The Summit through the eyes of the Corporate beard

Days before the SUMMITimage(4)

This blog is jaded and biased BUT it will be truthful. After months of preparing individually and collectively I journeyed to Atlanta, GA on January 17, 2013 to prepare for the First annual ICON Summit. For the first 2 or so days I assisted where needed and tried to stay mentally occupied so that I would not overwhelm my brain with the Summit, my presentation and the attendee satisfaction. In fact, I was more than confident about the content and message of the 5 speakers but I also know that in an industry of critical thinkers and naysayers I was very assured that each and every attendee would walk away with a new Mindset and new-found understanding of the trending topics we presented.

Throughout the 3 days prior to the Summit I watched former ICON alum ripping and roaring through the city making sure that the event was prepared for the EPIC moment. The closer we got to the day the more I saw these three tenacious specialists focus on the end product – SUCCESS. I would be remiss for not mentioning their names: Uriah Riley, Jason Miller, Michael Brown. These three specialists almost looked like Naval Academy Plebes in their behavior, work ethic, tenacity and respect for their leader Elijah Shaw and ICON. They exuded a level of respect and right hand of friendship towards me that is mostly deficient in an industry where most KEEP you at a distance. I was able to enjoy their lighter side and true personality to the point that they were afforded to witness the personal side of me as well. This untethered interaction is too often kept unveiled amongst Alpha Males and Alpha Females in this CRAFT.

Now let me get to hosts of the city – Elijah Shaw and Mark James of Panther Protection Services. From the time I went whiskey delta [wheels down] they extended an unmatched southern hospitality, even though Elijah is from Chicago and now resides in the frozen tundra of Minnesota. We talked for waffle househours, broke bread, laughed, talked for more hours and broke bread again. Each of us interacted in a way that if anyone would have seen us they would have thought we had been friends for years. We spoke about business with NO HOLDS barred, current status of the industry and how we could maintain this momentum that has been on the forward edge of the industry. I will admit that this momentum is as a result of our own independent voices and messages BUT the NABA Facebook page WAS and IS the reason for this movement.

As the weekend neared Raffaele and Jeannie Di Giorgio arrived. As I sat in the lobby of my hotel drinking coffee and talking on my iPhone I saw the Raffaele’s menacing stature appear from the hallway with a coffee jug in his hands. We shook hands followed by the unmistakable bear hug to which he stated that he had to fetch coffee for the “Office Branch” [his way of describing Jeannie] who runs GOS911 with him. There is no other way of describing Raffaele except as a “High Speed Comedian”. If he ever decides to hang up the kit and tourniquet he can easily go into stand-up comedy. Jeannie is equally as funny with a HEAVY and I mean HEAVY southern accent. The 2 of them together are a model of what a true marriage and relationship in this industry should mirror.

Later that evening the 4 of us were located at an undisclosed location talking in between ICON CPC evolutions when the door opened and the silhouette of the King of Lagos breached the portal. Alas the Commission, the Industry Speakers Bureau or whatever you want to call it were all in one place, at one time – for the very first time. Students of the ICON CPC froze in place as they were the first to witness this, first in a lifetime moment. Later that night [0300 to be exact] we wound up at the Waffle house for a meal where the bond was fortified more.


Me, Raffaele and Benjamin arrived at the Renaissance Hotel at approximately 0900 and met with Elijah, who had been on location since 0800 to make final touches on the room. When we arrived I met another ICON alum JD Woolsey. He, Uriah, Jason and Michael were already hard at work. Uriah was busy with the media set up, Michael was handling loose ends and Jason was sealing all other loose ends. But it was JD who commanded the site. It was clear that the way we interact with event managers and special events that JD was comfortable being the Site specialist for this event. His experience glowed like a beacon as I saw him interact with the client [Elijah] and the hotel event manager. Every part of the set-up mirrored a Fortune 1 event. JD’s expertise and management of that was impeccable. As I walked the hallway leading into the room I met and reacquainted myself with new and past colleagues. Personal note: I was overwhelmed by the kind and encouraging words expressed by the attendees along with the gifts from Bill Peeler and Andrew Surace.

At 1100 sharp Elijah commanded “Delta Oscar” and the doors opened. Elijah encouraged everyone to be seated because the event was going to be marklengthy. As order was established he [Elijah] welcomed everyone and introduced Mark James. Mark was dressed in a pinned striped suit that emulated a corporate executive as he opened everyone’s eyes about how to brand and market yourself with examples of how the “Big Boys” do it. His examples made everyone re-evaluate their current approach, whereby one attendee called his own company and told them that they had to re-think the way they were currently doing business. Mark knows this area VERY well from his past corporate career. The stage was set.

Elijah moseyed up to the podium with his head down looking for words to introduce the next speaker – ME. As he began to speak I witnessed a smirk and smile mix when he said, “The next speaker has many names.” I couldn’t help but laugh as he said I am known as “Pineapple”, “The Corporate Beard” and another name that he didn’t want to mention. As he introduced me by my birth given name I stood up to the applause and stated that the other name that Elijah didn’t want to mention was “Shit starter” and that HE coined that name for me. I then said. “Buckle Up” so I can start some shit [Note: there was an internal joke amongst the speakers that they were going to put a shock collar around my neck and make me ride the lightening if I began to come off the rails with my presentation]. I told them that I would talk about How to get noticed by the Decision makers and that there were going to be things and terms I mention that would make people including the other speakers uncomfortable. I started by telling them that I am more comfortable in the front right seat of a limo than public speaking and then proceeded telling a joke that pushed the edge. After the attendees laughed I clicked the first slide:photo

Disclaimer and Comment Policy

Opinions expressed in this module are those of Eric Konohia, CorporateBeard.com & BPI alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, policies or positions of First Annual ICON Summit and/or its presenters

I went through my presentation where I revealed a portion of my book [never seen before] of the 4P Formula, which is a Blueprint to success in this CRAFT. I spoke about resume’s and Bio’s and then went into the use of the term Bodyguard with decision makers based on a survey of 500 people I had conducted. We broke for lunch which turned into a test of our patience and resolve and returned to the SUMMIT. I asked Elijah if I could have 2 minutes after lunch to do one more thing that I had forgotten to do after my presentation and he agreed. What I did after the lunch I will not put in the blog and leave that to those who trekked, flew, and drove hours to attend.

After Elijah got himself together he introduced the next speaker – Raffaele Di Giorgio who smacked everyone in the face with his butt naked truth of working overseas in a high threat environment. He broke down every aspect to include: financial commitment and responsibilities, training requirements, Raffaelecosts and selection. Raffaele’s presentation impacted most, if not all, of the attendees as he showed a split screen of pictures of a team of PSD operators at the top and folded American flags with pictures at the bottom. He said, “The difference between the top picture and the bottom was 5 hours.” I looked back at Jeannie and witnessed a face that I have NEVER seen before, the face of the wife/spouse of someone who has lived through this as it is re-lived. Also in the group of attendees was Carmen Smith, the travel agent who set up the flights for the departed warriors. It brought it all home for the majority of the crowd. Raffaele ended his eye opening presentation with the same check-list he started with.

Elijah re-approached the podium and presented the next speaker, Benjamin Alozie who I call the “King of Lagos”. Benjamin started his presentation speaking in his native language as the room started straining to decide if he was speaking English with a strong accent. He stopped and said, “Welcome to AFRICA”. I have visited west Africa well Benjamin2over 20 times and still learned from Benjamin’s presentation. He talked about the history, misconceptions and revealed facts that NO ONE knew. The first fact he stated in humor was, “Africa is NOT a country, it is a CONTINENT!” He told everyone that there are 500 different languages and 250 dialects in his country of Nigeria alone. Benjamin spoke to the difficulties of operating in Africa and the importance of using the correct people as you travel from town to town and village to village. As I listened to him I found myself re-living my first trip to Liberia.

The SUMMIT ended with an unprecedented finale. Elijah had spoken to us [Speakers] about this surprise and we all knew this had NEVER been done before and I am sure others will “try” to do it but will fail miserably in their attempt. I cannot speak to the specifics of this part of the SUMMIT but it’s safe to say that mouths dropped, and eyes and ears opened.

The day concluded with a social hour at the hotel’s watering hole where the attendees talked, networked and took pictures. It is very difficult for me to be impartial about my trip, the fellowship, bonding or the event because I had a vested interest in it all. But I will say that it was more than worth it for me, the other 4 speakers and all of the attendees I spoke to. I made it a point to thank everyone that I saw. If you missed it, shame on YOU. Get yourself ready for the next one.Me and Elijahimage(1)image(12)image(13)attendees


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  1. Mark Roche

    What a re-cap… I re-lived the entire experience as I read this blog. I can say with certainty,
    That this event was the highlight of my career in gaining the tools needed to succeed. I am proud to be an ICON alumni and the leaders that took the time to speak that day are second to none. I’m proud to be a member of a network of ELITE professionals and I aim to conduct my personal and professional aspirations to reflect those of you all. It was a “high-speed low drag immersing into the experiences and knowledge of the true leaders of our Industry”. I personally would like to thank you for your personal approach to many of my questions. I would also like to thank you for all the lighter moments you provided. Your instruction during the CPC has only further solidified why I choose to be an Executive Protection Specialist. Lastly, there could not have been a better example of your professionalism, unselfishness or friendship that you displayed after lunch. You are a class act, it’s obvious why you and your Company BPI have had the success that you have had. I’m glad that I got to spend some time with you and I will take the information you shared with me into the field, to do my part to keep this industry and CRAFT moving forward. I would suggest to anyone who missed the first summit, not to miss the next one! May god watch over you in your travels and stay safe.

  2. Robert Brown

    It was turely a gift to be among you all, in the same room at the same time. The knowledge that was shared as well as the experience surpassed my expectations. Thank you for being a giver in all that you do. I hope we can stay in touch. And for those that missed it, I hope you consider to make whatever sacrifice necessary to attend the next one.

  3. Kevin

    Reading this had me reliving the entire event. Great stuff!!!

  4. Josh

    Outstanding summary of an amazing event!!! Those who missed out on the Summit definately need to mark their calendars for the next.

    Eric, it was an honor and pleasure to meet you all. I look forward to our future interactions.

  5. Leon Adams

    Good review! The First Annual ICON Summit was monumental and I commend the panel speakers and those who assisted in the preparation and presentation of it. Job well done! I look forward to the next Summit.

  6. Raffaele

    It was an absolute pleasure to be part of this event. It was great to be surrounded by like-minded people who put the profession before the attendance fee. Which is where most of the other symposiums and conferences that I have been to seem to judge their mark of relevance in the industry.

    I do not begrudge anybody for charging their attendance fees. But it was great to be able to give something back to the profession that has put food on the table for 20+ years.

    Count me in on however I may help to continue to maintain the momentum and encourage people to do great things.

  7. Rodney c. Noel

    This commentary, now reading it, with all the details, has me reliving the summit all over again. I would highly recommend this to all in the craft. It was great meeting you and hope to someday train with you again.

  8. Carmen Smith

    Erik, I was blown away with this conference. I look forward to the continued comraderie and collaboration with ICON Summit and its members. Continue with the work that you are doing in the Excecutive Protection Community. There is much that you, Benjamin, Elijah, Mark and Raffaele have to give. We can all learn from you. I look forward to being of service to each of you.
    God Speed

  1. Bodyguard & Executive Protection Training & Industry Blog » Blog Archive » ICON Social Summit Review and Recap

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