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Doug Dvorak combines humor with motivational speaking

Oct 4, 2011
by Kara Pound, '06

In May of 1998, Doug Dvorak went through the toughest 30 days of his life: he was diagnosed with cancer, he got sober for the first time, and his father died tragically after falling out of a third floor window. If there was ever a time to make a big move, it was now.

After graduating from Flagler in 1984, Dvorak spent more than two decades working corporate jobs in sales and marketing for technology companies. He loved the stability, but it wasn’t his passion.

“It was scary to cut the chord,” Dvorak said of quitting his corporate position at IBM. “But you have to suit up and show up and make it happen.”

Dvorak’s true passion is public speaking and improvisational comedy. He had spent years honing these hobbies – attending the prestigious Second City, a sketch comedy and improv theatre and training center in Chicago – as well as giving hundreds of pro bono motivational speeches at local clubs, organizations and businesses.

While Dvorak was at Second City, he developed an alter ego of sorts named Dr. Earnest Carpediem – a spoof on life coach and motivational speaker Anthony Robbins. The character was a hit among his fellow improv actors and audiences. When Dvorak decided to become a professional motivational speaker, he thought his Carpediem persona was a great way to add a little humor.

Dressed in a blue button-down shirt, black slacks, a bowtie, red suspenders – with plenty of flair – ­and nerdy glasses, Dr. Earnest Carpediem doesn’t seem like the kind of guy a Fortune 500 company would hire to be their keynote speaker. Yet everyone from Marriott Hotels & Resorts to Merrill Lynch to Swissport Cargo Services has extended the invite.

Dvorak has traveled around the globe to places like China, South Africa, Malaysia, Turkey and Russia to deliver his comedic, creative and motivational message. Dvorak’s audience ranges from dozens to thousands, and he’s run the gamut from pest control operators to orthodontists to investment bankers. He even had a recent gig at the World Adult Kickball Association.

Dvorak says the length of keynote speeches can be a challenge.

“You’re up there in front of all of these people and you’ve got to keep them entertained and not lose the vibe,” he said.

Over the past nine years as a professional speaker, Dvorak has offered his clients a list of programs like “Mega Motivation With A Twist,” “Laughter is the Best Medicine,” “The Art of Being Creative” and “Selling Up in Tough Times.” One of his favorite phrases is, “The power of laughter and humor can bring true employee and customer loyalty.”

Dvorak says it was the special attention he received at Flagler that led him to turn his hobby into a career.

“There was always that little extra TLC,” he said.

In fact, when Dvorak came to visit Flagler College in the early 1980s from his native Chicago, there was no such thing as a sales degree. Actually, only a few colleges or universities in the entire country offered one. During Dvorak’s admissions interview, the counselor suggested that he do an independent study and design his own major. The mixture — a hodgepodge of acting classes, public speaking, and sales and marketing — worked.

But he’s quick to recall his favorite professor, Theatre Arts Department Chair Phyllis Gibbs’s sound advice: “She would always tell us this great Shakespeare quote, ‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.’ ”

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