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Correspondent&#39s week

A memory man, a life skills coach, a motivational speaker and the president of the LIA on a trip to India was always going to be interesting.

Flight BA139 touches down at Mumbai airport just after midnight and we are met by our hosts, the organisers of the 16th Life Insurance Round Table Convention for the top 400 out of India&#39s one million insurance agents.

India&#39s insurance industry, a monopoly until three years ago, is now being opened up. Its insurable population of 240 million is projected to increase to 650 million by 2005.

Our party of speakers includes International Grandmaster of Memory David Thomas, LIA president Jonathan Battersby, Ceylinco Insurance Company&#39s Devaan Cooray, business and life skills coach Clive Gott and Brian Johnston of Masterkey Training in Dublin.

After a few hours sleep, we are off sightseeing with Pal Kochhar, the driving force behind the convention, which includes visits to the Mahalaxmi Temple and the Gateway to India monument. It is also the festival of Ganesh, which brings literally millions on to the streets and shoreline to celebrate. Amazing scenes.

Saturday starts with an early morning flight to Nagpur in central India.

We head straight into a pre-conference meeting with 50 sales managers to talk about the recruitment and development of quality advisers. My 27 years at Zurich serve me well, with particular thanks to the Change Model and Cognitive Behavioural Techniques (or Pig Thinking, as it is known to us Brummies).

Sunday sees us kick off the day with a 6am sales ideas session and all 400 delegates turn up. The convention then opens and each speaker delivers a 45-minute keynote address. In my case it is The Future&#39s So Bright, We Need Shades, the seven lessons that life has taught me about surviving and thriving in challenging times.

Next day, it is another 6am sales ideas session, another 45-minute keynote speech and a further session for Hindi-speaking delegates. This time I deliver It Has To Be Us, underlining the financial needs and wants of customers.

The evening starts with a display of music and dance. Duly inspired and suitably fuelled by Kingfisher beer, all the speakers are soon on their feet dancing with the delegates to the latest Hindi garage music.

Secure in the knowledge that we are far from the crit-ical gaze of our children, we allow ourselves to be ushered on stage, where we raise the temperature further by singing along with and dad-dancing to a fusillade of rock anthems. Protected from the ecstatic crowd by a hastily assembled team of bodyguards, we lift the roof off with renditions of such classics as Queen&#39s We Will Rock You, Elvis&#39s A Little Less Conversation and Robbie Williams&#39 Rock DJ.

At midnight, we are bundled through the crowd like rock stars to board our sleeper coach for the nine-hour overnight drive to Aurangabad. The ride is reminiscent of the film Speed but with no sign of Sandra Bullock to comfort us.

Our driver, clearly incentivised to complete the trip in record time, takes us hurtling at 80mph over potholed roads, swerving from side to side and scattering all other road users before us, while we are thrown about in our sleeping compartments like Aston Villa fans caught in the wrong end at Birmingham City. Sleep is out of the question.

Tuesday morning sees us tumble out of the coach at the Ambassador Hotel and, thankfully, two relaxing days of sightseeing follow, with visits to the Ajanta and Ellora Caves, both world heritage sites.

Wednesday evening sees us fly back to Mumbai and a farewell dinner with the conference organisers, who invite us back next year. No mention is made of our dancing and we do not press them. We then return to Mumbai airport for the flight home.

A safe landing at Heathrow on September 11 completes the trip, before a celebratory meal back home in Bath. For once, curry is not on the menu.

Jim Cronin is a keynote speaker, consultant and speaking coach


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