Names you are not likely to see as keynote speaker at your next conference: Elton John, Eddie Vedder, Pete Townshend. These are big stars who, sorry to say, will never likely give a motivational speech or conduct a people-skills seminar. But there is a good chance that if you live in Western Canada and attend conferences at all you might one day see Andy Beesley. He is a facilitator, keynote speaker, trainer and general communications professional with a nation-wide reputation.
He is also a good actor and excellent singer. Prince George audiences have seen him play Jesus in J.C. Superstar, the captain of the guard in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and other popular productions.
Until now those artistic pursuits and his business life have been decidedly separate, but things are beginning to harmonize in his world. His two selves are converging and the feeling he’s getting from it is similar to what astronauts feel just as the fires ignite to launch them into deep space. Yes, Andy Beesley is a rocket man.
“For a long time now I have looked at how to marry my two interests my business and musical theatre,” he says. “I have done music and theatre all my life, and done it professionally. And my presentations are, let’s be honest about it, entertainment. It has content that is meaningful, but you present that with a lively, funny, easy-going speech. To be honest, everybody in this profession does that, and I’ve gotten bored with it. I still like what I do, but everybody does it the same way. What I’ve done is create something that has very different entertainment value that also has great content value. I know when I go to a conference, that’s what I want out of the presentation I’m seeing.”
Well what took him so long? It seems such a natural progression for someone like him. Write a motivational presentation that uses characters and songs to make their point. Audiences remember key points better through mnemonics like that anyway. But it isn’t easy to graft two public speaking styles into one coherent demonstration. Speeches and theatre are different vessels of communication. He just makes it look easy.
“It was one of those rare lightbulb moments for me,” Andy says, remembering the epiphany that brought his new presentation to life. “I was on my ski machine in the basement, my mind was wandering and I had Live At Leeds (the famous live album by The Who) cranked up. It was the pre-Tommy medley. Suddenly it came to me that I could use what they were saying in a presentation, but I could actually sing it. Because I do sing. That was the moment of truth, but the nuts and bolts took another year. It took that long to figure out what I wanted to say, then find the right music to convey that.”
The music runs the spectrum. He sings everything from Danny Boy’ to Teenage Lobotomy’ to get his point across. There is room for songs to be added or subtracted to fit the specific event he is hired to speak at, but one song is constant. Rocket man’ is there no matter what the circumstances may be. And the characters he plays, with a quick change of a jacket or pair of sunglasses, represents a broad sweep of society from a junkie to an old man who has found the keys to personal happiness.
“I didn’t want to turn this into a circus act. It is still a keynote speech,” Andy says. “So I don’t start talking like an old man or anything like that. I just add little touches to make my point, set the stage. But it’s just representational.”
So why paint in acting or music at all, if it’s only so much window dressing?
“If a business spends $40,000 for a beautiful, efficient, well constructed mission statement it wants to live by, it is meaningless unless there is some kind of connection. The employees, the customers, the management has to feel that mission statement. All the good information in the world is useless without an emotional reaction to go with it,” Andy says. “In my opinion, art usually affects people on the emotional levels. When I listen to a song or read a book I am not analyzing it for intellectual devices. I am just enjoying it or not. That’s what humans are about: emotions and logic. They can work together.”
Andy will present his Rocket Man keynote show at the Central Interior Regional Arts Council Conference on October 12 to 14. The conference, entitled Creative Paths to the Future,’ is a perfect fit for this unique address. Call 562-0024 to register.