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rob magazine

Always be selling

Thousands flocked to Toronto's Real Estate Wealth Expo to get pumped up by Tony Robbins and rapper Pitbull. But wait—what do those guys know about selling houses?

When shoebox bungalows on 20-foot lots in Toronto are selling for over $1 million, it's easy to believe that anyone really can make a fortune in real estate. No wonder more than 10,000 people showed up on a Saturday in March to experience Canada's Largest Real Estate Wealth Expo.

The day kicks off with "networking bingo" at 7 a.m. and a "think BIG" speech in the main hall from Boston Pizza co-owner and Dragons' Den TV star Jim Treliving at 8 a.m. Judging from the suits and big hair, about a third of the attendees are actual real estate agents.

By lunchtime, energy is fading. People wander out of seminars by the likes of Californian Cheri Tree, "the world's leading authority in personality-based sales training," and Tennessee-based apartment flipper Robert Shemin looking worn. Shamir and Mera, a couple from Mississauga, own five condos and townhouses. "I expected more real estate experts," Shamir complains.

Story continues below advertisement

Finally, at 3 p.m., there's some genuine excitement as "entertainer and entrepreneur" Pitbull takes the main stage. In a sit-down interview with BNN's Catherine Murray, he describes growing up in a rough Miami Cuban neighbourhood, where his mom played motivational tapes by Tony Robbins. "There's no failure, only opportunities," he says. After 20 minutes, a DJ and six dancers pop out, and Pitbull slams through four hits, ending with Give Me Everything You Got.

A tedious 90-minute segment by another presenter follows, but at 5:20, an eruption begins. Electronic dance music pounds and confetti flies. Robbins bursts onto the stage, and runs up and down the aisles smashing his hands together. "How are you doing out there, Toronto!" he booms.

For the next three hours and 40 minutes, Robbins works the cavernous hall like a revivalist preacher. The aphorisms tumble out: "Knowledge is not power. Knowledge is only potential power." "Complexity is the enemy of execution," and "Progress equals happiness." He has the audience shake hands, hug and massage one another.

Does Robbins mention anything about real estate? That's not the point, explains Debbie Terry, a Coldwell Banker agent from Alliston, Ontario. She's been in the business for 20 years, and as house prices soar, newbie competitors flood in. "I'm here to get energized," she says. "You need to stay motivated in a market like this."

At 9:05, after a last swell of music, Robbins waves goodbye and says, "It's been a privilege to serve you." Even if you're not a fan, the energy is astonishing. But 20 minutes later, you realize you don't know any more about making money in real estate than you did before. And you wonder what the heck happened.

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