It’s not every day you have the privilege of speaking for a company with a vision to change the world through the power of play. When you do, you deliver the most entertainment-packed, interactive keynote ever — like I just did for the wonderful people at ASTRA Toy! After not one but two canceled conventions, this event was so special for a multitude of reasons.
From why specialty toy industry folks take the cake as the best audience ever to how my latest keynote can help you connect with your why, tag along as I bring you through my time in Long Beach, California as the funny keynote speaker for the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy 2022!
Why ASTRA Toy People Are Totally My People
The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, better known as ASTRA, is an international not-for-profit trade organization that serves more than 1,800 independent retailers, manufacturers, and sales representatives of the specialty toy industry. Founded in 1992 (the same year Creepy Crawlers topped Christmas lists!), ASTRA is a fantastic community of professionals committed to providing children with healthy, quality play materials that have high play value.
Every year, ASTRA members host the annual Marketplace and Academy, a big toy family reunion featuring the best and brightest in the specialty toy industry. Well, I should say that the event is hosted almost every year — I was first scheduled to speak at the ASTRA 2020 event in Orlando, then at the 2021 event in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, both events were canceled due to COVID-19 complications and ultimately rescheduled for a California bash in Summer 2022.
After a two-year hiatus, the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy 2022 was finally held in the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center from June 12 to June 15. The focus this year was to make memories with specialty toy colleagues from across the nation, share stories, and overcome challenges with the best in the industry. So, I was honored to deliver my Work That Matters keynote to help ASTRA in their mission to remember why they do what they do!
Within moments of arriving at the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy, I realized that toy people are my people! I might as well be a juggling human toy! So, words could not describe my excitement when I realized that retailers of the book “Juggling for the Complete Klutz” by John Cassidy were in attendance, too. That was the exact book that taught me how to juggle all those years ago! I felt everything come full circle when I stepped on stage as their funny keynote speaker.
How to Spark Joy with My “Work That Matters” Keynote
I had the privilege of serving as the opening keynote speaker for the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy 2022 with my talk, Work That Matters. That keynote is perfect to start an event — it’s high-energy and interactive to truly wake up the audience and encourage them to begin networking. Not only does this keynote connect me to my audience, but it inspires the audience to connect with one another for conversations they can carry for the duration of the convention!
As an entertainment-based keynote, my favorite part of being on stage is getting the audience involved with the material. To spark connection and collaboration, I walk the audience through my career — the choices that got me where I am today — and how I discovered my purpose through my nonprofit, Win-Win Entertainment. I then encourage them to speak amongst one another to unearth the real reasons why they got into the specialty toy industry and why they do the work they do.
Every time I deliver this keynote, I’m stunned by the audience response. Peppered between physical comedy stunts and juggling tricks, the audience reveals stories that capture the spirit of the industry, from mentoring employees to delighting a customer with a one-of-a-kind product. This keynote opens people up to the heart of why they’re in their business and reconnects them to their purpose, which has never been more important than following the events of COVID.
What Meaningful Work Means to ASTRA Toy
Work That Matters is fun, high-energy, and interactive, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a tear-jerker, too! As I went around the room to learn more about the why behind ASTRA members’ businesses, some incredibly special moments came to light. One story that’s really stuck with me was an attendee who donated toys to a local family after their home burnt down before Christmas — her why was to be in a position to help others and extend grace.
As more stories came pouring in, I learned how so many ASTRA members show up to work to put better toys on the marketplace. They thrive on specialty toys designed with a focus on what a child can do, rather than what a toy can do. They foster interaction and education to teach kids kindness and empathy. Many donate to foster homes and hospitals, which hit home for me as the founder and chairman of a child-focused nonprofit. Such amazing people!
“WOW! Those are the words I heard over and over again after Jeff opened up our annual Marketplace & Academy show. After waiting for 2 years to have our full in-person event, Jeff set the tone and energized everyone as we began the 4 days. Thank you Jeff!”
— Sue Warfield, President at ASTRA
Why It’s Always Fun to Work with Friends
As if I wasn’t already having a blast with the specialty toy industry folks at the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy 2022, I also got to see some of my event circuit friends! First, I bumped into Thom Singer, a good buddy of mine who was the event emcee. Two other pals, Kevin Brown and Stacy Hanke, were also speaking at the event, though I had to jet out before they hit the stage.
Here’s why it’s always more fun to work with friends!
Event Emcee Thom Singer
Thom Singer is a legendary event emcee and keynote speaker. We’re always crossing paths, but rarely work the same events. ASTRA 2022 finally brought us together and Thom was able to introduce me to the crowd! The last time we met was on stage at the National Speakers Association “Influence 2021” in Las Vegas, where we took part in a professional emcee panel.
Keynote Speaker Kevin Brown
Keynote speaker Kevin Brown is one of my closest friends, but he’s also one of the most in-demand speakers on the event circuit. With a 30-year career in franchise development under his belt, Kevin is a go-to branding and culture expert. Though we always catch up when he’s in Vegas, I had to head back to the airport before I could catch his keynote. Still an honor to be on the bill with him!
Keynote Speaker Stacey Hanke
Stacey Hanke is a veteran keynote speaker and mentor who was a fantastic fit for the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy 2022. Her background spans from authoring two books to training business leaders among the likes of the Coca-Cola, Pfizer, and General Mills C-Suites. She’s been on the circuit for years, so it was a pleasure to speak at the same event as Stacey!
Need a Funny Keynote Speaker to Keep Crowds Engaged?
Your work matters — not just a little, but a whole lot. It’s time you and everyone you work with remember that! It’s also time for you to let loose a bit and share some much-needed laughter, connection, and empathy with your teammates. My Work That Matters keynote is ideal for any group who wants a high-energy, interactive reminder of their true purpose.
Whether you want to follow suit with ASTRA and bring me on as your opening keynote to electrify your event, schedule me in the middle to recharge your audience, or have me close out your conference to make sure everyone leaves with a smile, I’ve got you covered. For a keynote speaker who’s equally as funny as they are engaging, send me a booking inquiry today.