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Steve Haffner  

Decision Performance Specialist

Steve Haffner helps professionals elevate their performance by debunking their own illusions. Audience members learn to spot and overcome the hidden self-deceptions, mental shortcuts, and cognitive biases that influence their ability to perform at their best and achieve their goals.

Haffner’s background and experience is quite unique. He had a successful 30 year career as a corporate professional and executive, creating I.T. solutions as a programmer/analyst, systems engineer, business analyst and vice-president for organizations such as EDS, Mercer and Humana.

Then in 2011 Haffner launched his own performance and speaking business. As an entertainer he presented magic and mentalism shows for family and corporate audiences, including 3M, Amazon, and Edward Jones. As a decision performance specialist, Haffner’s clients include businesses and associations in a wide variety of industries and disciplines, serving business owners, executives, educators, HR professionals and more.

Through his study of magical illusion Haffner learned the secrets to deceiving the human brain. As a speaker, he shares how those same mental distortions that create illusions affect our everyday thinking, perceptions and decisions as well.

His keynote, breakout and workshop programs draw from not only his own experience, but also from research in the fields of psychology, neuroscience and behavioral economics. This combination of insight and experience allows Haffner to help professionals improve their decision making, trust building, productivity, and ability to handle disruption.

Haffner’s one-of-a-kind presentation style combines useful content with humor, personal stories, and magical effects. He shows the audience how their attention and perceptions are easily manipulated, then shares strategies for preventing those “mental errors” from undermining their performance as professionals.

Speech Topics


Beyond Magical Thinking - Uncover the hidden illusions that sabotage smart financial decision making

Master magicians create convincing and amazing illusions by coaxing their spectators’ brains into making subconscious mental errors. Magicians are experts at secretly influencing your thoughts, attention and emotions. Those same mental processes that create magical illusions also confound our everyday decision making - especially when those decisions involve money.

In this illuminating and entertaining program, the audience learns how and why our brains fool us into making poor financial decisions. By performing magical effects and revealing how the audience is fooled into “magical thinking,” Steve explores the connections between those mental distortions and the irrational hidden influences that thwart our financial decision making and demonstrates how to outsmart them.

Decision making illusions explored include:

  • Loss aversion and the endowment effect
  • Distraction by misdirection
  • Emotional hijacking
  • Overconfidence bias
  • Status quo bias
  • Outcome bias

From A-ha to Ta-da! - Unleash your magical potential by busting through your hidden self-deceptions

Each of us has amazing performance potential, but to reach it we must recognize and break through the hidden illusions that are barriers to our success. In this motivational and entertaining program, learn from a former professional magician how to achieve “Ta-da!” self-improvements by recognizing and overcoming the false beliefs and stories that can trick us into negativity, fear and settling for the status quo.

Key take-aways include:

  • Challenge what you believe about yourself, your limitations, and your own motivations
  • Learn when to trust your intuition - and when to question it
  • Perform at your best by defeating irrational “lizard brain level” fear and negativity

Disruptions, Deceptions and Decisions Outsmarting the hidden illusions that change and stress unleash on your decision performance

Studies show that the stress from major disruptions has adverse effects on our thinking, focus, and decision making abilities. Cognitive illusions such as status quo bias and attention distraction can keep us from successfully adapting when a major change confronts us and our work. Steve demonstrates how the mental distortions that make magic tricks look real also affect our decision making - especially in times of stress, change, and uncertainty.

Learning objectives include:

  • Learn from studies in the fields of neuroscience and psychology that demonstrate how the brain changes its functioning and effectiveness in times of prolonged stress.
  • Discover how to overcome our over-reliance on habitual behavior during stress and the tendency to over-emphasize status quo.
  • Learn strategies that counter disruptions’ interference with our ability to identify

The Trust Advantage – Unmasking the illusions that undermine the astonishing benefits of trust

The leadership trait that most directly contributes to our success is trust. Unfortunately, surveys show that trust in institutions and organizations is at an all-time low.

As leaders and professionals, we need to recognize the causes of low trust, which often originate as illusions produced by the human brain. These mental distortions, shortcuts, and cognitive biases can be enormous barriers to trust. In this compelling and entertaining program, audiences learn how magicians leverage trust, and how they can use similar methods to increase customer and employee trust.

Key take-aways include:

  • Learn strategies for overcoming the illusion of distrust and suspicion that derives from our brain’s impulse to keep us safe and undermines our professional relationships.
  • Discover how easily our attention, time and energy can be misdirected and how to re-direct our resources back to our goals, priorities, and values.
  • Learn to recognize the illusion of the “overconfidence bias” which allows faulty self-assessment and false certainty to subvert our trustworthiness.

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