Wednesday, November 30, 2011

December Mini-Coaching Progam - 2012 Planning

2 Spots Still Available

The travel schedule is light in December, which allows me to work with a select group of people on individual visibility coaching.

If you desire a stronger focus on visibility, personal branding, networking activities, and 2012 business development strategy, this "mini-coaching blitz" might be an ideal chance for you to fine tune your efforts in time for the new year.

*Two one hour meetings (by phone or face-to-face if you are in Austin)

*LinkedIn Review ($250 value)

*Unlimited email access for two months.

The regular price for this mini-coaching program is $795, but this unique December opportunity is only $295.  Both meetings must be scheduled between December 1st and December 24th (with a minimum of 7 days in between).  The meetings are one hour in length, but may run longer.  Email responses will be provided withing 48 hours (usually within 12 hours).

I have availability to work with ten individuals (six spots remain).  If you are interested, please contact me by email or phone.

Learning objectives:

*Review of LinkedIn and discussion about how to best utilize this business tool.

*Identification of business networking organizations in your business community.

*Goal setting and visibility plan.

*Development of a personalized follow up and thank you policy.

Thom Singer
(512) 970-0398

Ten Days of Thanksgiving (Day 7)

Thanksgiving and the focus we give to appreciation should be more than one day. Really, it should be everyday.

I am going to post about things I am thankful for each day for ten days to keep the feelings of gratitude going.

Day Seven.

I am thankful to live in a country and a time in history where creativity can reign.  Not everyone on earth has the ability to achieve their goals and dreams, and throughout the ages there have been may obstacles that have limited  people from creating their own path.

I have had the ability to work for some amazing companies (and some that sucked).  Over the past three years I have made my own business and my family is able to share interesting experiences as we grow this company.  We are aware that we are fortunate in the adventure, and I am honored to be in the time and place that is allowing us to live a self-made life.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ten Days of Thanksgiving (Day 6)

Thanksgiving and the focus we give to appreciation should be more than one day. Really, it should be everyday.

I am going to post about things I am thankful for each day for ten days to keep the feelings of gratitude going.

Day Six.

I am thankful for people who volunteer in our communities.  No one person can do everything necessary to save the world, and without the participation of those in our villages -  the world would be a mess.

Some give time, some give money, and others send "good vibes" to causes that serve the greater good.  We often forget the community volunteers and public servants who forgo the monetary rewards to contribute to our society.  This includes, but is not limited to those who help the children, the elderly, those in poverty, the environment, animals, etc.... 

Also most of our elected officials are giving of themselves to make the world a better place (I say most, because we all know that some of them are not helping much!).  I appreciate that there are people willing to serve in these leadership positions, as while it is fun to knock our political system.... it is the best around!

At different times in our lives we have differing abilities to jump in to the mix, roll up our sleeves, and volunteer.  It is not always the right time to be the person giving, but we should always be aware and grateful of those around us who are silently doing the unseen tasks that lift us all up.  I am fortunate to know many people who freely donate to their communities, and I do not think they are ever appreciated nearly enough.  

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ten Days of Thanksgiving (Day 5)

Thanksgiving and the focus we give to appreciation should be more than one day. Really, it should be everyday.

I am going to post about things I am thankful for each day for ten days to keep the feelings of gratitude going.

Day Five.

I am grateful for my health, and that of my family.  We recently lost a friend to a long battle with cancer and another died suddenly of a heart attack.  Many people do not think about such things until life and death issues hit close to home.

My modified vegan diet over the last nine months has taught me much about health.  While I have not kept totally vegan since the end of Lent (I was strict for nearly 2 months in February - April), I now eat about 70% less meat and 90% less dairy than I ate in the past. These choices also eliminate much of the junk food that crosses my path.  I also find when I do indulge in something with meat or dairy, I eat less than I would have a year ago.  Making the right dietary choices is not easy, but over the long haul I feel fantastic.

I am conscious that my health is a gift that I cannot take for granted, and I am enjoying this stage in my life, as I know as I get older there will be bumps in the road.  I try to get to the gym two or three days a week (I come up short here sometimes), and know that I must keep up the exercise along with the diet to prolong my health into the future.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

The Enthusiastic Networker by Juli Monroe

I just finished reading "The Enthusiastic Networker" by Juli Monroe.  I know Juli via Twitter, and although we have never met in person, we have become friends because of her enthusiastic manner in establishing and cultivating relationships -- thus the title of her book is more than a title... it is a way of life!

My friend Patti DeNucci just released a book called "The Intentional Networker" (which I reviewed here), and I love that these two books crossed my path so close together, as being intentional AND enthusiastic are key to success in cultivating long-term and mutually beneficial relationships.

Juli does a great job of making networking real.  Too often if you ask ten people what it means to "network" you will get ten differing definitions.  She begins her book by spelling out her philosophies on the purpose of building relationships.  She then gives real life examples and plenty of actionable exercises to help anyone become more enthusiastic in their networking efforts.

The book is easy to read and will help the skeptical and experienced in finding ways to do the things that they enjoy (and she teaches you how to enjoy the parts of networking that might make you cringe).

She also does a good job of merging the online and offline networking strategies.  It is common that people separate the two, or pit the digital world and face-to-face world at odds.  This book reminds us that we are the same people in social media and in person.... and that they should work together, not apart.

The book is available on Amazon and other book retailers.  It is an easy read and will make you think about how you network online and in person.  Enjoy!

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ten Days of Thanksgiving (Day 4)

Thanksgiving and the focus we give to appreciation should be more than one day. Really, it should be everyday.

I am going to post about things I am thankful for each day for ten days to keep the feelings of gratitude going.

Day Four.

I am thankful for the opportunity to live in Austin, Texas. Twenty years ago we moved here with the intent of staying for 3 years. We did not intend to discover a growing community that would turn out to be such a wonderful place to raise a family and launch our careers.

Austinites have an unnatural love affair with their city. While most parts of Austin have changed a lot over two decades (it has nearly double the population), there is still a culture of openness, entrepreneurship, encouragement, and friendliness that has welcomed us and made this our home. The people are special and the opportunities are limitless. I wonder if I could have had the same success in a different location?

I often say we ended up here by accident, but it turned out to be just the right place. Every time I get a glance of the expanding skyline I feel a kinship to Austin and I am happy to have grown up with the community over the past twenty years.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Entrepreneurship and Home Life

Being an entrepreneur has a direct impact on those closest to you.  Working for a company brings many advantages and disadvantages, as you have job security (in theory) but not necessarily the freedoms that come with being your own boss.   Entrepreneurship has a different impact, as work hours and security can be all over the map, while the freedoms you might expect are not always present in the early stages of starting your venture.  The responsibilities and pressures of growing a business mean that your family has to be part of your work life or they may feel squeezed out during the times when you are focused on work issues.

Your personal life can easily become intermingled with your business when you are starting or running your own company.  Regardless of is you are a solo-entrepreneur or leading a larger corporation, if you are the boss it can be difficult to have an "off-switch" when you get home.  Being self-aware of how engaged you are at home is important, as with today's technologies it is easy to always be plugged into work.

In the growth phase of a business money can be tight, which means sacrifices at home.  However, those who create successful and sustainable companies often can have financial windfalls that can more than compensate for the lean times.  But nobody enjoys sacrificing at the time, and thus a spouse and children must be included in conversations about the focus and purpose of the entrepreneurs efforts or it is easy for people to feel cheated by any hit to lifestyle.  While it can easily take three, five or ten years (or more) to realize the upside for the entrepreneur, that can feel like a lifetime for the family.

Additionally, if you make the leap from employee to entrepreneur after you have a family, it might not be the lifestyle that your spouse and children expected.  Being part of an entrepreneurial venture, even from the home-side of the fence, can be quite an experience.

Be sure sure that everyone at home understands the realities of living with an entrepreneur.  While the long hours for business can take a toll, there can also be flexibility for the entrepreneur to create a flex schedule that allows them to drive carpool, coach sports teams, and sneak away for long weekends with their spouse.  If work becomes overwhelming it is easy to let the home life responsibilities slip, but making family time a priority is the only way to keep yourself engaged in the day to day functions of a family.

Many entrepreneurs are driving by a dream, but if those around him or her do not share the dream it can make life difficult and create conflicting priorities between home and work.  Communication and clear expectations between everyone is paramount to making sure that there is not additional stress added to the home-front.

Including your family in the business is one way to make sure everyone has buy into the purpose of the entrepreneur.  This does not mean your husband or wife needs to be employed at the company, but everyone should know what is happening with growth of the organization.  Even young children will better understand when mommy or daddy are gone on a business trip when they know what it is their parent does for a living. 

There is a lot written about "Work / Life Balance", but there is never real balance.  Decisions are constantly being made in regards to where we put our attention.  Knowing our purpose at work and at home can make the tough choices easier for the entrepreneur.  Being honest with our co-workers, family and ourselves about what is needed to succeed in both areas will not solve all problems, but can moderate the misunderstandings and expectations. 

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ten Days of Thanksgiving (Day 3)

Thanksgiving and the focus we give to appreciation should be more than one day. Really, it should be everyday.

I am going to post about things I am thankful for each day for ten days to keep the feelings of gratitude going.

Day Three.

Author Jim Rohn had a great saying:
 "You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with in your life".  
Think about that for a minute..... you are, in regards to your character.... and your soul.... the sum of the five people you spend the most time with in your life.  Wow.  If that is true, I am a very lucky guy, as my friends are amazing people.

I am fortunate that I have had always had associations with great people.  I am thankful for the people I call my friends.  They have always been there for me in good times and in bad times.  They have provided shoulders to lean on and have shared celebrations.  I understand and accept their quirks....and they do the same for me.

While over the course of a lifetime people will come and go, I have ongoing relationships with people I have known in all stages of my life journey.  (I only have one close friend with whom I had a bad ending and I regret that situation).  I appreciate the long-term and mutually beneficial connections and I openly honor the love of these people who are my friends.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Beware Of Being Nasty In A Dispute

In life and business there will be disagreements... and where we find humans there are emotions.

This can be a dangerous combination.

While trying to resolve an issue, beware of getting nasty in your conversations.   People often have a knee-jerk reaction and jump to the conclusion that the other party is intentionally screwing them over, but often that is not the case.  Since there are two sides to every story, on occasion you may discover that you are the one who is wrong or that it is simply a misunderstanding.  Once you have been nasty it is difficult to put that genie back in the bottle.

It gets worse if you have been broadcasting your problems to others, as word of your rant will get back to the people you are bad-mouthing.  In the end, you look small and it is tough to recover because your own ego gets in the way and fessing up to what went down and repairing the damage is often impossible (I know, as I have been there and made these mistakes!).

Not every conflict has to be adversary.  Most people are not actually out to get you, and thus most disagreements eventually work themselves out in the end.  Burned bridges are opportunity lost for everyone involved.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, November 25, 2011

Ten Days of Thanksgiving (Day 2)

Thanksgiving and the focus we give to appreciation should be more than one day. Really, it should be everyday.

I am going to post about things I am thankful for each day for ten days to keep the feelings of gratitude going.

Day Two.

I have spent the last three years earning my living as a professional speaker, trainer, and consultant. While working as a "solo-entrepreneur" is difficult (and sometimes lonely), it has been a highlight of my eclectic and interesting career path.

I am grateful for the friends who have supported my efforts and referred me into their companies, law firms, and industry associations as a resource for training and speaker. This is a word-of-mouth business, and this experience has taught me more about the power of business relationships than I ever could have imagined. Those who took the time, effort and risk to refer me as a speaker or sales trainer into an organization are the cement in the foundation of my success.

I am appreciative of the clients for whom I have had the honor to serve. I have worked with great people who have made me feel like part of the family in their internal and external events. The meetings industry is not a cookie-cutter place. Each event, conventions, users conference, seminar, luncheon, sales meeting, training session, networking gathering, and trade show is different. The goals, needs, and expectations of every planner are not the same. I have loved working with everyone of the people I have met over the past three years.

I know how fortunate I am to have addressed audiences both large and small. I delivered over 150 presentations in the past 36 months and the organizations who have hired me have forever touched my life in more ways that anyone will ever fully understand. But I understand.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ten Days of Thanksgiving (Day 1)

Thanksgiving and the focus we give to appreciation should be more than one day.  Really, it should be everyday.

I am going to post about things I am thankful for each day for ten days to keep the feelings of gratitude going.

Day One.

I am thankful for my family.  I had great parents (mom is gone, dad is 97) who showed me the meaning of unconditional love.  I have three older brothers who have each contributed to my life (in good ways, for the most part),... and their families are delightful.  I married a wonderful woman who works hard to make our house a home.  And the kids.... wow, I am so grateful for my kids.  No words can describe it.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thom Singer on Web 2.0 TV

At the 2011 Innotech Conference in Austin I was interviewed by about the future of social and mobile in regards to your network.  Technologies are changing fast, but who we are as people has not changed.  The way we relate to other humans and how we decide whom we want in our lives is still very much the same.

Thom Singer President of NYP Speakers from BestFit Mobile on Vimeo.

Invest time and choose people.  While having a cool online tool that links you to others is neat... it does not equal the cultivation of a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship.

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

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Demand For Your Products or Services

Identifying market demand is important for success as an entrepreneur.  Many people have had great ideas without ever finding customers who are willing and able to pay for their products or services.  While it is nice to imagine building a better mousetrap and having the world beat a path to your door, history has shown us many technologically superior products that never won their share of the market.  It has been argued that BetaMax was the better video player, but VHS became the industry standard for years.

For a company to be successful it must connect the products and services to customers.  This involves more than just providing quality.  There must be an understanding of the marketplace, consumer demographics, competition, and the growth potential.  Apple reached the top because their company culture went beyond just shipping cool products.  Their deep commitment to innovation, design, and the customer experience combined to make profits soar.

Creating demand is more than advertising and market research.  Advertising alone does not create demand, but instead brings attention of a product or service to the greater population.  Creating demand is difficult and leaves many start ups lost to ever reach revenue goals.  Customers are not always aware that they want a new product and thus the marketing strategies for the entrepreneur must be intertwined with education, product strategy and all aspects of the marketing launch.  Henry Ford famously said: "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Commoditization is another problem that faces many companies.  Too many products and services appear to be similar solutions as what is offered by their competition.  Making matters worse is that all the advertising and marketing within a single industry often looks the same.  Telling consumers about yourself does not allow the solution to stand out, as it gets lost in the shuffle of "too much noise". Showing always is better than telling, but this is not easy in a world with limited access to they eyes and ears of the customers. This is where creating demand through word-of-mouth marketing and creating legions of customers as "fans" will have a real impact.

The problem is that you cannot create "fans" simply by having a Facebook page or a Twitter account.  Getting others to talk about your company means you have to be truly unique and provide experiences that make people feel good about being part of your community.  Getting beyond the "same -old / same - old" is difficult, and rarely happens by accident.  However, just because it is hard, does not mean it is impossible.

Entrepreneurs should make it a priority to bust out of the impression of being a commodity.  There is always more demand where there is something unique.  The trick here is to make sure what the entrepreneur sees as important and unique is the same thing that the customer values.

To successfully create demand for you products or services you must create an integrated marketing strategy that combines educating the consumer, cultivating visibility and delivering at the highest level every time.  Marketing research and outreach can determine which products or services may be of interest to customers, but there is an element of risk that leads to the top levels of success.  This process should not stop once you company achieves success, as the marketplace and customer demands will change, and successful entrepreneurs are always paying attention and seeking ways to get out in front of new trends.

Establish strong customer relationships and create a reputation of being an industry leader that provides value.  Identify who is your customer, provide them with value, keep them engaged, and get them to be advocates for your company and you will discover more demand and profitability.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, November 18, 2011

Want To Be Better At Public Speaking? -- Listen to Country Music

I was not a fan of Country Music.  I grew up in Los Angeles in the 1970s and 1980s, and it was just not a "Country Music Town".  While in college (in San Diego) I never even saw a country band play anywhere.  Nobody I new listened to the genre.  (I have memories of some Kenny Rogers being blasted on a camping trip once, but not sure who was responsible for that cassette tape).  After I moved to Texas I kept my musical tastes tied to Rock, Pop, Oldies and a little Jazz.  No Country!  

However, as a professional speaker I have learned that successful oratory is tied to the ability to tell a story.  Regardless of the topic, if a speaker cannot reach the people listening, their whole presentation can fall flat.  The same is true for musicians.  While all types of music tell stories, there is no better way to learn how to clearly and quickly weave a captivating tale than listening to the master song writers from Country Music. 

Two years ago I began listening to a local country station as a means to understanding how to connect the power of a story to the message of a speech.  The songs are more than entertainment, they are windows into the soul. In just a few minutes we can see the mental pictures and be transported to a different place and time.  We are allowed to share the experiences of others and thus we become more connected to the greater world view.

Too many speakers take the stage and give a data dump of information.  They fail to see themselves as needing to entertain and tell a story.  Some actively shun the idea of being more than a brilliant mind that barfs knowledge.  

While statistics, graphs and spreadsheets are useful, they are not enough to grip an audience and cause transformation.  To have a real impact on people we must connect to them at a level of the soul.  Ancient tribal leaders did not use pie charts to inspire and educate people, but instead they told relevant stories.

Every presentation should have a story.  If the person speaking has no personal connection to the topic then they are simply delivering a book report. In a world filled with so much noise and little differentiation, your story is the unique stamp that takes ideas beyond a passing string of words and implants them forever in the memory of the audience.

If you want to become a better storyteller, and thus improve your presentation skills, tune into a little Country Music and do more than tap your foot to the beat.  Dissect the words and seek out how that short story set to some guitar strumming becomes a movie that plays out behind your eyes.  Over time you will begin to see the ways that Country Music will make you better at public speaking.

Have A Great Day

thom singer 

Sting Concert in Houston

Last night my wife and I went to watch Sting perform at the Verizon Wireless Theatre in Houston.

The first time I saw Sting was in 1991 at the Concord Pavilion in the Bay Area (we have been to two other Sting concerts in-between).

Many things have changed over 20 years:
  • Concert venues are now named after corporate sponsors, not the city where they are located.
  • In 1991 Sting was 40 years old and his audience was young (umm, myself included).
  • Today he is 60 years old, and so was most of the audience. (Although we should all hope to be in that good of shape at sixty).
Some things remained the same over 20 years:
  • Sting puts on one hell of a great show.
  • His music is timeless.
  • My wife still looks amazingly hot dancing at a concert.
It was a quick overnight trip to Houston, but we had a great time at dinner and the concert.  The concert was her birthday present (The B-day is in September) from our kids.  They sent us to dinner and the concert while they stayed with the visiting grand-parents.  Oh, and when I say it was a gift from the kids, they still made me pay for the tickets!   (I also had a meeting with a potential client while in Houston).

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Brainstorming Is Important To Entrepreneurial Success

Ideas are paramount to success for an entrepreneur.  However, not all ideas are the right ideas for starting a business or tackling challenging problems.

Some businesses are spawned from a single idea. However, most who achieve sustainable success will need to consistently be identifying new concepts, products, services, and ways to overcome obstacles.  A one hit wonder in the world of business ideas is no different than a rock and roll band who has just a single song on the charts.  Entrepreneurs must always be on the look out for the "new thing" either to grow their existing company or to launch their next venture.

Brainstorming can take many different forms.  The concept was popularized in the 1950's and 1960's by Alex Osborn, in his book, "Applied Imagination".  It is a process for developing creative solutions to problems and Osborn proposed that teams could double their creative output through brainstorming techniques.

When a team of people are working together and committed to discovering powerful solutions, the end result is often stronger than any one person could have achieved alone.  Effective entrepreneurs do not operating in a vacuum.   They are surrounded by people who allow them to expand beyond their own limitations and weave the best thoughts together and create powerful solutions.

Brainstorming involves a group of people focusing on a problem, and then coming up with as many solutions as possible.  There are no bad ideas and the purpose is to push the creative thought to beyond the standards.  Each person can expand on the ideas of the next and combine concepts while creating new possibilities.

The process can be both formal and informal and it is important in the formation stage of a business as well as when tackling issues that can stall a company's progress and growth.  To continually have success and entrepreneur must always be seeking ideas and formulating plans.  Getting your whole team involved will have the added impact of creating a culture where everyone is looking to add to the greater good for the company.

Once ideas are uncovered there must be a process for deciding which should be acted upon. There is neither the time nor resources available to act upon every idea that comes along for a business, and not all ideas will help move the company toward its ultimate goals.  The entrepreneur's experience, instincts and trusted advisers all play a role in deciding how to implement actions. In finding success the entrepreneur must be willing to take the risks and go for blazing the new trails, as sometimes they will chase the wrong ideas and make mistakes.  

Discovering the ideas, while important, is only part of the journey for anyone who is looking to grow a business.  But without the ideas, their is no starting place from which to build.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Business Meeting Facilitation - 2012 Team Kick-Off

Is your company or law firm planning a year end meeting or 2012 kick off?

Would the outcome be positively impacted with a facilitator to jump start the conversation,  DiSC profile assessments, and a business development & sales focus?

Let's talk.  ;-)

thom singer
thom (at)
(512) 970-0398

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Does Anyone Really Use LinkedIn?

I was recently asked "Does anyone use LinkedIn?"

The person doing the asking was trying to rationalize if their firm bio was enough of an internet presence.  He could not see why he would need more.  He did not like social media, and was hoping to just avoid LinkedIn altogether.

I believe many savvy business professionals are using LinkedIn.  It is a valuable resource for you before any meeting you have with someone you have never met before (regardless of the purpose of the meeting).

My advice is you should always check out the other person's LinkedIn profile.  The purpose is not to be a weird stalker, but instead it allows you to find tid-bits of information and common connections that can jump start your conversation.  Who do you both know?  Where did they go to college?  What companies did they work for in the past?  Etc....

You should also assume that those you meet with are doing their homework on you before you get together.  Make it easy for them to find out about you.  People expect to connect the dots.  Again, this is not stalking, but instead shows that they are invested in the meeting by doing the pre-work.

I recently had coffee with a friend-of-a-friend who wanted to pick my brain about career advice.  I had looked her up on LinkedIn, but she had no profile.  During our chat I mentioned something about one of my books and her response was "You wrote a book?".   I could not figure out how we ended up in a meeting where she wanted to pick my brain without them knowing anything about me.  I began to feel our time together was a little one sided.  I am always happy to help people, but she did not know who I was or why her friend recommended we have a conversation.

In today's social media world you should be utilizing all the tools available.  Gathering information will allow you to discover common interests and things that matter to the other person.  In days when there is too little time for chit-chat, LinkedIn can be the catalyst that allows you to create a faster bond.

Yes, people do really use LinkedIn.

Is your profile informative?  Are you using LinkedIn before your meetings?

Your thoughts?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Excited To Be Speaking At The 2012 PCMA Convening Leaders Conference

I am very excited to be speaking for the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) at their annual "Convening Leaders" conference in 2012.

I will be the keynote speaker for their "Student Union" program, addressing the large gathering of college students (mostly Hospitality Majors from a variety of university programs) who will be an active part of the convention.  I am impressed with PCMA's commitment to the next generation who will work in the meetings industry, and I look forward to serving this group of future leaders.

I will also be actively involved in the "Learning Lounge" throughout the event.  This alternative educational venue offers a variety of choices and will be open daily throughout Convening Leaders.  For those seeking a sustenance bite, a bite-size learning or to meetup with peeps - this your prime-time option.

The Learning Lounge allows customization of the learning experience with choices from formal and informal presentations to hands-on demos and shared-interest discussion forums. Over the course of the conference the Learning Lounge will host three days of education in the four distinct HUBS and play host to 150+ short, succinct options designed to meet your learning and pain point needs.

I am honored to be working with PCMA and look forward to seeing many of my friends and meeting many more amazing people.  If you will be attending the 2012 Convening Leaders event, I hope you will come by the "Student Union" or the "Learning Lounge" and say HELLO!

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Because Nobody Else Does It That Way

I was talking with a business organization that was struggling with the best way to schedule their monthly networking breakfasts.  They were receiving complaints about their 7:00 AM start time being too early, but kicking off at 7:30 would push their ending to 9:30 (which means attendees cannot get back to their office until nearly 10 AM).

A first thought was to cut the program length to 90 minutes.  They believed this is too short to have time for networking, announcements and a full program.

My other suggestion was splitting the difference --  beginning at 7:15... and ending at 9:00.  Seemed like a good way to allow people time to arrive, and still giving them the opportunity to get everything done (with a shaving of 15 minutes off the program as well).

Oh the horror.  You would have thought I suggested they all attend their meeting naked.

While I was not in the meeting where these ideas were discussed, one person told me the group felt that a 7:15 AM start time was "weird".  One of their people made a bold statement that "nobody starts a meeting on the quarter hour" (nobody?...Ummmm, I have seen it done, so that is not true).  Additionally they felt that the length of 1:45 would confuse the people. 

In the end they kept the schedule of 7:00 - 9:00 AM.

"Because nobody else does it that way" is a lame argument.  In fact going away from the standard is often the best way to create.  

I just finished reading the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Issacson.  The book is a fantastic read (it shows the genius and demons that co-existed in Jobs).  I am confident that the Apple co-founder, or anyone else who has ever made a meaningful difference, never had the "we don't do it that way" knee-jerk reaction.

I wonder what would have happened if Jobs had thought it was weird to combine the music player and a phone.  Think of the result if he had feared others would view the iPad as abnormal.  Apple has topped the Fortune 500 exactly because they sought new ways to do things.  Weird or different are not bad things if you want to stand out from the competition.

I am not comparing a 7:15 AM start time for a networking breakfast to the launching of the iTunes Store. However, if you cannot get beyond how a quarter hour start time and a 1:45 program might be judged, you will never present a program that has lasting impact on your audience.  

I believe most of us struggle in finding ways to uniquely stand out from our competition.  It is hard to create, and comfortable to stay close to the status quo.  It can be worse when you go with your new ideas, and others question your decisions along the way.  You must have both vision and fortitude when you do things differently.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thank You Leads To "Cooperative Significance"

Thanksgiving is coming.  This is about more than turkey and cranberry sauce.  

Who are you thankful for this year?  Put some thought into identifying the people who have helped you move closer to your goals.  There might be many people or just a few, but none of us live in a vacuum.  There are people who contribute to our lives.

Be sure to say "Thank You" to them.  Everyone wants to feel significant, but they will never know they made a difference if you do not tell them.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Conferences are the Marketplace for Connecting

Business conferences, trade shows, conventions, and other meetings bring people together and allow them to discover opportunity.   While the educational content, venue, and agenda are important to a successful event, it would not exist without the people.  While digital online meetings are gaining in popularity, they are not replacing the need for to people to gather in a face-to-face environment.

An atmosphere for meaningful networking is the currency for the marketplace of connections.  Everyone has been to events that are bankrupt of the "choose people" message.  Attendees often sit alone, are hooked on SmartPhones, and do not take advantage of meeting the people all around them.  If the agenda is only focused on the data dump from experts, then opportunity is lost.  While nobody wants "fluffy", it can not just be about content.  People want to become engaged and involved while at an event.

Human to human inaction is hard to quantity, but when it all comes together the event is transformed into an "industry happening".  You can identify this power by the energy level at breaks, meals and happy hours.  Nobody wants to leave an "industry happening" early to beat the traffic out of the parking lot.

Companies that host client meetings and "users conferences" which are focused on the people in the audience over their commercial always find success.  The best trade associations crush the "power cliques" and know that their members want to be part of a greater community.  Trade shows that cultivate a "mini-society" that is welcoming are the ones that high numbers of people returning year after year.

It is not easy to create the event that everyone in your industry talks about when they get home.  Executives of companies and associations all desire their meeting to be an "industry happening", but wishing will never spur the culture of the event to transcend average.  There must be a vision and a plan.

If your organization has a meeting, do not allow it to be standard.  Cutting edge meeting planners are excited to try new things and seek new ideas.  They ask questions of those who attend and plan other events for the "best practices" that are working at other conferences.  They read the surveys filled out at previous programs and seek to identify the between the lines messages.  They take action.... Passive planning makes for dull events.

Planning a meeting is a hard job and not something that should be left to the last minute.  If a conference is a marketplace for connecting, then send your attendees in with the tools to succeed in a relationship economy.

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, November 07, 2011

Customer Service Rests With Every Employee -- Every Time

Twenty years ago I attended a conference at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington DC.  I was part of the program (although this was long before I was a Professional Speaker and Corporate Trainer).  My room was to be paid by the organization, but when I checked in, this was not reflected on my reservation.

The front desk clerk was very rude.  I was not about to commit to paying for six nights on my credit card and wanted to get the issue resolved.  There was a long line of guests waiting to check in, and she was clearly flustered with the situation.  I asked for a manager, or someone who could assist, and she essentially told me to pay up - or leave.  Then she looked over my shoulder and screamed "NEXT".... as if I had vanished into thin air.

I continued to try to get her attention and she ignored me.  I was invisible.

Eventually the event organizer took care of the situation, but I have never forgotten that experience.  Being a customer who does not matter is the worst feeling in business.

Last week I was the keynote speaker for a conference at the same hotel.  As I walked in the lobby my stomach turned as the memory of that horrible customer experience of more than two decades ago returned to my mind.

Happily, the front desk clerk who checked me in this time had a different attitude on how to treat guests in his hotel.  From the moment I approached the counter he was enthusiastic, helpful, and exemplified all that is wonderful about the hospitality industry.  His name is Evan... and the Omni Shoreham should be proud to have him at the front desk.  He offered me choices of rooms, talked to me about restaurant options in the area, and took an interest in making sure my experience at this grand hotel would be spectacular.

This reminds me that the experiences our customers have can be fully weighted on the actions of a single employee.  I am sure that my visit twenty years ago involved many other helpful employees, but they did not make enough of an impression to replace the one who ruined my impression of the whole hotel.

Flash forward two decades and Evan erased that first memory and showed me that the Omni Shoreham is a wonderful place to stay when visiting our nation's capital.  His actions, attitude and customer focus impacted everything.

Customer service rests in the hands of every employee every time.  One bad apple can spoil the whole batch... but just one "Evan" can make your reputation shine!

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Sekou Andrews - Motivational Poet

I had the pleasure to meet Sekou Andrews when we were both speaking at the Trade Show Network News (TSNN) T- Awards (a program that honors the nation's top Trade Shows and Events) in Washington DC.

I am a professional speaker who studies all things oratory.  I call it "Speaker's College" when I can watch anyone address an audience.  For over 14 years I have examined and learned from hundreds of speakers, but Sekou is like nothing I have ever seen before.

He calls himself a "Motivational Poet", and he regularly speaks to corporate audiences weaving his combination of rhymes, rhythms, and realism.  He goes beyond motivation and stirs the soul of those who are listening.  The man is "The Wizard of Words" and he had us all captivated as he spoke.

He challenges an audience to "expect not to expect what you expect to come next".

The message followed my "Conference Catalyst Program" and while 180 degrees different, it skyrocketed the theme of choosing people and being engaged in the real world, not just a collector of digital links. He professed that ROE (Return on Engagement) is the new ROI, and reminded the audience that "liking" someone on Facebook does not make a cyber friend --- as they still exist in the next room.

I loved it when he said "Take me off your Rolodex and put me in your calendar".  Pins dropping at that moment would have echoed all over the nations capital.  Having contact information means nothing if you do not have contact.

If you ever have the opportunity to hear the words of Sekou Andrews... you will be touched in your heart.  He is not a conventional public speaker, but an experience unto himself.  No wonder he has presented in the backyard at Oprah's house!

I look forward to our paths crossing again on another stage.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer