Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Take the Stairs - Rory Vaden

Rory Vaden stopped in Austin, Texas on his "Take the Stairs Bus Tour".  As part of the launch of his new book he is traveling the country delivering his message of discipline and success to audiences near and far.

I have known Rory for several years.  We are both active members of the National Speakers Association.  He is a nice guy who has worked hard to fulfill the dream of getting a book onto the New York Times Best Seller List (Take the Stairs was #2 on the NY Times List for Hardcover Advice & Misc. Books on February 26, 2012).  I was thrilled to get to stop by his presentation at Connally High School.

My clients have heard me say a million times: "When your friends and other associates have something cool (and important) going on in their life - it is necessary to find ways to support them!!!"  If they host an event, speak at a conference, or have a book launch party you need to show up if you can.  Humans are experiential beings, and when we can share time together live and in person.... it matters.  Too often people forget that being supportive is part of being a friend.  We must celebrate the victories of others, or we risk finding ourselves alone in our own time of glory.

Sure, it would have been great to have been home for dinner with my family, but few of my friends have ever hit the New York Times Best Seller List.  Fewer still have traveled the country in a snazzy bus (no, I did not get to go inside the bus).  Team Rory was in Austin for one night and my schedule could accommodate my being present at his event.  I am glad I was there... as it was a wonderful evening.

He is a masterful speaker and the audience loved his talk.  I had already read his book, but I was able to get him to sign my copy (after the long line of adoring fans were done with him!).

Looking for a book to read?  Take the Stairs!

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The "Master of Ceremonies" Matters!

If we ever forget that the Master of Ceremonies (MC or Emcee) has a material impact on an event, we were remind of the importance of the role during the 84th Academy Awards.  Too often those who put on business conferences, trade shows, and conventions fill the spot of Master of Ceremonies with the president of their organization, or a random warm body from their industry to fill the slot.  The result of the wrong MC will undermine the tone of the whole show.

The return of Billy Crystal as the host of the Oscars made this event again enjoyable, following several years of Academy Awards that left television audiences saying "We miss Billy".  Last year's attempt to make the awards more hip by tossing the reigns to the ill-suited co-hosts of Anne Hathaway and James Franco was reason enough for the Academy to call Mr. Crystal back into service.

I have served as Master of Ceremonies for dozens of business events.  It is not an easy job, as you must find a way to relate to the audience, keep the pace of the event running on time, add humor, and handle any unforeseen challenges.... all while not taking the spotlight for yourself.  A keynote speaker gets to be center-stage, but the MC must not steal the show.  

I have recently seen an increase in the number of inquiries for "Professional MC" roles at business conferences.  Savvy meeting planners are aware of how the right person will propel the success of an event.  My "Conference Catalyst Program" lends itself well to being the Master of Ceremonies.  The delivery of the message can be changed from a single keynote to fit the MC role.  A series of vignettes over the course of the multi-day gathering can be weaved into the program and inspire the audience to become more engaged with each other, all while I am doing the work of hosting.

While I am not a comedian like Billy Crystal, I do enjoy the role of Master of Ceremonies.  Watching his style and humor at the Academy Awards was both fun and inspiring.  When I spend time in the study of how great MC's do the job... it makes me better next time.  Just as I review every speaker I see present on a stage, I also watch those who serve as MC.  Sadly, few business events have great examples of MC's, as they are often not given consideration on how their experience can transform an event. 

Never forget.... the Master of Ceremonies Matters!

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. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Being True

The older I get the more comfortable I am within my own skin. 

Had I been more confident when I was younger I would have probably achieved more in my early career.  It took time to be able to go after my dream.... and while I still have a long way to go, it is good to feel good about my daily pursuits.

Many people never can get past their facade.  They identify themselves by their job title and think their house or other status symbol is who they are in the world. 

Have A Great Day.  

thom singer

Speaking As Part Of Your Career - 3-Hour Workshop (Austin, TX)


Only a few days left. SIGN UP NOW!

Speaking at conferences and other events is a great way to promote your business and yourself. Those who speak (and speak well) are often viewed as the experts on the subjects the present.  With over 20,000 events each day in the United States there is a need for speakers, but people are often puzzled at how to position themselves as someone who can be called upon to speak.

Not everyone wants to be a "professional speaker", but if you are interested in making speaking part of your career, you need to understand who is making the decisions and their motivations for who they put on stage. 

I am hosting this three hour workshop in response to the number of people who ask me about how they can find more speaking opportunities.  Most of these professionals have no desire make speaking the focus of their career, but they do want to let their competitors dominate the agendas at every event they attend.

I am a professional speaker, corporate trainer and consultant who has presented over 300 times at a professional level (including 58 times in 2011).

Learning Objectives:

  • Better understanding of speaking skills needed to impact an audience
  • How to get invited to speak at local events
  • When to ask for money vs. free
  • Behind the scenes overview of the business of speaking
  • Using social media as part of promoting yourself for speaking opportunities

Friday, March 2, 2012
9:00 AM - NOON.  
Location: near downtown Austin (address will be provided to those who sign up.  Space is limited)

Cost is $225.00.

For more information: (512)970-0398 or thom (at)

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, February 24, 2012

Is Your Users Conference A "Wow" or A "Cow"?

It is common for technology companies (and others) to host an annual client event or "users conference".  These events are a great way to cultivate customer relationships, share information, and build an affinity between clients and the company.  A huge investment of time and money go into planning these gatherings, and yet many can fall short of their potential.

Too often the event is a giant commercial or an ego stroke for senior executives.  While customers attend, the experience is not an "industry happening".   Too often people attend out of obligation instead of a strong desire to be present at the event. (You want people inside your customer's organization fighting to be the ones who get to attend:  "I want to go"...."NO! Send me... I want to go!!!).

As budgets got tighter over the last few years some organizations saw the attendance diminish at their conferences, or they stopped holding their events. Meanwhile, other companies have seen an uptick at there users events during the recession.  

The difference? Is the event a "Wow" or a "Cow"?

Characteristics of an event that is a "Cow":

1. Too much stage time is dedicated to reports about the host company.  While your clients want you to be successful, they are more concerned with their own bottom line.  If you are pontificating about your products, services, or profits..... you lose.  

2. Too long or too short.  Finding the right time frame for a conference schedule is important.  If the event is too short people will gain little ROI from the investment of the time and money needed to travel to the event.  The same is true if the event is too long.  People want content, but they also bore easily.  Planning an event is more than just filling slots, there must be a purpose to the entire schedule.

3.  All content, no style.  Many people argue when planning events for the data that will be delivered to the audience.  They seek smart people who have done cool things to speak, but they put value on the skills necessary to present to an audience.  Just because someone is smart or has done something cool - it does not mean they belong on your stage.  There should not be a discussion of content vs. style... you need both in every presentation.  It is not too much to ask for speakers who will educate and inspire an audience.

Characteristics of an event that is a "Wow":

1.  There are appealing aesthetics in every aspect of the event.  You need to have design elements online, in printed materials (including the name tags), and on-site at the event.  Too often companies throw up a website, print a dull brochure, and have nothing on the stage but a lectern.  We live in a time where everyone expects something more than pipe-in-drape stages, etc....  While these design elements take additional investments, to ignore them means failure.  Blah sucks.

2.  Celebrate the audience, not the host company.  It is clear to everyone when the whole event focused on the attendees (clients).  Make the purpose of networking for those in the audience to meet each other, not for your sales people to corner their clients.  Everyone in the company should be educated about what it means to be the "hosts" of the event, and then everyone (regardless of job title) needs to behave as the "hosts".

3.  Fun.  When people have a good mix of learning and fun they are more likely to come back the following year.  Humans are experiential beings, and when you can create an environment where people share an experience, they will have a better time.  "Wow" events make all aspects of the attendees experience a priory.  A successful "users conference" does not happen by accident.

If you would like to read more.... I have put an 8-page essay "How to Create an Atmosphere for Better Networking" on

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Connecting At Conferences - It Is About More Than Chit-Chat and Social Apps

MPI's One + Blog has an article by David Basler where he asks meeting professionals if they are "designing connectivity or just planning meetings"?

He says:
"Let’s face it, we are no longer just planning meetings. We are designing human connectivity. It will take a combination of art, science and magic to be leaders in our field, but with that recipe we will be creating the best kind of meeting interaction—the kind in which humans truly experience and learn from each other and take away relationships that keep the connection going long after the meeting’s close."
Humans are experiential beings, and when we share an experience with others we have a bond from which we can easily build a real relationship.  Everyone says they want to come to a conference for the "networking opportunities", but once they arrive they do not do the things necessary to start to forge meaningful connections. They hang out with their co-workers or hide behind their technology. 

After the conference they do little to follow up.  They are ships that pass in the night with those they encounter at events.

Conference networking is about more than just trading business cards or creating social media links. Too often the schedule has "networking" built in, but there is nothing in the culture of the conference that really gets people to meet and explore in conversations.

Industry expert and MPI Board Member Kyle Hillman added a comment on the MPI blog that said:
"Our attempts to force meaningful connections in the event industry revolve around either the "if you build it, they will network" model or the "throw more technology out there" model. Neither is effective..."
Kyle is right.  Creating a networking culture at an event does not happen by accident and the addition of cool tech tools often is not the answer.  Technology can help, but alone it cannot reach the human-to-human level of a establishing "feelings" about other people.  We desire to "know, like and trust" others, but over the past few years we have allowed the definition of "know" to morph into something superficial.

It takes risks and creativity from the organizers, attendees, vendors, and speakers to place attention of the whole group onto the people and their experiences at the event. This can be difficult as it removes many elements of control from those who are accustomed to being in charge.

Recently I blogged about the importance of "hallway conversations" as a part of the learning objectives at a meeting.  People often say the best part of attending a meeting is the conversation they had in the hallway, but too many folks do not understand how to begin a dialog with strangers.  The discussions with other attendees is an important part of the learning that takes place, but organizers too often leave it to chance.  Each breakout session must have "learning objectives", but the hallway time does not get the same attention.

My "Conference Catalyst Program" is one way to cultivate a connection culture, but I cannot expect every meeting planner to select me as the right option for their audience (it would be nice!).  Yet event without an official "catalyst", there still needs to be actions taken up-front to encourage people to go beyond idle chit-chat to get to really understand one another.  A conference is a mini-society, but there is not nearly enough time over a few days to leave the culture to chance.  Hoping and wishing that the sparks of connections will fly at your conference is not the best strategy and it is not the way "change agents" make things happen.

I spoke to a meeting professional who told me she agreed with designing connectivity in principle, but "was not ready to try anything new" at their organization's summer conference.  Will she be ready next summer?  Maybe the summer after that?  The time is now to take action.

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, February 20, 2012

Asking Better Questions

I was inspired by a post by Joan Eisenstodt on the "Meetings Focus Blog" about asking better questions.

The article was focused on asking better questions for selecting venues or other vendors in the meetings industry, but her point is universal.  People often ask vague questions with the hope of specific answers.  

On the flip side, those answering are just as guilty, as when we hear a question and do not seek clarification on the detailed needs of the person doing the asking, what use is our off-the-cuff response?.

Our society has become very superficial and there is always a rush to take action and make decisions (in what to ask, how to answer, forming opinions, etc....). Joan's thoughts in this post are correct about the need for including specifics up front (at the initial question) or an answer without any meat will follow.  

Additionally we should all learn dig deeper before projecting our answers.  Without really knowing all the details, our opinions can be useless.  We all encounter people who believe they are providing value to others, but are really just spewing useless information because they do not understand the big picture.

Taking just a few minutes to clarify a question, or to seek more facts before answering could make for better communications.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Google+ Conference - 3 Tips For Presenting Live and Online

Today I presented at ProductCamp 8 in Austin.  While I speak to conferences often, this was the first time I had ever presented live to an audience and simultaneously presented live via Google+ Hangouts.  The Austin Google team partnered with ProductCamp and broadcast several of the presentations at the event, and it was a great addition to the event..

I did not know in advance that I would be speaking live to the group and to the world via Google+, but I know that "the show must go on", and I adapted to the online audience.

This brings up an interesting new issue in the world of speaking.... How do you manage a live audience and an online audience at the same time?

1.  Do not ignore the online attendees.  I have watched other streamed conferences where the speakers roam around and leave the range of the camera (or getting so far out that the camera films their back), thus making it a less than ideal experience for those watching remotely.  I am one who moves around a lot when I speak.  I try to utilize the whole stage, and connect closely with the people in the room.  However, in my presentation at ProductCamp I had to improvise my style and keep a balance between the needs of both audiences.

2.  Repeat all questions.  My talk was conversational, and once the audience began asking questions and sharing their stories, they did not stop.  I left my outline behind and went where the live audience wanted to go on the topic.  I needed to repeat the gist of their input directly to the Google+ audience to ensure they would be kept involved in the discussion.  When speakers do not do this it can leave an online audience feeling left out if they cannot hear the outside questions and comments.

3.  Talk directly to the camera.  When you are addressing the online audience look into the camera lens.  Often in all types of video conferences people look at the picture on their screen that is of the people watching them, but to the viewer it can appear that you are looking down, away, or off the the side (depending on the placement of the monitor and camera).  Eye contact with your live audience is very important, but it is just as important to those online.  With a mix of participants both live and on Google+ it was important to transition my conversation to the room and the camera.

I am confident that this will not be the last time that I will be asked to present in this manner.  The focus of meetings industry professionals is heavily leaning toward "high-bred meetings" (events with both live and online audiences).  I expect this will become the normal and not an exception.  All speakers need to become familiar with presenting online, and fine tune their skills to address dual audiences.  Those who cannot make this transition will be out of touch with the needs of conference planners who are experimenting with more ways to engage the internet audience.

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. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

RISE Austin - Register Now

RISE Global is about to return to Austin. Mark your calendar for March 26-30, 2012 and make plans to attend sessions at this unique "un-conference".

RISE is a non-profit program dedicated to inspiring and empowering entrepreneurs. Created originally in 2007 by Roy and Bertrand Sosa as a week-long, free “un-conference” for- and by- entrepreneurs in Austin, Texas, RISE has now grown into an ongoing annual program that leverages its proprietary web interface to provide one-of-a-kind resources and experiences to entrepreneurs worldwide for free.

If you or someone in your company have something to share with the world you can also present a session at RISE.  This is a great way to give back to other entrepreneurs by presenting on a topic that can help others succeed.  The deadline to host a session is coming soon, so sign up now!

I will be presenting again this year at RISE.  My topic is "Know Your Purpose and Telling Your Story".  Each session at RISE only has 25 seats, so if my talk, or any of the hundreds of others, sounds interesting.... register ASAP.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Finding Wisdom for the Entrepreneur

Few people will admit to lacking wisdom.  Everyone believes they have had enough personal experiences with which to understand people and situations that will positively impact how they make decisions.  Wisdom is necessary to make consistent and appropriate judgments, yet it is not an attribute that is easy to gain or self determine.  The opposite of wise is often seen as stupid or ignorant, and thus people are nervous about not being seen in this light.

Many people have associated age with wisdom, but for an entrepreneur it has more to do with having an open mind and a realization that they do not instinctively hold all the answers.  It has to do with the decision making process and the types of actions that are undertaken.  Wisdom cannot be gained by just a series of birthdays, but instead what you do between those birthdays.  

Serial entrepreneurs often know they need to surround themselves with people smarter than themselves, and that they are better off by asking many questions at all stages of their career.  A wise person is usually one who knows they alone cannot possibly have all the answers.  Those that are early to question the world around them are on track to finding wisdom.

Labeling another as "wise" is a wonderful compliment, but it is not a moniker that is used often to describe others.  Wisdom is not learned in books and can only come with meaningful experience.  This creates a disconnect between those who might think they are wise and those who have acquired actual wisdom.

An entrepreneur discovers wisdom from being in the game.  Reading a book can provide knowledge, but wisdom comes from doing, living, trying, and experiencing failure.  Those who get lucky one time in business often have trouble recreating the same level of success.  The skills that work for one entrepreneur are not the same as those that lead another to success.  There are also changes that the entrepreneur must make from one business to the next.  There is no cookie cutter recipe.  We all have different backgrounds, educations, and experiences, and this means that the path will be different for everyone.

Making mistakes is part of the journey.  Those who are considered wise have learned from the mistakes of others, but also from their own stumbles.  Entrepreneurs are willing to take risks, and when their results come up short, they do not just "try-try again", but they assess their methods and look for signs and patterns that will propel them toward a better outcome in the future.

Finding wisdom is deeply personal and hard to self-assign.  There is no substitute for experience and observation.  Question everything and listen to others.  You will know you are a wise when other people say so, not when you think it is true.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, February 13, 2012

TEDx Austin 2012 - Penny de los Santos

There were many great speakers on the agenda at the TEDx Austin 2012 event.  In talking with other attendees  the cool observation is that different people had their souls touched by different parts of the program.  The whole experience was one that was designed to resonate no matter the learning style.

There were a few presentations that I will not soon forget.  As a professional speaker and corporate trainer I am equally interested in a speaker's ability to connect with an audience and how they captivate the mind.  I have long professed that just because someone is smart, or has done something cool -- it does not mean they belong on the stage.  At TEDx Austin everyone was smart, cool, authentic AND they belonged right there at this time and place!

Penny de los Santos, a culture and food photographer, was one of the ones that stood out.  As she began her talk I wrote in my notes "wow, she seems really nervous".  However, something happened as she shared her life experiences -- she blossomed.  

She tells the stories of people and culture through the pictures she takes of food, and all that happens around food.  She pointed out that "food connects us", and she is right.

As a still-life photographer she captures moments.  She showed her work and gave us the back-story of those from all over the world whom she has had the honor to share moments.  Much of her work includes documenting the lives of people who otherwise might pass without being seen.  "So many people in the world have never been noticed.... they have never been celebrated".

She engaged the audience like few speakers ever can with the mix of images and  the spoken word, and left us with the powerful nugget that "some moments are not to be photographed, but are to be lived".  Wow.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

TEDx Austin 2012 - Jason Roberts

There were many great speakers on the agenda at the TEDx Austin 2012 event.  In talking with other attendees  the cool observation is that different people had their souls touched by different parts of the program.  The whole experience was one that was designed to resonate no matter the learning style.

There were a few presentations that I will not soon forget.  As a professional speaker and corporate trainer I am equally interested in a speaker's ability to connect with an audience and how they captivate the mind.  I have long professed that just because someone is smart, or has done something cool -- it does not mean they belong on the stage.  At TEDx Austin everyone was smart, cool, authentic AND they belonged right there at this time and place!

Jason Roberts, Co-Founder of "The Better Block Project" was one of the ones that stood out.  His passion was something that could not be faked.  His level of enthusiasm about everything he does was infectious.  The joy that came out of this man as he told his stories.  I wrote in my notes "He is great!".

I love the way he has helped transform the community where he lives (the Oak Cliff neighborhood in Dallas), and is now spreading that message to communities around the world.

To make things happen he has simple advice:

  1. Show up
  2. Give it a name
  3. Set a date and publish it

Many might say "Wait, it is not that simple".  Then they do not know Jason Roberts.  If he wants to get something done, he just does it.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

TEDx Austin 2012 - Jeremy Courtney

There were many great speakers on the agenda at the TEDx Austin 2012 event. In talking with other attendees the cool observation is that different people had their souls touched by different parts of the program. The whole experience was one that was designed to resonate no matter the learning style.

There were a few presentations that I will not soon forget. As a professional speaker and corporate trainer I am equally interested in a speaker's ability to connect with an audience and how they captivate the mind. I have long professed that just because someone is smart, or has done something cool -- it does not mean they belong on the stage. At TEDx Austin everyone was smart, cool, authentic AND they belonged right there at this time and place!

Jeremy Courtney, founder of "The Preemptive Love Coalition", was one of the ones that stood out. Jeremy is from Austin, but lives in Iraq. His life's mission is helping children born with heart conditions in this war torn country find the medical assistance that they need. There is a high number of kids with heart issues in this part of the world, and not enough doctors to treat them all. His organization brings kids to Istanbul to get treatment, brings international doctors to Iraq to perform surgery, and also trains local doctors on how to save lives.

His whole premise of "Preemptive Love" hit a chord that goes beyond this mission. So many people in the world are looking to "get" the other person before they "get" them. They are looking to take, take, take,..... win, win, win. But what if we simply acted out of love first? Love and generosity can break down the walls of hate and mistrust.

Jeremy's presentation was both educational and transformational. He closed by challenging the audience to find their own way to extend "preemptive love" this week. I donated to his cause, as what he is doing is more than saving children... it is changing the world.

Have A Great Day.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

TEDx Austin 2012

The 2012 TEDx Austin Event, "Beyond Measure" was a powerful experience.  This was the third year that Austin hosted a TEDx event, and to quote the old cliche, "the third time's a charm".

Each aspect of the program: the presentations, decor, food, musical entertainment, and hands on interaction -- all were designed to touch and inspire the soul.  Mission Accomplished!

What is TEDx? In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED has created a program called TEDx. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.

The Austin organizers have worked hard to create a program that rivals all events.  14 speakers filled the day with their stories, ideas, and thought-provoking points of view.  The committee is worthy of all the praise they have received on their efforts.  Job well done!

But like all conferences, the real impact of the event was in the "Hallway Conversations".  As I have written about before, it is the people (those you know, and those you meet) with whom you share the ideas from the stage that really impacts the learning experience. We often forget that the networking breaks are about more than just chatting and trading business cards (or scanning QR Codes on nametags!), it is where we process the information and learn many "best practices".

I saw many friends, but I did not meet nearly enough new people (the audience was an amazing eclectic collection of Austin's most interesting citizens), except at the lunch.  The design and execution of the dining experience cultivated the opportunity to encounter others, and it was a highlight of the day!  The meal was delicious and those at my table all had inspiring stories of their own journeys. Wow!

To quote a comment by my friend Eugene Sepulveda, "Really? Only the third year? Feels like many more. In a good way". He is right, it seems as thought there has always been TEDx in Austin (I attended the first year, but was out of town in 2011).  I look forward to the future.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, February 10, 2012

Being An Entrepreneur - Prepare Up Front

If you want to start a business you need to prepare up front.  While there is a lot of aspects to running a company that requires you to be nimble in the moment, the more you prepare before you begin, the better you will be able to handle the inevitable surprises.  The journey of entrepreneurship requires the right mix of planning and then being willing to change you plans.

Having a vision from the start about  where your business will be heading is important.  While most entrepreneurs will admit that their business plan in the beginning was not an accurate map, few investors and other advisers are keen on you not having a a  focus.  A business plan is still an important tool to launching in most industries.  

There is no way, unless you are clairvoyant, that you will be able to predict the changes in your company, industry, or the economy.  Too many variable exist in the real world.  Engineering is an exact science that requires perfection in the plans and execution or buildings and bridges will collapse.  Entrepreneurship is the opposite, often needing heroic bending of rules and other flexibility to achieve success.  (I am not saying engineers cannot be great entrepreneurs, or vice versa, but to do both can be a stretch for some).

Someone who started a business in 2008 would never have realized the pending recession, nor could they have predicted the severity.  Their plan would quickly have become obsolete, but their vision for the company they were building would allow them to better navigate the tough decisions.  When you think about your plan up front, be sure to imagine multiple scenarios, event though you can never assume all that can and will happen.  

Growing a business often takes more time and more money than you anticipated, even with the most realistic planning.  Be prepared to extend, maybe double, your needs.  If your upfront projections calls for three years and $500,000, consider what you will need if the reality is six years and $1 million. 

Know going in that you can easily get buried with the small things, and be conscious that you cannot spend your time picking up pennies while stepping over $100 bills.  Commit early in the process to putting your energy into activities that allow you to grow your business and not the things that will take you away from the goals.  Investing your time in insignificant and "small" activities will derail you success.

How you begin will have a major impact on how you finish.  Invest the time to plan and prepare for ample time and financial resources.  While no amount of up front planning will eliminate the obstacles, you will at least be less surprised by the hardships when the occur.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Processing The Information After A Conference

Attending a multi-day industry conference can be a great way to meet new people, catch up with your peers, view the latest technologies, and gain valuable education that will help you in your career.  

I recently attended the National Speakers Association Winter Conference in Dallas, Texas.  I am an active member of NSA, and find their conferences and other educational events both informative and fun. I have developed close friendships with many people, and these "speaker buddies" have become trusted advisers who inspire and coach me all throughout the year.  Getting together with them at the conferences is a huge value in attending.

But a conference without content is just a party.  Most industry events are full of informative keynotes, breakouts, workshops and seminars.  The NSA Winter Conference was extraordinarily filled with valuable information and amazing people.  I take copious notes and try my best to learn as much as I can while at a conference.  I am also active in connecting with new people and visiting with old friends.  However, when the weekend is over I often have that feeling that I was drinking out of a fire hose. 

Processing all the information after a conference is paramount to maximizing the ROI.  It is not just the information in my notes, but also the hallway conversations, and the stack of business cards from new people with whom I can cultivate new relationships.  It can be overwhelming.

To be sure you get the most from your conference experience you must have a "Post Conference Routine" that allows you to digest the information, reflect on the event, and create action plans for success.

My routine includes:

1.  Sorting through the business cards.  Not everyone you meet will become part of your network.  Relationships are subjective and it takes a commitment from both parties to create a long-term and mutually beneficial connection.  I take notes on the back of the cards to remind myself of what we talked about in the initial conversation (I do this each night before going to sleep).  Once home (or on the plane) decide whom I desire to follow up with.  At a large multi-day event you can meet dozens of people.  If you try to follow up with everyone you will either never get around to the large task, or do so in a shallow "cut and paste" manner.

I create two stacks:  1).  Must follow up.  2). Nice to have the chance to follow up.  I make the first stack an "A-Level" priority within 48 hours of getting home.  I send handwritten notes to those who provide physical addresses on their business cards.  I email the rest.  If I have time I email those in the second stack.

I also identify the three people who had the largest impact on my experience at the conference.  I make sure my outreach to them is extra special and I tell them our conversation stood out as the most important at the event. 

2.  Transcribing the notes.  I take notes by hand.  I prefer this to typing on a laptop or my smart phone during a presentation.  When I get home I re-read the notes and create a "To Do List" from the tips that inspire immediate actions.  I then retype my notes into a word document.  This not only cleans up the information, but also creates a document I can share with industry friends who were not able to be present at the conference.  

3.  Taking action on one item immediately.  I pick one item on the "To Do List" and get the project started (or completed) my first day back.  There is something about action that drive additional action.  If you can do a few things on your list you are more likely to go back and do more things on your list.

4.  Reviewing your notes again.  I schedule a reminder to review my transcribed notes one month after a conference.  Your notes read once (which is more than most people ever review) is good, but reading them over two or three times over the following months will have a lasting impact.  If there was valuable information presented at the conference it is worthy of review.

5.   Reaching out to the people you met one month later.  Meeting someone one time and a single follow up does not really create a relationship.  You would not consider yourself engaged or married to a person after one date, and the same is true with business connections.  It takes seven to ten meaningful interactions before people really care that you exist.  If you do a good job of discovering information about others when you meet them (or discovering their online presence), you can identify ways to be a resource for them.  If you want people to help you get closer to your goals, the best thing to do is to help them with their journey.  You must find legitimate reasons to converse or the contact will go stale, and nothing is more legitimate than being of assistance to them! 

A conference is more than a stand alone event.  To maximize your investment in attending the meeting you must be committed to processing the information and cultivating the relationships.  

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.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Presentation Skills Training For Austin Technology / Engineering Companies

Speaking in public has become a necessity for career advancement, but many still dread having to address an audience. I can assist people in understanding how to improve their speaking skills and become more comfortable with presentations. 

Technology workers (engineers, programmers, designers, etc....) and others find themselves being called on to explain the features and benefits of their products in a variety of internal and external meetings and conferences, often without any formal training in the art of public speaking.  In several industries poor presentations are expected, and those who are speaking make up for their lack of skills by adding more data and shrinking the font on the PowerPoint slides. Yet audiences desire and deserve more.  

I have seen employees passed over for promotions because of their inability to communicate and witnessed founders of companies being replaced by investors with a more eloquent leader.  These scenarios need not be the norm inside technology companies, as everyone can enhance their speaking style.  The commitment takes time, and there is nothing that can be done without an intentional effort toward improvement by all involved.

Speaking is a learned skill, and should not be scary. I coach individuals or small groups to set a plan for constant improvement. Together we work closely in the preparation of presentations, the creation of memorable stories, style and appearance, PowerPoint and handouts, and audience participation. Video reviews of presentations will lead to actionable ideas and guidance on how to take presentations to the next level. 

The goal is not to transform everyone in the company into a professional speaker or teach them to channel Tony Robbins.  Instead we can create an ongoing learning curve and a culture of embracing the power of the spoken word, while allowing each person to find their own style.  A tech company whose employees' oratories are slightly better than their competition will hold a stand-out position at all conferences and trade shows where they present.

The onset of social media has taken the focus away from the importance of personal communications, but the more we move online the more critical off-line activities are to individuals and companies.

For more information, contact Thom Singer  (512) 970-0398  or thom (at)

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Events, Festivals, Worldwide Buzz and the Austin Economy

Leadership Austin's February "Engage Breakfast" highlighted how local festivals can leave a mark on both the local economy and international reputation of a city.  "Festival Fever" included a panel of experts discussing the direct and indirect impact of large and small events.

The panel included:

Hugh Forrest - Event Director, SXSW Interactive Festival
Lisa Hickey - Festival Marketing Director, C3 Presents
Geoff Moore - Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Circuit of the Americas
Jon Roberts - Principal, TIP Strategies

When we examine the economic impact of the large events, such as South by Southwest, Austin City Limits Festival, and Formula One, we often only look at the dollar and cents that are spent around the event, but the real impact to a city like Austin often comes in other ways.

In the past, Austin was not thought of as an international city, but SXSW, ACL and now F1, coupled with our booming tech industry, has catapulted the city into full view of the world.  On a recent visit to London, the mayor and his delegation found that SXSW and F1 were well known.  (I find as a professional speaker that audiences all around the country always love that I am from Austin!).

Following the Atlanta Olympic Games many American cities began to realize that international events bring with them more than just money, but instead connections and communications with leaders in a variety of areas.  These connections can influence many long-term economic, corporate, and trade decisions.

The 2011 SXSW Festival pumped $167 million into the local economy (this is about equal to half of the impact a city sees from hosting a Superbowl).  ACL's economic impact was $100 million, plus over 2 billion media hits (and note that "Austin" is in the name of their event!).  Formula One is predicted to be equivalent to over 4 Super Bowls each year for a decade.  No other city of our size has this many internationally recognized events!

The number of out-of-town visitors that these large scale events bring to Austin is important, but it is the exposure that the city receives that is a game changer.  People like to share information about products they enjoy and with the proliferation of the mobile internet, the experience of these festivals help make Austin itself a product that is being raved about all over the world.  Both SXSW and ACL happen during the most ideal weather seasons... and who cannot LOVE Austin in March and October?  (note these events would not have the same level of success if they were held in August).

Our city's high tech industries and heavy adoption of social media has also helped drive the proliferation of the national and international reputation.  Additionally, SXSW was not the overnight phenomena, as the festival (which began as only a music festival, only later adding Interactive and Film) has been around for 25 years.  It is harder to start from scratch with a new event and expect it to rival SXSW.  It takes the support and integration of the community to make an event successful.

The influx of people to Austin for these mega events does bring with it some negative side effects, as the traffic and lack of hotel rooms for 20 miles causes hardships for some, but in addition to the economic boost, most of the larger events have charitable causes that they help support.  ACL has raised around $4 million over the years for the Austin Parks Foundations, which has allowed for improvements both at Zilker Park and in neighborhood parks all over the city.

Tickets to these giant festivals also are expensive, which means that not everyone can afford to attend.  SXSW does offer several free venues for music and their Gaming Arcade, but this also brought up conversation about the power of other regional and local festivals (such as The Pecan Street Festival) that are free and help build community. These gatherings bring people together, and local focused events should not get lost in the mix.  Local and regional festivals should be celebrated and cherished.

Formula One will be like nothing we have ever seen in Austin.  About 1/3 of the attendees are expected to come from Texas, 1/3 from the rest of the United States, and 1/3 from around the world.  Some questioned if Austin was the right fit for international racing, but Austin is really the perfect venue.  The sport is more about technology than racing.  Because of their investment in F1, Ferrari spends more than $300 million in research and development.  This investment has transformed the company from an automobile manufacturer into a technology company (they now have several tech divisions that are impacting the auto and other industries).  Much like the ancillary benefits that came from the space race in the 1960s, Formula One is spinning off advancements that will impact the future.  The commitment to technology and R&D makes Austin the right place to host this world-class event.

Few cities can lay claim to as many successful events and festivals, and Austin is poised to continue to see these events grow, as well as attracting new festivals (both ones that move and organically grown).  ACL has keeps growing, F1 is coming in big, and SXSW has nearly maxed out capacity (But the rumors of SXSW moving out of Austin are not true, as the vibe of the city is too deeply connected to the soul of the festival).

Thanks to Leadership Austin for hosting this informative and thought-provoking breakfast.  For more information on the Engage Breakfasts, visit the Leadership Austin website.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thank You For Your Support

It is Kate's Birthday.  Yep she is ten-years-old.  Time sure flies when you are having fun... and Kate always has fun.

Each year on her birthday we host a fundraiser for Dell Children's Hospital.

Kate was born with a condition known as Saggital Synostosis.  About one in 3000 children are impacted by some type of cranio-facial abnormality, many of which require surgery.

Your donation of any size will help the doctors with their research and treatment.

Thank you to everyone.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, February 06, 2012

SXSW Stories - Open Mic (Hosted by Thom Singer)

Event producers provide attendees with a pretty cool playground for experiencing all that their events have to offer... however, they rarely hear the feedback in a create way beyond a survey form.

And because everyone's experience is unique and different than the next, capturing those stories on video is a great way to learn what is working, and discover new areas that have popped up organically, and promote your event in the future.  

This year's South by Southwest Interactive conference (SXSW) will be holding a special event:  "SXSW Stories Open Mic" on Tuesday, March 13 at 3:30pm at the Austin Convention Center.  I will be serving as the Master of Ceremonies for this unique breakout session where you can share your experiences from the 2012 SXSW Interactive Festival. An event is only as wonderful as the people who participate, and this interactive and fun gathering will expose all the cool and unexpected experiences that made this year's conference spectacular.

Did you learn something new? Establish a new business connection? Eat at a cool restaurant or meet your soul-mate? We want to hear about it! 

Tell you stories now on Twitter and use the hashtag #SXStories to join the conversation.

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.

Virtual Hallways - Continuing The Conversation After A Conference

I recently wrote about how "Hallway Networking Is A Key Part Of Conference Learning".  Those who attend business events often cite the conversations they have in the foyer (or at the bar) as being among the highest value they gain from being at the meeting.  Talking with your peers is a great way to better understand what was presented from the main stage or during workshops.  Dissecting the information and sharing best-practices can have a huge impact.

But too often these conversations end after the handshakes and hugs goodbye following the closing session. There are taxis and airplanes to catch and a variety of other commitments to attend.  People return home and set their notes, business cards, and other information aside and get back into their routines.

Regardless of living in the same city or across the globe, it is not always easy to follow up with people you met at a conference, convention, seminar or trade show.  Our schedules are hectic and many people are not even sure how to properly follow up with a casual acquaintance, thus relinquishing these powerful connections to a stack of business cards stuck in a drawer.

But time and space does not mean that the conversations must stop.  You can continue the "Virtual Hallway Chats" for weeks, months and even years.  If done properly it is not uncommon that people first encountered at an industry event can become customers, vendors, co-workers, influential and trusted advisers, and friends.

To cultivate a business relationship you must have a purpose.  Expecting people to just keep conversing about industry topics by osmosis is not realistic.  Not everyone you met at a conference will be someone you will want or need to keep in your network. Sending LinkedIn or Facebook requests does not really advance a connection.  In fact, when we end up with too many connections that have no meaning, our social media tools become nothing more than large phone books of random people we have encountered (or not encountered!).

Your first day after a conference is critical in determining your priorities.  You must sort through your notes and the list of people to whom you spoke and gain a perspective on what you learned and those you met.  Along the way you should have written some information on people's business cards or made similar notations in your digital files.  This will make it easier to remember who is who (trust me, if you meet a lot of people over several days, some of them will quickly fade away from the front of your mind).

Next you have to take action to follow up with the ones that made an impression on you.  Your purpose for following up will vary depending if they are a potential client, vendor, referral source or just someone you enjoyed being around, and the methods you use and the words you select should match that purpose.   Create three categories: A) Must follow up.  B) Should follow up. and C) No follow up (it's okay, not everyone you meet will matter to you.  But also remember... not everyone will make you a priority!).

Now get to work.  Discover the best way to follow up with each person on your A and B lists.  This does not mean a cookie-cutter email to each of them, nor does it mean having your assistant send LinkedIn requests on your behalf.  Some people should be followed up by phone or even a hand-written note (yes, this is still done, and it works to make you stand out).  For others a personalized email will be sufficient.

But remember, one meeting and a follow up does not make someone part of your network.  It makes them someone you met once.  You must develop a shared purpose of why you would cultivate a long-term relationship.  Discussing ways that you can work together, and seeking ways to bring value to them will set a foundation that can lead to an ongoing and mutually valuable friendship (do not make it a give and take... simply make introductions or otherwise help them succeed without keeping score).

Continuing dialog will not happen by accident.  You need to be intentional if you want to cultivate meaningful connections.  Do not let "I'm Busy" reign as you continued excuse, only to find later you let powerful people drift away.  All opportunities in life come from people, so make the investment in getting to know more of the people you meet at events.

Own the follow up and you will find that the real ROI from attending a conference could arrive week, months and years after the event is over.

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. 

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Hallway Networking Is A Key Part of Conference Learning

Many people profess the best experiences they have when attending conferences, trade shows, conventions and other business gatherings come from the people they meet.  The hallway conversations after a keynote or a concurrent session is often where people process the information and share real life information with their peers.  The act of discussing the experience of the presentation and curriculum allow the shared knowledge to be digested and expanded.  This "hallway networking" is an important part of the learning.

Across industry lines people claim to attend events for the "networking opportunities", but organizers and attendees often forget that this power in connecting with people goes deeper than just collecting business cards or seeking to meet someone who can be of career assistance.  It is the sharing of thoughts, ideas, and best practices that can provide the best education.

Standing in line to have a photo taken with a celebrity speaker is nice, but that line should become a moving classroom where the people quiz each other about the nuggets of knowledge they gained from the session.  Seeking the perspective of others can often open our own minds to new points of view.

Preparation of event "Networking Time" should include learning objectives, as do the other educational sessions.  Helping to educate the audience on how to maximize a conference is part of the success for everyone.

In today's social media and mobile crazy world too many are buried in their iPads and smart-phones and pass on the advantages of enhancing the learning by engaging in meaningful conversations.  Some have developed a misunderstanding and adversity to "networking", and that attitude can undermine the culture of a conference.

Talking to your peers is in itself a wonderful way to learn, connect, and improve the ROI of being at the event.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

(Hat tip to meeting industry consultant and thought leader, Jeff Hurt of Velvet Chainsaw, for inspiring this post after a recent conversation in the hallway at an industry event!).

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.