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He's done it! After narrowly missing out last year, David Coleman has rallied the "troops" and pulled off the unthinkable to become the first speaker ever to win Campus Activities Magazine's® Reader's Choice Award for Entertainer Of The Year. Considering that just about every EOTY winner ever has been a magic or mentalism act, how did David end up winning this category?
"I believe it is due to the fact that when I take stage for a performance, the first thing I say to my audience is "Welcome to my show. You had many other options you could have taken advantage of yet you chose to spend your time with me. I take your belief in me very seriously and I will do my best to make your decision one of the best you have ever made in your life."
"I never refer to what I do as a lecture or speech or workshop. Those simply don't do justice to my performance and they don't align with my personal motto, which is, 'Where is it said that learning can't be fun and entertainment can't be life-changing?'"
Best known as "The Dating Doctor," David also carries the title of "America's Real-life Hitch," like the popular film of the same name starring Will Smith, on which David worked closely promoting the film for SONY Motion Pictures.
David considers this the culmination of his career and years of tirelessly touring the campus market. Performing 200+ shows a year for nearly the last 20 years has built him an enormous following and garnered him crushing support during the voting process. David did not win this Award by chance, he was incredibly proactive in the process and he and his staff, along with campus and military supporters spread the word about the Awards that he and several Coleman acts were nominated for. David was never given any indication of his standing in the count, but due to his overwhelming support I had anticipated his win and looked forward to sharing in his jubilant celebration over the phone, but an even more unique opportunity presented itself. When I got a call from Tiffany Schmidt from the University of Akron, I realized I couldn't selfishly covet the joy of telling David on the phone myself. As one of our closest partner schools, the folks at the U of A stay in touch with us. Knowing David was nominated for our Award and being well-aware of how close he came to winning the year before, Tiffany called a day or two before the results were due. Apparently later in the week David had a show at the beautiful E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall on U of A's campus and Tiffany wondered if David might win and if so, how he would be notified. I told her, with only a day left in the voting, and an insurmountable lead, that he would probably win. The plan was set in motion once we were able to confirm the final results.
David describes the emotional moment. "I was speaking at the University of Akron on the night of February 16th, the day after the ballots closed. This is near Canton, Ohio where I grew up and the University had a great crowd, like always, many of whom were my family, friends, former coaches and classmates. About 75 of my closest friends from high school and family members had come because word spread locally, and my sister even had 25 of her coworkers join her."
The National Residence Hall Honor Society in conjunction with U of A's own Tom Faessel and its Residence Hall Programming Board threw a mixer before David's show so that everyone could come together and mingle. "It was amazing," David says, clearly stirred by the recent memory. "Tiffany Schmidt of Akron brought everyone together and said 'We want to be the first to tell everyone here that David Coleman has just been named CAM's Entertainer of The Year.'
A bit shaken by the culmination of so much hope and promise put into a goal finally realized, David freely admits he was a bit overwhelmed. "To be completely honest, I would say the level of my show that night was an 8 out of 10. I pride myself on being a 9.5 out of 10 or higher, but I was a little distracted and to have that percolating inside my head the entire time was a bit surreal. To have all my friends and family present and to be at Akron where I got my start in student activities really made me feel as if my career had come full circle."
We all stand on the shoulders of giants to some extent; David is no exception and is proud to cite those influences that helped him get where he is today. "John Namey, Peter Wilkin, Dr. Will Keim, Barry Drake, Rick Miller, Tom DeLuca, CraigKarges, Buzz Sutherland; these are speakers and entertainers who inspired me to do what I do as well as I do it. John, Peter, Will, Barry and Rick are among the best speakers I have ever heard. Tom, Craig and Buzz taught me about mastering stage presence and living and loving what you do on stage, and in life, every day. You can't fake passion. You can't feign compassion. People will see right through it immediately, label you a hypocrite; and they'd be right.
David's birth into the performance spotlight was under a circumstance that breeds many of the finest at what they do, not because they are somehow better than the rest of us, but because they began practicing their art in that glowing time of youth when skills are accepted and adapted exponentially faster than after we're done maturing. Simply stated, like Tiger Woods, he's been at it a long time. And in this unique case he's not only been honing his stage presence for years, but has even grown up in the business side of booking and activities, giving his agency Coleman Productions credentials many independent speaker startup agencies lack.
"Growing up, my family owned and operated Fidelman's Resort in South Haven, Michigan, along the lines of Kellerman's Resort portrayed in the movie 'Dirty Dancing.' The resort opened up Memorial Day Weekend and closed just after Labor Day weekend. During the day, I served as the resort's Activities Director. At night, I was a cast member in the live stage show and a character that enhanced the ambiance of the resort. As I grew and matured, I searched for a career in which I could entertain people, yet simultaneously change their lives for the better. Being "The Dating Doctor" allows me to do just that every single day.
One thing David is not doing is to let this Award go to his head. While never one to lack ambition, all too often we see quality artists (who are not yet full-blown stars) price themselves right out of the market at the moment of a big break.
"I'm not going to raise my price using the acclaim of this Award as an excuse. I have observed instances where people win an award or receive a big break and immediately raise their price. That is not who I am. I'm not going to turn around and penalize the same people who just supported me so selflessly. I've personally witnessed the struggles people and schools are having in this economy and I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. My tremendous agent, Brooke Sims, helps keep me grounded every day."
This particular Award is such a big deal not only because of the unprecedented nature of the win, but the fact that David has also won Speaker of The Year with our magazine 13 times and the 2011 Male Entertainer Award, a category in which, like Entertainer Of The Year, he was nominated alongside bonafide entertainers and not just other speakers. The level of competition makes him all the more humbled by the win.
If anyone doubts his quality or qualifications, just let his rebooking rate speak for itself. David Coleman is a solid tradition at many campuses and with many organizations. "I didn't realize until this year the number of true supporters I have that believe in my career almost as much as I do. There are certain schools and conferences I have been to 10 or 15 years in a row." Off the top of his head, David says his record is probably Ohio Northern University. "It's in the high teens for years in a row. They brought me in before any of this had really started. The University of Akron has had me often as well, although a couple of scheduling conflicts existed that made me miss a year or two. With ONU though, I am thinking it is 18 years straight. Of course, Dr. Will Keim has done several schools 25 years in a row, so I still have a way to go (laughs)."
David feels very blessed to be where he is and sincerely thanks the reader's of the magazine and every supporter he has had throughout the years.
BOOK IT! For more information on bringing the 2011 Entertainer Of The Year and 2011 Male Performer of the Year, The Dating Doctor, David Coleman to your campus, contact David's amazing agent Brooke Sims at Coleman Productions at (866) 328-3762.