SAN DIEGO — The local chapter of Winners' Circle International was braced and ready. Guest speaker Anne Boe would be up momentarily, getting them motivated--at the grueling hour of 7 a.m. on a weekday. But first, the Winners' Circle song (words and music by Joe Labert):
I've got that winning attitude
I know there's nothing I can't do
Each day the world is so brand new
free to be
I'm free to be a winner
Boe took the stage. She's a slim, well-dressed woman (executive attire) with close-cropped red hair, a necklace that says "NETWORK" and a Mickey Mouse watch. She has a rapid-fire, morning-DJ way of speaking. How can anyone be so supercharged at 7 a.m., over eggs and hard biscuits?
"You have to set priorities, set goals," she said earnestly. The audience paid attention. "Every single day, you have to ask yourself: What's most important to me today, professionally and personally? Don't waste time. This is your life ."
Big applause. Moments later, Boe told them what a "networking expert" once told her: "Eighty percent of all millionaires are networkers." A hush seized the crowd of about 50, equal numbers men and women. You could almost hear them thinking, "I've got to be a networker. This sounds good ."
And what is networking? "The process of developing and nurturing professional contacts," she said, "a way to order and obtain information, advice, support, resources and referrals."
Scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours?
To be one, you have to take risks, she said. You have to put yourself on the line. You can't be afraid of fear. But you should be aware you have fears.
"I have great fear," she said, "that when my ship comes in, I'll be at the airport."
Big laughter. Uh-oh, once again now, serious : Don't be afraid to be yourself, she said. One time she quit wearing her Mickey Mouse watch and bought one of those expensive gold jobs. She hated it. She felt self-conscious, silly. She took it back and started wearing Mickey again.
Big laughter. She's feeling good , she said. She just won an award as the top public speaker in America. She won a big trophy she calls "My America's Cup, my Oscar. I'm like Meryl Streep," she said. "I, too, have an uncommon ability to make an audience identify with me."
And now it's time for more singing with the Winners' Circle:
I'm free to be a winner
I've set my sights on mastery
I'm free to be a winner
And celebrate prosperity
To close, she offered a few lines of a networking prayer by Robert Muller, assistant secretary general of the United Nations:
Networking is the new freedom
the new democracy
a new form of happiness
It is also a ticket for Boe. This is a woman who five years ago had trouble saying her name in front of a group of more than three. She would stammer and blush and generally "look petrified." Well, that's changed.
Only recently she was honored as the best public speaker among 60 who competed for the prize in Ron Fellow's Speaker Showcase in Hollywood, Fla. She's president of the local chapter of the National Speakers Assn.
Her friends say it's all nothing short of a miracle.
Anne Boe is a complicated woman. She can now deliver a rousing hourlong speech on the value of networking in American business but hesitates to say how old she is.
"OK," she said with a grimace. "I'm in my 30s."
She has complete confidence and command in front of hundreds, even thousands, but says she "gets all squirmy inside" at having to be "one on one." And she doesn't mean basketball.
"You're not sharing 100% in front of a group," she said. "One on one, it's me that's being exposed, me being talked about. There's less risk in front of a group. Some would say there's more. I say there's less. Much of me remains shy and quiet, and I feel more shy, and quieter, in front of one than in front of hundreds."
Boe grew up in Seattle, as the younger daughter of a printing salesman and his secretary wife. Despite being extremely shy, she graduated from college with honors and was married in her 20s. She didn't get over her fear of groups and speaking in front of them, though, until she was tutored by Lee Shapiro, a retired judge and professional speaker who lives in Del Mar.
Boe, too, is now a professional speaker and seminar leader. Her topic is "Networking: Business' Newest Contact Sport," one she couldn't deliver, she said, without coach Shapiro having called some of the plays.
"About five years ago," said Shapiro, known affectionately as The Hugging Judge, "I was hosting a training seminar, a human potential group of, say, 20 to 25 people. When asked to stand and introduce herself, Anne almost turned to stone. A few days later, she came up and said, 'I want to be a professional speaker, and I want you to help me.' My stomach lurched.