Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Purposely Prepared: How To Recession-Proof Your Career

Industry associations provide a lot of value to their members, but none is more important than how they provide a venue for people to get to know others in their lines of work. The people who are engaged in their trade groups in good times are the best situated to navigate the inevitable downturns in the economy.

It is common for those who are active in their associations to have strong reputations within their companies, with their customers, and among their competitors. While the online world is full of great tools for people to gain "fame", lasting reputations come from shared experiences.  

I have been working on a new program for association conferences called"
"Purposefully Prepared: 
How to recession-proof your career"
Many finance experts are predicting a pending recession. While nobody can say for sure when it will happen, they are sure of one thing... it is coming.  If we get hit again like we did in 2008 there are many people who will get hurt who have barely recovered from the economic disasters of eight and nine years ago.

Thus, we cannot wait to have a plan of what to do if the bottom falls out and the amount of corporate layoffs go through the roof.  You have to dig your well before you are thirsty.  Too many have no plan of what they will do if their job goes away, and it seems almost nobody wants to talk about it.

That is why this program is so important to be added into conference agendas now.  If we are educating people on how to be prepared, we are providing real value.  To look the other way and hope there will not be a crash is not fair to anyone. 

What would you do if you lost your job tomorrow?  Most people, after getting past the shock and anger, create a plan, identify their purpose, and network with key people.  But if you wait to do this until the worst case scenario happens, the problem is you have no momentum and are caught up in competition with everyone else who is suddenly unemployed.

To purposefully be prepared means to start behaving today like your life depends on the right goals, the purpose that motivates you to work hard, and your connections to people.  The truth is if you do these things and there is no recession, you are likely to get more promotions and other opportunities.  However, if a crash does come you will be light years ahead of all the other newly unemployed.  By the time they can get it figured out, you will be the one with the new job in hand.

If your association wants a program that will get your members thinking and acting in ways that do not resemble ostriches in the sand, let's have a conversation about how to customize this program for you next association meeting.  It is our responsibility in the meetings and association world to help people learn the necessary skills that will help them succeed.  The last recession is not so long ago, and the wounds are still fresh.  Another economic upheaval could have a worse impact on people.

I promise this program is fun, and forward thinking (it is not gloom and doom). It will also get people talking about your event about how important your organization will be to their future no matter how the stock market is trending.  

Check out the information about my keynotes and workshops at www.ThomSinger.com

Have A Great Day

thom singer


Monday, November 13, 2017

Live Meetings Exist To Help People Connect

Last week I was asked to comment in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle and on SF Gate about why people attend live conferences.  


Events like Dreamforce are more than an agenda of speakers.  The best conferences are experiential and have an impact on people. Live events bring people together, and in our digital focused world, people are hungry to engage with other humans in a live setting.

Ten years ago the death of meetings was predicted.  Economic pressures around the high cost of travel were coupled with the advancement in streaming video, causing many to think that business gatherings would become less popular.  Yet that could not have been farther from the truth.  In 2017 there will be more face-to-face events than ever before, and the meetings industry is experiencing record numbers.  More hotel and convention space is being planned in almost every major city, and barring another recession, the trends are showing up and to the right.

But why?  If we can connect with others through a like, link, share, or follow, what is the purpose of getting together in person?

Because people are still people.  We are social creatures and we do our best when we collaborate with others in our communities.  While some elements of this can be achieved remotely, there is still something about looking another person in the eyes and sharing experiences.  

When I speak at live conferences, or act in the role of master of ceremonies, my content is about connecting.  In a world where we have more access to people all around the world, people are more lonely.  Former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy wrote in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review that we face an epidemic of loneliness.  Over 40% of adults in the United States report feeling lonely.  This is only getting worse as we retreat deeper into our phones and look up at those around us less often.

Live meetings used to be the place we went to learn cutting edge information about our industries. There were few other ways to gather information and stay relevant.  But now all the information we could ever want is available online.  There are free and paid resources in every field that will help professionals learn.  

However the other reason people have always attended meetings, for the networking opportunities, has become even more critical. Surveys of attendees across verticals shows that people want to make connections when they come to a conference (and yes, learning is still a key draw, too).  

It is the responsibility of meeting organizers to provide both.  Too often they seek high impact topics and data, but hope the networking will just happen on it's own.  Making contacts at a live event, however, has gotten harder over the years because people are commonly looking at phones and tablets.  They miss the chance to have conversations and thus go home feeling they missed out on much of the networking.

The more companies and associations embrace their key role in helping their attendees engage, the better experience people will have at the event.  The better experience they have, the higher chance they will return the following year.  It is a vicious cycle.  Conferences like Dreamforce, SXSW, and others that have high repeat attendees are very aware in how the success of the meeting is tied directly to the human experience. 

If people attend for "networking opportunities" and we do not provide them with the chance make meaningful connections, than the conference has failed.  I spend a lot of time talking with clients about their goals for the experience and the networking.  It does not matter if the audience is made up of millennials, introverts, academics, etc... (all reasons sited as to why they do not prioritize the networking on par with the learning).  People are people.  We spend too much time labeling our audiences and separating them.  Instead we need to seek the similarities and build a community. 

Live events exist to help people connect.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Call for Speakers

Is a "Speaker" a commodity?

A friend who works at an large association called to ask me something about sourcing "good" speakers.  She said that her organization has gotten so good in their "Call for Speakers" that they get amazing proposals, and crappy speakers.  

After several years of instituting a strong grading system for ranking submissions, the results of audience satisfaction declined.  Since I am a professional speaker, she wanted my opinion.

I have never worked for this association, and probably am not the right fit to keynote their conference or present breakouts for their highly technical niche audience.  But I do know one thing: Writing a great proposal and being a talented speaker are not the same thing.  Content is not king.  While content is very important, they have placed too much emphasis on how well someone can craft a list of audience learning objectives, and moved too far away from caring if the person knows how to deliver a speech. 

I rarely get selected to speak if I fill out a "Call for Speakers" form.  As a person who attends a lot of conferences, I can tell quickly if those on the planning committee had a policy of "audience first" or "how do we look smart".  There is a big difference.

The smartest people are not always the best speakers.  That is not suggesting that we should not care about the information and expertise (those are very important).  But speaking is an art form.  You would not pick someone to paint a portrait of your dying grandmother based on a written essay.  There is so many little things that make a great presentation, and the intangible parts have to be given the credit deserved.

When people create a "Call for Speakers" they need to decide what constitutes a speaker.  My friend's organization was really conducting a "Call for Good Proposal Writers Who Want To Speak".  

If they really care about having better speakers they will need to let it be known that experience and speaking style is important.  Some groups have a minimum number of presentations that the speaker has given in the past years as a requirement to apply.  Even if people fudge those numbers, this requirement sends a message of what is expected.

A speaker is not a commodity. 

What do you think?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Social Media Disruption

Over a decade since we all became engrossed in the online and digital world of social media. 

Do you feel like you are better connected?  I don't mean by the ease at which you can superficially be connected to many people, but instead, do you feel closer to the people in your life?

Are there more people you consider close friends? Do you have more intimate connections to business colleagues?  Are you more fulfilled with your social life?  Is there a stronger feeling of camaraderie with clients, co-workers, vendors, etc?

Some will day yes. But many say no.  Social media seemed like it was going to enhance our lives (and it has), but are we really experiencing the benefits of stronger connections?

I argue we are not suddenly more engaged with people than we were a decade ago.  Maybe it is the same, but it appears for some we are worse off.  Yes, we know when strangers ate a burrito for lunch, but while in restaurants I often see people not talking to the people at their table while they stare at their phones.

For ten years people have talked about how social media was made up of amazing tools, and that is true.  But I have talked to audiences for the past decade about how to get back to the basics of human engagement.  Early on the "social media gurus" mocked my position of not linking to everyone with a pulse as my being old fashion.  Now those same "experts" are teaching people how to purge their social media contacts to eliminate those with whom they have no reason to be connected.

One of many things I have taught is the "Coffee, Meal, or Beer Rule".  It simply states that you do not need to connect on LinkedIn or Facebook to people you have not had a real conversation with (and by real, I mean approximately 30 minutes or more).  Granted, there are exceptions and reasons to link with some people you have not really met, but for the most part strangers just fill your feeds with crap. I argued with "experts" on how you should build up your numbers, only to now see them disrupting their own teachings to veer back to a more realistic approach for connecting online and in-person.

Don't get me wrong, I love social media and have used it as a valuable tool since it arrived on the scene.  But do not think it has magic powers, or that giving Facebook $10 to boost your posts will have much of an impact.  The key word is "social".  If you can use these tools to engage people hand enhance conversations, then do it.  But if you think likes, links, shares, and follows have any value by themselves, then you are lost.

I enjoy seeing the "gurus" of ten years ago adopt ideas that are in line with my "Coffee, Meal, or Beer Rule". as a lot of time and money has been wasted in this whole ideas that social media will sell things for the average person. The average person cannot look to a Kardashian business model, as that is simply not how the real world works.

When I began my career as a speaker ten years ago, I was warned that I could not make a living talking about "networking" from a traditional perspective.  I was advised to jump on the social bandwagon as it was the "hot topic".  Today my long-standing ideas are not only gaining ground, but they are what is working for people in a variety of industries.

We can embrace social media tools while at the same time disrupting the hype.  If you want to be more successful and uncover unlimited opportunities, you need a "Choose People - Not Screens" mentality.  

All opportunities come from people.  There are no real shortcuts.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Best Year Ever

As we enter 4th quarter of 2017 my business numbers make me smile. Having worked as a speaker, facilitator, and master of ceremonies for 8 years, this is the year I want to replicate. I have worked with the most amazing clients, earned a great income, and have grown as a person.

I have always had the potential to get my business working as it is this year, but there have always been something holding me back.  My work on "The Paradox of Potential" has oddly been part of the reason that I am accomplishing more this year. Asking so many questions of others about the gap between their potential and results, and seeking for their answers on how to bridge that gap, is leaving me inspired in countless ways.

This year I have operated with more intention. This has had a huge impact and has overlapped with my goal of making ages 50 -75 the best years of my life. 

If someone asked me for advice on how to cultivate their own path across the gap, here are the 10 steps:    
1.      Take ownership of your life 2.      Set clear goals 3.      Work past the fear                                            4.      Connect with people  5.      Be aggressive with gratitude  6.      Deliver on all projects                            7.      Accept that change happens 8.      Ask for help and delegate 9.      Try new things                          10.   Believe in yourself 
 In seeking your own potential, you need to find your intention.  If you need help, join the Potential Mastermind Group (so some other group) and get around people who are there to assist you in finding your best year ever.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Sunday, October 01, 2017

10 Steps Toward Your Potential (1 of 10)

"The Paradox of Potential"

#1 - Take Ownership of Your Life

There are many reasons that we are where we are in our personal and professional journeys.  The past is the past, and we each had to navigate many good and bad experiences to get here today.  

Finger pointing is a common pass time and it holds us back from moving closer to our own potential.  In my discussions with people at all stages of their careers, the ones who are struggling the most are quick to place the blame on someone or something.  

In my own career path I have had some highs and some lows.  If I desire to take credit for when my hard work and ingenuity paid off, I also have to take ownership of the low times. While there were always other people involved in the ups and the downs, the once constant was me.  

If you are not feeling positive about your current gap between your potential and your results, grab hold of everything that has ever happened to you and let go of the blame.  Do not blame yourself, but also do not blame others.  You are where you are and that is a great place to start.  

You are the architect of everything that happens from this day forward. You do not need to ask for permission from anyone else to make changes.  Take ownership, but with that you must take 100% of the responsibility.

Personally I have struggled with doing this, as I worry that if I fail all the fingers will be pointing at me.  Yet once I learned that I must be in control if I want the levels of success that I desire, then I am willing to take my chances as the one in charge of my life.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, September 04, 2017

The Journey Toward Your Potential

It is frustrating when you know you or your team has potential, but the bottom line is not showing results. Many people find themselves spinning their wheels with a desire to achieve more but they are simply not finding all their success.

There is a paradox around potential.  Often when a company hires a new person they get excited about their expectations about that individual's pending contribution, only to wonder later how they missed the mark. But potential does not equal results.  There are so many other parts that are often overlooked, and it has become my passion to get people focused on how to bridge  that gap.

Human resource professionals have all sorts of personality and skills tests, but they do not always predict outcomes.  Some managers trust their gut instincts, only to later question their own methods. But this is not just about individuals, whole teams can get caught in the chasm can continuously come up short from their desired possibilities. 

In a survey now consisting of over 250 people I have found that 70% of the people feel either they or their companies are not doing all they can in this area of reaching potential. Of those who feel they are reaching all they can, I am not sure if all the participants are being honest with themselves about all they can achieve. Some are clearly comfortable where they are, but when I speak with them it is clear they do not have stretch goals.

Not that goals are the magic bullet.  Many with goals are always missing the mark. Yet, I am learning that your potential is never really the entire destination, as you move a long your path you keep learning and growing and this brings about greater potential.  Each time you get close the prize of potential moves farther out.

The paradox of potential is all about how meaningless potential is without the actions.  It is common to assume potential has meaning, but alone it is just another label we are assigned or self-proclaim. If you take pride in potential without results there is not really anything there. 

It is not about building a bridge you your potential, but rather a scaffolding. You move across and can always add on and take a lateral path or go up and down.  Even diagonal. 

If you seek to go after success all alone you might get there, but when you share the efforts with others you will often get there faster. Potential that is recognized by the people around you is often more realistic and achievable. Consistent analysis and conversation with trusted peers will help you get closer to your best. 

My own business has grown since I made the study of my potential a daily effort.  The honest dissection of past mistakes and missed goals, and openly sharing with peers has allowed me to expand my sales by over 50%. This cannot be a coincidence. I had previously gotten caught up in the dream of my potential for success, but was not focused on the small actions that would take me where I longed to go. 

Those who want to push forward toward reaching more potential cannot be scared to have many discussions with co-workers, vendors, customers, etc...  Wishing for better results will not make them happen.  Stripping away facade of potential and getting real is the key to success.

I am currently seeking more people to take this short survey.  It will only take a few moments, but it will continue to allow me to better understand how people wrestle with their own journey toward their potential.  www.SurveyMonkey.com/r/potential1234

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Recession Proof Your Career by Choosing People

My career as a speaker was built during the "Great Recession".  Before the crash I was advised that if my desire to be a professional speaker was real, I should change topics, as teaching people how to engage, network, build connections, etc... was "fluffy and nobody would pay" for that topic.

Enter 2008 and 2009.  The economy plummeted and people were being laid in near record numbers. Business professionals were scrambling either to find their next job or to show their extra value to their employer to avoid being the next one to be let go.

Those who were finding success attributed their career stability to their networks.  All the news outlets were running stories about the power of networking, and the topic was considered anything but "fluffy".  While I had not had years of experience as a speaker, my take on how to make, grow, and keep your business relationships touched the problem faced by so many people.  Associations who were hungry to provide real value to their members hired me to present and I created win / win relationships with several organizations that have continued to work with me or refer me to this day.

Over the last two years I have again begun to see the eye rolls from meeting planners (and more so from the conference committee members) about the topic of connecting with people.  The reality is in our busy and tech crazed business world the need to establish long-term and mutually-beneficial relationships is more important that ever, but in a strong economy people do not see the immediate need to connect. 

Yet we live in very uncertain times.  While the stock market and job numbers are showing strong gains, there is little trust in what is ahead.  The division in our society over the current state of affairs in Washington DC (and the world) leaves our economy vulnerable, and people are talking about when the bottom may again fall out.  

If people are worried about the economy, they should be taking steps to recession-proof their careers now.  Too many of us (myself included) did not adequately understand what 2008 / 2009 was going to be like and how long it would take us to regain our previous income levels. Conversations these days are often full of questions about what is coming, but I am not seeing many people actively making plans to be ready for the less favorable economic possibilities. 

All opportunities come from people and there is nothing better to ensure that you will bounce back in the face of adversity than having established a network of people who will be there to help out in good times and bad.  The problem is that our social media crazed world has lead people to think they have more powerful connections than they really do.  A like, link, share, or follow means nothing if there is not a real relationship behind it.

Earlier this year I spoke at a conference of successful business leaders who were among the most "self confident" people I have worked with in my career (read that as: nice, successful, and arrogant).  While my presentation went fine, a few of them complained to the organizer that my focus on the importance of connecting with people was "old fashioned" and "dated".  They voiced their belief that this was not top of the list to take their companies to the next level. My belief is that when you choose people you always find victories, especially over the long run.  When I think about the business sector where these CEOs operate, they will be among the hardest hit if their is a correction in the economy.  To lessen the importance of the relationship side of growing a business will leave many of them struggling or bankrupt.  

Everyone is vulnerable to the possibility of a stall (or fall) in the economy, and business leaders and associations should be exploring what is next. Cultivating a culture of connecting is not only good for today, but will help prepare everyone for any bumps in the road.  

Choose people everyday, as there may be a time when you need them to help you.  When the economy stalls is not the time to start networking.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer 

Sunday, August 06, 2017

EmCee Role Must Evolve With The Changing Meetings Industry


I will admit, not all professional speakers like being the Master of Ceremonies for a conference or other live event.  Speaking and hosting are two very different skills, and the amount of time and effort that has to go into being the MC of a multi-day event does not equal the value in the amount paid for the services.  Keynotes pay more when you look at the "per hour rate".  

Plus the greatest skill many speakers possess is how quickly they can clear out of the conference after they finish their on-stage talk.  Too few stick around and chat with the attendees.  An EmCee has to be "on" not just up front in the general session, but in the hallways, at coffee breaks, during meals, at happy hour, etc...

I like serving in the role of EmCee.  I like it a lot, and it is a growing part of my business. It is especially cool when coupled with a keynote and my "Conference Catalyst" program, as I know in these combined roles I can help set the tone for the whole event.  It is a big responsibility, but it matters to the success of a convention.

Over the years my approach to being EmCee has morphed. With all the changes in the meetings industry I am undertaking the most intense effort of study and content curation of my decade long career.  Last year I wrote a one-man show as part of an exercise in storytelling (which spun out my new keynote "The Paradox of Potential") and this week I am taking my first workshop in Stand Up Comedy.  While I am not looking to create a comedy routine, there is much I can learn from comics that will serve my audiences in the future.

A conference is no longer a series of presentations.  It is a show, but most people who speak at events are not yet aware of these showtime expectations of the modern audience.  Thus, the EmCee must become the thread that runs both personality and audience engagement throughout all aspects of the agenda.

Becoming an astute observer becomes more important than ever for the master of ceremonies.  To identify the core learning objectives in the general sessions and some of the featured break-out sessions is paramount to the success of the event host.  "Content Weaving" and "Summation" are becoming what separates the professional from some random board member or employee who fills the host role. 

As with any new undertaking, the commitment to the long-term is my biggest focus.  There is too much a stake to imagine my fresh path will be enough for the avalanche of changes that are impacting the business side of meetings.  Yet is is somehow exciting to know that what got me to this point in my career is not what till take me to the next level. To stay relevant we all must keep learning.

Meeting organizers all have different opinions as to what is important for a successful meeting, and some see a master of ceremonies as just an extra expense. But the most innovative in the business are telling me that hiring 'the right EmCee' (not just anyone) is now becoming a fresh priority and an area they are giving more value in the budgeting process.  Having a solid host means they do not have to worry about every detail while also having to manage an EmCee who is not experienced in the planning and execution of a conference.  

I foresee that I will be working in the meetings business for the next 15 years, and it is clear that more changes are coming. I expect the role of EmCee to grow, thus I am working hard to expand my offerings.  Stand Up and Improve classes are just a part of it.  I need to crystallize my skills at summarizing events and observing what is impacting the culture of the conference (and beyond). 

Meetings are a combination of learning and human engagement, and I am well suited to serve audiences who care about both while also living the story of the experience.  

Have A Great Day.

thom singer