Mad science experiments have garnered Steve Spangler 185 million views on YouTube as the guy who originated the Mentos and Coke geyser. He’s since licensed the product for use in education and toys, founded Steve Spangler Science to make science-related toys, created more than 1,300 online videos, and appeared on Denver’s KUSA-TV 9News more than 1,000 times as of May 2015.
Making science fun has roots in Spangler’s childhood. “I grew up in a family of professional magicians,” he explains. His parents, Bruce and Kitty Spangler, worked with stars like David Copperfield from their home office in Denver. “My mom and dad consulted for some of the biggest names in magic.”
Steve instead went into science, but saw the educational potential of the showmanship of magic. He performed thousands of shows at schools starting in the 1990s before moving into professional development for teachers and educational administrators in 2003.
Now he’s taking his experience in education to the boardroom with a regular schedule of speaking gigs at corporate meetings and events every year. He’s been doing about 100 events every year (35 of which are corporate events)—about 30 percent of his total engagements—and offering professional development workshops.
“Most speakers are five points and a poem,” he jokes. “I am not five points and a poem.” He references his keynote at the annual Meeting Industry Council of Colorado Educational Conference & Trade Show in March 2015 as an example: “Within 30 seconds, there was toilet paper flying off the stage. It sets the tone: This is going to be something different.”
It’s all about connecting with people. “Engagement is all about framing,” he says. “I can’t help but think those same strategies can work with the corporate world. We’re really talking about the science of engagement.”
At events such as the MIC conference, he often passes out Energy Sticks from Be Amazing Toys (the company he founded and sold) that light up and make noises when you hold them in your hands to complete the loop. “People are connecting right then and there,” he says. “It’s human touch.”
According to Spangler, the same mindset works just as well in a sales meeting as it does in a science class. “It’s finding those connecting points with customers,” he says.
Spangler sees plenty of other applications for his science in the corporate world. He suggests, “Great teachers are great leaders, and great business leaders are great teachers.”