my mind one day when I kneeled and prayed at Church of Blessed Sacraments, Singapore. Aha! The idea of organizing seminars. From my accounting background, it was profitable and bore little risk. Get a speaker, promote and advertise him or her. Once I have recruited a base number of participants, I can confirm a hotel and market the speaker aggressively and confidently. The formula worked. The first seminar I organized was Tony Buzan’s Mind Mapping. I had over 210 participants and I booked RELC auditorium cancelling the earlier booking of just a classroom for 25 participants. That half Saturday seminar made me $17,000 richer. In the subsequent months, I had full house for numerous 2-day Mind Mapping seminars at the Mecure Hotel.

Next, I toyed with the idea of telemarketing and employed a telemarketer. He had to secure just one client and that would pay for his monthly wage. One day, my telemarketer informed me that one of the potential customers, Overseas Union Insurance, would like to attend Creative Thinking.  I thought it was a brilliant program and marketed it. I had 6 participants but the trainer did want to train giving the excuse the number was too low and to borrow his phrase, no “group dynamics”.

In desperation I searched for another trainer in Creative Thinking. Just a marketing institute promoted a talk on the same subject. I registered and paid for it. At the end of the talk, I stayed back and waited for the speaker to pack his materials before approaching him to be the trainer. He declined too.

In desperation, I decided to be the trainer myself. In one talk I attended earlier, a speaker, Gordon Dryden, author of The Learning Revolution, recommended the audience Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko. I bought the book and read it on a cruise SuperstarVirgo, a prize I won earlier in a lucky draw. It was something I thought it was “doable” and something I can do it well.

Well, two weeks later, I trained the 6 participants in Creative Thinking and it launched my training career. My first office was in the spare room in the 3rd floor of my house. Since then, I conducted hundreds of workshops to thousands of executives from the 5 continents. I enrolled in a Graduate Diploma in Training and Development to formalize my training concepts and delivery. Along the way, I attended hundreds of talks, seminars and workshops, both at home and abroad, to hone in my training skills.

Michael Lum

USS Stennis Aircraft Carrier Delivering University Lectures



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