Monday, March 30, 2009

Learning From The Critics

Handling praise is much easier than handling criticism. But it is the critics who, when listened to with a discerning ear, can help us grow.

Constructive guidance is vital to those who want to expand their universe.

Many people, myself included, when slapped with our own faults, mistakes, or judgments by others will lean toward justification. We want to defend and explain.

But sometimes we are best suited if we quietly reflect the realities of the situation. A deep breath and time to reflect and understand the other players in the moment will bring us perspective.

We cannot go back and correct history, and over explanation will always fall on deaf ears.

I suggest taking time to contemplate how to improve for the future, and moving forward.

I write this now, as I possess the jumble of feelings. I got an email from a friend with views that were not on target, but perception is reality. The larger issue is that those who spoke words behind my back will not ever be known to me. I could fret the issue, or smile and look for ways to improve tomorrow and become more than I was today.

The only way to avoid the naysayers and those who impose judgment is to be a hermit. Alas, not a good choice for me, so I look for those who will teach me along my path. Some teachers will bring pain. Others will spread joy.

I am sincere in my quest to expand my universe and discover how to make an impact. With this as my quest I am confident that I will stack the wiles of experience on the backs of those who criticize. The trick is to not be one of them in my own discourse with others.

Have A Great Day


Five Days To Energize Your Career (Day Five)

Recharge Your Batteries

While working hard gets the job done, there comes a point where you need a break. In today's busy world, our weekends are rarely stress free, and usually full of "To Do's" that include running all the errands that you could not get done during the work week.

To be effective in your job, you must have some time off. In the United States most people only get two or three weeks of vacation time. If you have children, this means that you will undoubtedly need several of those days to cover school holidays and other family events, thus leaving you with very little time for real time away from your daily routine.

For most of my life I strung my vacation days together with holidays to take long weekends. While this seemed like a good strategy, I rarely felt like I ever got a real break from work. I never had the time to decompress before I was back in the office.

I never took an extended two week trip until 2005. I was always nervous about being away from the office for ten work days, but discovered that I was more effective as an employee before and after my long trip. I spent the weeks leading up to the jaunt working extra long hours to ensure that everything was completed before I left, and did the same thing upon my return to catch up and see that nothing has slipped through the cracks.

The funny part was how excited I was about my work life after a long vacation. I had a fresh perspective and new motivation. I have now taken extended vacations every year with the same results.

The down side is that I use up most of my vacation time with this strategy, which limits my ability to take long weekend getaways, but in the long run, I am much happier with one longer relaxing trip.

Thus, with few days in my pocket to recharge all year long, I have developed a strategy for talking little pieces of time to relax. I love to read and wake up 30 minutes early every day to ensure I can take that the time to read a book each morning. Because my commute is long, I often leave home early to beat the traffic and stop for coffee on mornings when I do not have a business breakfast or early meeting. Over my coffee I steal back that half hour from my day and emerge myself in a book. On the days I get this little bonus, I always feel more clear headed and focused.

While reading a book might not be your best source for a mental boost in a 30 minute window, discover what activity would bring you peace and calm, and schedule it into your day a couple of times each week. You will learn to cherish your half-hour vacations.

If you do not find a way to recharge your batteries, you will experience burn-out. This will not be beneficial to you or anyone around you!

Have A Great Day


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Five Days To Energize Your Career (Day Four)

Help Others Succeed

Motivational icon Zig Ziggler says "You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want".

Giving to others is the best way to get others to help you. When people are busy chasing their goals and dreams they can forget to look around at their community and see if they can give a boost to another person who is seeking success. If we are not conscious of those around us, and how we can assist them, how can we expect them to help us?

The thing to remember is that what is difficult for one person is often easy for another. We can each use our talents and connections to make life easier for someone else who is struggling with issues that for us are simple. Our mountains are only hills to someone else.

When someone is open to helping others, they will find that people are willing to return the favor. This is not always the same person, either. It is the "Pay It Forward" concept, or Karma in action. Lending a hand to your fellow man is not about keeping score, it is about doing good for the sake of doing good. But the magic is that people who give find the world to be a very giving place.

The flip side is often true. Nobody likes to help the people who are selfish. "Takers" will be the people who see the world as cold and selfish toward them. Funny how that works out!

Work each day to find a way to offer assistance to others. Focus on the people close to you and see if you can be the catalyst that brings them closer to success. The easiest way to discover how to help them is to ask them what they need. While you will not be able to solve all the world's problems, and you cannot help everybody, once you know what goals others desire, you will be surprised how often you will encounter ways to lend a hand.

What is your goal? Post it as a comment on this blog and maybe someone (maybe me?) will know a way to be of assistance.

Have A Great Day.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Five Days To Energize Your Career (Day Three)

Take a Class / Attend a Seminar

No matter how skilled you are in your profession, you can still improve your abilities. Many people become convinced that they know all they can, and thus become stale.

Lawyers and accountants are required to take continuing education every year in order to keep their professional certifications active. While many complain about the CLE and CPE hours each time they come due, the best ones embrace the requirement as a chance to learn new rules and regulations and "sharpen the saw".

Even if you are not required by law to take annual class hours, learning is a great way to improve yourself, get motivated, and attain recognition within your industry. All of these will ignite the spark that will help you in your job.

Make it a point to attend an industry conference. If your employer will not pay for you to attend a national association annual meeting that is across the country, look for other regional events that will bring together the experts in your field. Regional conferences and seminars are often more reasonably priced and will have more moderate travel costs, thus if the company will not cover the costs you should consider paying your own way.

While at the conference be sure not to skip out on the educational breakout sessions. Look for courses that interest you, but make sure you are in a class at each scheduled time. Even if nothing jumps out at you on the schedule, remember that some of the best things in life come as a surprise.

Beyond conferences attend local seminars that convey useful information. Business groups and your local universities offer a variety of options. A full day class could be just what you need to get you back on track. New information is always a catalyst to creativity.

In addition to attending conferences, seminars and classes you should become an avid reader. If you spend 30 to 60 minutes each day reading a business book you will complete ten to twenty (depending on how fast you read) books each year. Think about that, approximately 150 books in ten years. That knowledge will inspire you to do more than you ever imagined.

Have A Great Day


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Five Days To Energize Your Career (Day Two)

Go Where The People Are

If you believe that all opportunities come from people, then it should go without saying that knowing more people will produce more opportunities for your career.

One of the best ways to meet others in your business community is to join professional organizations. However, there are many to choose from, and you cannot join them all.

It is best to select two or three groups and participate regularly. Often you will find people who try to attend too many events. They end up not fully engaged with any organization and thus they practice "drop in networking", and never being seen as an important member. To create bonds you must do more than join and passively attend, you must volunteer your time for the good of the organization.

Instead of just dropping in, be an evangelist for the two or three clubs that you have joined. Volunteer for the board or a committee and spend several years attending each of these groups local events. It is okay to "drop in" on other groups from time to time, but you want to invest the time to create real connections with those who are active in your same organizations.

Select the groups based on your interest in their cause. There are tons of local and national professional business associations (Chambers of Commerce, Association for Corporate Growth, etc...), civic organizations (Rotary, Lions Club, etc...), charitable groups / boards (United Way, Young Men's Business League, etc...), etc... I suggest belonging to groups that have different purposes so that you are encountering different people at the different meetings.

Go where the people are if you want to expand your professional network.

Have A Great Day.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Five Days To Energize Your Career (Day One)

Make A List

A great way to energize your career is to make contact with the key people in your professional network.

Take time to review you contact database and identify the 15 people who are both influential and would immediately take a meeting with you. Look for people who could be good referral sources for both short-term and long term opportunities, and those that are proven to be mutually beneficial friends.

The next step is to email or call them to set up a meeting. Offer to take them to breakfast (or coffee), lunch, or just to stop by their office. Try to set all of these appointments over the next two weeks.

When you meet with these people be honest that you need a boost in your career. Clearly let them know what kinds of opportunities you are looking for, be it advice, sales leads, introductions to new contacts, or job opportunities. If people do not fully understand how they can help you, they will be limited in the value they can provide. It is your responsibility to tell them what you need.

Remember, a real network of professional contacts in not just about you and your desires. Be sure that you also ask the people whom you meet with what you can do for them. Inquire about their business and have them explain about what type of person is their ideal client. Ask them what challenges they face over the next few months. Listen closely and be sure to invest some time over the following days to discover if you have any connections that can benefit the other person and boost their career.

Giving someone a business lead is wonderful, but remember that it is NOT the only way that you can impact their world.

If you only show up on their radar when you need help, then you will be seen as a taker. A taker can only go to the well so many times before they are cut off. However, if you can find ways to assist others then they will enthusiastically return the favor.

You will find after you meet with all 15 of your key contacts that you will be both fired up, and flush with new opportunities and perspective.

Have A Great Day.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Corporate Meetings, Professional Speakers (and other vendors), and The Economic Woes

Okay, I now know the world has gotten nutty.

A meeting planner for a company told me that they are canceling their annual sales conference for fear that the three day educational and motivational outing (at a resort) might end up in the press. While they are a profitable private company (with no government bailout funds), the executive team is worried about someone saying they are not playing it "smart" during the recession.

She said that the CEO was counseled by a consultant to avoid taking his team to a golf resort this year, as they have done annually for two decades, for fear that their competition would use it against them in the marketplace.


Now, since I was in negotiation to be the keynote speaker to kick off the company's event, I am obviously bummed out. Professional speakers, hotels, airlines, restaurants, etc... are all impacted by the success of the meeting / hospitality industry.

But more than my speaking fee, I am questioning what our world is coming to when such things such as an annual sales meeting can become a negative event for a private business that has positive cash flow.

One would think that everyone would be happy to see organizations celebrating success in the midst of all the gloomy news that the press reports (I believe there are many successful individuals and organizations all over the world who should be being highlighted in the press).

The following is from the website "Meetings Mean Business":

Value of Meetings

When business meetings and events are cancelled, it’s the hourly-wage workers – not corporate CEOs – who pay the highest price. Meetings, events and performance incentive travel in the United States are responsible for almost 15% of all domestic travel. Generating 1 million jobs and $27 billion in wages, meetings and events can provide a solution to our economic woes. Meetings and events support local communities and working families around the country – something we cannot afford to overlook as we rebuild our economy.

I realize that there are companies (AIG, investment banks, and others) who have taken government money who should be under scrutiny for how they spend money .... but to make the meeting industry the villain in this mess is just crazy.

On the up side, SXSW Interactive - the large conference I attended in Austin last week - had an increase in attendance this year that was up over 25%. We humans are social creatures, and while online social networking communities and teleseminars are nice... they DO NOT replace the face to face meeting. It is not the same.

Have A Great Day


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Focus Yourself On What Matters

I'd say the critical perspective shift is from "climbing the ladder, winning prizes, and meeting people's expectations," to "where do I want to use my sharpened skills and limited time and energy to make a difference" -- Steven Tomlinson

I read the above statement about self-actualization on Eugene Sepulveda's "Community Matters Blog". Steven Tomlinson is one of the most intuitive people I have ever met. He has the ability to see right past all the B.S. and instinctively understands the deeper issues at hand.

The quote made me think all afternoon. We all want to make a difference. I believe especially in these turbulent times - creating an impact matters more than anything.

The key point of his quote is about using your "sharpened skills". How are you enhancing your talents? Are you resting on your past successes or are you fine tuning your abilities and creating new levels of your personal wizardry?

Now is the time surpass being average. If you do this well you will "climb the ladder, win prizes and meet people's expectations" without that ever being your goal. Individuals and companies that are self-actualized and focused on what matters seem to be the ones that are recession proof.

Time is limited. Everyone is struggling with making choices of how to best spend their time, often to the determent of what they really want to accomplish. How sad for those who chase the wrong desires all the way to the end.

Have A Great Day and Make A Difference!


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pizazz Gets Noticed

People don't care about you or your product / service. They care about themselves. Sorry, I hope this is not a shocker.

This is especially true when you are new to their universe. If they are an established part of your community, then sure, they might care about you. However the mistake we make is we assume that others see us as part of their network long before they feel that way.

Even those you have known for years might not really give a damn.

It is like dating. Those who are married did not propose marriage to their spouse the night they met them. If I had done that my wife would have run from the building screaming. It takes time to establish real bonds with others to the point that you develop a mutually beneficial relationship.

Thus, the only way to stand out with clients, prospects, friends, networking contacts and referral sources is to do something bold, unique and new. They will pay more attention to you if you take risks in how you position yourself in the marketplace.

This is hard to do. First, some people are not wired to be bold. Second, you want to appear unique, not freaky. Finding the balance is the key.

Do something bigger than usual before the week is over. If you are not sure what to do, brainstorm with some friends or co-workers. Make all ideas open to discussion. Do not prejudge any concept. While at first glance it might not be the right move, it just could be the catalyst that leads you to your pizazz moment.

Pizazz gets noticed!

Have A Great Day.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cultivating The Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow - Lemonade Day 2009

This is GREAT! And the program needs your support.

Lemonade Day - Austin is a free program which introduces kids to entrepreneurship!

This city-wide event teaches kids the skills they need to be successful in the future. Youth learn to set goals, develop a business plan, establish a budget, seek investors, provide customer service, and give back to our community.

If you have the entrepreneurial spirit in your soul, then you will understand the power that Lemonade Day - Austin will have on kids.

The program started in Houston four years ago, and this year is spreading out to other cities. Since it is the first time in Austin, we all need to help get the word out all over town.

Kids can register today to get started. Participants will receive a backpack full of materials including The Entrepreneur's Workbook which will guide them through this entire process.

Participation is FREE! All that the kids need is the signature of a supportive adult to get started. The best part is the young entrepreneurs get to keep the money you earn from selling your lemonade on May 3rd! (although the program encourages them to give part of the profits to the charity of their choice).

Adults - please support these young entrepreneurs by mentoring, volunteering or sponsoring Lemonade Day. Then get ready to BUY LEMONADE on May 3, 2009!

Your sponsorship of $25, $50, or $100 (or more) can help launch this amazing program in Austin. While the kids do not have to pay to learn these skills, the work book, T-shrirts and other promotions do cost money. Your $25 can make a big impact on the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

PS- Lemonade Day is a "Leadership Project" being brought to you by the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Central Texas. If you do not know the Entrepreneurs Foundation, they are AMAZING!

Have A Great Day.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Austin City Government Is "Dazed and Confused" (What Else Is New?)

Tim League & Richard Linklater

Invite you to a private screening of the Austin classic:
"Dazed and Confused"

In Support of Brewster McCracken for Mayor.

Event Chairs: Elizabeth Avellan, Robert Rodriguez

Thursday, March 26, 7:00 pm
Alamo Drafthouse, South Lamar

Dazed and Confused memorabilia raffle!

Tickets: $50 (Includes dinner and one drink ticket)

Sponsorship: $350 (Includes reception with Richard Linklater and VIP seating)

Click here to purchase your tickets

Have A Great Day.


Monday, March 16, 2009

More pics of people

More photos in an Animoto Video from today at SXSW. Only took four pics, so the video goes fast.

Have A Great Day


Warning: Social Media is NOT a Fad

"Don't let your organization be that company that 'doesn't get it'!!!" - Rob Quigley of the Austin American-Statesman (speaking in regards to social media)

There was certainly too much social media cheer leading at the 2009 SXSW Interactive Conference. iPhones, Twitter, Facebook were all heavily adopted by the majority of attendees. The speakers and panelists were "preaching to the choir" in their evangelizing of just how the world is being effected by the new media tools.

Yet it was Rob Quigley, an employee of an "old media" company (some might say in a dying industry) who hit the core of the whole conference with the quote above.

You see, even if you and your peers are not sold on the concepts of these trendy new modes of communication and interaction .... we are all on board a northbound train. When you are on a northbound train you only have two choices - Go North or Get Off.

But those who get off run the risk of being left behind.

Social media and all the new-fangle tools and applications that come with it are not a fad.

*Because of social media the Iowa Caucuses in 2008 had a turn out over 2000 times higher than in the past election.

*Facebook has over 175 million (and active) members. If they were a country, that number would make their population the 6th largest country in the world. Additionally, most of their users are outside of the USA.

*Members of Congress and politicians in races from dog catcher, to mayor, to President of the United States are tweeting every day. (all the major candidates for Mayor of Austin, Texas are on Twitter, Facebook, etc... and Barak Obama would not give up his BlackBerry!).

While I conceed that if you are reading this blog, you most likely are in the crowd who "gets it" - But look around and spread the word, as this train is in motion.

Have A Great Day.

Focus on Corporate Culture - Black and Decker Speak at SXSW

One of the most informative sessions I attended at SXSW Interactive 2009 was a "core conversation" hosted by Sam Decker (CMO of Bazaarvoice) and Jason A. Black (CEO of Boundless Network) on the topic of corporate culture.

The two had a very interactive back-and-forth with the 100+ in attendance. They shared their experiences for the how and why to make culture matter in a company.

Investors look at the spreadsheets, while culture is what really makes all the numbers work. Both Black and Decker work for companies that have strong reputations in Austin (and beyond) in regards to employee excitement, loyalty and dedication.

Establishing trust is the key. Many companies talk a lot about trust, but as the company grows, the trust slips away between management and employees. Often management does not even notice (but don't kid yourself, the rank-and-file know right away!).

Bazaarvoice has the "Five Stars of Culture" that the company lives by: Passion, Teamwork, Excellence, Openness and Execution. Every hiring decision is made on these important points.

The presenters shared the belief that everyone has an "entrepreneur" inside them (they want to create), but many companies neglect finding ways to cultivate this within employees. When the individuals let that entrepreneurial spark die, the organization loses. If people are just working for a paycheck they wont have any passion.

Black reminded entrepreneurs to not take money from any source. While investors can be an important part of the mix, if they do not share you enthusiasm for culture, then you are in trouble from the start. Your dedication to culture must run through the all levels of the company "Family", including everyone. Those who don't fit should not be involved - no exceptions.

A company with a real positive culture regularly celebrates the successes, large and small, of the company and the people. Do not wait until the quarterly meeting to praise, do it as the events take place. If the CEO is not prone to remembering to "ring the gong" at each success, be sure to assign someone the task of noting the wins along the way. Always be explicitly conscious about your culture, even if you must schedule reminders in your calendar to ping you to do so!

A tough economy will test the strength of your company's culture. When everyone feels the pressure, will your culture hold up? It will if it is more than just a slogan. RIF's suck, though times suck..... but the leadership of a company must over communicate and let their people know how they fit into the organization. Keep a clear focus on the long-term vision. Be candid and transparent with all team members.

Black & Decker were the best session I attended on Sunday at SXSW, and I think much of the audience would agree.

Have A Great Day.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cool Company of the Day - Animoto

While roaming around the SXSW Interactive Trade Show I stumbled upon several interesting companies. I think that ANIMOTO was the coolest.

They bill themselves as the "end of the slide show" and with just a few steps you can create a cool video of you pictures set to music.

The site allows you to upload photos and it instantly produces the whole thing. There is no cost for a short video, and a nominal fee for longer compilations.

Check it out, these photos are from day two and three at SXSW. I grabbed a few images off my camera and in just minutes I had created this video.

Have A Great Day


Book Signing at SXSW - and - Constructing Life's Amazing Puzzle

I have been having a great time at the SXSW Interactive Conference. The cool part is meeting many new and amazing people, many of whom read this blog or that I only know on Twitter.

One never knows when you meet a new person how it can impact the path of your life - or how you can influence their lives in a positive way. All opportunities come from people, thus the more folks you know (not just meet, but actually cultivate connections), the greater number of prospects you will encounter in the future.

The photo above is from the book signing that took place yesterday in the SXSW bookstore. I was seated next to author Patrick O'Keefe. I had met Patrick briefly last year, and made it a point to attend his presentation yesterday on the Day Stage.

Patrick is an expert on managing online communities (he is only 24-years-old!), and the author of the book "Managing Online Forums" (which I purchased yesterday). Patrick is a nice guy and one of those unique individuals you can tell has a bright future.

I am always open to having conversations with new people, as I find that when we listen to others, we also find ways to learn and grow. I especially like adding people who are in their 20s to my network. I was once told that after you turn 40 you should make new friends in their 20s every year for the rest of you life. This will not only expose you to unique world views, but also keep you connected to the latest trends in technology and beyond.

I am looking forward to the rest of the conference and then seeing how I can be of assistance to any of those whom I have encountered, and vice versa. Life if a puzzle and half the fun is searching for the right pieces and then discovering how they fit into place.

Have A Great Day.


Friday, March 13, 2009

The Networking Conference Catalyst

Today I had the honor of speaking at the SXSW Interactive Conference in Austin, Texas.

Wow, lots of people in attendance. The lines to get your ID badge were CRAZY!

I lead a "Core Conversation" about how to get the most value out of your networking efforts at a multi-day conference. The audience of about 85 people were both engaging and engaged.

Click here to see the official recap of my presentation.

Search "thom singer" and @thomsinger on if you want to see more about what people thought. We had fun...we laughed, we cried, we hugged eachother (inside joke).

Have A Great Day.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Warning: Your Competition Is Calling Your Clients

Economic tough times are continuing to impact business. Most companies are continuing along their path, albeit with some bumps in the road, but the uncertainty is causing everyone to get more aggressive with their business development efforts.

It seems everyone I talk with is re-focused on establishing new contacts in their business communities (networking has become very popular again.... although my opinion is it should ALWAYS be popular, as it does not work if you turn "networking" on and off based on the economic conditions!) and there is laser beam attention on all activities that can be considered "revenue generating".

This is all good. Our economic engine is driven by the corporate world and the amazingly intelligent and hard working people in every industry. Raising revenues for companies will get this ball rolling again. We all need that ball to start rolling!

But with the focus on new relationships it is imperative that your company not forget your existing customers. While your sales team is hitting the street chasing new business, you must remember that those prospects are you competitions current clients. While you pounce on their customers and referral sources, do not forget that they are doing the same thing. The difference is that their prospects are YOUR customers.

All customers are going to be interested in listening to any vendor who can save them money in this environment, so be clear that they are inviting your competitors into their offices to hear their proposals right this very moment.

Thus, while you are looking hard to uncover new business, do not neglect your existing clients. Hopefully you have always actively established strong bonds with customers. While it is easy to fire a vendor, it is hard to fire a friend! But in rough times, this becomes more tricky. Value matters more that never.

Continue to reach out to your client base and offer them value. Host them for educational seminars, send them occasional information that will make their lives easier, and meet with them regularly to ensure that you are delivering to all their needs. Look for unique and creative ways to bring them more than they expect from you!

If your only contact with your customers is to provide the work you are hired to do, and then sending them a monthly invoice, you are vulnerable to any competition who can provide them with any little extra.

Have A Great Day.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

PubCon South 2009: Chris Brogan and Guy Kawasaki Talk "Twitter"

I had the chance to attend part of Day One of PubCon South 2009. PubCon began in London in 2001 with a conference that was held in a pub (thus the name "PubCon"). Over the years it has grown to a series of conferences around the world which are the leading-edge event for sharing real-world information about search engine marketing and optimization.

The kick-off keynote presentation was a "fireside chat" between Chris Brogan and Guy Kawasaki, where social media maven Brogan interviewed Kawasaki about many things... but mainly the founders passion for all things Twitter.

Admitting that he was late to blogging and Twitter, Kawasaki came around. He is now one of the most watched people on the web.

"I was born to Tweet" claimed Kawasaki. It took him about a month from joining the service until he was into if full steam ahead. He now averages over 50 tweets a day (which is why I do not follow him anymore).

For Kawasaki, Twitter is a "weapon to promote AllTop" (his online "aggregator" that covers any all the top sites on all the top subjects). He is not shy that he is mixing a variety of informative links, thoughts and ideas with blatant promotion of his business.

Many have asked him why he does not separate his personal "tweeting" from his business "tweeting" by having separate accounts. He gave the BEST answer I have heard on the subject (I only have one account on Twitter as well. I use it to tweet about my books, professional speaking, my job at vcfo, and any other pontifications I choose to toss out).

Kawasaki compared Twitter as the blending of PBS (high quality content) and QVC (commercial selling of product).

He made is clear that if PBS tried to only put the documentaries on one channel and the fund-raising, tote-bag pushing telethons on another station.... nobody would support PBS with donations and the channel would never bring in money (who would tune into see telethon fundraisers all the time?). By mixing the two, his followers (over 80,000 strong) will put up with his promoting his business if he gives them enough other interesting information.

Kawasaki recommended several tools that make Twitter not only more user friendly, but also make it possible to capitalize on the marketing power:

1. This site allows you to seek out what is being said about any person or topic on Twitter.

2. Allows users to break down the vast amounts of information flowing across Twitter into manageable pieces. (Also said you could use for this).

3. Allows users to send automated replies to anyone on Twitter who is talking about a specific topic of keywords for a charge of five cents per message. (I am not a fan of automated tweets, as I think it harms authenticity of the medium, this application had some controls which made it seem interesting on some levels for marketing).

Addressing his critics who think he is a spammer on Twitter (and the purists who do not like to see Twitter used as a corporate tool), he joked "If I do it, it is good marketing, if someone does it to me, it is spam".

He was right in his statement that following someone is voluntary, and that if anyone does not like the way another person uses Twitter they can simply "Un-Follow". He regularly replies to those who harangue him with "UFM", which stands for "Un-Follow Me". To Kawasaki, tweets being spam is an oxymoron... as people signed up to listen to what he has to say, and thus they volunteered to get any message he chooses to send.

I found the conversation between Chris and Guy to be both fun and informative. My only complaint was that it did not last longer.

Have A Great Day.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

As Seen on NBC

KXAN Austin reporter Matt Flener interviewed me today for a story about networking at the upcoming SXSW Interactive conference.

See the video below

I will be speaking at SXSW on Friday, March 13, 2009 at 2:00 PM hosting a "Core Conversation" talking about the best ways to get the most out of your networking efforts at the conference.

Have A Great Day.


Always Own The Follow Up

Whenever I have a stint of writers block I log onto Twitter and something interesting will pass my eyes that leads my mind back to inspiration.

Thanks to my friend, CJ Romberger, (aka @cjromb on Twitter) for pointing me to the blog of local Austin career passion coach Catherine Jewell (whom I saw yesterday at the "Netstorming Event"...see how the circle of life works!).

Catherine's most recent blog post was titled "Follow Up Fervently — How Often is That?" in which she reminded job seekers that hiring managers have more to do than sit around thinking about them. Thus, if they want to be top of mind, they must take action and follow up.

Good advice!

And this goes beyond just the job seeker. Anyone who would like to develop a personal or professional relationship with another person must own the follow up.

I often hear from people who say "well, they never called me back" after leaving a single message. While this may mean they were not interested in establishing a connection, it also might just be that they had many other things going on at that time.

Granted you do not want to be a stalker to every new person you encounter, and it is realistic that not everyone will like you (sorry, but some of the folks you meet will not want you as their new best friend!), we have to remember that it takes seven to ten meaningful interactions with someone before a true connection is established. Thus it takes time. If you don't take the actions necessary, then you are guaranteed nothing will ever happen.

If you have followed up several times and you get nothing in return, move on. The world is a big place, and there are lots of other people who will be excited to invest in establishing a bond with you over the long run.

Have A Great Day.


Sunday, March 08, 2009

Networking At A Multi-Day Conference - Top 10 Networking Tips

Marny Lifshen (my co-author for "Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Women") were recently interviewed for an article in Austin American-Statesman about the best ways to get the most our of your networking efforts while attending SXSW (or any conference!). Writer/Editor Sarah Lindner wrote a wonderful piece. Read it HERE.

One of the main reasons that people site for attending a conference is the networking opportunities. Yet they often leave the event feeling they made few or no connections.

Here are 10 Tips to help you get the most out of connecting with others at a conference:

1. Have a plan. Know in advance whom you want to meet (directly or the type of people), which speakers you want to hear, and what tradeshow booths you want to visit.

2. Set appointments in advance. If you know that there will be people in attendance whom you know that you would like to see, call or email a few weeks in advance to schedule a time to meet for coffee, a meal, or a drink. Do not hope to "run into them", as your paths might not cross at a time when you can spend quality time together.

3. Do not focus on meeting the celebrity speakers. While meeting famous authors, speakers, and other gurus is fun, you are one of hundreds who will come up to them and shove a card in their hands. Instead, place you focus on meeting other people in attendance at the event. It is the other attendees who you are most likely to bond with and create real long lasting mutually beneficial friendships.

4. Talk to the people sitting next to you. When you walk into a seminar, take the time before the presentation begins to say hello to the people seated around you. I call this the "power of hello". Once you have said something as simple as "hello", it will be easier to talk with them later in the week if you see them again.

5. Ask questions of people you meet. Never lead with your "elevator pitch". People are more interested in themselves than they are in you, so ask them questions to help them get to talking.

6. Put your technology away. Do not run to your phone, BlackBerry, or laptop at every break. When you are working on electronics you send the message that you are unapproachable because you are busy. Utilize the time on breaks to converse with others.

7. Do not automatically send a LinkedIn or Facebook request. So often people immediately send social networking link requests to people they just met. However, different people have different policies about whom they link with. If they believe in only connecting with those whom they have established relationships, you make it awkward if you send them a link too early (which they then ignore). Best is to ask people if they would welcome such a link at this time. Be respectful of the fact that they might use social networking differently than you do.

Immediately following them on Twitter is okay, as Twitter does not require a mutual connection acceptance.

8. Read their stuff. Many people are active bloggers, twitterers, authors, etc... If people create the written word, seek out their work and read it. It is a great way to get to know people by reading their stuff, but they will also be honored when you tell them that you read their blog or follow them on Twitter.

9. Introduce others. When you meet cool people, be the conduit who connects them with others who might be beneficial to them. This includes others at the conference, as well as other people you might know back home. If you ask the right types of questions, you will easily spot connections that can help others. Don't ever worry about "what's in it for me", but instead just be the person who helps others. You will over time that others will help you too.

10. Follow up. If you meet interesting people and you never follow up, it makes no difference. Own the follow up after you meet people and send them an email (or better yet, a handwritten note) telling them how much you enjoyed talking with them, and plan for future discussions.

Have A Great Day.


Hey Congress - You Don't Know JACK! Jack McDonald for Congress

Hey Congress - You Don't Know JACK! But you will.

Jack McDonald, who is exploring a 2010 run for the Texas 10th Congressional District, just launched his website:

Jack McDonald is the "real deal". This is the time that we should NOT allow the labels of "democrat" or "republican" fall into a race. The 10th Congressional District is what the GOP thinks of as a "safe" seat, as it was carved (yes carved, look at the crazy shape of the district on a map) out in the redistricting that took place several years ago. But everyone I know claims to look at the person, not the party.... and this will be a race watched nationally to see if the winds of change have really arrived.

(The district goes from Round Rock, scooping out part of Westlake/Davenport, and then runs along HWY 290 to Katy. What? A tiny slice of Austin and a huge Houston suburb strung together. Um, Austin and Houston are not close together - nor do they share the same issues, but when you draw it this way you encompass a lot of republican voters).

Jack is a visionary business leader who has worked hard to build a company and promote the success of the community.

To hang onto "red" vs. "blue" in this case would be a shame. McDonald would make a difference in Washington DC.... and not just be the same old thing (I am tired of career politicians). Who out there isn't sick of the status quo in our government?

He is the type of person whom we all dream about electing to Congress.....but are almost never given the chance, as we keep getting incumbents or nothing. How is that working for us? Both parties need people to vote like sheep, or they would lose their power!

There is an excitement amongst the people who know Jack McDonald regardless of party ties (I know him, and am NOT a democrat)... as he is a self made man with education, experience, character, compassion, and charisma.

Check out his website and give him some money for his campaign. It is easy to forget that it is not the big money donors that matter, but the average citizen who makes the difference. $10, $25, $50, or $100 is an important donation to anyone running for office. Do not fall prey to the misnomer that you don't matter in politics. It is only you who matter.

Have A Great Day.


Friday, March 06, 2009

RISE Austin 2009 - HUGE SUCCESS!!!

In its third year, RISE Austin had 122 presentations and over 1600 attendees participate in the four day event.

The Relationship & Information Series for Entrepreneurs began in 2007. Founded by Roy and Bertrand Sosa with the purpose of providing a free forum for entrepreneurs to connect and exchange ideas that inspire the entrepreneurial spirit.

Program Manager, Annie Clary Frierson, did a GREAT job of coordinating the whole week. It took a lot of dedication over many, many month to pull off the logistics of so many presentations and attendees. Nearly twice as many people attended as did in 2008.

RISE 2009 concluded with a happy hour event at The Bob Bullock Texas State Museum. Keynote speaker, John Mackey (Founder and CEO of Whole Foods) inspired the audience with his overview of how "Conscious Capitalism" would be the engine that would raise world economy.

"Great companies have great purposes", said Mackay, who counseled entrepreneurs to practice "Servant Leadership" while defining the purpose of their businesses.

I had never seen Mackay speak before, and I was inspired by his story, message, style, tone, passion and the emotional challenge to the room full of entrepreneurs to positively impact the world.

While his remarks lasted too long (by about 20 minutes), the significance of his viewpoint was not lost on the crowd. He is insightful in his belief that businesses are not locked into the negatives actions of "Wall Street Capitalism", and that the answer to our economic woes are not to be found in socialism or fascism. Instead our future is in the hands of "Conscious Capitalists" who will build businesses that provide both profits and make a difference.

I look forward to presenting at and attending RISE 2010. This program is a true Austin gem.

Have A Great Day.


Thursday, March 05, 2009

Networking Slut

I again have encountered a person who has tried to "school me" on the correct way to use LinkedIn and Facebook. This is a person I had never met in person (but whom lives in Austin and has some mutual connections) who sent me a Facebook request, and then was upset that I ignored the random contact.

I have written on this blog several times, and stated nearly every speech I gave last year, that I have a LinkedIn and Facebook personal policy for accepting links. The policy is that I do not accept links or friend requests from anyone I have not spent an hour with (or the digital equivalent). I call it the “coffee, lunch or beer rule”. While I have made some exceptions to this policy, for the most part I have come to know everyone with whom I am connected to in LinkedIn and Facebook.

Facebook has lots of more personal friends, but I am willing to mix in those I know from business, too. As long as they don't mind my old fraternity brothers posting some party pics from the 1980s (YES, I did wear those red pants with my blue blazer to a sorority dance....this was circa 1986). Fortunately most of the photos are tame as I was sort of a goodie-goodie with a fake ID (think Richie Cunningham).

Meeting a person does not make them part of your network…it makes them someone you have met. There is a HUGE difference between one quick meeting and getting to know a person on a personal level and establishing cause to move forward with a business or professional relationship.

Think about dating. If your husband or wife proposed to you the night you met you would have thought them a FREAK. Same is true in business. You need to have established a meaningful connection before making it more permanent. An ongoing digital link to every person who you ever encounter (in person or online) would dilute the power of the links you do have to those whom you have legitimate relationships.

I don’t negatively judge those who want “Free Link” with everyone they meet (social online media / networking is still very new, so many people use the tools in different ways)…. but I am tired of those people thinking I am somehow WRONG for having a policy of limiting my contacts to people I know, like and trust. While I like to network, I am not a networking slut.

Not everyone is going to like everyone else in this world. That's okay. Why should I have to accept a link to someone who is a jerk?

I did not "dislike" the person who prompted this post when she first sent her request. However, after she told me "I just don't believe you understand how online networking works" (ummmm, no..I am not going to say what just popped into my mind), I find her to be rude.... and thus someone I would never want in my Facebook Friends List.

Have A Great Day.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Verbal Victory - Improving Your Public Speaking Skills

If you want to improve your golf game, you have to practice. To win at chess, you have to play many games. Fitness coaches are hired to help people get in better shape.

Greatness in anything does not happen by accident!

To fine tune your skills you need to invest time and effort. Practice, dedication, coaching, contemplation, prioritization, focus, and more practice.

Yet I am often surprised by how little attention that business professionals give to their public speaking skills. They assume they will just do an adequate job, and prepare very little. They will regularly have their staff invest time in creating beautiful visuals and handouts, but they do not invest in improving their delivery.

Highly competitive men and women ,who tackle every area of their life with a focus on improvement, simply "wing it" when they publicly address an audience. While most of them have "okay" speaking skills, they often leave the audience with much less than a "WOW" experience.

Think about all the really great speakers you have seen at business events. Most are fine, but these are driven, high-energy individuals who would never settle for "just okay" in any other part of their life. However, for some reason they do not realize that they have the ability inside of them to take their public speaking skills to a higher level.

I recently had someone see me speak who had attended a similar presentation a year earlier. His compliment following my talk pointed out that he thought I did a very good job a year earlier, but that this time he was "WOWed". He was curious at how I had taken the presentation to the next level?

The answer was simple. In the past 12 months I had given 50 presentations. I never once "winged it". Before each presentation I invest several hours of preparation, not just in my PowerPoint presentation, but also into the words that I would use and how I would deliver them.

Additionally I have attended over well 50 presentations by other people in the last year. Any time that I see anyone deliver a presentation I treat it as if it was "Speakers University". I have seen some great talks, but mostly a bunch of dull oratory. However, I learn from everyone I observe.

Here are three tips to help anyone be a better speaker:

1. Be serious in your understanding that public speaking is a SKILL. Do not fool your self into thinking that those who are better speakers than you are "naturals". While some speakers are blessed with their talent, most who can "WOW" an audience have invested a lot of time to craft their oratory. Invest the time to make improvements to your speaking or stay off the stage.

2. Give to the audience. They call it "giving" a speech, so remember that every time you take the stage you are delivering a gift to the audience. Do not make the presentation solely about you or your company. Make sure that when you tell your personal stories that there is an underlying lesson for the audience. Personal stories are the BEST, but not if they are bragging. If you are not there to help the audience, stay off the stage.

3. Release you personality. You are not an actor, thus do not pretend to be something different than whom you are inside. If you are not funny, don't try to tell jokes. Open the kimono and let the audience see the real you. Be true. Make your stories reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly about what makes you tick. If your real personality is dull, stay off the stage.

I am often asked for advice by CEOs and other executives who are interested in being a more engaging business speaker. Thus, I have created a new hour long presentation for executives called "Verbal Victory: Outshine, Improve and Polish Your Public Speaking Skills". If your company or organization is looking for a fun and informative presentation to encourage people to embrace the power of the spoken word, let me know!

Have A Great Day.


The US Congress Is Full of Idiots

Earmarks are a bi-partisan disease and we do not seem to "get it"
- John McCain (Speaking yesterday in regards to pork spending in congressional bills).

Why do our elected officials in the House and Senate not realize that the voters do not want them to conduct business in the "same old way"? We sent a message for CHANGE!

Yet they still go about adding earmarks to every bill and spending money like fools. With the current economic conditions, now is not the time for silly spending projects tacked onto important legislation.

Congress sucks.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Guest Blogger - Marny Lifshen: "Remember The Many Levels of Connecting"

Today's Guest Blogger is the co-author of "Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide For Women", Marny Lifshen.

Remember the many levels of connecting….. I don't know about you, but I am getting a lot of requests from friends, colleagues and even just acquaintances who are looking for a job to meet for coffee and brainstorm on opportunities. At first, I felt very stressed about these meetings - and all the caffeine certainly didn't help! I thought that if I didn't go into these get-togethers with specific recommendations or leads on existing job opportunities I wouldn't be able to really help these people.

But as I went to these meetings, I remembered that one of the most powerful aspects of networking is the many layers that a good network has. What I mean by that is even if I am not able to provide a particular lead on a job or access into a company or industry, I probably know someone else that can. Or that contact might know someone who could help, and so one. The connection that may lead to a new job might happen two or three or four levels down the line, but chances are it will happen. And the person looking for that new position will be building their network in the meantime, which is always valuable.

The other thing to keep in mind is that sometimes people looking for new position just need someone to vent to, a shoulder to cry on, a friend or colleague to tell them everything will be okay and give them advice. They aren't always expecting you to show up with a list of current job openings, so don't let that stop you from meeting with them. You never know when or how you will be able to help them, or how they will be able to help you down the line. And believe me, if you take the time to support them with a brainstorming session in one of the most stressful times of their lives, they will be looking for ways to help you in return.

Happy networking!

Marny Lifshen, Author "Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Women"

Have A Great Day