|An experienced speaker, John has been speaking professionally for a long time. Reagan was president. Styles have changed. Great humor is timeless.|
How does someone become a speaker who specializes in humor skills?
I first worked with nuclear weapons and then as a blackjack dealer. The only career path open to me was humor specialist.
Why did you choose the interview format to introduce yourself?
I first published my bio in a bullet-list format. Visitors to my web site complained that their snoring was bothering co-workers.
What is your background in speaking and training?
I was trained in adult learning theory and curriculum development in the Department of Defense. The training business was my main job for 17 years in the USAF. Since the late 1980s, I have worked as a speaker and training consultant for businesses and associations.
Do you have hands-on experience in leadership and management?
Yes. I managed the operation of a nuclear weapons training organization of 150 people responsible for the training of 600 military officers annually. And I worked as the Project Manager coordinating the work of 750 people for one year to produce an event hosting over 1000 distinguished guests including 36 General officers. So as a trainer and a leader I go beyond just a book report. I bring real-world experience to the platform.
Most people try to avoid public speaking. How did you learn to enjoy it?
Self-improvement is addictive. The more I learn the more I want to take another workshop. I like to say that "the better you get, the faster you get better." Education is a compounding experience. Thirty plus years as a Toastmaster member and over 20 years in the National Speakers Association provided me with the speaking skills to take my life experiences and start my own speaking and consulting business. I've also studied acting, directing, dance, singing, comedy writing, and several foreign languages. A solid foundation of presentation skills support every program I customize for my clients.
How did you become focused on humor?
Working as a part-time magician for over ten years, I discovered that adult audiences needed more than tricks and puzzles. Laughter was the key. In the mid-1970s, I began an intensive study on humor skills which continues today.
The second thing was that I found myself serving duty in an underground launch center for nuclear missiles. Humor became a coping tool to deal with the real and artificial stresses of that job. Today I teach principles that I have actually used in the workplace.
So you're funny?
My mom thinks so. But of course the main benefit of humor isn't just the laughs. Humor keeps people's attention and increases learning.
And what do people, other than family members, think of you on the platform?
Two years in a row I was first-runner-up in a humorous speaking competition representing the best of over 20,000 people. Toastmasters International selected me as the 36th person world-wide to be certified as an Accredited Speaker for Professionalism and Outstanding Achievements in Public Speaking. The Los Angeles Chapter of the National Speakers Association honored me as the sixth winner of the Connie Award for Professionalism On The Speaking Platform. I'm the past chair of the Humor Professional Expert Group at the National Speakers Association (NSA). I am recognized as an expert who speaks with impact and provides value. Would you like to see what 40 past clients say about my programs?
You must get special treatment as your travel around the country.
Yes. Motel 6 leaves the light on for me.
And you're a magician?
My dad was a magician and I picked it up when I was ten years old. Audiences love the opening of my talks using comedy magic with an audience volunteer who joins me on the platform. I use magic as my warm up act. I never mix magic and message.
Should I be expecting a high-energy motivational speaker when you take the platform?
First, I believe people motivate themselves. I'd never assume the responsibility for making anyone's motivation happen. I provide members of the audience with fresh insights that often change the way they think and interact with others. I share original and compelling stories which help people make changes in the way they see their own challenges. They motivate themselves for their own reasons. They deserve all the credit.
Second, my laid-back personality style often sets people up for a surprise. They interact with me, a low-key and serious kind of guy, before the program. Then they are amazed to see how I deliver a humorous talk that touches the audience. It's not unusual for me to get comments about their unexpected experience. My style is effective, conversational and genuine. Audiences are tired of motivational robots on autopilot. My ability to connect with audience members, my timing and my observational humor skills make me unique from most other speakers.
Do you come from a funny family?
I'm a Norwegian from North Dakota, a fertile training ground for famous humorists and comedians. A sense of humor is a way of looking at life. My knowledge of the inside workings of humor, what makes it tick and how to use it, is a learned skill. Books, workshops, tapes, practice. I learned it from square one and that enables me to teach the skills to others.
What do you do for fun, when you're not speaking?
I cook, sing and play tennis, but not at the same time. I make excellent pie crust from scratch, Norwegian pastries, curried vegetable polenta and great lefse. My barbershop chorus is entertaining and challenging. Racquet sports are on the top of my list.
What is your formal education?
I have a BA degree in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MBA in Personnel Administration from the University of Missouri. The 60 credit hours beyond my master's degree were in presentation and performance skills. My formal education has prepared me to help others build strong teams and productive relationships. Seven colleges and universities have offered my extension classes. I've worked as a blackjack dealer and also in the public school system. I've performed as a professional magician and directed two improv troupes for ten years. Nearly everything I have done has been related to teaching and entertainment.
What would you say to someone who wanted you to speak at their event?
Operators are standing by.
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