Help wanted: NOAA to hire magician for conference — ‘says it needs a magician for training purposes, not entertainment’

Below excerpted from PoliticoPro:

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Help wanted: NOAA to hire magician for conference

By Alex Guillen

5/3/12 1:13 PM EDT

You don’t need a mind reader to know that hiring a magician for your government conference may not be a great idea right now.

But that’s what the NOAA plans to do as it advertises for a speaker on the “magic of change” for an upcoming confab in Silver Spring, Md.

The agency wants a motivational speaker to create “a unique model of translating magic and [principles] of the psychology of magic, magic tools, techniques, and experiences into a method of teaching leadership,” says the ad, which appeared Tuesday.

NOAA isn’t flying its staff to a pricey Las Vegas hotel, and it says it needs a magician for training purposes, not entertainment. Still, spending taxpayers’ money on prestidigitation risks conjuring up comparisons with the General Services Administration’s infamous Vegas adventure.

GSA came under heavy fire last month for spending $823,000 on a 2010 Las Vegas convention that included a magician, mind reader and commemorative coins. Administrator Martha Johnson stepped down over the episode, which gave Republicans ammunition for attacks blaming President Barack Obama.

A NOAA employee declined to comment when POLITICO contacted her Thursday.

Patricia McBride-Finneran, the NOAA point of contact listed on the ad, said that “somebody from communications [is] coming up to talk to me about what I should be saying,” and she would comment later.
Earlier Thursday, however, she told Government Executive that NOAA’s solicitation bears no comparison with the GSA affair.

“I’m sure it will be talked about, and this is a new topic,” McBride-Finneran said. “But this is a program in which we train potential managers — just a one-day conference, where we teach about different things that pertain to government, such as working with Congress.”

NOAA wants more than your typical clown college graduate for its June leadership conference.

Among the requirements listed: “Understand and be experienced at presenting the work of Dr Howard [Gardner] on multiple intelligences and how this relates to creativity and obtaining team solutions.”

Gardner is a developmental psychologist at Harvard University best known for his “theory of multiple intelligences.”

The speaker must have presentations that use “experiential exercises, physical energizers, magic tricks, puzzles, brain teasers, word games, humor, and teambuilding exercises … to demonstrate how to stimulate creativity, encourage active participation, and practice needed skills and competencies,” the ad says.

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