*NCDM Speaker Encourages Attendees to Embrace Change

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ORLANDO, FL -- Like presenting a well-wrapped empty box as a gift, marketing consultant Ira Blumenthal tried to inspire the luncheon crowd at the National Center for Database Marketing Conference & Exhibition here yesterday with a presentation that was long on style but short on substance.

Striding onto the stage playing a harmonica to the tune of the Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are a Changing," Blumenthal, founder/president of Co-Opportunities, Atlanta, kept the audience entertained with anecdotes that illustrated his lesson that the old ways of thinking in business must constantly be refreshed.

"Success in the future will not be the province of the learned," he said. "It will be the province of the learning. It is a continuous process."

Blumenthal's connections to database marketing were tenuous at best, and his presentation certainly had no concrete value to his technology-minded audience. But, after more than two days of detailed seminars, many attendees seemed willing to relax and let his easy wit wash over them like a slow-rolling ocean wave.

"He's an excellent entertainer," said Willem van den Berg, a self-employed consultant from The Netherlands who travels to the United States to attend NCDM conferences almost every year. "I didn't write anything down, but I had a good time."

Others had similar opinions. "I thought yesterday's [luncheon speaker, futurist Daniel Burrus] was more informational," said Lori Terzopolous, a marketing database analyst with American Century Investments, Kansas City, MO. "But he [Blumenthal] was entertaining."

Among the practical points Blumenthal made were that business is moving more and more toward collaboration, rather than competition, so that rival marketers are sharing their expertise with each other to make up for their own deficiencies, to the benefit of both. He cited an example in which Nabisco and Pillsbury are partnering on a pastry product that leverages the marketing power of Nabisco's SnackWell brand and Pillsbury's dough-making technology.

He also stressed the importance of following though on a good plan, saying that everything in life is "5 percent ideas and 95 percent execution." He illustrated this with a story about a hotel manager who wisely decided to leave copies of a Japanese-language newspaper outside the rooms of his Japanese guests, but accidentally left the papers outside the wrong rooms.

But Blumenthal's overarching message was that change is occurring faster than ever, and businesses need to be proactive about it. After attempting to illustrate that many conventional ways of approaching business are no longer valid, he left the audience with some advice that crystallized his message: "Never grow old. You've got to keep learning, and stay forever young."

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