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As a keynote speaker, John Sweeney has captured the imagination of some of the most respected companies in the world. Not because he owns the nation’s oldest comedy theatre; not because a quote from his first book appeared on millions of Starbucks coffee cups; and because he danced shirtless on national television earning him “Fan of the Year” accolades from the Today Show. Rather, we believe Sweeney’s success is a result of how deeply and effectively his improvisational speaking and training programs have resonated with a broad spectrum of forward-thinking leaders.
One of Sweeney’s early corporate clients, Phil Fawcett, a Microsoft employee since 1985, expressed it like this, “I have worked one on one with both Stephen Covey and Tom Peters and I find John Sweeney’s ideas to be as valuable. His message and methods are fantastic!” Since that kind remark years ago, Sweeney has trained and entertained thousands of audiences.
Audiences come to understand, appreciate, learn and practice an improv-based mindset that helps them live and work better. Sweeney first conducts rigorous pre-event research and information gathering. He then uses the obtained client knowledge and his 15+ years of speaking expertise to create on-target, personal, and memorable experiences uniquely punctuated by an authentic and experienced brand of professional humor that further greases the wheels of learning and retention. Sweeney is backed by a team of insightful, hands-on, authentic performers and trainers who possess uncommon business insight and unmatched event experience. His long list of repeat clients include Hilton, Unitedhealth Group, Honeywell, Microsoft, Land O’ Lakes, Target, General Mills, US Bancorp, Medtronic, Thomson and approximately a hundred more.
Whether helping companies achieve greater innovation, improve teamwork and productivity, sell better, embrace change, personalize customer service, or renew workplace enthusiasm, Sweeney is undeniable in his ability spark laughter, deliver messages, provoke thought, and initiate change.
To book sales and customer service speaker John Sweeney call Executive Speakers Bureau at 800-754-9404.
Customization is Key
John Sweeney and his team work closely with clients to customize speeches for particular audiences and business needs, however some common themes and current topics have emerged. John is most well-known for his speeches on the behaviors and insights of improvisational innovation. For more than a decade, his clients have asked him to adapt his innovation speech to the specific disciplines of personal and cultural innovation, sales, storytelling/presentation, customer service, leadership, idea generation, agility/change management and collaboration.
Session Title: Innovation at the Speed of Laughter
Session Focus: Personal Innovation
Sweeney’s work on the topic of innovation with some of the best organizations on the planet has led us to discover that innovation is almost always a reflection of individuals reacting from a place of fear rather than a mindset of discovery. In this workshop, John applies improvisation-based behaviors and skills to behaviors that ignite innovation in the workplace. Using a mindset of discovery and addressing those behaviors that keep individuals from finding their most innovative self, John shows participants how they can use their own sense of trust, truth, and acceptance to improve natural creativity and boost innovation. Like improvisation, true innovation can only exist when ideas and actions flow freely without judgment – this unique speech shows participants how to make that happen for themselves, teams and the workplace. Using a trademarked blend of content and experiential learning, John’s speeches are visually startling, entertaining and actively demonstrate key learning points such as:
- Learn how all ideas can be perceived as gifts
- Understand how “yes, and” is the foundation for innovation and collaboration
- Defer judgment across all boundaries for the initial stages of idea generation
- Practice perceiving change as fuel, even when change brings challenges
- Increase comfort level with, and acceptance of, ideas that initially seem unusable
- Reward employees or teammates for ALL innovation (good, bad, ugly, old news or cutting edge)
- Welcome input that is contradictory to personal point-of-view
- Learn to send messages appropriate to the style, pace and characteristics most acceptable to each team member
Session Title: The Art of Selling
Session Focus: Sales
Improvisation is especially applicable to the sales process and profession. Being able to define, understand and then communicate your value proposition and point of view are vital in providing solutions to your client and to creating long lasting business relationships. We’ve found that the process we have used for more than 50 years to create a successful comedy sketch mirrors many of the elements and steps of a sales process. Sketch writers use their skills to refine content information and then turn into an undeniable asset. They transform and package the content in a way that heightens its value to the audience in an interesting and entertaining way. It is from this point of view that we approach the sales process in three parts:
Scripting your value proposition
As an organization that has scripted original material to entertain and impact audiences for more than 50 years, we understand the power of effectively sharing content in a succinct and engaging way. We know that sometimes a well-chosen word or two can drastically affect our story. Oftentimes sales people have a very short window of opportunity to make an impression and communicate the value of their product or service.
Rehearsing your pitch
In athletics and in the arts, we rehearse almost all the time and perform only once in a while. In business and in sales in particular, we execute all the time and don’t often find the time to practice. Yet, we all know that it is only through practice that one is able to find the level of execution that appears effortless. Like anything else, reading a customer, communicating with that customer in an appropriate style, and delivering a personal, powerful message that grabs their attention and makes them buy are all skills that take practice. For salespeople who work at a fast pace with a variety of customers, the ability to be comfortable with their core message and deliver it in the appropriate way and style is best achieved through consistent practice.
Improvising your close
John and his team view sales interaction as nothing more than a conversation. It is a “scene” where the salesperson asks how they can help, actively listens and then tells a story aligned to their value proposition and the client need. This approach eliminates the “awkwardness” often associated with sales and shifts the focus from the sales person and transaction to the client and their need. Because there is nothing more powerful than the emotional appeal of a service or product, the storytelling aspect of an “improvisational sale” is key.
By exploring how comedy writers use the creation of Character and Point of View as the basis for a great sketch, participants gain insight into the importance and process of creating Character and Point of View for themselves, their team and the very next sale, specifically learners will:
- Develop and maintain a personal style, point of view, and character
- Affectively listen for the client’s most vital and important needs
- Understand and communicate the value and differentiation of your company as a story
- Learn the “key elements” of a good sales story (script)
- Understand how “yes, and” is the foundation for consultative selling
- Learn to send messages appropriate to the style, pace and characteristics most acceptable to your clients and teammates and authentic to yourself
Session Title: Engaging Your Audience Through Storytelling
Session Focus: Presentation Skills/Communication/Presence
Communication is key to improvisation and storytelling is a fundamental for improvisational communication. Our stories need to be razor sharp, crystal clear, and emotionally charged. It is through story that we increase the engagement of our audience. Communication skills are equally vital in business; leaders and employees who are able to effectively express their point of view are much more prone to engage their internal and external audiences. Common learning points of this session include:
- Discover a simple, proven process and format to help participants architect their stories
- Demonstrate how to send messages in a style, pace and vehicle that is most acceptable to the personality traits of the people receiving the message
- Practice improving your confidence by presenting/storytelling in a low-risk environment to hone your presentation skills
- Become comfortable changing elements of the story “on the fly” based on the audience feedback you are receiving
- Provide tools and skills to prevent redundancy, vagueness, and unnecessary tangents in the stories you create
Session Title: Being Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
Session Topic: Agility/Change
After hearing from numerous clients how individuals and teams are reacting to a business climate of uncertainty and rapid change, John developed a speech designed to help them battle prevalent non-productive behaviors and attitudes. As improvisers we work in an environment of uncertainty and change all the time and have learned to embrace and maximize it. This session demonstrates the behaviors and skills improvisers use to stay productive; and helps participants practice how to be comfortable with, and unafraid of, change. Attendees learn how to:
- View change as fuel rather than an obstacle or challenge, significantly decreasing stress and fear
- Increase productivity in the midst of chaos
- Learn the importance of direct and intentional communication in stressful environments
- Take responsibility for what they CAN control
- Maintain confidence and stick to their point of view despite what is going on around them
- Reframe “uncomfortable” as a necessary part of growth progress, learning or improvement
Session Title: Act the Way You Want Your Company To Be
Session Topic: Leadership and Management
We’ve found that great leaders understand how important it is to establish a culture that empowers, encourages and rewards people for being “their best selves.” In this session, leaders learn how to create a more innovative and appealing culture - one that instills the expectation from employees that ideas will be met with an initial positive reaction rather than disagreement or judgment. As improvisers, it is necessary for us to create, on stage, an environment that is completely innovatively and creatively safe. John demonstrates how quickly and easily it is to create a similar mindset in the workplace. As a result, leaders we work with tend to increase the number of ideas their teams produce and the quality of those ideas.
In approaching leadership through the principles of improvisation, John’s session also focuses on how to create a “statusless” environment to organically help individuals find their most innovative, creative and productive selves. Leaders learn specific skills to help foster creativity in the people they lead. In addition, participants are asked to examine their own behavior through the eyes of an improviser in order to help them identify how they can improve their own leadership skills. Common learning points include:
- Learn how to receive all ideas as gifts in order to generate more ideas from your employees
- Understand “yes, and” as a foundation for improved teamwork and strong leadership
- Defer judgment without jeopardizing your business goals
- Create an internal reward system for innovation, risk-taking, and solution generation
- Accept and inspire the different styles and points of view your employees demonstrate
- Practice welcoming and moving forward with input contradictory to your personal point-of-view
- Send messages appropriate to the style, pace and characteristics of the individuals you lead
- Improve your own speaking, presentation and one-on-one communication skills
Session Title: Building a Culture of Innovation One Behavior at a Time
Session Focus: Culture & Workplace Transformation
We all seek a workplace culture where employees and leaders are nimble, engaged, alert and productive. It is common for companies to evaluate how they conduct business, communicate, and co-create value with customers; but many fail to ask a simple question, do we have a workplace where people and their ideas flourish and we capitalize on both? As improvisers, we know that if we do not create a culture where ideas are cherished and each of us is heard, we will fail. We live that culture every day and have developed rules, skills and tools that allow us to actively promote one another and create unique, innovative products spontaneously, in front of our customers, seamlessly as a team. This speech focuses on transforming the workplace from a restrictive environment full of fear and ambiguous employee loyalty to an environment of discovery, acceptance, collaboration and innovation. Common learning points for focusing on the workplace culture include:
- Awareness of how our own behavior is the most significant driver in building an innovative culture
- The power of ‘yes and’
- Accepting ideas are gifts
- Creative safety is required for people to be their most productive selves
- Benefits of creating an atmosphere of agreement versus argument
- Tools to trust your own instincts and lead others to do the same
- Become more confident in your ability to handle spontaneous situations and embrace change as fuel
Session Title: Building Idea Machines
Session Topic: Idea generation
John believes everyone has unlimited creativity locked inside them and when successfully tapped will lead to more and better ideas. Performing an improvisational scene on stage is often referred to as being able to ride a bike while you are building it. In addition to listening to the audience’s reaction, the point of view and strategy declared by your teammates and the logistical elements of the scene, an improviser must be in a constant state of idea generation. Since improvisation is theatre without script or net, our ideas are both the building blocks of the content and the fuel of our forward movement. To be a good improviser is truly to be an idea machine. Attendees discover:
- the difference between manufacturing an idea and discovering one
- the connection between emotional intelligence, instinct, and the potential of the next great idea
- how to increase the number and quality of ideas they generate by recognizing the value of change, accepting all ideas, and rewarding themselves and others for risk-taking
- see beyond “the expected or accepted” to re-energize their most creative self and inspire others around the
- which behaviors contribute or distract from their own ability and the ability of others to instinctively embrace new ideas and the ideation process
Speech Title: Using Exceptional Customer Service to Drive Growth
Speech Topic: Customer Service/Sales for the non-sales person
Many people find the “sales process” hard, awkward and uncomfortable. As improvisers, we view “sale” as a scene: the authentic interaction between two people with different points of view working to find a resolution by listening and building from each other’s point of view. Translated, it is a conversation with the goal of finding a solution to a customer’s need. It is simply just another version of customer service. In this session, John actively demonstrates tips and tools to overcome the awkwardness of “sales” interactions using a laugh, practice, learn, repeat approach. Participants learn how to:
- Build confidence in their own style and use their own strengths to improve customer interactions and create strong foundations for long term relationships
- Ask the question, “How can I help?” and then actively listen for what the customer needs and declare their point of view and sincere desire to help
- Stay present, actively listen, and learn how to use a “Yes And” attitude with the customer
- Share true and authentic stories about the value of the service, product or company and apply them to customer needs
Session Title: One Plus One Equals Three
Session Focus: Collaboration/Teambuilding
Core to improvisation is the ability of several people to share space in time with different points of view and create something from nothing, together. When this process is successful, the product they produce is rich and diverse and oftentimes, hilarious, authentic, and undeniably impactful. It is more than just the combination of the parts; it is a new and innovative solution that has been affected by all group members. And it is infinitely more interesting than any one group member’s point of view! Inspired by the fundamental of “ensemble-based creation,” this session introduces audience members to the shortcuts, insights, and tricks of how improvisers work at blazing speeds and ridiculously high levels of efficiency. Learning points include
- Spontaneously accept diverse points of view as valid
- Appreciate and understand the value applying additional perspectives to a single topic
- Practice the skill of moving forward without having complete agreement or compromise
- Actively listen and accept all ideas as gifts
- Declare a singular point of view, confidently and often
- Transform your mindset from fear to discovery
Global Head Focus Service Brands, Hilton
"Thank YOU!!!! You and the BNW team are awesome partners for our team and business. Your creativity, ability to link your talents to our business messages, and to “connect” with us, our team, and our entire brand is amazing. Here’s to many more opportunities in the journey ahead!"
Vice President and Chief Learning Officer, General Mills
"John brings a rich and high energy perspective on innovation. He has brought great value to a wide-variety of my executive and mid-level audiences over the years. The requests to "bring John back" speaks well of his impact on others. I would highly recommend him if your interest is developing a culture of increased innovation ... and you are willing to have a bit of fun along the way!"
Vice President, Learning and Engagement, Thomson Reuters
“John is always creative and fearless; he never lets naysayers derail his programs and they come out true believers on the other end. I have personally watched him interact with international audiences - he brings the same enthusiasm to the table whether it is a board room meeting at noon or a WebEx session with India at midnight! If you need someone to energize your workgroup, teach great brainstorming and ideation skills, John is your person."
Program Manager, Microsoft Research
“When John talks he will lead his audience to think about business solutions that under "business as usual" circumstance would never have been thought of. I highly recommend John Sweeney to anyone as a professional speaker, seminar leader, master motivator, business leader, and problem solver. His message and methods are fantastic!"
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