Of all the celebrity deaths over the past few months, the one that hit me the hardest was TV pitchman extraordinaire Billy Mays. Mays was the one who I always thought had the most to teach us, because when you break our profession down to its core, we are all salespeople. The only difference is that instead of selling OxiClean, Kaboom, or Mighty Putty, we're selling linear equations, Shakespeare and the Civil War.
There's a reason that Mays quickly outgrew his infomercial roots and became a celebrity, and that's because there was an equal mix of sincerity, enthusiasm, and volume behind every product he was given. Mays believes in these products, I thought, and he just reaches out and grabs you through your TV. I thought I might be crazy until my suspicions were confirmed by watching him on his tragically short -lived reality series, Pitchmen. The lessons for those of us in the classroom were crystal clear:
You have to believe in what you're selling.
You have to use it, know it, understand why it's important and worthy of someone's attention.
You have to be willing to do crazy things to prove what you say is true.
You have to present it to them with a high level of enthusiasm.
You have to be willing to poke fun at yourself.
And finally, you have to project everything clearly in your teacher voice!
Thank you, Billy!