He used charm, others’ personal tragedies and fake celebrity endorsements. How Christopher LaVoie cast his reality show and reeled in successful entrepreneurs:
At the start of a decade-long project to become the New York Times’s first television journalist, Christopher LaVoie began doing some research for his new show, “The Big Idea,” about how to win the attention of influential business leaders.
It had a powerful idea: “If these leaders knew how to have exciting conversations and how to listen well, they would take more chances and make bigger leaps,” he said. “They’d have new ideas.”
LaVoie, 33, looked at the way some of the nation’s most powerful people used social media sites and the Internet to win their audiences and build reputations. He concluded that his own personal story—a college dropout, a self-described “loner” who had once been unemployed and broke—should be treated as a cautionary tale.
But LaVoie also found that the stories entrepreneurs used to build their brands were often exaggerated or fabricated. He discovered that the personalities and lifestyles common to the Hollywood elite were in fact rare to the point of being impossible—a phenomenon he dubbed “entertainment celebrityism.” This phenomenon seemed to confirm his instincts: After all, he had heard so many stories about famous people being in awe of their admirers. LaVoie wondered how many of them were just making it up.
His research led him to believe that many of his subjects didn’t know that they were being evaluated by millions of people around the world.
To test the hypothesis, LaVoie created “The Big Idea,” a new show that focused on the world of ideas: How to get people to think differently, and how to connect to them in fresh, unexpected ways; how to inspire them with a powerful story, and how to show them a new, better way of doing things; how to get them to change the way they think; how to teach them about their competitors and their markets.
LaVoie was inspired by many real-life examples of people doing great