Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Here Are Four Trends In Networking That Could Hurt Your Career

There are four trends in networking that I have seen these recently:

1. Too much online focus.  There has been much attention given to social media the last few years. The internet has certainly changed the way we interact, but some people are creating a lattice of weak connections and fooling themselves that digital connections have meaningful long-term power.

(I always get in trouble when I write about this subject.  I get notes that say I am "old-school" or "out of touch".  Last week one woman told me I did not understand the new way to network. She said the link was more important that investing time to meet for coffee -- umm, okay.  I am a proponent of social media, I encourage people to meet others and cultivate relationships via the internet, and I know many have received business via their social media activities. However, most people I talk with get their referral business and other opportunities from the humans they know in the real world).

I have a rule that I do not accept connections in LinkedIn and Facebook from people I have not gotten to know personally.  Most of the time this means we have met in person (or had a phone call). I call my "linking policy" the "Coffee, Meal or Beer Rule".  Critics say that I am leaving a plethora of referrals behind by not linking with anyone with a pulse, but I see few who spend much time helping random strangers.

Networking is about developing long-term and mutually-beneficial relationships.  That is more than being on Facebook together.  This does not mean that the digital tools are not valuable, but I believe they are only part of the mix.

2.  Protecting time.  Much is written by experts advising others to not take meetings with new people who want have a conversation.  While I am careful about not talking too many meetings, to eliminate all these "get to meet you meetings" would take away many of the most powerful connections I have developed over the years.  I am open to meetings with people who call me as long as they are willing to meet at a time and place that works for me.  I am a morning person, so these are often done early at the Starbucks near my home.  A relationship has to start somewhere and a coffee is a great way to get past the facade of what is found in the online world.

I am not against "protecting time", as that is important (we all only have 24 hours per day).  But too many people use this to pre-judge who is worthy of their time.   If you get to strict against the serendipity of meeting new people then you will miss out on the gems.

There is a fine line here for consultants who sell their time, as there is a difference between a networking meeting and someone who wants free consulting.  However, most people are not hourly consultants, so this is not apples to apples.

3.  Wanting it too fast.  Meeting someone once does not make them part of your network.... it makes them someone you have met.  There is a big difference between someone you have encountered (online or in person) and someone with whom you have cultivated a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship.  People do business with those they know, like and trust -- However we now have a tendency to think we "know" people upon a single meeting.  It used to take time to get to know someone, and "like and trust" came along (or didn't) with that process.  Too often we abandon a deeper relationship and stick with the superficial.

You cannot really know a person because you chatted for five minutes, traded business cards, and sent a LinkedIn request!

4.  Not networking at all.  Some people think it is a waste of time to meet new people.  They do not want or need new friend.  The rest of us can always benefit from having more connections.  If you run from the chances to get to know people in your business community, you are not in the loop for the opportunities they may have to refer your direction.

What other trends do you see when you are out networking?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How Small Companies and Small Vendors Can Become Real Partners

There is a great interview with Ken Piddington, CIO of Global Partners LP, on the Network World website about how he implemented an innovate vendor partnership program within his company.

I highly recommend that everyone from big companies, and those who are vendors to large corporations, read this article.  It is full of great suggestions, concepts and tips for improving ways that business can maximize their relationships with suppliers (and create win / win results).

[Note: I have met both Ken Piddington and the writer, John Dix].

But you do not need to be a giant multi-national company to expect meaningful partnership relationships with your vendors.  The same concepts that Ken has put into place are also possible for small companies and solo-entrepreneurs.  The expectations of a strategy for efficiency should be present in all working relationships.  Both the vendors and the clients must create a mutual understanding and a policy of respect.

Here are my thoughts for how small vendors and small customers can better create win / win relationships:

1.  Be realistic.  As a customer I have high expectations of what I expect from those who provide me with products and services.  At the same time I also know that I am a small fish in the ponds where I purchase.  Many small businesses complain that those from whom they make the least money complain the most.  I have talked with several consultants and other businesses who routinely (and happily) fire clients who act as if they are the only priority. As a customer I try to not set unrealistic demands and expectations on those with whom I work.  When there is a difference of opinion in how a situation is handled I attempt to not have an overblown and knee jerk reaction toward my vendors.  Threatening to take my tiny spend elsewhere will not put the fear of God into them, and I do not like to have an adversary relationship with anyone whom I do business.

2.  Ask questions.  When I assume I know what is going on  behind the scenes I almost always screw up the relationship.  The more questions I ask of my vendors and my clients, the better chance I have of getting it right.

3.  Seek solutions through understanding.  When conflict does arrive I try to seek an understanding of their situation.  I had one vendor point out that while they like doing business with me, they do not make any profit from my contract.  They keep me as a client because they believe in me and the growth of my company, but once I realized the realities of my real value to them, my expectations changed.  We continue to work together, and I refer them other clients whenever I can to make up for what I am not paying them in dollars.

4.  Think Win / Win.  Regardless of being the vendor or the client you both should approach all interactions from a pursuit of "win / win" (beyond the exchange of money for services). When this is done well then there is more opportunity for victory.  Too often I used to think my writing a check (as a client) or receiving a check (as a vendor) as the most important part of that relationship.  That changed after having a vendor relationship with a PR firm who I later realized only saw our relationship as their cashing my checks. There was no long term win / win from them.  The experience was a disaster.  Over time I could have provided them with a good amount of referral business beyond the engagement, but they were only concerned with the transactional elements.  They did not care about me, thus I now send my referrals elsewhere.  From the start that relationship was never about the bigger picture for either of us, and that it was doomed to fail.

The PR disaster taught me to interview vendors and seek partners who want to see an ongoing friendship beyond just the transaction.

5.  Say "Thank You".  Even when you are paying someone to do a job, thanking them goes a long way.  When you need to complain, be sure to wrap it in the context of all the good things the vendor has provided you along the way.  If you just focus on the problem, then the value of all the positives that have come before are washed away in a flood of emotion.  If you are the vendor, the "thank you" to the client is a reminder that you appreciate their business.  It is easy to get busy or to turn gratitude into an automated task.  When both partners remember to show appreciation, the relationship lasts longer and pays more dividends.

Regardless of if you are a big company or solo-entrepreneur (or any size in-between) you want meaningful partnerships with your vendors. As a vendor you long for clients who want to see you be successful, not just those who want the best price.  Put plans in place to create better relationships and everyone wins.

In the Network World article Ken Piddington said:
"I said I no longer wanted event driven relationships. I want it to be better planned out, not just you selling me and not just me calling you because of a problem."
Real power comes from the cultivation of long-term and mutually beneficial relationships where everyone is has more success because of those relationships than they would without them.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Tennis Anyone?

My teenager took an interest in tennis this summer.  She took lessons and did a week-long camp to learn the basics and was excited to go play, even in the Texas summer heat.

Unlike her four years of Karate (she is a Black Belt), this is an activity that requires a partner to play.  I have never played the sport, and am overall not a natural athlete, thus I was not sure I was suited to go knock the ball around.  Plus, I did not want to play tennis.

I promised her in June that if she still had an interest in tennis in September that I would take lessons.  Last week she joined the Tennis Club at her high school, and is practicing three days a week.  I see what comes next.... I am about to become a tennis player

I will start my beginner lessons in either September or October (I need to schedule the classes around my travel schedule, and thus I must choose a month when I am around on the same day each week).  There are a couple of local places I can take adult lesson, and then there are leagues and clinics that will follow.  I am not sure I am thrilled about this, but I always try to keep my promises.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Here Is A Way That Has Never Failed To Bring Opportunities

If you want to find more opportunities in your career or personal life, be a one who gives.  Go out of your way to help others achieve their goals, connect them with clients, call them when they need a shoulder to cry on, and encouraging them in finding their dreams.  Never undermine the people around you or play devil's advocate.  Lift others up at every turn.

The economic situations of the last several years have put additional pressures on everyone, and it seems there is never enough hours in the day to get our own things done.  When things are rough many people up walls and go into high-gear self-focus.  We hope that other people will refer us to new clients, but sometimes we forget to think of what we can do to impact the ones around us.

People often want to give opportunities to others, but they never seem to make it happen (for a variety of reasons, not all bad ones).  Intention does not equal action.  I know, I am guilty of this, too.

When I see people who naturally help others, they are the same ones who have huge opportunities appear in their lives.  The three biggest givers I know are also among my most successful friends.  There is an honest connection here.

I have found when I refer business to others, they often connect me with meeting planners, company training managers, and other potential clients.  When you help others achieve their goals, you at top of mind.  There is so much noise in our world, that finding a way to be remembered make a difference (giving to others is a great way to be remembered).

Many argue that when they do help others, those people never return the favor.  This is true... not everyone will reciprocate.  Sometimes they do not have the right connections (not everyone can help you).  Others want to help, but do not have "Follow Through DNA" (they are good people who have good intentions, but never get around to following up).  Some are just selfish (yep, that is just life).  AND,,,,, too often we expect instant quid pro quo (be patient - it may take a long time until they have the right opportunity for you).  However, you should still find ways to serve others.  You cannot predict who will bring you amazing opportunities, so hording your good deeds will keep both you and others from discovering more success.

Remember this little tid-bit:  it is not always the people who you help who will reciprocate on your actions.  Experienced givers are always watching.  They know the difference between "givers" and "takers" and they will see your efforts.  Givers prefer to serve other givers.  Life if too short to shower opportunities on takers, so when you serve the greater good for the right reasons.... you will be known to those who matter.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How An Ice-Breaker Can Kill Your Business Meeting

Many business meetings kick off with an ice breaker.... but nobody signs up to attend a conference to play silly games, pull off squares of toilet paper, and share their biggest fear.  Jumping right in with some gimmick to break the ice can freeze your introverted attendees and leave them hiding at every break.

Creating a conference culture that promotes networking is paramount to the success of a meeting, but this is not accomplished by leading with exercises that nobody wants to do anyway.  My "Conference Catalyst" program is both informative and interactive, but I never instigate the socialization parts right out of the gate.  People need to feel comfortable with the venue, the presenter, the community and themselves before they are willing to give 100%.

Too many people who try to lead networking ice-breakers front load these activities into their presentations.  This causes the audience hold back in their participation and can kill the mood of the conference networking.  You have to wait until the MC or presentation leader has earned the right from the audience to ease people out of their comfort zones.

When ice breakers are done too early people are less likely to open their minds and hearts to the message encouraging them to make meaningful connections at the conference.  They are viewed as "hokey" and "forced", and while most people will go through the motions, they are not fully engaged.

Waiting to break the ice will allow people to thaw (I could not resist).

****For a copy of my free eight page special report on creating an atmosphere for better networking at conferences email me at thom (at)

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sorry, I Am Protecting My Time

"Sorry, I am protecting my time".  This is what I heard from someone I invited to meet me for coffee.

This person had sent me a LinkedIn request, and in keeping my policy of not linking to strangers when there is no foundation of a relationship, I requested we meet in person

(I enacted the "Coffee, Meal or Beer Rule" several years ago, which just means I want a conversation...could be by phone... with people before adding them to LinkedIn and Facebook.  I also allow for the "digital equivalent", as sometimes you get to know someone online and via short meetings at networking events, which is similar to sitting down for coffee).  

She was offended that I would not accept a LinkedIn connection from a total stranger.  She said I did not understand networking (ummmm???? okay).

I was offended that she told me she was "protecting" her time.  It sounded like I was some kind of time-sucking barbarian.

Stale-mate.  Oh well.

Have A Great Day.


Embrace Change and Start Fresh

As my kids return to school today I am reminded of the power of fresh starts. Having a child entering high school, a meaningful milestone, is a strong example of how life is meant to include change.  My wife and I seem overwhelmed by this big step, but our daughter is taking it in stride.  She is ready to embrace change and start fresh.

Thinking back on my own education, each year came new teachers, friends and experiences.  It also brought new freedoms and responsibilities.  I spent kindergarten through high school within the same school district, and advanced with many of the same kids all along the way.  While our lives remained the same, they also changed constantly. We did not know it at the time, but it was the new experiences that forged our futures.  The changes did us good.

Grown-ups embrace fewer fresh starts.  We often have a harder time making new friends, and while there are always opportunities for change (career changes, new cities, participation in new groups, etc....), we either avoid it altogether or try to lesson the impact of the newness on our lives.

But life is change.  Seeking out ways to reinvent ourselves and encounter the unknown expands opportunities.  Our attitude is the key to how we find power in what comes our way.  With new experiences can come new people and I believe that adding interesting friends is paramount to a fulfilling life.

I am always seeking to meet new people and try new things.  I might even try something other than a Vanilla Latte next time I go into Starbucks (yeah, maybe not).

How has your life changed this year?

Have A Great Day   

thom singer

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Current Economic Problems and the Meetings Industry

Three years ago the housing market melted down and we experienced the beginning of the worst economy in generations. Some companies were too big to fail and received billions of dollars, while other companies were apparently the right size to fail and closed their doors. People were laid-off and others were fearful.  Uncertainty was, and is still, the word of the day.

About the same time I started my career as a professional speaker and corporate trainer. The down-side was that internal employee training meetings were cut from budgets and travel to industry conferences was no longer in the "approved" column for many professionals.  The up-side is that I have succeeded in growing my business and witnessed first-hand the hard work and ingenuity of all those event professionals who work in the a variety of careers that make up the meetings industry.

The meetings business is a major industry: According to Landmark Research the U.S. meetings industry directly supports 1.7 million jobs, a$106 billion contribution to GDP, $263 billion in spending, $60 billion in labor revenue, $14.3 billion in federal tax revenue and$11.3 billion in state and local tax revenue.  This is not small potatoes and reminds us that there are millions of families that are paying their bills from these jobs!

Even with the economic problems, humans are still experiential beings and require the face-to-face interactions.  Meetings are never going away.  There is always talk about doing training online, and there are many people trying to create spectacular internet "events".... but while the communication tools have changed, how we are wired in our brains is still the same (yes, there are studies that our electronics are causing changes in the wiring of the brain, but these are so minor they will not show major impacts for generations). 

As the stock market is again in free-fall situations and there are people predicting a double dip recession, there is always a risk that the knee jerk reactions will impact the meetings business.  Three years ago many politicians made political statements about corporate meetings that hurt the industry.  These ill-informed statements made it seem like all corporate meetings are extravagant and have no ROI.   The reality is most meetings are conducted on a strict budget and deliver boost in productivity to those who attend and gain new information and inspiration from their participation.

The success for many experienced meeting planners has been that they have worked to create better meetings over the last few years.  With limited budgets and tougher competition to attract the audience, I have seen a strong emphasis on creating a conference culture.  The development of meaningful content and an environment where people can network and make meaningful connections with others in attendance must go hand-in-hand.  

Content alone means a lot of boring presentations.  While people get the learning they desire, they are left hating the conference.  A fun party that is just fluff has no results.  The continuation of tight budgets means that ALL events must be orchestrated to be an interesting "happenings" or they will quickly fail.

During the past three years the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference (March in Austin, TX) has almost doubled in size.  The event transcended the economic slow down because the organizers understand their audience and delivered an "experience".  The TED Conference phenomenon and the extension of the TEDx franchise has exploded in popularity in the same time frame.

Other conferences have also flourished during these dark years because of they have created more than just the same old meeting atmosphere.  I have presented at several industry conferences, including tech industry events hosted by Computerworld and CIO Magazine, that have been spectacular experiences.  Many company "Users Conferences" have filled the gaps and gone beyond company events and become must-go meetings in their industries.

While the uncertain economy will continue to impact the meetings industry, we must all remember that when events are providing value, the people find a way to attend!!!

What meetings do you attend that provided value and grew in size during the turbulent economy over the last three years?

Have A Great

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, August 16, 2011

What To Do When Your Network Goes Cold

I got the following email earlier this week:

I am an interim management consultant.... who let my 90% of my professional network (1000+) go cold for two years. Whilst I let it go cold, I did spend years building it. For the last week, every day I write to a selection of contacts to re-warm the relationship. Truth is, I am looking for a work assignment and feel a little anxious to get work, but am determined to avoid the big networking mistakes. I am not asking them for opportunities or who I may contact at this stage.

Question 1:  How do I best reach out to my 1000 contacts? I publish a blog and I’m not sure whether writing to ‘all’ my network and letting them know about the few most recent articles is a good or bad thing to do. Bearing in mind that what I write in my blog is relevant to 90% of my network.

Question 2:  How & when should I best let my network know I am looking for work?

Here is my response:

1. Letting a network go cold is like leaving your wallet on a table in a bad part of town. It is lost opportunity.   The good news is that re-kindling relationships is easier than building them from scratch.

I think when you reach out to those whom you have lost touch you have to fall on your sword and admit that you failed in keeping in touch. While the people did not reach out to you either.... you have to take ownership of cultivating relationships or they will die out.

A group email or links to your blog is too impersonal. Your outreach needs to be a custom connection to each person. Also, email or using a social media tool is so over-used for this type of re-connect activity and you will get lost in the noise. 

Pick up the phone and call. Yep, 1000 calls.  If that is too many, select the 250 people whom you most want to rekindle the friendships.  If you did 10 a day you would be done in 3 months (25 days for 250 people). 
Be casual in your discussion and say something like "I thought of you today and realized we had not talked in far too long". Let them know you appreciate knowing them and hate the idea of a connection to someone important going stale.  Ask if there is anything you can do to help them. Ask them what is their biggest challenge. Etc....

Some of these people will be indifferent to your call. Others may wonder what you really want (we live in a world where too many are suspect)... but some will be thrilled to hear from you. Grasp onto those people and then follow up with emails, and invitations to have coffee, etc....  

Once you warm up these contacts, NEVER MAKE THIS MISTAKE AGAIN!

2. Not calling for years and then calling when you need a job sends a message that says "I am a taker who only shows up in our business community when I need something". Thus you have to wait a while to jump in with your needs of finding work. 

If they ask, and some will, that is a different story. But be clear that while you are looking for opportunities, it is not the purpose of your call.  Be clear about the situation that made you realize your failure in letting contacts expire... and the purpose for your call was to reconnect. At least in America, people are very forgiving when you admit your mistake.

Most people want to help others.  However with over three years of the tough economy has made many people sick and tired of hearing from old friends who are only calling to find help in getting new jobs.  If your are not sincere in wanting to re-connect for the sake of the friendship, they will see through it and become jaded by your self-focused motivation.

Good luck.

****Anyone have any other suggestions for this person? Leave a comment.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, August 15, 2011

SXSW 2012 Panel Picker

The South By Southwest "Panel Picker" is now live.  This is the chance for people to vote for panel ideas that they find interesting.  The votes only count for a small percentage of the decision, but having a few people chime in about why a speaker is a good choice never hurts.

Please take a minute, if you would... PLEASE..., to read my panel idea and cast a positive vote.


thom singer

Three Ways To Improve Your Corporate Brand in 2012 (By Taking Action Now)

Look around at your business community.  In your industry.... who has the top mind share?  You or your competitors?  If it is not your company, then you are leaving money on the table.

When someone hires a vendor they can only talk with two or three of the many choices they may have for lawyers, accountants, bankers, consultants, etc....  If you are not top of mind, you are not making all the short lists.  If you are not on the short lists you have no shot at winning the contracts.

I recently talked to an insurance broker who said he hates nothing more than to hear a large company put their coverage out to bid and his firm was not in the mix of companies considered.  It happens all the time.

Be honest.  Are you in the top tier of those in your line of work?  If the answer is "no", "not sure" or "it does not matter", then you need to read the rest of this article (If you said "yes"... then keep up the good work).

If you are the best kept secret in your industry you are losing money.  I am often shocked at how proud some professionals are that they are not visible in their community.  They like to brag about how they are stealth.  Stealth misses the chance to bid on business.  Do not allow the culture of your firm to honor those who hide out and do nothing to increase your opportunities.

Below are three things you can do to change your ways and increase your brand.

1.  Make networking a priority.  Some people have demonized what they think to be networking.  They have misinterpreted that networking is a selfish activity, and thus take pride in not participating in the activities necessary to build a powerful brand.  The definition of networking is "the creation of long-term and mutually-beneficial relationships between two or more parties where all involved achieve more because of the relationships than they would have without the connections".  Networking is not a selfish act, but instead an act of serving others (note the worlds "mutually beneficial").  It about serving others.  I argue that those who do not network might be the selfish ones.

2.  Have a plan.  Meeting people is only part of the equation.  If you are not working on going beyond meeting people and purposefully creating a meaningful brand of excellence then you then you will end up with a lot of names in your database and little to show for it. Too many professionals who know they are coming up short of their potential in business to make any changes in their daily actions.  They have no plans and leave their future up to chance while continuing to do things the same way they have in the past.

3.  Integrate your visibility online and offline.  We live in an internet age, but too many people still are not actively utilizing social media tools to their full potential.  You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and today's the first glance people get of you is online.  Have you conducted Google Searches on your name, your company, and your industry?  What comes up?  Do you have a robust LinkedIn page? Does your company have a blog that is fresh and full of useful information?  Visibility is not about having a advertisement in your church bulletin... it is about everything that impacts your clients, potential clients and referral sources (and that is a lot of stuff).

Now is a great time to work on creating a visibility blitz.  September through December is the key time to put in the time and effort if you want to see different (aka: better) results in 2012.  Do not over think and rationalize reasons not to take action.... jump in now with both feet.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Getting The Word Out

Small businesses all struggle with how to get the word out about their products and services. There is no magic marketing formula that produces results, and every entrepreneur has to create their own unique path to success.

Many solo entrepreneurs are hopeful that they will find instant fame that will help propel them to the top. While this could happen, it is rare.  In my line of work I see new speakers who are waiting for someone to "discover" them and get them onto a fictional "Speaking Circuit".  There is not "circuit" that is a guaranteed route to success.  For each success in the speaking industry there has been a different set of circumstances that have led to victory.

Everyday you need to wake up and do the hard work to get the word out about why your business is spectacular.

Like Sisyphus (Greek Mythology) who has to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this throughout eternity, marketing your business never ends.  I know more than one small business owner who has stopped promoting the company after finding a comfortable level of success, only to find the competitor take over the mind-share of the clients and prospects.

Getting the word out is a never-ending activity.

What do you think? How do you get the word out about your business? What should I be doing differently to promote my career?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, August 12, 2011

Reach Out To People

Hide out....

Don't reach out....

Lose out.

Today I heard from a friend.  It was a simple text message asking how I was doing.  It mattered.

Too often we fail to reach out to people and we leave them to forget or dismiss us from their lives.  Something as easy as an email, phone call, or text can put them in a good mood and remind them of what makes you wonderful.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Don't Only Show Up When You Have Something To Promote

Don't be the type of person who only shows up in your community when you have something to promote or you are in need of new clients.  People spot a taker a mile away.

It happens all the time.  People pooh-pooh the idea of networking and participating for the greater good.... until the day comes when they are out of work, need a new client, release a book, etc...  Suddenly they are front and center, shaking hands and kissing babies.

To create and cultivate powerful business relationships who help you find the success you desire you must be consistent.  Anything less will be viewed with skepticism from the people around you.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer  

National Speakers Association Annual Convention

This was my third year attending the National Speakers Association annual conference.  As always it was a great experience and it was a good opportunity to connect with other professional speakers.

Speaking is a wonderful career, but it can also be very lonely.  Many of my friends and family have no idea what I do all day or what is involved with working full-time as a speaker, trainer, consultant, etc....  Additionally some clients are not even familiar with the industry of speaking.  The conference is a great place to be with my peers, see how others cultivate their businesses, share best practices, establish friendships, and view some of the all time greats on the "Main Stage".

Several other speakers from the Austin Chapter of NSA were also in attendance (Sara Canaday and Patti DeNucci are pictured above), and all agreed that our young chapter will continue to benefit from our affiliation with the National Speakers Association.  Each month we have a local meeting with camaraderie and experiential education.  I look forward to my continued support of this amazing group.

My oldest daughter also attended the Teen Leadership Program that NSA hosts for the children of the members.  With a plethora of the country's greatest speakers and thought leaders in attendance the teenagers are exposed to new ideas, concepts and inspiration.  This program has existed for over twenty years, and it surprises me that other organizations do not have similar offerings for the families of their members.  It is a great chance for me to share NSA with my kids.

Our whole family also took a few days in Southern California after the event to have dinner with old friends and explore the Los Angeles area following the convention.  While we had a great vacation to Italy in July, this extra trip was an important part of our summer.

Now I am back at work preparing for several keynotes and "Conference Catalyst" presentations that are coming up in the next few weeks.  I am also working to implement the ideas I learned at the NSA event into the marketing of my business.  Attending industry events is a great way to get exposed to new concepts and trends, but implementation is key.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Three Steps To Getting Free Guru Motivation

*** Disclaimer on the below post.  I have no beef with any expert who sells their expertise (heck, I do this).  I do not have a problem with the coaching industry (I work with individual clients).  I do not discredit the power of internet marketing tools (I use them).  There is a difference between shared information and solicitations, and not all inbound emails from "gurus" are trying to separate you from your money, know the difference.  Selling is not a sin.  Any resemblance to any guru described is purely coincidental.

Free Guru Coaching Starting Today

Do you want to move your career to the next level?  Are you looking for someone to take you under their wing and lead you to more success?  Are there people in your industry you admire who offer expensive coaching programs you believe would help you -- but you cannot justify the expensive investment in their giant menu of programs, services, bootcamps, etc....

Wish you could get the benefits of their motivation without having to take out a second mortgage?

Well you can have any one of the most famous internet motivational experts actively working to motivate you around the clock without investing any money.

Follow these three steps and you can get the best results from (pick your favorite guru):

1.  Write down twenty-five things that you know you need to do to expand your career and create a "to do list".  

Most of us are aware of what we need to do to achieve our desired success.  We just get busy with the nuances of life and fail to follow through.  This is normal, do not beat yourself up over your lack of motivation.  Identify the actions that you are confident will allow you to grow your business, get promoted, find a new job, etc....

2.  Get on the mailing list of the top internet guru who you think holds the magic seeds to personal improvement.  There are many to choose from, they have infomercials, giant email databases, highly seductive webinars and bootcamps, etc...  Any one of them will do, or better yet, get on multiple mailing lists of these mavens of motivation. 

It is not SPAM if you opt-in!

3.  Every time you get an email from your guru(s) trying to sell you their latest program, product, coaching service, etc....  select one item on your "to do list" and immediately go do it.  You need not even open their emails, just see their name in your inbox and take action (while their email looks personalized, the salutation is computer generated...they were not really thinking of you when the email blast was sent!).  

This really works.  I have been doing this since January and I have grown my business year over year.  My chosen guru sends me emails more than once a week promoting something that his company or one of his affiliate partners is selling.  I enjoy his enthusiasm, but if I bought all he offered it would have added up to more than my annual income.

Do not unsubscribe from the guru lists.  They are your ticket to getting more done without ever having act on any of their offers.  I heard one such guru say once that the only way to get off their mailing list was to die and leave no heirs.  Cool.  Keep those emails coming.... it gets me moving toward attaining all my goals!

At the same time, if they have an offer that is appealing to you, by all means, sign up.  These are not bad folks (well, most of them) and often have great materials.  But if you are not in a place to invest, do not waste the opportunity to utilize their coordinated, dedicated, and frequent email campaigns as a tool to kick you into taking action.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Three Ideas To Follow Up With The People You Meet at Business Events

People attend business conferences and events all the time.  The meetings business is a huge industry and even with the rough economy and people talking about online options, there is a plethora of face-to-face gatherings.

A main reason people attend business events is for the "networking opportunities", however once they get there they stink at making meaningful connections.

Worse is when people do meet each other they rarely follow up.  Meeting someone once does not make them part of your network.... it makes them someone you met once.  There is a huge difference between having a brief chat at a convention and establishing a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship.

In today's fast and impersonal culture a fast LinkedIn request is often sent and then folks mistakenly think they are in each other's network.  A social media link is not the same as a friendship.

To create a real relationship you must share experiences and have ongoing conversations.  If you want to go beyond just trading information you must "own the follow up".

Here are a few ideas:

1. Send a handwritten note.  Yes, email is easier... but it is also just part of the ongoing noise.  Many professionals get over 150 emails everyday.  Since so few people send these types of notes they really do stand out.  

2.  Schedule lunch or another activity.  The sooner you get together again the higher the odds you will establish a real friendship. While this only works if you live in the same area, too few people ever take this step.  Humans are experiential beings, so when you share experiences you build bonds.

3.  Have a "tele-coffee".  My friend Neen James coined this phrase.... it is where you make coffee in your office, they make coffee in their office across the country (or across the world) and then you have a scheduled conversation via phone or Skype.  

Don't delay in planning for the follow up after a conference.  The more time that passes they less likely you will ever have any other contact with the people you meet at business events.

What do you do to cultivate the connections you make?

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.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Training The Speakers For Your Conference

Successful organizations go beyond the "same old / same old".  They do not limit their future because of the past.  They implement new ideas and encourage their people to expand boundaries.

I was recently hired by an association to conduct a webinar for the presenters at their upcoming conference (the event is in two month).  The days of experts taking the stage to deliver data dumps are long gone (or should be).  Audiences today expect more from speakers at conferences.  Not everyone on the agenda can be a seasoned professional speaker, but everyone who presents should be invested in delivering value.

My mantra is "Just because someone is smart or has done something cool -- it does not mean they belong on the stage".  The ongoing argument between content and style in speeches is bullshit.  It is NOT too much to expect both!!!  Audiences want to learn, but do not want to be bored to death.  They expect to have a connection to the person on the stage.

The association I am working with has adopted a TED Talk style format.  Their morning session will involve six presentations with each speaker having twenty minutes. But TED is about more than short format presentations. To "wow" an audience in a limited time frame the presenters must know their points and purpose.  Preparation is key.

We are used to hour time slots at business events and speakers often take the whole time to connect with their audience.  Longer format talks are easier to create and deliver compared to short talks.  I find it takes me three times as much advance preparation for a short format speech as it does for an hour.

To create a meaningful conversational presentation you must be audience focused.  Everything you do must be crafted to have impact.  Your preparation time will be ten to forty hours in advance of the conference.  If you are not planning to dedicate the time needed to create a great speech, then do not accept the invitation to present.

Things to remember:
  • Practice, practice, practice
  • Take a few minutes back stage to mentally prepare
  • Show, don't tell
  • Edit out the fluff
  • Have a strong opening and close
  • No need to tell them what you will say, and what you said.  Just tell them once (with power)
  • Leave your ego at home
  • Meet the audience in advance
  • Stay after you are done to talk to everyone who wants to meet you
  • Let your personality shine through
  • Conversations have no scripts
  • Humor is good, not jokes!
  • What you wear matters
  • Do not hand out your PPT slides in advance
  • Fewer words on PPT is better - pictures are best
  • Your presentation is an experience for the audience
  • Never run over time
  • Be authentic
How many conferences have you attended where the planners conducted an training for the presenters?  I think this was a great idea, and a trend I expect to see from more meeting planners.  If the speakers find little ideas that work for them and incorporate them into their talks then the whole audience wins.  I do not expect that any of these industry experts will become powerful and experienced speakers from one 90 minute webinar, but I am confident that each of them will be stronger on stage because they have thought through the meaning of their presentation.

What do you think?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, August 05, 2011

Motivational Speaker or Someone Who Sucks The Energy Out of the Room?

My friend Kevin wrote a piece on his blog about Motivational Speakers or Participation Speakers.  On one level he is right, audiences are better served when the speaker includes them in the experience, however, that is not the whole story.

As long as I have been studying the business of speaking there have been discussions that paint the "motivational speaker" in a negative light.  Education vs. motivation. Style vs. motivation.  Content vs. motivation.  Participation vs. motivation.  And let us not forget Chris Farley's portrait of the motivational speaker. YIKES.

However, synonyms of the word motivate include: induce, move, provoke, prompt, cause.  These are exactly what you want from a speaker!

What is the opposite of motivation?  Demoralizing? Lazy? Apathetic? Unmotivated? Sucking the life out of the room?

Do you really want to hire a lazy, demoralizing, apathetic, unmotivated speaker who sucks the energy out of your audience? Ummmm, NO.   I have never heard a meeting planner who desires that from the person on stage, but lots of people work to undermine the power of motivation in presentations.  While not enough by itself, you would never want to remove or lessen the motivational aspects of any talk.  It does not often happen by accident.

While Kevin is spot on that participation speakers (the newest buzz-word) make presentations interesting, this style is not in competition with motivation.  It is easy take shots at the word "motivational" as we have let some position the word as "bad".  I do not mean to pick on Kevin, as he is a great blogger, a smart person, and his point is spot on.... but his juxtaposition undermines speakers who really do inspire audiences to take action, create change, and transform the people who hear them speak.

I think he meant "entertainment" alone is not enough.  TRUE.  But entertainment is not the same thing as motivation, substance, or meaning (Paris Hilton and the folks on Jersey Shore are proof of that).

If given a choice of a bad speaker who tosses in audience participation or a spectacular and experienced "motivational speaker" who only speaks to the crowd, most will take the later.  Adding parlor games does not make the speaker better.  It is the experience, style, message, commitment to the audience, and the ability to motivate that creates a meaningful experience.


Have A Great Day


Thursday, August 04, 2011

Information Overload and the Smoothie of Action Items

I spent this week at the National Speakers Association Convention.  This annual four day conference has been a "must do" meeting for my schedule ever since I became a full-time speaker and "The Conference Catalyst".  (There are two conferences I attend every year that always provide HUGE value... NSA and SXSW).  I like participating in this event and find my business grows each year from the action items that bring home.

I was amazed the other day when a speaker asked me "why would you go to a conference of speakers, they don't refer you business... I only go conferences where I can meet potential clients".  This is a dumb statement.  (Yes, you know who you are, I know you read this blog, and yes, you sounded DUMB).  First, I have gotten several referrals from other speakers.  Second, how can you grow in a business as complex as the speaking industry without studying how others succeed (and fail) in their process?  Besides, if I was a locksmith I would be an active member of the National Locksmiths Association.

Larry Winget (The Pitbull of Personal Development.... oh yes, he "owns" that phrase!) was one of the keynote speakers.  While not everyone likes Larry's style, you cannot argue that he has created a very admirable career.  His success did not happen by accident.  He was not lucky.  He set out to accomplish exactly what he did in the speaking business.  He talked about the early days when he always attended NSA to watch, listen and learn. He avoided common mistakes, and looked for openings to create his own unique brand.  He and I agree that we do not know how people expect to "wing it" (no pun intended) in this business without the clear understanding that comes from paying close attention to what others are doing.  You cannot just fly by the seat of your pants and try to copy others.

Besides Mr. Winget, this year's NSA Convention was packed with speakers who provided practical learning, ideas, actionable tid-bits, and buckets of inspiration.  I was not able to jump back into my work immediately after the conference, as my family did a little vacation trip tacked onto the end of NSA (Can you say "Hollywood".... yes, I know,... the trip to Italy should have been enough vacation for anyone).  However, I did clearly start to ponder the ways to extend my own brand to the world.

Brian Tracy and Harvey Mackay were also in attendance.  These two were my inspiration to become a speaker.  Early in my career I read their books and attended their training programs.  They encouraged me to go for my dream, and now I get to live it.  Even thought I have met both of these men several times, I am still taken by how gracious they are when people come and talk with them.  I want to be them when I grow up!

Some might complain about "information overload", but I see this massive swirling of thoughts in my mind as a cosmic blender.  My "smoothie of learning".  I thrive on being exposed to a constant supply of new concepts. Not very thing needs to go into mix, but if I did not have all the ingredients at my finger tips then I could never expand my business.

Have A Great Day

**** Follow up:

I got the following note from a friend:

"Calling someone DUMB sure doesn’t sound like you.

Have always considered you one of those eternally nice people – it’s a really great brand that I admittedly do not achieve"

I found the statement to be very short-sighted and "dumb" came out when I wrote the story.

In review "DUMB" was a strong choice of words. I think I meant this world more like using "DUH".  Certainly not a compliment, but I did not mean it in as harsh of a manner as my friend interpreted it, but I always admire and appreciate this friend's wise counsel -- thus I wanted to point out my reconsideration of my choice in calling anyone "Dumb".