Friday, April 29, 2011

Take Action

Most everyone likes the idea of having a network of professional contacts that refer opportunities, but few people put in the continued actions necessary to 
establish long-term and mutually beneficial relationships.

If you desire to establish business connections you must invest the time to make, keep and grow friendships.  Just being a good person and hoping others will like you is not enough.

The most important action is showing up.  Every business community has physical and online gathering places.  If you are not participating, you are not really part of the community.  Being present is the first step.  Too many professionals rationalize reasons not to be active in networking activities, but there are no rewards to those who hide in their office.

The next action is to help others succeed.  In our busy world many people feel the pressure to just get their own job done.  They take no actions to understand the needs of others, and do not take any actions to assist those around them in achieving their goals.   However, if you are not helping others.... why would you expect anyone to step up and bring you closer to your own success?

The final action needed to create a powerful network is to show gratitude.  Saying “thank you” to people who bring you opportunities should go without saying, but few people these days express their appreciation to those around them.  Nobody reaches the top alone; we are all helped by other people.  Be sure to let those who make your journey easier know that you recognize their contribution.

Do not wish for a network... take the actions to create one.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The ABC's of Trade Shows and Conferences - V is for Vendors

Being a sponsor of a conference is a great way for a company to gain visibility to a targeted industry audience.  It is also a great way for individuals to attain access to clients, prospects, referral sources and competitors.  The groundwork for an ongoing relationship can be developed and cultivated at a business event, or it can be a giant waste of time and money.

If you are going to be a "vendor" at a trade show or other gathering you need to be very focused on how to maximize your investment of time and money.  Many events can be several days in length, and when you add travel days, time out of the office and the fatigue from the long hours, you cannot afford to waste any time.  Additionally the money adds up fast.  Beyond the sponsorship fees there is airfare, hotel, rental car, meals, and the costs of entertaining VIP's.  Plus, do not forget  time and money for the creation and shipping of the booth and collateral materials.

Many conference attendees have a bad attitude toward vendors even before they begin roaming the trade show floor.  Decades of old-school and pushy sales people have made many conference attendees wary of talking to the sponsors.  The weak one-sided conversations, hard-sell tactics, and the useless follow up SPAM that we have experienced from vendors has turned people off from even making eye contact with anyone who has a "sponsor" ribbon on their nametag.   The different color badges or special markings that are designed to let the vendors know who are the VIP's often have the reverse affect and alert the crowd as to who is there to sell to them. Vendors can be seen as outsiders, and often do very little to overcome this stereotype.

Some show organizers do not often help the situation by limiting access and keeping vendors out of some of the festivities.  On occasion vendors are not welcomed in keynote sessions or breakouts, although this is rare.    Usually sponsors have full access to all activities, but often they do not take advantage of participating.  If you are going to be at the conference, you must be active in every part.

Those who are there to "work the booth" often see that as their only commitment.  But standing next to a pile of brochures is not nearly as valuable as being engaged with the other people who are present.  Vendors who want to maximize a conference will make sure they attend everything and talk to lots of people.  It is the informal conversations that can lead to the best long-term relationships (an future opportunities).

Here are seven things to remember when you are a vendor / sponsor at a conference:

1.  Attend all keynotes, breaks, and meals.  Anytime there is an activity on the "main stage" or with the entire group you need to be in the audience, even if the speaker (or other activity) is not of interest to you directly.  Human beings are experiential creatures.  When you share an experience with others (as in listening to a speech or mingling at the poolside happy hour), you then have the right to chit-chat. When someone comes by your booth later in the show you can ask them what they thought of the presentation or other activity.  If you were not there, you did not share the experience,.... and thus you are not really part of the mini-society that exists at a conference.  We are all people: not vendors, attendees, speakers, etc....  You are only labeled if you give yourself a label.

2.  Pre-set meetings.  Long before you arrive at the show you should have scheduled times to meet your key clients and prospects.  Do not leave getting together up to fate.  A large conference often has so many people that you could easily never see some of the people.  Getting a time on the calendar with the most important people will ensure you have the face-time you desire.  Agree to meet for breakfast, coffee, or take them to dinner the night before the conference begins.  Hosting a VIP dinner (that does not conflict with the official schedule) can be a great way to ensure you have the right conversations.

3.  Do not talk about your product or service.  You are not a hungry wolf and those in attendance do not have pork-chops hanging around their necks.  Too often vendors pounce on prospective clients and create an atmosphere that makes the other person want to flee.  Instead, take an interest in people that goes beyond your sales quota.  Ask questions that will get them to open up about topics beyond when they will need to purchase what you sell.  A great question to ask is "Why do you attend this conference?".  This will give you an insight into why they are there, and the answer is probably not to be added to your mailing list.  If you care about people at a deeper level they are more likely to care about you!

4. Introduce people to others.  Being a connector makes you important.  Too often vendors want to isolate clients and prospects.  Monopolizing their time will not make shine.  Instead, help people meet others.  A main reason people attend industry events is to meet their peers.  As a vendor you will have the ability to connect attendees to others in complimentary companies and roles.  Always ask people if they are interested in meeting cool folks, but the answer is almost always "yes".

5.  Do not add people to your mailing list without permission.  This goes without saying.

6.  Personalize your follow up.  A "Blind-CC" email from a vendor to all conference attendees is about as lame as you can get.  Be focused in meeting a lot of people while you are at the event and have personal conversations.  Then put attention and effort into your follow up process.  A note or a call that specifically references your discussion will have a stronger impact than a canned email blast.

7.  Do not complain.  You might be surprised how often vendors share disappointments they have with the event with those in attendance.  If registration numbers were lower than expected or if the traffic on the trade show floor was sub-standard, it is not a concern to the average attendee.  When you whine about such things it makes you look self-focused and puts up a wall between your role and that of the other person.  To be part of this society you must position yourself as an equal, not the person who paid for access to sell to those in attendance.

Being a vendor at an event is a badge of honor.  Without sponsors most trade shows and conferences would not exist. Be proud of your company's participation, but also honor the purpose of the attendee in being in the room.  Help them have a better conference and they are more likely to take your call and buy your products and services when the time is right.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Go Lab Austin - The Great Human Mash-up of Co-Working Space!

I have been searching for a while for co-working space in Austin to enhance my "work from home / work from Starbucks" lifestyle.  While there are many options available for "drop in" office space, I have not been able to find any place that had the right mix of location and coolness factor....  Until now.

I have recently discovered Go Lab Austin.  This unique co-working community is located in the heart of 6th Street near downtown.  Go Lab Austin is a unique mix of quirky and professional space that has an eclectic mix of member companies and individuals.

As clients for my local career and business coaching services continue to hire me, having this central location for face-to-face meetings is ideal.  Meeting people at Starbucks has worked fine up until now, but the ability to host conversations at Go Lab Austin brings my consulting programs to a new level.  There is also a conference room that will seat 12 people, which will be ideal for several group classes I will be teaching in the fall.

The location is easy to get to with plenty of street parking on East 6th Street (via parking meters), and walking distance from countless restaurants and other Austin locations.

If you are looking for a synergistic place to hang your hat, check out Go Lab Austin.  For more information on membership rates and amenities, visit the Facebook Page or call Steve Golab at 512.481.8831

Have A Great Day.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Google Results (Video) for "Professional Speaker"

I received an inquiry call from a meeting planner today about the possibility of hiring me to speak at a business conference.  We had a delightful conversation.  As always, I asked how she had heard about me, and her reply surprised me.  She said "If you Google the term "Professional Speaker", your video comes up number one".

After we finished our chat I could not get to Google fast enough!  Sure enough, under the Video Tab on Google there was a video of me speaking to a group of lawyers in the number one position.  The clip is from a training session I conducted for the lawyers in an AM LAW 100 Law Firm in March of 2008.  While it is not my official speaker's video, it is on the top of Google.

I did not invest in any SEO to get the high ranking, and I am not sure how long this video will remain as the premier video for the term "Professional Speaker".....  but in the mean time let's all just say that "Thom Singer Is The Number One Professional Speaker In The World!"

What?  Too much?

Here is the video:

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Sales Training - Austin, Texas (and Beyond)

The time has come to once again invest in your employees. During the three years of economic uncertainty companies have pulled back on doing any type of sales (or other skills) training.  The cost of expanding individual skills took a back seat to keeping the lights on.  

The signs are now there that the pendulum is swinging back.  More companies are looking at re-introducing employee training and all-hands retreats for the purpose of both educating and motivating their staff.  With reports of upwards of 84% of employees not feeling satisfied in their jobs, it is no wonder companies are looking to reboot the enthusiasm in their workforce.

I am currently working on customizing programs for both large corporations and small companies (in Austin and all over the country) to help get their people better engaged into their business communities.  This is not just about "networking", and it is not just geared to "sales" professionals. Manufacturing companies, law firms, technology start-ups, and real estate brokerages are all inquiring for programs to integrate their visibility.

The most successful companies are rediscovering that everyone is part of the Business Development Team.  The lines between inward facing jobs and outside facing jobs are false barriers.  All employees are responsible directly and indirectly for driving more sales.

Is the time now for your company to create a better business development culture?  Or should you wait three more years to get all the pieces in order to grow?  Some Assembly IS Required!

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The ABC's of Trade Shows and Conferences - U is for Urgency

While attending a business conference you do not have the luxury of time.  A trade show, convention, seminar or other gathering might be only one or two days in length.  Some events are five days long, but most programs are much shorter. Being focused on maximizing the conference means realizing there is an urgency to fit in all that you should do while in attendance.

Because of the limited scope of time you must engage this sense of urgency from the moment you arrive.  Being intentional in how you participate in the event will allow you impact your ROI.  Taking a "wait and see" attitude will result in missing out on the highest level of learning and networking.

Make people a priority.  Know in advance whom you want to meet and make and effort to cross paths with clients, peers, and vendors.  Be interested in the people whom you meet, and ask a lot of questions so you can make informed decisions as to with whom you should spend your time while on property.  Additionally, you cannot follow up with everyone you meet, so be diligent in determining which conversations warrant prompt follow up after your get home.

Get to events on time.  Many conferences have a plethora of choices of concurrent sessions that can be spread out across the hotel or convention center.  To ensure you arrive on time you need to hustle to get from one breakout session to another.  Often those who have no urgency end up roaming around and running late, which might lead to skipping the next session altogether.  When you fail to attend sessions you miss out on the chance to learn key information or meet key contacts.  Keep your attention on your purpose for attending the event in the first place.

Get to the trade show floor early.  Often people skip the first day of the trade show and assume there will be plenty of time to get there later in the conference.  But things come up, you get tired, and often burned out.  Roam the floor early and often, and do not discredit the importance of meeting the vendors and using the trade show as a way to meet other attendees.  Remember, it is not only you who will be burned out by day two or three.  Making the trade show a priority early in the show means you have the best chance of making the meaningful connections.

Keeping and attitude of "urgency" will ensure you accomplish all that is possible at a conference.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections.

Starbucks Is My Office (From PC World)

I was quoted this week in an article by Liane Cassavoy on the PC World websites called "Starbucks Is My Office: A Guide for Virtual Workers".

The article chronicles the ups and downs of solo workers who find coffee, company, and connectivity inside their local coffee joints.
Thom Singer, a professional speaker and entrepreneur from Austin, Texas, understands you. Though he doesn't pay for office space, he jokingly remarks: "I like to say I have 'South Austin, North Austin, and downtown offices.'" Those spots, however, are the locations of the Starbucks coffee shops he frequents.
"I am the type of person who would go crazy without being around other people. Working from home or a rented office would get lonely fast," Singer says.
You can read the rest of the article on the website.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, April 18, 2011

Generation X -- Yes, We Are Still Here. Thanks For Asking!

I never liked the term "Generation X".  It was dumped into the culture when I was in my mid-twenties.  I had never looked at my peers as having shared the same cultural experiences as the World War II veterans, or the turmoil of the 1960s that bonded those pesky "Baby Boomers".  We grew up in a time of relative peace (well there was that invasion of Granada) and there was not a group concert that captured our souls.  Sure, we had MTV and Madonna, but a pop star with her underwear on the outside is not really the same thing as fighting in WWII, protesting against Vietnam or a stoned weekend at Woodstock.

Nowadays the media spends far too much time describing, dissecting and deluding the different generations.  We all get lumped together with people born over decade plus span of years, and the worst traits of those around us are flaunted as the norm.

Today's youth (are they Gen Y or Millennials?) have been spoon fed an identity before they were old enough to figure it out for themselves.  Meanwhile, the Baby Boomers have hogged all the oxygen in the room since the late 1960's, with each milestone in their lives (They turned 50, 60, 65, etc...) chronicled on the cover of Time Magazine.

When I was coming of age nobody yet had placed a label on me and my peeps.  We grew up "Free Range" until some Canadian novelist dropped the "Generation X" title on the world in 1991.  Wammo, the news media went on a feeding frenzy trying to categorize everyone born post baby boom through 1979. Then Kurt Cobain died and we were pegged to the event as if the had been the death of JFK or MLK (the proof that the grunge musicians passing is not the same thing is clear in the fact that nobody refers to the late Mr. Cobain as KDC).

Is my life experience being born in 1966 the same as my friend, Kurt Gregg of Boise, ID, who was born in 1979?  In the 1980s we lived on the same street in Southern California.  We are both called Gen X, but I babysat him, changed his diaper and was in college by the time he was 5-years-old.  Where I watched Scooby-doo on Saturday mornings he watched Ninja Turtles on cable TV or video cassette.  Those crime solving cartoon kids who came on once a week are not the same role models as mutant reptiles on demand.  Hardly the same generation, yet we fall prey to the lumping of generations.

I regularly speak to corporate audiences about the mix of the generations in the workplace as part of my "Some Assembly Required" presentation.  My belief is there are fewer differences than the media and the paid consultant "gurus" want you to believe.  Millions of dollars is being spent by corporations to "understand" how to work with the olds and the youngs, but people are really just people.  Remember in the 1960s the Boomers said "Don't Trust Anyone Over 40".  Today the same group does not trust anyone under 40.

Today's Gen Y is taking on many similar chants and mantras of superiority to other generations, as did their Boomer parents, who also falsely believed they were the unique pioneers of wanting to change the world (I think everyone has that desire to change the world for the better).  They too are disregarding their elders experiences and mistaking the technologies they use as something they invented.  It will be interesting to see what happens when they reach middle age, become parents, and have the mortgages and BMW payments.  Will they really be as different as the media is predicting?

While situations in the outside world have always changed over time, people are still people.  Reading about the issues facing humanity in historical texts (the bible or others) shows many challenges we face today are not that different than the challenges of the past, we just have the internet.

Sure there are some generalizations within each generation, and the narcissistic tendencies of the Boomers and Generation Y do play well to having all the attention in the media lumped upon them.  But Generation X is coming of age (currently in our 30s and 40's and 46 million strong in the US) and are assuming leadership positions in corporations, governement, and non-profits.  You will not read about it on the cover of Time Magazine, as the media does not see the sizzle of Gen X.  But yes,,,,, we are still here and working hard.  Thanks for asking.

I think the smartest thing anyone can do is make friends across generational lines.  Diversity is key. It is common to see HR departments in companies of all sizes educating employees about tolerance and acceptance of different races, religions, sexual orientations, etc.... but rare is the advice to embrace meaningful connections across the lines of age.  Friendships lead to respectful mentoring (in both directions).

If you are over 50-years-old invest the time to make a new friend every year (a real friend, not a "Facebook friend") with someone in their 20s.  If you are under 35-years old, make a new friend who is over 50.  If you are in the middle (That's you, Gen X), make two new friends each year (one older, one younger).  This will provide you with perspective on the generations and help keep you relevant.  You will discover there are many more similarities than there are differences.  Knowing this will make you laugh at the media's love affair with creating artificial divisions between people of different ages.

I grew up as the youngest of 26 grand-children, and I am the only one who is not a Baby Boomer.  My brothers were almost teenagers when I was born.  Many of my sibling's and cousin's children are Millennials, so I see both sides.  I am in the middle.  I am the bridge.  We choose to divide, but there is no reason for it.

Batons are being passed from older to younger generations, but that has happened for thousands of years.  It is not a conspiracy or a phenomena.  It is the circle of life (yes, we have all seen the Lion King, it was not just a movie for the Gen Y crowd!).

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Cooperative Significnace" Is A Way of Life

I have been talking with individual and group coaching/mentoring clients about my philosophy of "Cooperative Significance".  I have written about this several times in articles and on this blog.  I find the theme has weaved itself into every presentation I make to live audiences.  It is the core of what I teach.

I was recently asked to explain "What is 'cooperative significance'?".  My answer?  It is a way of life.

Everyone I talk with wants to be significant.  Most people want to be important to others.  We desire to be "of consequence" in our actions.  This is why people matter.  You cannot be significant alone in a field.

Gaming Theorist (cool job title!) Tom Chatfield said in his TED TALK at TEDGlobal 2010 that "The biggest neurological turn on for people is 'other people'".  WOW.  That is right.  It is in our collective engagement with other people that we reach out potential.

While crazy-busy schedules, deadlines, expectation, obligations, and information overload are simply a fact of life, they are no excuse for a selfish nature.  Too many people are so overwhelmed with the choices they make that they make decisions on "what's in it for me?".  This will always backfire.  

I once had a friend who chose his social outings based on whom could benefit his career.  I am sure he has been successful, and I assume he is happy.... I don't know, as I was dumped by him a long time ago.  It appears he has nice friends, but few of them seem to be the people he used to know.  I have always had a sour taste in my mouth on his open philosophy of selecting friends based on how it helped HIM.

While everyone would welcome others stepping in and providing opportunities, those who get the most are often the same people who give the most.  Instead of taking joy from only your own success, find joy in seeing others achieve their own goals and dreams.  Step up and make the connections for them that allow them to find success.  

When you do this, others will do the same for you.  It is not always the people you helped who bring you the opportunities.  Givers are watchers.  They know who helps.  Givers do not make it a practice to help takers... they give to other givers.

Find your significance in seeing others succeed. Cooperate in their lives when you can.  Look for ways to serve those in your community.

Make "Cooperative Significance" part of your daily routine.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

15 Minutes Including Q&A - A Plan To Save The World From Lousy Presentations

I just finished reading Joey Asher's "15 Minutes Including Q&A - A Plan To Save The World From Lousy Presentations".  I get sent books often to review, but few garner much interest for me to actually read them to completion.  This book got my attention because I, too, am on a quest to stop the spread of bad speaking.... and because it is well written and only 106 pages.

I wrote "The ABC's of Speaking" to help those business professionals who do not want to be a professional speaker, but instead need to make presentations as part of their job.  They do not want to suck on stage, but far too often they do!  Having access to realistic advice is key to success.  It is not hard to deliver a good speech, but if you "wing it" you will bomb.

Joey Asher does a fabulous job of providing easy and actionable tips to help people be better orators.

The title and premise of the book is that no talk needs to be more than 15 minutes long (half presentation, half Q&A).  While this is a cute idea, I totally disagree with this as a real life way to eliminate bad speeches.  There is a trend at conferences to make everything resemble a TED Conference.  I am a huge fan of TED, but their success is not as much based on their short format talks as it is on the way the speakers are vetted and coached to make an impact on the audience.  Four awful speakers in an hour is not better than one awful speaker. 

Ignore Asher's idea that short is always best, and then devour the rest of his advice on planning, rehearsal, messaging, delivery, style, and audience engagement.  After he gets past the silly notion of short as the only format for delivery, he knocks the rest of the book out of the park.

The book is worth your time if you want to improve your speaking skills.  Also a good gift for all bosses who host company meetings where any human beings are in the audience.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, April 15, 2011

The ABC's of Trade Shows and Conferences - T is for Trade Show Floor

It is common for large scale business gatherings have sponsors.  Most often these sponsors have the opportunity to display their goods and services at a booth or table.  Sometimes these are simply tables in the back of the room or in the networking area, and other times there is a full exhibit hall.

No matter where the trade show portion of the event is set up, many attendees avoid visiting the vendor displays.  This is a mistake.

First, while most people agree that attending association or industry events is a beneficial activity, few spend time thinking about how important the sponsors are to the success of the conference.  The corporate sponsors are what makes the event possible, or the cost to attend and all the special activities would be cost prohibitive for those who want to attend. 

Second, the products and services offered at a business event are often specifically useful to the companies who participate in the event.  We live in an age of innovation, and thus suppliers are often releasing new things that can have real impact on their clients.  Just because you think you know what a sponsor might be able to do for you, if you are not investigating the current offerings you might be missing out on great tools.

Walking the trade show floor is a great way to meet new people and cultivate relationships with old friends.  Do not avoid this part of your conference experience, but instead make it a priority. It is smart to make plans to roam the trade show with someone.  It allows you the chance to talk and share the time while visiting the booths.  Having a "buddy" will also allows you to engage and disengage from conversations easily as you roam and talk with the vendors.

Exploring the trade show is more than just roaming around and taking handfuls of candy and grabbing cool toys covered in corporate logos to bring home to your kids. To make it worth your time you must look, ask and listen.  Engage people and find out what their companies have to offer.  While not everything is something you will want or need, you can miss some amazing products and services if you are not in the room.

Finding ways to get the attendees to visit the trade show floor is often a big issue for those who organize events.  Do not fall prey to the idea that the vendors are not part of the event.  They are a vital part of your conference success, and the discovery process of roaming the trade show floor is part of maximizing your conference.

Have A Great Day.


Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Austin NSA and MPI Chapters Combine Forces For May 3rd Round-Table Meeting

Meeting professionals and professional speakers work together all the time, but how often do they get a opportunity to sit down and discuss the ways to create stronger meeting experiences? 

This unique “round table discussion” luncheon will allow small groups of members from the local chapters of Meeting Professionals International and the National Speakers Association (and guests) to mix, mingle and talk about important industry issues and trends. Meaningful conversations lead to powerful relationships. 

Do not miss this one-of-a-kind meeting.

May 3, 2011
11:30 AM - 1:00 PM

Norris Conference Center

$35 (in advance)

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Chambers of Commerce Host Great Events

When I talk to professionals in business communities across the country some roll their eyes at the thought of participating in their local chambers of commerce.  But these organizations, with roots back to the 1500's in Europe (the 1700's in America), are more relevant in 2011 as they were 500 years ago.

Many business executives and entrepreneurs do not realize the power that a successful chamber of commerce can have on their local economy.  We have been bombarded with information about the internet and social media, that many people instinctively push away anything that existed before 2005. But a good chamber or commerce, that is supported by local businesses, will be the catalyst to bring new employers, and other revenue generating business engines to the area.

The "too cool for school" crowd thinks that chambers of commerce are just for grandpa's business.... but the "Sunrise Breakfast Series" at the Austin Chamber of Commerce is sponsored by Google.  Now if your company is more hip and successful (and currently more cool) that Google, then you can stop reading.  If not, maybe you need to revisit the reason why supporting and participating in a chamber is a good idea for your business and your community.

This week I attended a the Austin Chamber's breakfast featuring author and speaker Jim Cathcart.  Jim is a legend in the world of professional speakers, and the past president of the National Speakers Association.  I attended the meeting to support my fellow NSA member (who was also speaking for the Austin NSA Chapter later that day).  The real benefit was being with so many local leaders from a variety of industries.

While "liking" a popular Facebook page LinkedIn group is cutting edge and instant, you miss out on the power of sharing that live experience with 200 other people.  Mr. Cathcart was great, but the interaction of the the crowd was what made the morning impactful. 

There are a ton of "Social Media Gurus" who are getting rich counseling business owners and others on how to win friends and influence people on the internet... but they are missing the reality that social media is just one tool.  Attending a chamber of commerce event is a great way to meet people and cultivate ongoing relationships.  Hmmmmm, sounds like it is the same thing as social media (which is a tool to meet people and cultivate ongoing relationships).

Do not forget the power of live human to human interactions.  Chambers of commerce (and other organizations) host great events.  Do not think you can achieve all your goals and dreams by clicking your mouse.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, April 11, 2011

Face Up, Face Down, or In Your Pocket?.... Where Is Your Cell Phone?

I had a wonderful lunch with two friends today.

Two of us had our phones on the table, the other had his phone in his pocket.

"Face up" glanced at every call and text (he did not answer...that would have been rude), and the other two looked that direction, too, with each buzz of his phone.  "Face down" and "In Pocket" knew their phones were transmitting calls, texts and emails to them during the meal, but did not look until they reached the parking lot after the meal.  "Face Down" had his phone ring as lunch began, as he forgot to switch it to vibrate before lunch... but he fixed that after the interruption.

Maybe the best answer would be turned off and left behind at the office or in the car.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

PS - My phone was face down.  But not sure that is the right answer.

Lawyers and Law Firms (and others) Still Questioning The Value of LinkedIn and Other Social Media Tools?

A business development focused lawyer I met several years ago sends out a daily email to his friends and colleagues with ideas, questions, observations and other positive pontifications.

He queried recently about the usefulness of LinkedIn and it was forwarded to me by another attorney.  

"I’ve received very little feedback about LinkedIn, and no glowing recommendations for how to use LinkedIn effectively. I am on LinkedIn and I have joined several groups. I get updates of posts from the groups to my email account here at Blanchard Walker, but only a weekly update of statuses. If I stay logged on to LinkedIn, the screen never changes - no instant updates or “wall” like Facebook.

"I, and from your feedback I discern many of you, joined LinkedIn thinking it might be a “professional” type of Facebook. So far, it is tedious and unproductive. I tend to log on infrequently, and the more I log on, the more I wonder why I bother.

"Any of you have success stories about LinkedIn?"
I promptly responded to with my two cents:

I have some strong beliefs about the use of social media (not just for lawyers)..... and find it a powerful tool. The key thing to remember is that it is not a magic bullet.  LinkedIn is different from Facebook and Twitter, but the three are lumped together in the press and by ‘gurus’ who are making a lot of money off the subject.

LinkedIn is not so much about you getting inbound business as it is a way for you and others to discover basic professional information about each other.  You should assume that EVERY client and prospect goes to your LinkedIn profile before calling you or meeting with you. It is an easy way to scan someone's resume / CV. You should be doing this too. 

A partner in a law firm that was considering hiring me to speak at their partner retreat scanned my profile and found I went to college at San Diego State. He had gone there for one year, too.  It was not on his profile, so I could never have known this... but he opened our conversation with this similar point of interest. We talked for 15 minutes about San Diego and this helped us quickly find a common bond.  Wammo... I got the gig.

Make sure your profile looks like you know how to use LinkedIn.  Imagine you were interviewing a potential vendor who told you ‘Oh, I don't use email or cell phones in business.... as I don't "get" it and they don't really matter to me!’ Would you hire them or think they are out of touch?  Yet I talk to lawyers (especially those over 50 years old) all the time who pooh-pooh social media. But if these tools are important to your clients, they had better be important to YOU!

My take is that these social media tools are here to stay, and are growing in use,.... thus lawyers must both understand them, and have an active presence on social media.  Waiting to see if this is all just a fad is not a smart idea at this point.

“At the same time, they do not replace human to human connections.  Law is a relationship business, and remembering that on the other side of a social media connection is a real person is paramount to success."

I consult with lawyers and other business professionals on the best way to maximize LinkedIn.  I am often surprised at how many executives are still baffled by how to best use this as a legitimate tool.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Networking In Action

The Conference Catalyst program has become a meeting planners favorite at multi-day industry events, tech company users conferences and association annual meetings.

Here is a video from this year's MTO Summit with CNTV's Carrie Ferenac:

If you cannot see the video, here is the link:

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections.

Friday, April 08, 2011

FedEx + Me - My Austin Story

I spoke last night at the "FedEx + Me" event. The party was held in the new downstairs private room at Max's Wine Dive (Wow, this is a great location for a party!).  I felt like Oprah, as FedEx gave a free copy of my book "Some Assembly Required (Third Edition)" to everyone in attendance.

I met some really cool people from the marketing department from FedEx (from Memphis) and the MKTG Inc. experiential marketing group (from New York).  These teams worked with local executive consultant Nancy Shields and together they created a "happening". 

FedEx seems like a great place to work (fun people), and the marketing folks were excited about the success of their pilot program in Austin.

It was a unique networking event, well attended by many of Austin's coolest young entrepreneurs, and very well executed!  In addition to my kicking-off the evening, Austin Chamber of Commerce president Bobby Jenkins (ABC Home & Commercial Services) spoke about passion for business, followed by a panel discussion on the new realities of social media (featuring Ricardo Guererro, Aaron DeLucia and Fran Gangitano).  The cake balls from Austin Cake Ball looked fantastic (but not none for me).

FedEx + Me and "My Austin Story" is a unique program.  FedEx started with nothing but one really smart undergrad, one really good term paper and one really big dream. In other words, FedEx used to be a scrappy small business.

That's why they developed the FedEx + Me program, piloted in Austin - to help small-business owners and to help them help each other. Because the world of business is changing; nimble, savvy, innovative small businesses are the key to our future. Everyone's future.

It has been fun being part of this program launch.  I wrote a blog post about "Austin Weird" when they launched their site, and have been hired to speak at two of their events.  The whole team that is creating this program, and all of the local entrepreneurs who are participating are over the top amazing!!

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thursday, April 07, 2011

5 Reasons The CEO Cares Who Speaks At The Company Meeting

Internal employee meetings and external client users conferences that involve presentations need the CEO (or other boss) engaged in selecting who will be speaking to the audience.

Too many senior executives fail to choose an active role in the event planning process, which sets them up for surprises.  CEO's do not like surprises.

It is common for executives, who have attended a bazillion conferences in their career, to make blanket statements of what they are looking for in a speaker and then delegate the decision to others.  Often nobody has thought deeply about the purpose of the meeting, and the learning objectives for the audience, and how the speaker will advance the success of the event.

"Topics" or "types" of speakers do not always translate into impactful presentations.  If the boss (or someone they trust) has not seen a specific speaker live on stage, they need to pay more attention to the selection process.

In the planning stages many are not thinking through the realities of an event experience (unless the company has employed a professional meeting planner).  Often speakers are selected because they are famous or they have accomplished something amazing in their industry.  However, if nobody has ever seen the speaker present, the message might not be in alignment with the meeting's purpose (or worse, they have not perfected their public speaking skills).

The CEO (or other executive who "owns" the meeting) needs to be directly involved in the decisions about who will be the speaker(s).  The speaker sets the tone for the entire event, and a mistake can cause the whole meeting to be flat.

Here are five reasons the boss cares who speaks at the company meeting:

1.  Events cost a lot of money.  A speaker's failure to captivate, motivate, inspire and educate an audience can flush the ROI of the meeting down the toilet.

2. Their reputation is on the line.  The executive who own the meeting is the host of the event.  If the event sucks, they are viewed in a negative light.

3. The audience wants both education and entertainment.  Creating a positive experience will cause people to be more loyal toward the company.  The reverse is true too.

4. The boss wants to be motivated too.  Nobody wants to sit through a long and boring presentation.  The boss has the ability to decide who takes the stage.  If the speaker is awful it is their fault, and they know it.

5. Great ideas, stories, and inspiration spark action.  The right speaker can make employees and clients take action.  This can translate into productivity and profits for the company.

When planning a company meeting make sure the boss is involved in the speaker selection.  Even if he or she claims they do not care or do not have the time, they have a invested interest in making sure the right speaker(s) are hired. 

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Not Every Event Is A "TED Talk", Nor Should It Be

I am seeing a trend toward is shorter presentations.  Many business speakers are being given fifteen or twenty minutes on stage instead of longer format presentations.  I have had event planning professionals tell me the minimal time is better for the short attentions span of younger workers, but some have shared it is also a tactic to avoid having a speaker bomb on stage for too long.

Too many talks bomb.  The average "blah" presentation is so pervasive that when a speaker captivates an audience it lingers on the soul.

Event organizers site the popularity of "TED Talks" as the spark to move toward the short format, but TED is a unique program.  The speakers selected for the TED stage are vetted and coached to the extreme!  Nobody on the TED program "wings it".

Yet not every event can or should be TED, and this trend is leaving many events short on high-impact learning.  The desire for the substance over style in presentations can translate into bad conferences.  There has to be a mix of both meat and rhetoric skill.  It is not too much to ask for people to provide meaningful information and do it in a way that does not bore an audience.

For thousands of years humans have gathered to listen and learn from oratory.  Ancient societies required the art of storytelling to pass information along from generation to generation.  People are naturally inclined to hear presentations and be educated and entertained.

Today we live in an age of the sound-bite and "to the point" communications (think 140 characters or less), but most humans over the ages have learned through the presentation of captivating spoken words.  The desire to be entertained by the presentation still exists every time butts are in seats and someone is on stage.  Tribal elders never asked the keepers of their cultural histories to leave the style behind and only go with the basic information.  Taking everything to short format is not always the best answer.

Selecting a speaker is an important decision in the planning of an industry convention, employee meeting or users conference.

The presentations set the tone for the event, and the right speakers weave the experiential essence that is necessary success.  Much time is spent contemplating the message, but the wrong messenger can torpedo the mood of the crowd.

Experienced leaders know the power of having the right speaker, but most executives are too busy to be involved with speaker selection, so the final program can come up flat.  Often celebrities or industry titans are selected because it is a safe choice.  But when the budget does not allow for famous level fees, all bets are off as to who might take the stage.

Too often speakers are selected because they are smart or they have done something cool.  Another mistake is thinking anyone with experience on a topic can connect with the audience.  Public speaking is a skill, and one that matters.

In my work with corporations, law firms, associations and industry groups I find that too often speakers are not vetted in advance. When the audience would rather stick needles in than ears than listen to the speaker, the event will fail.  Stringing three unskilled speakers together will not make a better hour.   Even if the speaker is good, often they cannot get to the real meat in a short talk.

Not every event is a "Ted Talk", nor should it be.  Take the time to look at the purpose and learning objectives of your event and select the right speakers who can accomplish those goals.  Make sure you work with the speaker to find the right amount of time to allow them to have the impact you desire.  Cookie cutter time frames will not always provide the best program for an event.  A flow of long and short format presentations designed around the speakers programs will provide more value.

Work to find the right speaker who can deliver both high-level learning and motivate the crowd to take real action, and work with them to create the best atmosphere for the whole meeting.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The ABC's of Trade Shows and Conferences - S is for Social Media

When attending a conference it is a good idea to investigate in advance which social media tools are being utilized by the event managers, speakers, vendors and other attendees.

Blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and other online vehicles are often used to promote the event and share ideas.  These can become meaningful channels for you to gain information about the keynote speakers, educational seminars, webinars, social events, sponsors, nearby attractions and "pirate events" (un-official parties, etc...).  Social media is also a great way to discover who else will be in attendance and to promote yourself to others before you arrive.

Before the internet age there were limited ways to uncover additional information about the conference.  Attendees had to rely on what was sent to them by those who organized the event.  But now there is a plethora of details available, but too few people take advantage of social media before, during and after an event.

Those who are investigating these tools and using them are getting more from their participation.

If you are not active with social media, attending a conference is a good chance to dip your toe in the water and explore the reasons that these tools have become so powerful in our society. Opening a Twitter account to use at a conference is not a life-long commitment, but will allow you to experience how Twitter (or other social media tool) can work to your advantage.

If the event has a blog, it is a good practice to check in and read it regularly in the weeks leading up to the conference.  Often the organizers and speakers will contribute valuable posts that will help you better understand the purpose of the keynotes and breakouts.  This can expose you to unknown presenters, many of whom can bring more useful information than many of the famous industry speakers and celebrities.  Leaving comments on the blog that can extend the conversation will allow the speakers and organizers to make adjustments that can benefit the whole audience.  Also, when you leave smart comments, people will take notice, and thus be looking to meet you once they arrive on site.

LinkedIn and Facebook allow for special interest groups and pages to be established which can become the conduit for important information to be communicated.  People can post to these communities and allow other interested attendees to quickly become informed.  The power here, when used correctly, is that it will allow the "mini-society" of the conference to continue long after the event is over.  I have seen several of these online conference community groups become long-term information and discussion boards.

Twitter is used during conferences to share real time information.  Often people who are in great break-out sessions will "tweet" about the high quality speaker and information they are witnessing, causing people in dull presentations to change rooms.  It is not uncommon to see people streaming into a great session halfway through because of the positive feedback on the Twitter stream.  Event organizers will usually establish a "Hashtag" to use on Twitter during a conference that will allow interested parties to review this live information on their smart phones and other devices.  The same is true for finding the best parties and other "hot spots" after hours... as people love to share good events with the conference community.  While many people still do not use Twitter, it can be an amazing tool during a conference.

If you are already an active user of social media it is a good idea for you to blog, tweet or post tid-bits of knowledge that you learn at a conference.  Not everyone in your network can or will attend events, and thus when you share what you have gained from being present, you are presenting a gift to others.  Some will not care, but others will be very grateful that you posted a review of what you heard at an event.  When you share information, you extend the value of your involvement.

The use of social media becomes a living history of the trade show or conference.  When an event is a success, more people will attend the following year.  If an event is a flop it cannot be kept secret.  Those looking to attend in the future will know the value and make decisions accordingly. 

Social media has become a key part of the event planning industry . All savvy conference managers and event professionals are paying close attention to these tools.  Attendees must also embrace and participate in the online communities and information portals if they want to maximize their experience.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections.

Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Graduates - Now Available on Kindle and other Digital Formats

College seniors are getting ready to launch into the workforce, but many are never taught how to make, grow and keep the business relationships that will ensure a long-term and successful career.

"Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Graduates" (by Anne Brown and Thom Singer, New Year Publishing 2010) is now available on Kindle.

If you are about to graduate, or know someone who is just entering their work life.... this is a great book to help anyone realize the power of business relationships.

Looking for a graduation gift?  This book will make a wonderful gift for any grad!

Available at and other book retailers online and in the real world.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, April 04, 2011

Spring Into Spring - "Some Assembly Required Newsletter" - April 2011

The April 2011 edition of the "Some Assembly Required Newsletter" has been sent. 

Not on the list?  You can sign up on the blog (upper right side).

CLICK HERE to read the online version (

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, April 01, 2011

Seven Things You Can Do If The Economy Has A "Double Dip"

Today is April 1st.  This marks two years since I got laid off from my job as Director of Business Development with a consulting firm.  April 2009 was about the worst time in the economic storms that have hit the world economy over the past three years, and the news hit me hard that day.... when I found out my job was being eliminated.

But two years later today marks a celebration.  After I got the bad news I called my wife and told her I had been laid off and that I was not going to seek a new position (in April 2009 there were few positions available anyway).  I was officially an entrepreneur.

Thus today is sort of the birthday of my career as a professional speaker, consultant, and mentor / coach.

But it was not really the first day of this career.  I had launched my first book four years earlier, and New Year Publishing was already starting to prosper. I had been doing paid speaking events for some time, and knew this was what I really wanted to be doing for my vocation.

It has not been easy.  I have had be creative to allow my family to maintain our lifestyle, and I have found that running your own business is harder than you think from the viewpoint of an employee.  I have had success and failures along the way, but I have also had a lot of fun.  I have learned more about business, people, relationships, and sales than I would have imagined possible in such a short time.

Had I not started my business before I got laid off I do not think I would have had the option to go on my own the past two years (although I am not really alone, as I have a wonderful family who supports the cause and a business partner in New Year Publishing who is a true visionary).

I am now working with several clients who want to set up a path toward working for themselves.  Some want to be speakers / consultants, while others have different business plans... but the common thread is the desire to establish a safety net in case the economy hits another dip.

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, published an article yesterday predicting a "Double Dip" in the economic conditions.  If he is right then there is more tough times coming. 

What can you do now to protect yourself from a worse economy?

1.  Be realistic about your work situation.  Many people, myself included, rationalize that while the economy is troubled, their job is secure.  The truth is that if you work for someone else and they have to make tough decisions, you could be the one who gets cut.  Hard times bring difficult choices.  Do not pretend you are safe.

2.  Put some money away for a rainy day.  I had been working towards having a financial cushion for my family.  I only had about 40% saved from the "magic" number I had invented, but that money kept us above water for two years as my business grew.

3.  Know what you are very good at doing.  Even in rough economic times there are jobs available.  If you are clearly excellent at what you do then someone out there will want you as part of their team.  This is not the time to simply be "good enough".  You must be able to clearly show why your skills are unique and can help a company grow and succeed

4.  Understand your existing non-compete agreements.  I personally find it gross when employers lay people off because of the company's financial problems and then make a big deal about the enforceability of their "non-compete agreements".  This is one sided and selfish, but very common.  Many employers will waive the non-compete situation if the person is laid off because of the company's money constraints, but others will toss you out and keep you from working for anyone else. Do not assume if you get laid off that you can go to the competition.

5.  Start networking NOW.  Do not wait until you are out of work to begin to network.  Most career consultants will encourage people to network when looking for a job, but everyone knows a "selfish-networker" who only shows up in their business community when they have a personal need.  To harness the power of your network you must be actively cultivating relationships long before you need them.  A great idea is to help people you know who are currently out of work.  Make introductions for them, help them brainstorm and buy them lunch often while you are the one with a job.  If the tables turn you don't want to be the guy who ignored them in their time of need.

6. Talk to your spouse and kids.  What would you all expect from each other if one of you lost your job.  Have a back up plan in place that you all buy into and can support.  If you want to start your own business or become a consultant make sure everyone knows what that means for the family and the allocations of resources (aka: money and time).

7.  Hire a coach.  When money is tight you might not be able to rationalize working with a business / career / life coach.  Yet sometimes it is very helpful to have the perspective of someone else who is not too close to your personal situation.  All the best athletes work with several professional coaches to fine tune their games, and it is now very common for business executive to hire coaches to help them navigate their careers.  In fact most successful people I know have worked with a coach or a mentor at some point in their lives.  It is better to begin this work while you have the income stream and unlimited options.  Waiting until you are hit by an economic speed bump can make it harder for you to see the choices ahead of you.

Good luck, and hopefully the economy will skyrocket instead of hitting a "Double Dip".... but either way you need to set yourself up for success!

Have A Great Day.

thom singer