Monday, September 01, 2014

How To Find A Speaker


Audiences deserve an awesome experience at conferences, trade shows, conventions, seminars, and other live events.  People spend money for registrations, travel, lodging, and invest time away from work and family to be present at events.  Superb speakers in every keynote, breakout, and panel discussion are mandatory for high return on investment. 

Speakers Set the Tone for Live Events.  

While there is much talk about the importance of content (and yes, content is important), a speaker who is experienced and has the presentation skills to educate and inspire will make an impression that will last in the minds and hearts of the attendees.  When that same speaker can motivate people to take action, you have a winner.  

Being Smart Is NOT Enough

Just because someone is smart, or has done something cool -- it does not mean they belong on stage.  Often when speakers are selected for having some level of "fame", but without dedication to how they convey their story to the audience, they may fall flat.  Speaking is a learned skill and an art that needs to be practiced.  The more times someone presents, the better they become at delivering presentations.

Selection by Committee Brings Compromise

Compromise is simply a mathematical equation to split the difference.  Those who are choosing speakers should not assume they are buying a commodity item.  No two speakers are the same, and the ones that are put on the agenda should clearly meet the goals of the conference.  Create a list of what you want from every speaker, and do not trade away the important factors to have peace on the planning committee.  Certain things are worth the emotional investment to fight, and speaker selection is top of that list.  Pie vs. cake for dessert often gets more attention than who is asked to set the tone for the whole event.

Ask Other Speakers for Referrals

One of the best way to find great speakers is to ask other speakers for recommendations.  While some are not clued into who else is out there, most professional speakers have colleagues in the business who you otherwise may not be able to identify.  Experienced speakers will not give suggestions without having vetted the other speakers ability to "wow" an audience, thus your inquiry will bring you amazing talent.  

Call a Speakers Bureau

Speakers bureaus exist to help you find the right speakers for your event.  They make their money from a percentage of the fee you pay the speaker, and thus there is not additional charge to your budget.  They will uncover what your needs are and find you several options.  They will also handle all the negotiations.  Bureaus are excellent at vetting those who are committed to art and business of speaking, and they will not put an inexperienced speaker on your agenda.  To find a good speakers bureau ask your favorite professional speakers for introductions (they will happily connect you with a couple of bureaus!).

Know How Often the Speaker Presents

A speaker who only speaks on occasion is not going to have the same skill level as someone who speaks 50 times a year.  While there is no magic number as to how many talks make a speaker great, there are warning signs to those who are not at the level you desire.  Some people are naturally great speakers, but for most their abilities are linked to experience.  Those who are good will be invited to speak often.  Someone with over 300 professional level speeches will usually deliver a better experience for your audience than an expert who has given ten talks. Ask the speaker about the number of presentations they have given at events similar to yours (over a lifetime and in the past two years).  

Seek Stories

Content and information are important, but do not fall for the old line that "Content is King".  Content alone is not king.  It is widely reported that the human brain learns from stories.  Go back 2000 years and man did not sit around the fire and pass out graphs, charts and excel spreadsheets.  Instead, the village elders told stories to educate the next generation.  If you think that storytelling is not important for the speakers you put on stage, then you may be organizing a boring event.  If the idea of "stories" make you think "fluffy", you are missing the point.  I do not mean fairy-tales, but stories as examples that will anchor the content in the mind of the audience.  Do not fall for the "content speaker" label, as that could be code for a long and drawn-out data dump.

Find Interactive and Engaging Speakers

No longer is a lecture enough to meet the needs of an audience. A sage on the stage who tosses out brilliance is yesterday's news. But interactivity is not a formula of having three exercises where the participants talk to the person next to them or touch their neighbor's elbow.  Interactivity and engagement are created through how the speaker communicates and sparks the whole experience for the audience.  A speaker with a conversational style can weave engagement into a lecture while making people think and feel.  Do not force speakers who are not experienced with engagement activities to do formulaic exercises.  Inquire how they engagement and what they consider "interactivity", and if they are not sure, move on.  

Communicate with the Speakers

Once you have selected speakers, spend time getting to know them personally and engage them to utilize their unique talents for a positive impact on the overall event.  A phone call at the time they are booked, and one a week or two in advance of the event is common, but when planners engage the speakers as part of the team, they will have better results.  Make sure the speaker knows all the goals of the meeting so they can assist.  If you want them to attend happy hours or meals, discuss this up front.  Often the expectation of additional participation is dropped on the speaker once they arrive at the conference.  Many speakers will happily engage with your attendees if you set that expectation in the beginning.

Schedule Follow Up Sessions After Keynotes

Keynotes by their nature are not the same as workshops.  If you have a great keynote speaker, and want the audience to have a more intimate opportunity to learn from them, schedule them for additional breakout sessions in addition to their main stage talk.  Experienced speakers know that a great keynote is different from what makes an impactful workshop.  Give them the chance to do both at your event.  Some speakers will charge more for breakouts, others will add additional sessions as a bonus for the doing the keynote.  Talk to the speaker and / or speakers bureau about what you are seeking and negotiate a mutually beneficial solution. 

Filling the agenda with speakers is more than populating names into the blanks.  The speaker's content, style, personality, engagement, and dedication to your event have a direct impact on your success.  The more you communicate your goals before you hire speakers, the better chance you will have for amazing presentations by talented experts who are committed to helping you create an amazing conference attendee experience.

Have A Great Day

thom singer




Saturday, August 30, 2014

Speaking of Fear in Business, Halloween, and Scary Topics


In a delightfully fun conversation with two association executives, the CEO and the director of meetings for a large trade association, they labeled me "The Scary Speaker".  

The topics that I proposed to present at their event, which would include the opening keynote and two breakouts, will cover "Networking", "Negotiations", and "Presentation Skills".  They noticed the coloration between each topic was that people were scared of these themes.  

It is true, these are scary.  But in business we must conquer many fears to reach our full potential.

They will be hiring me to cover "The Trifecta of Fear" (as the CEO dubbed my three talks) and we joked that it was too bad their convention was in the April, and not in October. (I think they envisioned me in costume as Dracula or Frankenstein while on their stage.  Booooo!). 

What is it that causes business professionals fear the very skills that will guarantee them more success?  It could be the perception of what it means to network, negotiate, or speak.  In each case there is a relationship and communication involved.  And when dealing with other people, we clearly face the unknown.  This makes us vulnerable to make mistakes, or to be judged (and nobody like those options). 

When I speak and train on these subjects I like to think I am "The Fear Buster".  All opportunities come from people, thus we should not be frightened about how we engage with those whom we encounter.  

In most cases the people we meet networking, those on the other side of a negotiation, and the audiences where we present are all on board with wanting to see us succeed.  That is important to remember.  Once learned, simple strategies for all these topics should forever make them less nerve wracking.

Conventions that are planned by fun people who engage speakers on a personal level are always the best ones.  I know the conference that these two are conjuring up will be bewitching and enchanting (too much with the Halloween theme?).

Have A Great Day

thom singer


Friday, August 29, 2014

Emotional Vampires (Revisited)


Everyone knows someone who will emotionally drain the energy from the room. These are the "emotional vampires" and they are out there lurking, not in the shadows, but in your contact list. They knock you off from what is otherwise a great day. They suck the life force from your veins, and you are left feeling numb after being in their lair.

Like the character LeStat of Anne Rice's novels, they start off with ambitious ideas, but soon the knowledge of the triviality of their life sends them off casting darkness in their wake.

Take the time to examine those who drain your energy. There is no metaphorical wooden stake that will drive the "emotional vampires" out of your life. To do this you have to recognize negativity when it arrives, and have a policy that keeps the gossiping, whining, complaining, and bitching out of your life. They cannot enter your home without an invitation.  Remember, the ones who belittle others will do so you in due time. Walk away or face the eventuality of being bitten.

They exist, those who will harm your soul intentionally.  They are waiting to bite. But you control the actions you take in reaction their ways. It is the unconditional love you have with family (and true friends) that can be a clove of garlic. When people care with purpose, the dark ones cannot devour your soul.


Emotional vampires will come and go.  Once you take away their power to impact your feelings, they will vanish, as they have little use for those on whom they cannot feed.

Think about it.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

**I called this post "revisited" as I wrote about "Emotional Vampires" in 2007.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do

I have been writing "Cool Things My Friends Do" blog posts for over two years.  It is my favorite part of this blog, and I am always excited to add someone to the growing list (now over 115 posts) of people doing cool things in their personal and professional lives.

In a conversation the other day someone pointed out that I have a lot of friends who are entrepreneurs and solopreneurs.  I guess that is right.  I seem to be surrounded by people who are blazing their own trails and finding success on terms they define.  This is true of friends with traditional jobs, too.  Being entrepreneurial is not about starting and growing companies... it is about an attitude of making things happen and finding better ways to live.  The people I know are not content with the status quo. 

I am going to continue writing about my friends and all the cool things they do.... but soon I will be seeking others to interview (whom I do not know) that are changing the world.  I hope you will enjoy the "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do".  

Stay tuned!

And if you know an entrepreneur (or a person with a big does of entrepreneurial spirit) who I should interview, let me know.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

5 Tips for Successfully Attending a High School Reunion


A friend attended his 30th High School Reunion this weekend, and since mine is only a few weeks away this topic has been heavy in my thoughts.  

Reunions bring with them a variety of emotions, and many choose to stay away all together.  It is easiest for many to lump the memories all in the "Crap Pile" and simply not show up.  

There are those who lived through pain in their adolescent years, felt misunderstood, or struggled with identities. Even the kids who seemed to "have it all" were not necessarily happy in their popularity. No matter where or when we grew up, it seems we all went to the same high school of emotional experiences.  The stories I hear from all over line up in more ways than most would ever imagine.

The reunion for my friend was a pleasant experience, but he was taken aback that only 1/4 of his graduating class chose to be present.  Others who came sat with their best friends of thirty years and never spoke to anyone outside of the corner from where they sat to observe.  But then there were the people who came to the party and embraced their past and present. These are the one that created an evening that was memorable.  Some of the most engaged were "outsiders" in while in school, but that night they stood shoulder to shoulder with their classmates... proud in themselves today.


I believe those who stayed away from my friend's reunion, or hid in the corner, missed a great opportunity. 

A reunion does not need to be a re-visit of a past if you choose to see it as an opportunity.  It is an evening that is only a few hours long, and nobody is there to cause harm or shame to others.  He said there was no conversation about career or financial success, but more of a genuine interest in the journey each person had taken.  Some of those journeys were good, others were not-so-good, but they all lead to this one moment in time. For him the evening was a chance to share with a group he shared a unique connection.

A classmate of mine, Dan, posted on Facebook of his struggles 30 years ago, but proclaimed his excitement to fly across the country to be present at our reunion.  Many of his current friends asked why he would care to spend the time and money to go to such an event, when he has grown up and moved on.... but he clearly knows his purpose in wanting to be connected to his high school peers, all who are real people living in the real world.  

In his Facebook post Dan said:
"We're all middle age. We've all had our own burdens. We've all become more mature and wiser. We've all realized what is important. We've put that silliness of young adulthood behind, and realized that we don't have to agree on fashion, politics, religious beliefs, or sexuality to deeply care about each other."
He nailed what many others fail to realize before a reunion.  People do change and grow.  Many discover themselves and are not connected to the actions and beliefs they held in high school.

When seen as a fresh start to network with interesting people, many you will really be meeting meet for the first time (as did we know each other then? Did we know ourselves?), a reunion can become a once in a lifetime (or once a decade) event.  Will there be those who are the same jerks they were decades earlier... YEP.  But they will be the exception, not the rule.

5 Tips for Successfully Attending at a High School Reunion

1.  Expect people to be nice.  You will get from others what you give to them.  Even those who were stuck up or jerks in the past can prove to be the coolest people today.

2.  Do not worry about your weight, the car you drive, the house you live in, your job title, your relationships status, where you went to college (or that you didn't go to college), etc...  The reality is that nobody cares. Come with an attitude to connect and hear about them and you will be pleasantly surprised.

3.  Let go of petty jealousies, rivalries, and attitudes toward individuals.  Do not assume you know how others felt (or feel) about you.  You are not clairvoyant, and often your assessments of their thoughts do not line up with the reality.

4.  Get out of the corner and go talk to people.  Introduce yourself, and if they do not remember you, do not be offended.  It has been a long time and they have had their own "stuff" going on in their life.  Ask question of others about their journey since graduation,  When it is your turn to talk, do not brag or whine.  Just tell them about who you are now.

5.  Have fun.  It is only a few hours, and you may make a connection that could become an important friend for the rest of your life.  

Time has a way of eliminating the importance of who was the cool one, the attractive one, the smart one, the rich one, or the athletic one.  Show up and be the one who cares about the others in the room, and you will find most of your classmates are just like you (they care too, or they would not have shown up).

My friend was happy to have chosen to be at his reunion (as the next one is ten years away) and I am very excited about attending mine.  While some old friends have informed me they are choosing not to be there... I realize that the people who do decide to be present are the ones I am meant to have in my life that night.  

I can't wait to see who is amazing.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Monday, August 18, 2014

Podcast Movement 2014



The Podcast Movement 2014 conference was held this weekend in Dallas, TX.  Nearly 700 people attended this first-annual event, and I was there to learn more about this growing medium and decide if I am ready to launch my own podcast.  I am an avid listener of several podcasts on a variety of topics.  Over the past few months I have been exploring a concept that I believe will be fun, bring educational value, and allow me to share the cool things that people do to impact the world.

It was impressive how well the event was curated.  The organizers brought together many of the podcasting super-successful, but also a lot of interesting people who are seeking new ways to share information.  I definitely received more than I expected from my attendance and found the perfect accountability partner in a smart guy who is also seeking to launch a new podcast this fall. (Plus, Sara and the kids came along and had a few last minute vacation days before the school year starts up next week).

While at the event I also had the chance to meet some other solopreneurs (many who are podcasters) who are active in the Solopreneur Hour community.  The SoloHour is one of the fastest growing business podcasts, and host Michael O'Neal held several meet-ups for people who are part of his online community.  I have come to know many of these very smart and dedicated people virtually, and thus meeting them in person was an added bonus. 

Here are a few links to podcasts from some of my SoloLab friends (pictured above) that you might find interesting:

Solopreneur Hour (Michael O'Neal)

Not Bad For Dad (Scott Webber)

The Life of Now (Greg Barth)

You Leading You (Sean Ackerman)

Untrapped Life (Kristy Bartholomew)

100K Careers Q&A (Lisa Cummings)

OK 2 B LGBT (Molly Richardson and Kim Trumbo)

Ace Productivity (Timothy Moser)

SmartPhones Made Easy (Rey Brown)

There is a lot for me to accomplish to successfully launch my podcast in the next few months, but I am excited about the opportunity.  I hope that those who read this on my blog will stay tuned and be the first people to listen once it becomes real.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cool Things My Friends Do (Week #115) - "Making Rain with Events" by Scott Ingram

Each week on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their personal and professional lives.


As a huge believer in the power of live events, I am excited about my friend Scott Ingram's new book "Making Rain with Events: Engage Your Tribe, Create Raving Fans and Deliver Bottom Line Results with Event Marketing" (Now available on Amazon.com).

I have known Scott Ingram since the early days on my journey as a speaker, and he has been one of those special friends who always believed in my efforts.  Scott was the founder of "NetworkInAustin" and is a successful salesperson in the technology industry (in addition to his more important role as a husband and the father of two daughters).

The completion of this book is the fulfillment of a long-term goal for Scott, and it was exciting to be part of the project (I am the author of a Chapter 5: "Setting The Tone For Connecting").  He has complied some great information from a variety of experts in sales, marketing, and the meetings industry and this book is a "MUST READ" for all event professionals.

It is with great excitement that I tell you about this book as week #115 of "Cool Things My Friends Do".  I suggest you order your copy today and dive into the content.

Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute and Content Marketing World says: “Every marketing executive who invests in events as part of their marketing mix should do themselves a favor and read this book.” .... and he is right!!!

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Still Learning

Hollywood paints a negative picture of college fraternities and sororities, and while I admit there are problems that occur in the Greek Systems around the country, there is more good than bad happening on college campuses in 2014.  My own life experience shows the positive influence a fraternity can have someone, and recently I got to talk with many college students who are currently seeing their lives impacted by association.

I had the honor to be a speaker at the 175th General Convention of Beta Theta Pi.  This good and great fraternity assembled over 1700 people at the site of their founding (Miami University at Oxford, OH) for a three day celebration.

In addition to being a speaker in the convention's educational "Symposium", I am also a Beta.  My chapter at San Diego State University has been closed for over a decade and while I served as a volunteer adviser to the University of Texas Chapter and as a District Chief in the 1990s, I have had little involvement with the organization in nearly 20 years.  Showing up in Ohio I was not sure what to expect from the experience.

Over the decades the fraternity has recommitted itself to developing "Men of Principle" and the focus on education of the mind and character was very clear in all that the organization does to enhance the college experience (and beyond).

In addition to these college undergraduate leaders, there were many successful Beta alumni from all walks of life, including Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana (who has been volunteering to help lead the charge for leadership development training for many years).  It was fun to see some old friends, and business/industry legends convene with the students in Oxford for the largest gathering of Betas in history.  I was in college when I attended the 150th Convention in 1989, and was taken by how quickly time flies (and how this time I was part of the educational program). 

Much has changed in me and the fraternity over the years.  But much has also stayed the same.  It was comfortable being in the midst of people who share this bond in the fraternity.

I was reminded of why I joined Beta Theta Pi, and how my small band of brothers at SDSU in the 1980s had a positive impact on my life. In many ways I am the person I am today because of these people and the experiences we shared.  They are forever important.

Fresh concepts and perspectives were also part of the few days in Oxford.  I am not to old to gain new knowledge and points of view and enjoy being made to re-think ideas. I had one conversation in particular that changed how I looked at an issue in the organization that bothered me.  The person I talked with had no idea how his observations would transform my understanding.  Boom... no matter what the topic, there is always new things to learn.

In addition to speaking I attended several of the other educational sessions and had thought provoking conversations with interesting minds who like to think (and challenge others to think). I am still learning, and continue to believe it is the people we encounter who can change our trajectory.

Congrats to the fraternity on 175 years.  Maybe I will go back to the 200th convention (as I will only be 73 at that time!).

Have A Great Day

thom singer