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Interview with Ross Shafer

Learn more about Ross Shafer’s keynotes, inspiration, and his favourite parts of being a public speaker. Read his interview with A-Speakers below.

Why did you start with management trainings aside from your entertainer career?

For me, business management training came long before entertainment. I graduated from college with a business degree and my first job was in the 12-person training department at a large department store chain. I wrote the “procedures manuals” for 25 different departments (everything from Lingerie to Sporting Goods). I taught classes to upper management and new hires. I became very familiar with how companies made money. It always went back to getting the right people, the right work flow processes, and the right profit margins.

That knowledge gave me the confidence to start my own businesses…and to buy “broken businesses” from the bankruptcy court. I bought many of those companies for ZERO down…took over the debt…turn them around…and resold them for a nice profit. Later on, I was inspired by John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) to write and produce funny corporate training films; which, to me, were kind of a “short training manual on tape.”


What are the most important factors for effective communication in work relationships?

Absolute Clarity of purpose is the #1 factor for good communication at work. Regardless of the task(s) people need to know what they are doing – and why they are doing it. That’s why I have always loved the idea of procedural manuals. If possible, leaders must be able to communicate the specific process of achieving success.

EXAMPLE: A communicative leader needs to says, “We are going to try to increase our revenues by 9% this year. Here are the five things we need to do to accomplish this goal.” The second most important factor is having a leader who possesses enthusiastic humility. A humble leader (who actively champions others) signals to the team that he/she is doesn’t pretend to know everything…and is looking for answers from the team, as well. Team participation in the process is crucial to keeping an organization innovative and healthy. Lastly, leaders who are ‘transparent’ and can admit they have made mistakes will earn the trust of their team members. We would all like to work for someone who believes, “Nothing is hidden. All is forgiven.”


How are your keynote presentations unique?

Having been a stand-up comedian reminds me to “get to the point quickly.” I talk about business expertise with the same brevity as I would when writing a joke. If I can explain a complex issue in 30 seconds, then why is it necessary to devote six minutes to over-explaining it? That becomes boring. I am never boring. The feedback I often get from an audience is, “the time simply flew by” or “I could have listened to him all day.”

That’s because I can impart a lot more insight, tactics, and solutions in a shorter amount of time. Add to that the element of humor and drama…and the audience gets swept up in the program. I don’t just “lecture” to them. I strive to give people an emotional reason to care about this material.


Which of your keynote speeches do you enjoy the most and why?

I like ARE YOU RELEVANT, NOBODY MOVED YOUR CHEESE, and ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY because each of those programs deal directly with personal development. I love to see people nod their heads when a new solution hits them. I want people to leave with a fresh way of thinking about an old problem. I want people to hear about innovations (I’ve learned elsewhere) and feel a renewed hope for their careers – and jobs – and life.


How much does humor factor into your keynotes and other speaking engagements?

That is a question I always ask the client. “How much humor do you foresee in the program? 75%? 50%? 33%? 10%?” Obviously, the meeting planner knows their own audience better than I do – so I trust the meeting planner to know the expectations of their attendees. Some programs are designed to be an intense teaching session…others are intended to be more about fun than education. However, my style is to provide humor in EVERY presentation because humor is also an essential device I can use to make a topic memorable.


Learn more about Ross Shafer here!

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