Under guidance of pickup artists, men learn how to pick themselves up

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(Video by Nathasha Lim)

James Norton, a.k.a. Brother James, was one of the pickup artists and lifestyle coaches at the Global Pickup Conference. (Photo: TBD Staff)

Long story short

Pickup artists: Less lying, more confidence, much more tolerance for rejection.


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The group of 30 men looks out of place in the Pentagon City mall food court on Sunday afternoon. They're impeccably groomed, wearing designer jeans and expensive shoes. They range in age from early 20s to late 40s. At 2:30 p.m. they rise from their chairs and huddle in between the kiosks selling $8.99 earrings and 3-for-$25 sunglasses. Time to get started.

After a final pep talk, they fan across the mall. Each group has three to five amateurs and one professional guiding their way. Their mission is to approach and charm every woman on site. Get a few phone numbers if you can. They’re attendees of the Global Pickup Conference, and the students are here to learn from the masters.

They’re practicing a scorched-earth strategy for meeting women: Leave no stone unturned, leave no woman unflattered. Understand and embrace that very few of the women will actually give you their phone numbers. When rejections don’t hurt you, one phone number and 99 rejections is better than no phone numbers and no rejections.

Getting his team of four ready for action, Vince Kelvin, 43, author of Same Night Sex System, reminds them that the important thing is how you feel after the women walk away. If they reject you, they’re not ready for you. You’re better than them. You’re awesome. You need a woman who can handle you.

"We need daring women,” Kelvin tells the men. “Let's go find them!"

“But let's move away from the food court, because there's a lot of security here."

Then they depart on a three-hour adventure that will include one student commenting on a woman's underwear choices at Victoria's Secret while a professional listens in on a hidden device, and another student getting kicked out of Macy's for hitting on a 16-year-old. Such are the pitfalls when you're learning how to talk to women. 

The conference's website makes some fascinating promises. On its Products page, it asks: “ARE YOU READY TO LAY EVERY GIRL YOU MEET?” Every girl, 100 percent. Perhaps this goal might be a tad ... unattainable. Think of all the women you encounter, at least in passing, every year. Business associates, waitresses, grocery shoppers, the Metro; we’re probably talking a few thousand women per year. And really, there are only so many hours in a day. At some point it just becomes burdensome.

The hyper-sexuality sells, but it’s actually not why most of the men say they paid $300 for two days of training at the Georgetown Holiday Inn and the mall excursion. There are a few attendees who are already doing well with women, and strive to be every-nighters. There are far more who lack conversational skills, work up a sweat before approaching women, and suffer from a paralyzing lack of self-confidence.

The gathering was organized by the quick-witted Speer, creator of The Speer Method, who looks like a less fit version of Johnny Depp. He asked if the students were there to learn how to have a lot of sex, and four men raised their hands. Asked if they wanted to learn how to eventually meet that one special someone, about 25 hands shot in the air. If they have more sex in the meantime, all the better.

Sex is merely the carrot; the whole event is a self-help conference in disguise. The pickup community – they call themselves "the community" for short – has veered away from scripted ruses and “negging,” a concept that teaches men to build attraction by making negative comments about a woman. Now they teach men that they just need the confidence to approach women, coupled with the ability to present how great they already are. And they state over and over: Don’t lie to women. Have a plan, but be yourself.

“Things will happen as long as you have personality, as long as she likes who you are, and as long as you’re not fake,” Speer tells the group. “Most women can see through this bullshit that we try to feed them. So the more bullshit you try to feed, the less successful you are with women.”

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