Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Networking Inside Your Company - #HR Cares That People Have Friends At Work!

Lately I have been talking with human resources professionals.  There is a growing interest to create internal training programs for employees that both provide relevant information and cause people to take meaningful actions that benefit both the individual and the company.

Many companies have not focused on staff education and motivation over the last several years, as tight budgets and economic concerns have place priorities elsewhere.  But in 2012 there appears to be a new excitement for focusing on creative programs that can inspire people.  The common thread is they are looking for something different.  May are not sure what "different" means, but they are excited to explore new topics and ways to deliver information.

Traditional classes (live or online) are not going away, but presentations that are interactive and conversational have captured the attention of some companies.  Desired topics vary depending on the organization, but the downturn has put a spotlight on the importance of business relationships.  People matter, and that became evident over the past three years.

Internal networking is just as important as building contacts outside the company.  However, many companies have never cultivated a culture that inspires people to forge powerful friendships with co-workers.  One HR executive told me that when someone has a "best friend at work" they are less likely to jump ship to a new job. She added that her company fears a domino of job changing once there are more opportunities in their city and industry.  To prevent this they are looking to help their workers establish better relationships with each other.

I enjoy training inside companies on how to build a stronger networking connections inside the company.  The program has a different focus than my conference presentations, as internal networking brings with it a different set of protocols. If it makes a difference, then it matters to everyone.

How about you?  Do you have a strong network inside your company?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, January 30, 2012

Give A Little Extra - Deposits Into The Emotional Bank Account

It is fun to see people succeed.  Even when you are chasing your own goals and dreams, seeing others make progress can be inspiring and recharge the batteries of your own pursuit. Being part of their success is even better.  Not only can it make you feel good, but it can help you build up what Stephen Covey called "The Emotional Bank Account".

We must make deposits into relationships if we hope others will help us in our own journey, just as an account owner must have built up a balance in a bank before he or she can make withdraws.  When our account is overdrawn we always run into trouble (with people or at the bank).

Problems do occur, and I do not want to sound too "Polyanna-ish" in regard to engaging in the difficulties of relationships.  I have had experiences when I have encountered those who did not want to cultivate the give and take (they were focused on "take").  But mostly I have created friendships in business, and that makes working together much more enjoyable.  Doing business in a friendly manner makes for more fun, and it is exciting to find joy in the victories of others. When you have built up a positive balance in your "bank account", then misunderstanding and mistakes along the way seem like minor hiccups.

In his groundbreaking book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" (originally released in 1989), Covey talked about the "abundance mindset".  When we see other's success is not a reflection of their taking something away from our pile of successes, we are on the right track.  There is not a limited amount to be divided up, but instead there is always more for everyone when we work together.

Banks charge fees when we go beyond our balance, but people should not have policies to punish each other built in as a first response.  People make mistakes (we all do... I do... it is simply part of being human), and having a "win /lose" philosophy can hurt us in the long run.  When we think "win / win" (Habit #4 in "The 7 Habits") and seek to discover long-term and mutually-beneficial solutions, then everyone finds more success over time.

Try to give a little extra.  I know it is hard when we get busy and our schedules seem over booked.  We all can lose sight of power of the greater good.  Sure not everyone you encounter will want to live in a "win / win" world, but I think most people are good at heart and will join you in your efforts once they know you are sincere.

***If you have never read "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", it is still as powerful of a book as it was 23 years ago!  Go read it today!  I might go read it again (for the 4th time!).

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Speaking Is The New Blogging?

(This post originally appeared as a guest post on Simon Salt's Inc Slinger Blog on January 25, 2012)

Speaking Is About More Than Speaking

Simon Salt recently made a profound statement on Google+ when he said “Speaking is the new blogging”. It was only a few short years ago that seemingly everyone you met was a self proclaimed “blogger”. But what the classification meant was as varied as the number of people holding claim to the title. Now in 2012 it seems that the label of “speaker” or “conference speaker” has been added to countless LinkedIn profiles, resumes, and bios.
PR professionals work hard to get their clients onto agendas as speakers or panelists at all sorts of industry events, and open calls for presentations for meetings are often bombarded with proposals (some that fit the needs of the conference organizers, others that are just fishing expeditions). But is calling yourself a speaker and submitting proposals enough?
Speaking in public is a great way to promote your business, your cause or yourself. But just because someone is smart or has done something cool, it does not mean they belong on the stage. Presenting a blah presentation (or worse… being awful )can bring no results or even harm a reputation.

Presenting Can’t Be Faked

Presenting is a skill. Like playing golf, it is evident to all who watch if someone has experience. You cannot fake it or wing it if you wish to make a meaningful connection with the audience. A bad presentation can suck the energy out of the whole conference, which is why it is important that people who call themselves speakers and pursue the opportunity to present are dedicated to bettering their skills and serving the audience.
There is often an argument about content vs. style when selecting speakers. However, there is no reason this should be debated. I am not advocating for “fluffy” speakers who are good performers but have nothing to add to the audience. I am stating that it is not too much to want both style and content.
I am passionate about presentation skills. Every time I watch anyone give a talk I call it “Speaker’s College”. The person on stage, be it at a conference, in classroom, in church, etc…, is the professor and I am the student. It is exciting to see a person educate, inspire and connect with an audience. It is also painful to see someone bomb on the platform. In every case it is the mix of their information and their abilities to communicate that make them memorable or forgettable. Relying only on the data can be very stale, and thus it is important to work on your public speaking skills.
I have watched thousands of speakers, from the famous industry professionals to regular people in a variety of settings. I have learned from every one of them. I have also delivered over 300 “professional level” speeches over the last decade. To be a “speaker” is more than a line on your bio. I believe a “speaker” must be excited by the opportunity to present to an audience and be dedicated to serving the greater good of the conference or meeting. The necessary preparation that the audience deserves is more than just showing up to promote your business.
It is an honor to be asked to speak, and those who can cultivate an experience that advances all aspects of the meeting will be asked to speak again, and again, and again.
What do you think?
Have A Great Day
thom singer

Conference Speakers Provide More Than Presentations

(This post originally appeared on the TSNN (Trade Show Network News) Blog on January 22, 2012)
Is A Speaker More Than A Vendor
Conferences, seminars, conventions and trade shows utilize a lot of speakers. In fact, the meetings industry provides speakers with much of the work that supports their careers. This includes paid professional speakers, free industry speakers, educators and topic experts. Some get paid to speak, while others are there to promote their brand, and every one of them has a direct impact on the success of the event.
But are speakers more than just vendors?
The speakers set the tone for the whole conference. Humans are experiential beings, and when we sit with others in the audience and participate in a presentation, we have a bond with all in the room. How the speakers engage the audience before, during and after their talk cultivates the mood of the “mini-society” that is created whenever groups of people come together.
The keynotes, breakouts, workshops and the other educational aspects of the conference are the foundation of the shared experiences and how they impact the audience spills over into hallways, breaks, meals and social events. A speaker who fails to connect with the audience can suck the energy out of the room, while a surprisingly refreshing presentation can energize everything.
A speaker should never be seen a commodity who is just there to fill a slot. Their high level information combined with their speaking experience and style can have a transformational effect. I have seen event organizers who work with their speakers all along the way to make them more than talking heads on the stage, but instead a valuable part of the overall team. Many speakers are excited to provide extended value to their clients by being present for more than just their scheduled slot on the agenda.
A conference begins online months before the opening session. Speakers can get involved by joining the online communities for the event on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. ... and by creating promotional videos or other materials. Attendees enjoy establishing a more personal connection with speakers, and I have participated in pre-event webinars and written articles for blogs and newsletters that have added to a familiarity with the audience once the event begins. These same activities can hold true after the event as well.
I do not view the role of a speaker to be limited to the stage time, but instead believe that a speaker can be an important part of the planning committee. Active speakers attend a huge number of events, and their experience can be a great tool to help planners brainstorm concepts and vet other program ideas.
While celebrity speakers might not fit into this ongoing consultative role, others are ideally suited to assist and provide value all along the way.
Because the speakers can have a direct impact on the success of the event it only makes sense that they are more than a regular vendor. They should not just be talking with the organizers, but also with each other to ensure they are all on the same page and share common goals for the event. Experienced speakers can make adjustments to their program that will tie into what other speakers are saying and allow the audience experiences to build as the event continues.
The speaking business is made up of thousands of individuals, so there is not one answer to how to engage a speaker to be part of your overall team (or if they will be willing). But the more up front and deep conversations you have about the goals of your meeting, the more phenomenal ideas you will discover speakers have up their sleeves. A great speaker is more than a vendor!
What do you think?
Have A Great Day
thom singer

Friday, January 27, 2012

Seeking Speakers and Trainers

Professional Speaker and Corporate Trainer Peer Round-Table Monthly Teleconference

I am seeking professional speaker, corporate trainers, and authors who speak / train to join a monthly "peer to peer" teleconference to share best practices and ideas to grow business.

I have been hosting a similar call with a group of authors from a couple of years, but looking to add some new points of view and those with fresh experiences to the group.

THERE IS NO COST TO PARTICIPATE!  (Shocking, I know... as it seems everyone want me to subscribe to programs that include monthly fees).

I am seeking people who are natural collaborators. Those whose first thought is often "What's in it for me" will quickly weed themselves out from this group, as we are looking for those who want to help others find new ideas just as much as they seek information.  My hope is that mutually beneficial connections will be created with participants, and off-line conversations and friendships will grow from the calls.

The calls will be held on the third Monday of each month at 11:00 AM (Central Time).  

If you are interested, please contact me at thom (at) thomsinger.com.  Please use subject line "Speaker Peer Group", and tell me a little about yourself and why you are interested in participating in this call.

We are seeking those who are already active in their speaking and training endeavors, but everyone who is serious about the industry is welcome.  Participation is voluntary, but the hope is that you will make a commitment to come every month for the first several calls.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thursday, January 26, 2012

When The "Takers" Come Asking For Favors.....

My writing  and speaking about "collaborators vs. what's in it for me" over the last few weeks has spawned several conversations, emails and the below anonymous guest blog post.

Meaningful connections are more than being a casual acquaintance, but instead come from about cultivating relationships.  This is done through actions.  People are always watching the balance in your "Emotional Bank Account" (Think Steven Covey).  When you operate in the mode of "self" it becomes your brand.

Below is a letter that was never sent, but maybe it should have been.  The author of this fictional note is remaining anonymous (by her choice and mine), but I imagine this scenario is not only real, but is played out time and time again.  The writer is a busy mom and also has a full-time job.  Her employer allows her great flexibility - including the ability to work from home or from her family's cabin on a lake.

She did not get this freedom in her career by accident.  She has an amazing reputation in her industry and is one hell of a networker.  Her employer knows they have a winner and they worked hard to make the overall package meet her needs.  She is regularly approached by people who are curious about how to land a job that allows this kind of leeway, and is always told that she is "lucky".  It is not luck that she spent 20 years building a network and professional brand!  It was an intentional set of actions.

Recently she has been approached by several people who want to tap into her network to find new jobs.  She loves to help, but is tired of the takers who line up to "get" but rarely "give".  She is always polite, but would love to hit "send" on the following email:

Dear Jennifer,

It was great to catch up with you at the 5th grade musical last night. Your little Jimmy is very talented; I can’t believe he’ll be in middle school next year either.
And now you’re going to go back to work, too. Terrific! I can certainly understand how conflicted you are; it has been wonderful to be home with the kids these last 14 years but, on the other hand, you feel like you should work so you can put some money away for Jimmy and Johnny’s college and also to bring in extra money for yourself and the family.

It makes perfect sense to reach out to those people you know who work and who might have job leads for you, especially  the other "mommies", because we’re all the same. Sort of.

Let’s review. There were lots of school moms who carpooled with to soccer, dance, and softball. But you weren’t one of them because you didn’t want to accept responsibility for someone else’s child. There were some moms who covered my volunteer spots when I stayed home with a feverish child or had an impromptu business trip. You couldn’t because of your yoga class. There were a handful of moms thoughtful enough to ask my kids over for playdates on teacher in-service days, thinking ahead that I might have to work (even though the kids were off school). But you weren’t one of those, either. You were, however, someone who asked if we could donate a week at our lake house to the school auction.

And that was your choice. Now it’s my choice to demonstrate a reluctance to help you find a job because you have never  made any effort to be more than a casual acquaintance over the last 14 years.

Again, I want you to find a job. A good job. One with a short commute, convenient hours and that you find fulfilling. But, I have to give you a hard dose of reality and tell you that I’m not going to help you find a job because, although I’ve enjoyed our chit-chat conversations, I’ve received nothing from our relationship to indicate that it’s mutually beneficial. What goes around comes around, sister.


Your acquaintance Stephanie

What do you think?  Should an email like this be sent?  Do you know someone who should receive it?  Have you had people who never help you in your times of need show up and ask for favors?  What goes around does come around!

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What's In It For Me?

"Seek those whose first reaction is collaboration, not those whose first reaction is 'what's in it for me'" - Thom Singer

A Facebook status update by a friend of mine about "mistakes along the way" (in business and personal life) produced a lot of comments.  Most of them were supportive of how great he is as a businessman and a person, and that his mistakes were minor, forgiven or forgotten.

I know this friend through a national organization and we do not live in the same city, thus I do not know him well.  I am personally aware that he is a "giver" who is fast to volunteer and always willing to share a tip, a suggestion or a helping hand.  I think the reason he received so much praise from those who knew him well is that he is a collaborator.  Collaborators are special souls and for this they are loved.

We live in a time when too many people ignore the wants and needs of others and instantly wonder about their own loss or gain in every situation.  "What's in it for me" is top of mind.  Skepticism rules and memories of how others have served are short.  People are cautious to the point that we are missing opportunities.  Many "step over $100 bills to pick up pennies".  Few are slow to anger and fast to forgive (with many taking the opposite path).

Another problem is that we often (I do this, too) jump to assumptions about what is going on in the minds of others.  We expect negative actions and dream up wild imaginary scenarios that creates adversaries.  There is too little looking for win / win.

However, nearly everyone thinks they are the collaborators and that the other people are the problem.  Thus we have the great disconnect.  Thoughts and actions are out of sync.  Nobody wants to be an ass (okay, nobody is the wrong choice of words, because clearly some do enjoy being the jerk).  Few people wake up with the hopes of being self-centered and internally focused, so why does it happen so often?

When people are involved, there is always room for mis-understandings. It gets ugly when one is sure in their soul they have no fault.  It is interesting to watch people react ... as the ones who live by "what's in it for me" will instantly find the fault in others without ever admitting they could have behaved differently.  Fingers are pointed, they gossip to mutual friends, there is belief that they are intentionally being take advantage, and they are 100% sure the other side is at fault.  Collaborators, on the other hand, will ask, "could I have done something differently" and never assume that they are free of blame.  Collaborators are fast to accept partial responsibility and they seek win / win solutions over the long run.

While nobody is always one way or the other... there are patterns.

What do you think? (and thanks for reading the whole post!)

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, January 23, 2012

Repairing A Business Relationship

In March of 2006 I wrote this post:

"How do you repair a business relationship that has gotten off to a bad start, or has been damaged?"

The question had come to me in an email from a reader of this blog and I did my best to share some observations and advice.

Over the years I have seen in my analytic reports that several people stumble upon my blog with a search on a related topic to repairing a damaged relationship.  As humans are prone to make mistakes, this topic can be one of concern.... and clearly one that comes up often.

I too have had experiences with bruised feelings and broken connections.  Sometimes these are a result of my stumbles (I am happy to admit if I screw up), and other situations have been because of the other person's actions.  Most of the time it is likely a two way street and a result of a breakdown in communication.  

Although I try to lead by example in my interactions with people, I am always reminded that whenever you have interactions with other human beings... the other people have their own point of view, opinions, and their own "stuff".  We can never fully know the "back-story" of the other people, and that is why it is best to give people the benefit of the doubt and be slow to anger and fast to forgive.  

Forgiveness is tough for those who think the world is out to get them or whose first reaction is "what's in it for me".  Those who think that people want to take advantage of them are more likely to hold grudges and want to punish others.  

I had a situation this week with a person I only know online.  I failed to follow up with them and he let me know he was angry, and asked me to never contact him again.  I genuinely felt bad, and through an exchange of emails he offered the chance to start over.  I had pegged him as one who lead with collaboration, and I was pleased to find his quick path to forgiveness.  Now the burden is on me to advance the relationship so that we can really "know" each other (as online links do not give enough foundation to carry one over a stumbling block), and I must be careful not to drop the ball again anytime soon (all people will drop the ball from time to time, it is just not doing it again too soon!).  If you find forgiveness, you must cherish it, as it is a gift that is not often given!

I am happy about the online dis-connect with this gentleman (well, I am not "happy", but for me it has worked out okay), as it ties directly into my efforts to be "better" in 2012.  By facing my own shortcomings and mistakes this year I am learning (maybe growing?).  We live in a busy world where many of us cannot keep up with everything.  This wont change, as I think it will just get crazier over the next few years.  Being aware of the fall out that can occur is paramount to not making the same mistakes over and over again. 

This is why friendships matter in business relationships.  If you really care about someone you will be more prone to want to fix a situation before it gets out of hand.  When we only know someone via a social media site there is little on which to hold a mutual understanding.  Pride gets in the way and then there is little we can do to get back to a mutually beneficial relationship.

When communication breaks down then their is a vacuum of assumptions that fill the void.  The key to avoiding conflict is better communication.  If the relationships is hurt, then it can often take a willingness on both sides to get to a resolution.  If one person is too angry or otherwise hurt, then there is little that can be done to finding a place to restart, rebuild, or reconnect. 

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Don't Just Be Social - Be Relevant

I asked a question at a social media conference and was awarded the prize of a T-Shirt.  The shirt boasts the saying; "Don't Just Be Social - Be Relevant".  (There is no other branding on the shirt, so I cannot give a better attribution of this quote).

Every time I wear this shirt people stop me and make comments.  It resonates with those who are heavy users of social media, and those who are not.  There has been so much attention put on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and other online communities over the past few years, but much of the usage is just noise.

I belong to several LinkedIn Groups and "like" dozens of Facebook pages, but few are relevant.  Many of the people I follow on Twitter are not providing me with any sense of wonder or inspiration.  I know that I am just more clutter in return to some of those who follow me, too.

We have had this bombardment of "social media" for several years, and there is constant talk about how to make it impact the bottom line.  The skeptics are getting louder, and people are still confused.  Social media and mobile communications are here to stay, but there is not magic answers on how to transform these platforms into business for the company's bottom line.

I work in the meetings industry.  There was a lot of trepidation over the last few years that all the online activity could undermine the face-to-face meeting business.  That coupled with limited budgets in a tough economy caused many to predict the demise of conferences.  But just because the tools we use to communicate have changed (and are still changing), it does not mean that who we are as people has changed.  Humans are experiential beings and we desire the live interactions with others.  Meetings matter and will continue.

The meetings industry, like most businesses, has heavily adopted the use of technology, and every planner desires ways to create a sticky online community that keeps their attendees engaged in with their conference long after the event is over. However, they need more than just a Facebook page to make it relevant.  This can only be achieved if the content and conversations are unique and personal.

For all of us there will continue to be more questions than answers for the short term.  I suggest we remember that when we deal with people (online or in person), that other person has their own "stuff" going on in the background.  That does not change in a virtual environment.  We cannot assume to know their back story without building a real relationship. To be relevant we must be personal.

Speaker Sekou Andrews says "Take me off your Rolodex and put me on your calendar".  He is right.  I got a LinkedIn request from a stranger the other day and before accepting the link I asked for a short phone call.  It was delightful.  It was not a blind click of "accept", but instead a connection to a real person, who is a career minded grandmother who has lived an interesting life beyond what it said on her profile.

Say it with me.... "Don't just be social - Be relevant".

What does relevant mean to you?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Entrepreneurs Must Be Selling

If you run the business, you must be always be selling.  This means selling the products or services, selling the brand of the company, selling the power of your team, and selling yourself.  The organization's future relies on sales, as without revenue there eventually will be no business.  Even if you receive financial funding to launch, when there is no income the cash will run out.  The cash burn rate will eventually go to zero if there are no sales.

No matter the size of the company there must be a sales focus. There are no shortcuts or magic marketing strategies that will cause the phone to ring.  Having an clear approach toward the value of a sales process will be a constant reminder that new and repeat clients matter.

For some entrepreneurs who do not have a sales or marketing background, the process of client acquisition can seem like the black arts of running the business.  Websites, advertising, apps, and hoping for a miracle are not successful strategies to create future success.  If the entrepreneur is not confident in their ability to sell, they will need  to make a strategic hire early in the process of growing their company.  This person's individual characteristics will vary depending on the industry, as sales professionals are not necessarily a commodity. Experience and industry contacts can be vital to achieve short term sales. Additionally the sales leader and the entrepreneur must establish a good personal relationship, as they will be working very closely.

Those leaders with a sales background are often way out front in discovering prospects and driving revenue.  They still cannot do it alone, as selling is a full time job and the entrepreneur has too many other responsibilities that can be at odds with the demands of developing clients. The primary function the sales person is to educate prospective clients and shepherd leads from prospective clients into paying customers.  The sales cycle depends on the type of product or service, but if the process was easy then anyone could do it.

The reality is that everyone is not cut out for a career in sales. Great sales professionals are well paid as their success at delivering new business is paramount to the sustainability and growth of a company.  It takes tenacity and the ability to handle rejection.  An understanding of human nature, communications skills, and empathy to the needs of others are all common traits.  Not every possible customer will buy in a timely fashion (or at all).  Sales is about cultivating a pipeline of prospects that are qualified to buy and managing their questions and objections while giving them the confidence to select you as the best solution for their needs while at the same time generating new leads at the top of the pipeline.

If the entrepreneur is not leading the sales effort he or she should be championing those in the organization who are driving revenue.   Companies that lead with sales will often see faster growth than those who push their revenue generation priorities to the sidelines.  Tracking the entire process, from lead generation, to movement through the pipeline, to the final sale must be constantly monitored by the entrepreneur.  It is very easy for the hopes of a company to be put on a few prospects, but if they do not pan out there must be an understanding of what else is in play.

The days of "if you build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door" are long gone.  There are plenty of examples of great products that did not sell and companies that failed where they should have had success.  There is a lot of noise out there and customers are skeptical of anything new.  You need sales if you want your company to be around tomorrow.

Now go sell something.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

(**Photo taken from the Facebook page of Scott Ginsberg)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Personal Branding and Networking Are Important

I was interviewed about the power of networking at conferences and building a personal network.  This interview as filmed by the IMTS-TV crew at their GMFC event last fall.  Here is the video:


Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why We Struggle With Networking

I was recently interviewed by the folks at MBA Highway Blog.  The below appeared on their site on January 18. 2011.

In this post, we’ll hear from speaker and author, Thom Singer, who is an expert in social networking and personal branding.  After you read this post on our flaws in Networking, make sure to check out his site to gain a lot more insight on how you can become a much better networker.  Thom can be found at www.thomsinger.com.   As an MBA student or graduate, you’ll want to read his book, “Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Graduates.”
Now….a few words from Thom Singer.
First of all, we live and serve the ‘John Wayne Cowboy’ society, which is a culture where everyone believes we have to achieve success alone.  We think success is for loners but this is hardly true.  In reality, it doesn’t matter who you are, from Bill Gates to the president to a person running a successful chain of chicken restaurants, you can’t do everything.   Our society is driven by a mentality that we can’t ask for help, because we believe no one is out there to help us.  Mentally, we start out totally wrong.  There are people who can and will help.  Success comes from long-term and mutually beneficial relationships.
Secondly, networking has gotten a bad name over the years.  Can you believe it?  When people think of networking, they think of ‘takers.’  We think that people only show up when they have a need.  For example, “I just got laid off and I better go network because I need a job.”  Another common example is with Sales people.  When they are not making their quotas, they will call everyone in their network to ask them to make referrals for them.  They don’t keep in touch the rest of the time..  On the flip side of this argument is that networking is always happening. It’s a give and take.  It’s not something you just do when you need something because people see right through that really quick.  So you have to be constantly engaged and be willing to help and serve other people.  Don’t keep score. But that’s not the way many people think of networking.
Another problem with networking is the definition.  If I ask ten people to give me a definition of networking, I’d probably get 7 or 8 different definitions.  The definition I like to use is “the creation of long term and mutually beneficial relationships between two or more where everyone involved succeeds more because of the relationship than they would without the relationship.”  The key is that it is mutually beneficial and everyone is successful.   People too often overlook this aspect of networking, and fear they might just look needy or like a taker.  But if you’re doing it right, you won’t because you’ll be giving far more than you are getting.  That never looks bad.
The final reason we struggle with networking is that we often witness many successful people who have law degrees, MBAs and engineering degrees and who are mostly left-brained.  They are thoughtful, study hard and do research.  They never would be confused as the social butterflies of their world.  They are self-identified as introverted.  They think it is hard to go out and talk to people, so they do not place a priority on the activity.  The surprising reality here is that introverts are better networkers.  If we go back to the other examples I mentioned when all you’re doing is talking about yourself, no one is going to like it.  No one likes a braggart.  Unlike the extroverts, Introverts ask questions and listen intensely to what others are saying.  Extroverts can sometimes be focused on what they are going to say next while the other person is talking, missing the entire message.  When you are listening to the other person, you are more likely to see where you can make the connection to help them. Most introverts tell me after they get to know someone they are more comfortable in talking about themselves.  If an introvert goes in and asks a lot of questions, then they’ll learn something about that person.  Knowing a little about someone breeds familiarity and so the introvert becomes more comfortable in sharing things freely.
Networking is your key to career success.  Do it incorrectly and you go nowhere.  Become proficient at it and you’ll fill your life with opportunity.
Thanks, Thom.  We appreciate the time you’ve spent with us.  You can find out more about Thom, his books, articles, speaking events and blogs at www.thomsinger.com.

Guest Expert:
Todd Rhoad, MSEE, MBA is Director at BT Consulting, a career consulting firm in Altanta, and author of “Blitz The Ladder” and the soon to be released “MBA Owner’s Manual.” Todd can be reached at todd.rhoad@blitzteamconsulting.com.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Anger Eats Your Lunch

My effort on the new year goal of trying to be "better" has lead me to notice anger.  My kid is working on an assignment that involves Biblical Literature and in reading the stories I see there has always been anger for thousands of years.  It rarely leads to anything good.

I don't usually have a temper, but I do get mad.  Mad at others.  Mad at myself.  What is interesting is that when I get mad at myself I have all the facts.  However, when I am mad at others I can never know everything.  Anytime we deal with other people there is a human on the other side who has their own stuff.  Since we cannot do more than assume their back story, we fill in the blanks with our own ideas of what is going on.  Usually these assumptions are skewed from reality and darken our lives (not theirs).

Experience has shown that relationships can trump nearly all adversarial situations when those involved want to find a solution.  But anger and resentment feed the limitations and cuts off the path to mutually beneficial relationships.  

To advise simple forgiveness of others is too Pollyanna. It is difficult to grant, and even harder to get accepted (or to accept from others).  I just try to be aware, and not let anger eat my lunch.

When dealing with people there is never a dull moment, but the path to comfort as a person is one that is riddled with insecurities, fears, wonders.  With time those are pushed aside by the realities of comfort with self.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, January 13, 2012

"Flash Culture" - How To Create A Mini-Society At Your Conference

When it is done right a conference becomes a "mini-society" that extends far beyond the physical event.  The people who come together for an industry meeting, a users conference, or an association annual convention share a variety of experiences that bond them together.  Humans are experiential beings, and it is through these mutually occurring encounters that we go beyond the surface exchange of pleasantries and build relationships.

"Flash Mobs" have become all the rage the last several years.  Most have seen the planned take overs of shopping mall food courts by singing and dancing groups that surprise and captivate an audience.  I have attended several conferences that have even had "flash mob" performances in their ballroom gatherings.  But creating a "flash culture" goes beyond a single performance.  A culture is more than just something to witness, but is instead a series of patterns and learned behaviors that impact everyone involved.  

In the greater society culture can be takes shape overall or in smaller sub-sets over an extended period of time.  Rarely is a legitimate culture manufactured, but it can be guided by the adherence to or breaking of accepted rules of behavior.  At a two or three day event there is limited time, and if left to chance it can be hard to allow any cultural norms to materialize.  However, if forced onto the participants, there can also be a resistance.

To create a culture at an event there must be a dialogue that exists before, during and after the conference. In my role as "The Conference Catalyst" I tackle one aspect of the "mini-society" which is the desire for attendees to network.  Across industry lines a main reason stated for attending conferences, trade shows, seminars and other meetings is for the "networking opportunities", yet once they arrive..... most people stink at making the type of connections they desire.

While networking is only one facet of the greater culture, it can spur the speed at which the other threads of the whole experience are spread.  Once people are engaged with each other they will peel back the layers of the onion and hold deeper and more meaningful conversations about the learning, trends, and best practices. Getting people excited about one another can ignite the whole experience.

When the presentations, both keynotes and breakout sessions, at an event are the right mix of information and inspiration you will find it effecting the language spoken in the hallways.  The right speakers have the ability to set the tone for the whole meeting.  While a giant emphasis is put on the quality of the information (which is important), someone who is brilliant without speaking skills can murder the mood.  This is why the selection of speakers is paramount to the success of an event.  A series of average presentations will leave hole in the energy level of the group.  Just because someone is smart or has done something cool is not reason enough to put them on stage.  

An additional consideration is about how active the presenters are with the members of the society.  Do they arrive and leave directly around their time to speak?  Most participants enjoy talking with the speakers, or at least like it when they see them actively engaged in the meeting festivities.  There is often a disconnect between the presenters and the audience, which can cause a feeling that there are different levels of importance in a society.  As part of the vetting process organizers should talking with speakers in advance about how they will participate in the conference (if not for the whole time, at least the day of their program). 

The venue also leaves an impression on the whole culture.  From the enthusiasm of the staff to the decor of the facility (and the decorations) there is an aesthetic impact on the mood.  The size and the layout of the main room, and the other common areas, will encourage or discourage human to human interactions.  The music and lighting also can also raise or lower the excitement of each person.  The quality of the coffee, snacks, and meals also matter. 

Vendors and sponsors can often feel like outsiders at many large events and their disengagement is felt by everyone.  While they pay large sums of money to exhibit, some limit their own access to the overall conference.  Vendors should have their whole team attend all "main stage" presentations, as it is that shared experience that will make them an equal part of the "mini-society".  Too often they utilize this time to make calls, sleep in, or otherwise occupy their time.  However, when they are in the same room participating with all attendees it creates much better conversations when attendees come to their booths.  "What did you think of that speaker today?" is a more engaging question than "how is the show going for you?".

Vendors need to be educated not to pounce on attendees with hard pitches or hard sell tactics.  Nobody comes to a conference to be cornered by sales people.  They do come to meet and have conversations with interesting people.  Those who listen and learn find better conversations while present and more access once the event is over.

There are many intangible actions that take place in creating a culture, and therefore event organizers must put into place online and offline opportunities for the society to continue after everyone returns home.  Getting people to participate is difficult if they did not feel the inspiration while at the conference.  Online groups and communities with ongoing discussions and education must be a year round project, and must provide legitimate value.  Just having a LinkedIn Group, a Facebook Page, or a couple of YouTube videos is not the cultivation of community.  There must be a series of people assigned to leading these efforts.  Nobody can force something to go viral, but if your event is an "Industry Happening", then both those who were there live, and those who were not, will want to continue their participation.

Time is limited to create a "Flash Culture", but when it happens.... everyone knows it.

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.  http://www.conferencecatalyst.com 


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Want To Maximize The ROI When Attending A Conference? - New Book Will Help

The ABC's of Conferences

Maximizing your attendance at a conference, trade show, convention or other business gathering can be as easy as A-B-C.

The little things you do make a big difference in getting the most out of your participation at a conference. Advance planning , having plenty of business cards and being a catalyst for connections are just the start. Whether you are an attendee, a sponsor, or a presenter at business events, this book will cause you to
reflect on how you get the most from your investment in attending conferences.

In this book you will learn that:

• Introverts are better networkers
• Asking intelligent questions gets you noticed
• Social Media is not a fad

As part of the New Year Publishing “Airplane Book Series,” The ABC’s of Conferences is designed to be read in a coffee shop or on an airplane. Share this book with your co-workers and business associates to inspire everyone to have more engaging experiences at any conference they attend.

Available at Amazon.com (Coming soon to print and available now on Kindle).  Contact New Year Publishing for bulk orders for conference attendees.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Great Experience at the PCMA "Convening Leaders" Conference

The Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) hosted their annual "Convening Leaders" conference in San Diego.  I had the honor of being the "Conference Catalyst" in their Learning Lounge and to present in several forums.

The Learning Lounge is a new format that PCMA has pioneered over the last two years.  This program was organized and orchestrated by the highly creative and cutting edge consulting firm, Velvet Chainsaw.  Dave Lutz and Jeff Hurt (and now joined by Donna Kastner) are business improvement consultants who specialize in serving associations and corporations in  transforming their meetings into industry happenings.  The Learning Lounge became a conference within a conference, offering unique and bite-sized presentations and hosted discussions by a variety of speakers which allowed people to customize their learning needs.  Those who participated in this series of sessions all raved about the format.  It was the place to learn, connect and contemplate.

I presented four times in the lounge, including opening and closing presentations on how PCMA attendees could maximize their ROI at the Convening Leaders Conference and twice on how to create a networking culture in the planning of any event.

Several of those in attendance walked around the different learning "pods" in the Learning Lounge and brainstormed ideas on how to bring this format into their own conferences. (The National Speakers Association will be integrating a Learning Lounge at it's conference this summer, and I will be hosting and helping organize their program!).  I expect that many meetings will add in this alternative option into their agendas.

A highlight of the week for me was being the keynote speaker for the "Student Union" program.  I facilitated a conversation with the nearly 300 college students who were in attendance.  These are mostly hospitality majors from the country's leading colleges that are teaching the future leaders in the convention and meetings industry.  Spending time with these ambitious young professionals made me feel confident about the future!

Four of my books were also sold in the convention bookstore and I participated in a book signing which allowed me to meet even more cool people.

Having attended thousands of meetings, conferences and other gatherings throughout my lifetime, I was blown away by the chance to participate in this PCMA event.  From the high energy atmosphere, to the top level education, to the phenomenal social events (an opening gala, a party for charity on the US Midway, and a block party like, with Kool and the Gang, that rivaled any music festival) --- this was truly a "Happening".

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.  http://www.conferencecatalyst.com 


Sunday, January 08, 2012

Guest Blogger - Brian Trivitt - Networking and Exercise

Today's Guest Blogger is my friend Brian Trivitt.

Networking and Exercise
By Brian Trivitt

There are many things in this world that are tough, yet necessary to do. At the same time, it seems like many conversations you have with people sooner or later end up dealing with the subject of how to make things easier in general. The fact is, there are a lot of things you can hire somebody to do for you.  However, there are also some  things that are not only necessary to do if you want to improve your own life;  but more importantly, can only be done by you, regardless of how much fame and fortune you currently may have.

I consistently like to work out to stay in shape and be healthy. After being laid off from a Fortune 50 Company a few months back, I am also making a strong effort to build a network with a wide array of people. So why am I bringing up exercising and networking in the same sentence? Because they are two of the best examples of activities nobody else can do for you.

Not only are tasks that can only be done by you often very beneficial to your own life, but they also separate the true hard workers in this world from the ones who merely claim to work hard.  Can you imagine if one of your New Year's resolutions you told you co-workers that you were paying the kid down the street to go hit the treadmill three times a week for you?

In networking, being present and actually making an effort to converse with people on a consistent basis are critical to building a successful network. Sending somebody else to network for you not only does little to nothing to build your network, but after while, I believe the argument could be made that it actually ends up hurting your efforts more than not networking at all. The reason for this is that successful networking requires that somebody consistently show they are truly interested in getting to know an individual or a group of people. Of course, the only way to do this is for you to be in the presence of the other party and make a genuine effort to get to know them. Beyond that, you must also follow up with an individual to continue to foster the relationship (insert joke here where the rich and powerful CEO has his secretary call the average guy he met the other night to see how he is doing!)

I think most everybody would agree that one of the best feelings in the world is working hard and taking a moment to say to yourself, “this isn’t easy, but the results make it all worthwhile.” So, while you may not make the cover of the latest fitness magazine or become the next networking guru, exercise and networking actually have something very important in common--EVERYBODY has the ability to improve upon their fitness level and their networking skills!

Since everybody has the ability to improve upon some things themselves, I highly recommend examining the things you need to do to improve your own life, and make the effort to do them yourself. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be those tasks that it’s better to have somebody else do them for you (if you are as bad and dislike house cleaning as much as I do, you can do what I did, which is marry a lady who owns a maid service). But besides working on building your network and improving your health, find something that you enjoy making an effort consistently to do on your own.     

Brian Trivitt, MBA, specializes in Enterprise Customer Service and IT Project Management. He holds an undergraduate in Computer Information Systems from Missouri State University and an MBA from Texas State University. Mr. Trivitt is an avid homebrewer who has a passion for brewing as well as analyzing and discussing the beer industry. You can follow him on his blog at trivittbrew.com.