Saturday, March 31, 2012

Happy Birthday - To My Blog

While searching for an old article, I found this post from March 2006 where I wished a "Happy Birthday to my Blog" (yes, this from a guy who threw birthday parties for my dog when I was a kid!).

March 2005 I began this online effort.  Seven years later I am still here.  Nobody read this blog back then.  Now I have some regular subscribers and readers, and many more occasional visitors.  Some find me via search engines.  Others come here from a social media link they run across.

Writing this blog has been therapeutic.  It has sparked business opportunities.  I have met people online which has lead to in-person connections.  Most of all, it has been an ongoing constant part of my evolution as a writer, speaker, consultant, and person.

I have shared victories and failures with anyone who is interested.  I am reminded by readers when I make mistakes or fall short of expectations.  I have tried to be honest and helpful all the time.  The real one who learns from my blogging efforts is me.  I have discovered my own short-comings and have worked toward being better.

Being human is a journey.  Too many people forget this and form opinions of others from a limited view point and hold on to their judgments.  I am not the same as I was seven years ago, and this realization has helped me accept others for their own flaws.  Hopefully I have expanded my soul, and this blog has helped me along the way.  There is still a long way to go (I hope), and for those who are here with me..... THANK YOU.

I love to see others succeed, and try to be a resource for others.  Most often this is just by sharing and brainstorming.... as I believe we achieve more when be have friends than when we have foes.  If you find yourself reading these words, please reach out to me if I can be of assistance.

Have A Great Day.


The Smart But Dull Conference? Does Content Stand Alone?

Is content king?

I continue to see the discussion around the meetings industry about "content vs style" when it comes to speakers.  I have long argued that there should be no disagreement on this topic, as it is not too much to expect both from those who make presentations at events.

I would never argue against content.  That is crazy talk.  However, there seems to be a fear of "pure motivational speakers" taking over the meeting world.  I am not even sure what that means.  Without content there is no motivation.  "Fluff" cannot stand alone.  We need and want content.

Yet, all speakers should be motivational.  Without a level of connection with the audience, and the ability to move people to action, you just have a book report.  The speakers set the tone for the whole meeting and create the threads that are weaved into the overall experience.  Besides, what is the opposite of "motivation"? (Discourage?, Disincentive?, Deter?, Suck the energy out of the room?)

With all the talk about content over experience, I have not seen a conference organizer advertise their event by saying "Our speakers are monotone, dry and might suck the energy out of the room and make you wish for reruns of Punky Brewster, but dang it, they are smart".

Nobody looks forward to attending the "Smart But Dull Conference"

This does not mean that every presenter needs to be a professional speaker or trained orator. I am saying that seeking only content can leave a hole in what the audience desires and deserves. There are many experts who do a great job of sharing their information clearly and concisely with audiences and create a positive learning experience.  But there are others who suck.

Vetting speakers and understanding their level of experience is key.  I had one planner tell me she does not want to be offensive by asking industry leaders for references or a list of speaking experience.  This means she has no idea how many times people have ever spoken publicly. Would you hire a band to play at your event without talking to people who have heard their music or seen them play?  What if your band only decided to learn to play instruments recently?  Ouch.  (Trust me, you do not want me to play guitar at your event!).

Content is important, but so is experience, style, and communication skills.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

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

Friday, March 30, 2012

Cool Things My Friends Do - Ed Cavazos TEDx Talk

Each Friday I am posting  "Cool Things My Friend's Do" onto my blog.

My friend Ed Cavazos is an IP Attorney with Bracewell & Giuliani LLP in Austin, Texas.   I recently saw this video from his TEDx San Antonio presentation in 2011.  I have known several people who have given talks at TEDx events around the country, but since I just ran across this one, I wanted to share it with the readers of my blog.

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

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Eight Tips To Make Your Conference An Industry Happening

Can a company's "user's conference" become an Industry Happening?

It can when Troux Technologies hosts their customers for their annual Troux Worldwide Conference.  For the second year in a row this Austin company had an event that is the buzz of the Enterprise Architecture world.

With a more than 20% increase in attendance over the 2011 event, this year they had over 400 attendees and employees from over 20 countries converge in Austin, Texas for two days of education and networking.

I had the honor of being the Master of Ceremonies for the event (I was a speaker at last year's conference), and it was an experience to see how the customer's presentations and the "hallway conversations" sparked impactful learning and connecting for everyone present.

Is your company's conference an "industry happening"?  

Here are seven tips to make your user gathering an experience to remember:

1.  Invite your employees to participate.  While larger companies cannot include their whole staff, many organizations limit the who attends events.  When your enthusiastic team is present, it sets the tone for the event.

2.  Educate your employees on how to be the "hosts" and "hostesses" of the meeting.  Do not assume that all your people understand how to engage in conversations in networking situations.

3.  Do not make it a commercial for your company.  Put the focus on the attendees.  Keep your CEO's remarks opening remarks short and focused on the audience... and avoid breakouts sessions designed to highlight your own triumphs.

4.  Get the audience involved.  Find ways to get active participation. Pass out small video cameras to audience volunteers and get them to record short interviews with other attendees.  Let them keep the cameras in exchange for their efforts (but after you download the videos).

5.  Select speakers and panelists who will openly share information. Too often speakers hold back on the useful information, but when people receive deep information, they appreciate the whole conference experience.

6.  Keep the coffee service available in a Networking Lounge.  Not everyone wants to sit in every breakout session, so give them an alternative place to go for conversation and connections.

7.  Hold speakers and panelists to the designated agenda timing.  When sessions run over you steal time for people to process information and share ideas with each other.  Get a countdown clock and make it clear to everyone that there is not room for overages.

8.  Use social media to expand the reach.  Make sure that those who follow your industry have constant access to what is happening at the conference via a variety of social media channels.

Understand in the planning stages that there is power human interaction. In a world crazy with technology everyone longs for personal connections and the creation of real friendships and ongoing business relationships.  People want more than a data dump.  Expectations for events to create a community experience are growing. 

Information alone will not create buzz.   It is the engagement of the audience that charges up the high levels of excitement and takes the experience beyond the average conference.  

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

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

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Purposeful Business Conversations - Cut The Cord On The Elevator Pitch

If you were dying -- would you make sure that you chose your words carefully the final time spoke to your children or would you recite an elevator pitch?  Would the purpose of your last conversation with your husband or wife be the same as the one you had with a co-worker?

Who you are speaking with has an influence on your purpose.

In the business world there is a lot of attention placed on crafting an elevator statement.  While I am not arguing the importance of being able to clearly and concisely tell your story, the problem here is that people often learn only one description of themselves and then lead with that in each encounter.

When you meet a client you should have a different purpose than when you meet a prospect.  Another purpose entirely when you meet a vendor or a referral sources.  In each situation you need to have different conversation.  No two people are the same and to recite memorized lines makes your interaction with others less than genuine.

It is best to set aside your elevator pitch and learn to ask questions of others so that you can make decisions about what information is necessary for their needs once it is your turn to share information.


I was one of the speakers at the 2012 RISE Austin event.  My talk was about knowing your purpose and telling your story.  The audience asked a lot of smart questions about how to embrace the serendipity of conversations and not being tied down to pre-learned statements.  This talk was fun for me as the small audience and intimate setting made for a unique learning environment for the audience and the speaker.

RISE has become one of the most anticipated conferences of the year for local entrepreneurs and others who want to learn.  There were people in my session who were attending over 20 presentations over the five day period (That is a lot of information).  It was fun to hear from the group about each person's "purpose" for participating in RISE.

What was your purpose for reading this blog post?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, March 26, 2012


In every situation we should know our purpose.  

Then we have to remember that others may have different motivation.  They too have a purpose.

Too often people people just go through the motions and do not think about the intent of their actions. 

Other times they roll over others to achieve their purpose without thinking of the others involved.

Life is harder to figure out than anyone told us.  Was that on purpose?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Marriott Horseshoe Bay Resort

This weekend my family visited the Marriott Horseshoe Bay Resort.  I was speaking at a business event and we decided this was a good opportunity for the family to get away for the weekend.  Horseshoe Bay is a short one-hour drive from Austin, and the Bluebonnets (Texas State Flower) are in bloom along the highways.

The event I spoke at was GREAT (I met lots of cool people)... and the hotel was AMAZING (perfect for business and families!).

Sara and the kid's explored the resort while I was working, and then Sara joined me for a hands-on cooking class that was hosted for the participants at the meeting.  It was fun to work with the hotel's chef's to learn and cook with about 15 other folks.  The Marriott staff was wonderful and the food was unique and tasted better because we helped prepare the meal!  The mustard, brie and apple quesadillas are something we will make at home very soon!

The rest of the weekend was spent at the pool, the beach, on the put-put course, a boat cruise, kicking the soccer ball, playing ping-pong, reading, and relaxing.  There was much more to do, and next time we are at this hotel we plan on playing tennis and renting paddleboards.

While my career as a professional speaker brings me to many hotels, the Marriott Horseshoe Bay was a perfect place to bring the family.  We could have happily stayed the whole week.  Two days was not nearly enough.

This is a great destination for any company or association who is hosting an event in Texas.  Easy to get to and you will be pleasantly surprised by all the amenities!!!!

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, March 23, 2012

Reconnect With An Old Friend

We have all had people in our professional and personal lives who were at one time important contacts.... but over time we have drifted apart.  It happens, there does not need to be a "falling out", but time goes by and we move in different directions.

(Granted, this happened more often before LinkedIn and Facebook showed up).

Think for a minute.  Who was an important person in your life five yeas ago with whom you have not had any contact with in over a year?  Think....   Think.... Think.....

There, someone came to mind.

Now, pick up the phone and call them.  Or send them an email.  Just say "Hello, I was thinking of you today" (you do not have to say "Some guy wrote something on his blog that triggered me to call you" - that might be creepy).

The call might not have any impact going forward.  But maybe it will reconnect you with a person who matters to you.

It is much easier to rekindle a relationship than to build a new one.

Let me know if you have success (or failure) with this little exercise.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Efficient Conference Experience

This article originally ran as a guest blog post on the Trade Show Network News (TSNN) Blog on March 18, 2012

David Allen’s 2001 bestselling book, “Getting Things Done” launched a time management movement around the world. His tips on living in stress-free productivity have engrossed millions of people to embrace his system (or dozens of others) and get focused on efficiency. Most of us are easily distracted by all the stuff in our lives and it is hard to be focused on the tasks we are working on in the moment.  
When we attend a conference, trade show, convention or other business gathering our lack of efficiency can become a double-sized problem. In addition to all the choices on the conference agenda, we are still bombarded by our daily life responsibilities, as we are in constant contact via our smart phones. 
Years ago, when we attended a meeting we were cut off from the outside pressures while at the event and were wrapped in the cocoon of the hotel ballroom or convention center. We were there to learn, network and discover the latest products or services in our industry. 
The days of a trade show allowing for a getaway from our daily lives are long gone. We now have to balance the constant e-mails, phone calls, texts, and other communications with the schedule of the event. Any meeting venue that has spotty wi-fi is a nightmare for the organizers and the attendees, as everyone now expects to have constant connectivity with their office, family, etc.
These added pressures keep some people from going to conferences in the first place, as it is just too much to juggle more stuff. Meanwhile, those who are present are constantly distracted. The distractions can harm the attendees overall experience at the event, and thus make them take pause when considering returning for future years. It also hampers the networking opportunities, as people make themselves unapproachable when they have their face buried in their phones.
But conference attendance should not make life more difficult.  With a little planning the conference experience can be more productive while staying connected with regular responsibilities.
Five tips for having an efficient conference experience:
1.  Let people know you are out of the office. Too many people try to pretend they are still at their desk when they are out of town.  They think they will be poorly judged if co-workers or clients think they are at a conference, but most understand that professionals attend industry events, thus there is not any negative stigma with being at a conference. Inform key people in advance of your plans and then put an “out of office” message on your voice mail and email auto-reply.  When you manage the expectations of others as to when you will get back to them you will not feel the pressure to instantly answer every buzz of your phone.
2.   Set aside time to review incoming correspondence. Two or three times a day you should check your messages and check in with the office. When you are constantly checking you are not mentally present at the conference. Yes, things do happen that will require your attention, but most of your incoming messages do not need instant attention. Skim your inbox and listen to voicemails a couple of times a day, but do not respond to everything. Knowing that you have a time for checking in will give you peace, and satisfy your worry that the world is crumbling without you being in the office.
3.   Be organized about what to attend. Conference agendas can be overwhelming.  Review the schedule of keynotes, breakout sessions, meals, happy hours, etc.  Some events have so many choices as to where you can spend your time that leaving it to a last minute decision can lead to going to any session instead of the best ones for you. Decide in advance which sessions are “must attend” and “nice to attend”. Thus, if something does come up that you have to attend to during the conference, you will already know the best time to schedule the time to get it done. 
4.   Pay attention to the education. When listening to a speaker or panel, pay attention to what is being said from the stage. Do not multi-task by surfing the internet, replying to emails, or checking Facebook. Take notes, Tweet interesting nuggets of information, and contemplate how the information can impact your career or company.  If the speaker is not interesting, walk out and attend another session. Do not waste your time, but when there is valuable information being shared, do not be tuned out.
5.   Meet other people. Not having your phone in your hand at all times means you can talk to other attendees. A main reason people say they attend business events is for the “networking opportunities”, and yet they often fail to take the steps necessary to begin conversations. Be serious about talking with others, as in addition to the basic connections, the discussions in the hallways at conventions can be some of the best learning opportunities. Ask people what they thought of specific speakers or about the best thing they have learned at the event. 
A conscious commitment to being involved at the conference will lead to a more successful experience.  But people will not make this leap on their own. Organizers must show people how to get it all done while at events, as leaving it to chance means people will stress out and fail to have an efficient conference experience.      

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

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

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Serendipity and the Meetings Industry

I recently saw the authors of Get Lucky: How to Put Planned Serendipity to Work for You and Your Business (a new book available April 17. 2012) speak at the SXSW Interactive conference.  They talked about how business rewards things that repeat, and there is too much focus on planning. The importance of plans, ROI, and pre-determined outcomes will eliminate the opportunities for serendipity, yet most people will tell you that the most pivotal points of their career were never planned. This creates a disconnect for success.

They defined serendipity as the intersection of chance, recognition and action.

Authors Thor Muller and Lane Becker were not there to talk about the meetings industry, but I kept thinking about how their concepts ring loud for those who curate events.  As a professional speaker I attend conferences, trade shows, conventions and other meetings almost every week. Too many gatherings look just like they did the year before (or look too much like every other event).  They change the keynote speakers and the breakout topics, but the rest of the agenda is often the same.  Repeat attendees are not often "wowed" by their experience from year to year.  Success guru Randy Gage has a great saying: "Variety Thrills, Sameness Kills", and this is true in the meetings industry!!!

To properly "thrill" we need serendipity.

Can meeting professionals plan for what is not plannable?  The Un-Conference movement gained some attention a few years ago, but  does not work for all meetings (an "un-conference" is a participant driven conference often without pre-set agenda or speakers).  It especially does not fit for events that involve high dollar sponsorship, as those who invest in underwriting an event want to know what they will be getting on the other side.  There is too much unknown in bringing large groups of business professionals together in a field without an agenda.  But does this mean there is no room for serendipity?

Conferences are a great place for a spark of chance, as they bring together a variety of people and in theory encourage people to meet each other.  But this opportunity for people to connect is often stomped out by the people not being sure how to have conversations. Chance without recognition and action is nothing.  People claim that "networking opportunities" is why they attend events, but once they arrive they sit with co-workers and hide their face in their phones.

Planners often separate the learning from the social and have very structured outcomes for the keynotes and breakout sessions, but have no plans for how to get people to make connections beyond serving drinks at happy hour.  But when I talk to attendees at events of all sizes they often site the "hallway conversations" and chance meetings in line at Starbucks as the most productive parts of their experience.

Can we plan for serendipity?  Muller and Becker would say "yes".  I have not read their book, but my own experiences lead me to believe we can plan for those chance meetings that lead to future success.  One of my biggest client relationships came from a chance meeting at a conference.  I did not realize his company planned multiple meetings, but I enjoyed our conversation and recognized that he understood my career as a speaker (not everyone instantly gets what I do for a living).  I took action and followed up, which lead him to introducing me to decision makers in his business, and then to my speaking at several events.

With 400 people at that event I may have never met this one person, but I did.  Was it luck? Maybe. The key to being lucky is putting yourself in the path of luck.  Meetings need to work harder to make sure that their audiences embrace the opportunity of making those powerful connections while present.  The new normal is for people to multi-task on their phones.  This is another roadblock for serendipity to occur.  Telling people to put their phones away does not work, as it creates animosity (and nobody does it).

Assuming people will take the necessary actions on their own will not lead to anything different than what has happened in the past.  Creating an atmosphere for people to engage and connect with others is paramount to the success.  Plan for the serendipity and  it will show up.  But make sure people can recognize it when it arrives!

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, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I have always loved St. Patrick's Day.  My mom was 100% Irish and her parents with both born in Ireland.  My middle name is Patrick. I am the youngest of 26 grandchildren in a family that loved any reason to celebrate (and drink a few beers together).  I sadly am not close to many of my cousins, but I do have fond memories of my childhood.

While my mom and most of her siblings are now gone, St. Patrick's day is an anchor that reminds me of this big extended family.  Little things like the Irish Soda Bread that my Aunts Catherine and Mary always made for special occasions come to mind (my mom was not quite the same level of baker as my aunts).  Fortunately my wife has perfectly captured the magic of Catherine's recipe.... so I am enjoying some Irish Soda Bread as I write this blog post!  I smile when I think of the good times.

In 2007 I was able to visit Ireland.  We found the city where my grandfather grew up and the church he was baptized.  I loved our time in Ireland, and would love to return for an extended stay.  I am always seeking opportunities to work with a client in Ireland, but have not yet found the right opportunity.  It is one place on earth I know I will return to again.

Regardless of your ancestry it is said that on this day everyone is Irish.  Enjoy the day.

***OH, I gave up alcohol for Lent, and thus I will not be enjoying that Guinness this year!!  Of course last year I went vegan for Lent, and thus could not have any Corned Beef.

Have A Great Day.

T. Patrick Singer

Friday, March 16, 2012

Attention Women Leaders in Austin

My friends at SOS Leadership are launching an exciting leadership program especially for women next month.

The SOS Leadership Gr8 Women Leaders Program is a forum of eight business leaders who form a mastermind group, focused on achieving goals while maintaining a “what matters most” focus.  This group gathers monthly for a facilitated,interactive workshop that includes a leadership development component,confidential group coaching, and sharing of best practices. Each leader also commits to monthly one-on-one coaching with an SOS Leadership Coach. It is a program designed for leaders who are committed to achieving their goals and taking their careers to a higher level! 

  • Get laser focused on your goals.
  • Hold yourself accountable and experience the accountability of a group of like-minded women and a coach who is fiercely committed to your success.
  • Get results!
  • You have two choices in 2012: Grow or Decline! Which will you choose?
John F. Kennedy once said, "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." This program focuses on learning, leading, and thriving! Please contact Amber Fogarty with SOS Leadership Institute at or call 512-992-2985 to learn more. 

Feel free to tell Amber that I sent you!!!

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I Am Speaking Next Week at the March Meeting of Young Women's Alliance

I will be speaking next week for the Young Women's Alliance in Austin, Texas -- Wednesday, March 21, 2012.

Topic: "Batteries Not Included: Tips to Energize Your Career"

Time:  6:30 PM - 8:00 PM

A successful career does not happen by accident.  Those who reach the top do so by following a plan of actions that includes building their personal brand and cultivating mutually beneficial relationships with others.  You have to take the necessary steps to create opportunities.  

The conversation will include topics from my 2009 book "Batteries Not Included":

*Have memorable conversations

*Help others find success

*Build networking relationships inside your company

*Take ownership of your career

*Get people talking about you

If you are a member of YWA... or a prospective member .... I hope to see you at the event.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

3 Reasons Why South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive is Still GREAT

Austin is home to the SXSW Festival.  What began as a music event over 25 years ago is now a series of concurrent festivals that include Music, Film and Interactive.  The "Interactive" portion (which includes technology, social media, gaming, marketing, developers, mobile applications, and much more) has grown into the largest part of this mammoth gathering.  In 2012 over 40,000 people will converge on Austin, with nearly 25,000 participating in SXSW Interactive.

I have been involved with SXSW Interactive for seven years  I have been an attendee, done book readings, lead break-out sessions and been on panels on a variety of topics.  I have also made many new business contacts and friendships over the years.  During this time the conference has seen amazing growth.  While the meetings industry has been facing declining numbers, SXSW has expanded and become a mega conference.  Since 2006 the attendance numbers have nearly tripled for Interactive, but with this growth has come changes to the culture.

The first time I attended there was clearly a since of community.  People were excited to discover who else was in attendance.  One never knew who might be sitting next to you as the internet superstars were just emerging, and blogging was still the freshest media.  There was no "social media" as we know it today, and the social aspects were all conducted in the human-to-human interaction that took place in the convention center hallways and the limited number of parties that were hosted at nearby venues.  There was no trace of that "high school clique" hierarchy at that time.

Today it is different.  There are so many events that there are less shared experiences.  People seem to be less approachable, and there is a whole class of the "cool kids" who now come together to see and be seen.

The keynotes no longer have the same draw to the whole crowd, which takes away from the feeling of community.  When everyone is present for a keynote there is a bond.  Now the keynotes almost seem optional.

Additionally everyone's attention is buried in their phones in the hallways, and there is clearly less serendipity in the conversations.  The online communities (Twitter got it's launch at the 2007 SXSW) are so overused and full of comments that within seconds of posting your post is pushed far down the screen. The number of companies that host parties has grown at a rocket's pace, but with so many choices and more VIP and invite only events there needs to be more planning of what to attend.  This takes away from the chance to stumble upon that unique event.

But life is all about changes.  While some complain about how SXSW is no longer the same, it is still an amazing experience.  Part of the reason is that downtown Austin itself comes alive during the festival.  While rain hurt the first two days of this year's event, once the clouds parted the community spilled onto the streets and you could feel the vibe.

Here are three reasons why South by Southwest Interactive is still great:

1.  The excitement is in the air.  First-timers and returning South-by regulars are happy to be in Austin in March.  Rain or shine, people are enthusiastic to participate.

2.  The parties.  Let's face it, SXSW is famous for the official and unofficial events that take place at venues all over town.  While some events try to limit the external events, this event was built it's success on the piggy-backing of all sorts of things to do beyond the agenda.

3.  The people.  One never knows who they might meet at SXSW Interactive.  While the event is more populated by the "big brands", it is still about the individual person.  When I was able to get past those who were hiding on their phones, I did have a chance to connect with some of the most interesting people I met all year.

If you have never been to SXSW, I will look forward to seeing you at the festival in 2013.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Constantly On Phones At SXSW

Walking around SXSW it is amazing how many people are sitting alone looking at their phones.  Then there are the people walking while looking at their phones.  And worst of all are those standing or sitting with other, while ignoring the live conversations around them to look at their phones.

Few people ever seem to talk on phones.  Fewer still seem to talk to those in the same room.

At a party I witnessed a group of four people (all seemed to be friends) sitting at table.  No conversation or eye contact.  They were heavily focused on their screens.

I walked by the large picture window of an upscale bar.... several people sitting at tables, staring at phones.  This was a bar with well dressed attractive people who were ignoring each other to look at electronic devices.

I wonder if we could start a movement at SXSW for just the thirty minutes from 12:00 - 12:30 PM on Monday where people would stop looking at screens and speak to other humans?  

Doubtful that it would catch on, but I will be the one person not using an app or sending a tweet at lunchtime on Monday.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Saturday, March 10, 2012

5 Tips for Making Connections at SXSW

The South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Conference is here again!!!  The multi-day event has become the largest piece of the mammoth SXSW Festival that has been taking place every March in Austin for over two decades.  The event began as a music conference where unknown bands came to play and get discovered, but it now includes major bands (Bruce Springsteen is not looking to be discovered, but he is playing SXSW).  Additionally the film and interactive conferences have grown into their own events, with interactive attracting over 25,000 attendees this year.

A main reason people attend any conference is because of the other people.  Networking opportunities are always one of the factors that draw people to events.  But when a meeting becomes so large, it actually can be more difficult to make connections.  When you participate in a convention with 300 people it is much more intimate and you can easily make dozens of connections.  When there are 25,000 people in the audience you can find yourself alone in a sea of people.

Here are five tips to make better connections at SXSW or any huge conference:

1.  Have A Plan.  Knowing which panels you want to attend and the parties you will visit will make it easier to navigate the crowds.  Pick one or two choices for each time slot and map out the path to get from place to place.  Some events are located in other parts of the city, and may or may not be easy to get to with the rain and lines of people.

2.   Be social.   Do get burried in you Smart Phone.   Ask the people you meet, and those you sit next with in breakout sessions, about the panels they have attended and what other things they are planning to do later in the day.  While you have a plan, other people may have different ideas that could lead you to even better opportunities.

3.  Be Flexible.  Having a couple of options will allow you to make last minute decisions and be able to join those you have met.  Attending a panel or party with a new friend allows you to have conversations that can lead to better connections.

4.  Always join others for meals.  Keith Ferrazzi said it best in the title of his book "Never Eat Alone".  Invite people to join you for lunch, seek out others via Twitter or other social media to dine with, etc...  Breaking bread together is a great way to establish a friendship.

5.  Do Not Party Hop.  Many people try to go from party to party each night.  However, if you find a party with a good vibe and lots of people, just stay there.  You could waste a lot of time trying to find the next place to go only to discover a long line or a bad party on the other side.

Bonus.... if you have a good conversation, tell the other person you enjoyed talking with them and get their business card (or otherwise acquire their contact information).  Then be sure to follow up with them next week once you get home.  Meeting someone at a conference does not make them part of your network, you need to establish an ongoing conversation to really have any meaning in the connection.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Saying Yes To Entrepreneurship

It can be frightening.  There are many unknowns.  Pressure to succeed can be overwhelming.  Family and friends may discourage you from trying.  Yet, you still want to start and grow your own business.

If you have a yearning to be an entrepreneur it will continually call to you from somewhere deep inside your very being.  Working for others will quietly gnaw at your soul.  Bosses and co-workers will disappoint you at every turn.  You will second guess the decisions of others.  Watching people start and grow companies will make you envious of their journey.

If you have this desire to be an entrepreneur then get ready to say "yes".  This could mean that you take a leap of faith to pursue your dreams full-time, or maybe you start a side business that allows you to test your abilities for starting your own venture.  If you really are called to being an entrepreneur you will never be satisfied until you go for it.

This does not mean that success is guaranteed.  Some will fail and have to try again and again.  There will be those who pack it up and go back to working for another company.  Others may succeed and not enjoy the responsibilities that go with being the boss.  But maybe you will find exactly what you have been seeking your entire career.  As Wayne Gretzky said "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take".

A great way to get yourself comfortable with becoming an entrepreneur is to surround yourself with other business owners.  Spend time getting to know them professionally and socially while observing how they go about running their companies.  There is no one right answer, but if you are not knowledgeable about what it takes to have a business, then you will be blindsided by too many unknowns.

Those with a real entrepreneurial spirit seem to be drawn together, so when you meet business owners be open to talking with them about your quest.  It really does not matter if people are creating large companies or if they are solo-preneurs, there are many similarities with entrepreneurs and the desire can be contagious.

Contemplating your leap to entrepreneurship will allow you to be prepared when the right opportunity crosses your path.  If you know you want it, then be ready to say "Yes".

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Looking For A Speaker or Trainer?

As a professional speaker I know how hard many meeting professionals (and others) work to find the right presentations for their audiences.  This is an important task as the speaker sets the tone for the whole conference, convention, trade show, luncheon, or other gathering.

A speaker or trainer is not a commodity purchase, and there are many factors that impact the decision making process.  I am often asked by clients for recommendations for other speakers who they can consider hiring for future programs, and I love to refer those who I know have a strong commitment to the profession, their message, and the audiences they serve.

While I always want decision makers to select me to be their speaker, that is simply not realistic.  But I do encounter speakers, trainers, Emcees, and others who make a lasting impression and cover a wide variety of topics. Sharing them with the world is something I enjoy.  I think speakers can be one of the most valuable resources in vetting other potential speakers (same is true for trainers).

I suggest that meeting planners always inquire from the speakers with whom they work for ideas on other speakers.  I find speakers know first hand what has a powerful impact on audiences, and the best ones have usually shared their stages with wonderful peers. On occasion you will find a speaker who will not share ideas, but most are thrilled to refer their friends and colleagues.

If you are looking for a speaker, call or email the speakers you have used in the past.  My guess is they will connect you with some great speakers who will "wow" your audience.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

South by Southwest (SXSW) - Welcome to Austin

It is that time of the year.  The hint of spring is in the air.  Must be time for SXSW.

SXSW began as a music conference, but has grown into an experience in music, film, business and more.

I have attended the SXSW Interactive conference (sort of business meets tech, meets advertising, meets social media, etc...) for the past seven years.  Over that time the event has changed a lot.  The time I was involved it was not that crazy, but last year the interactive portion alone had over 19,000 people (This year they expect more!).

I have both attended and presented at the event, and this year will be hosting a fun-oriented session called "SXSW Stories - Open Mic".  They asked me to MC this event where people can come and share their best experiences from the 2012 SXSW Interactive event.  My hope is that we can make it fun.  I plan to channel my best "Oprah" style as I get the people to open up.  The format is all about the audience, so if only a few show up we will have a coffee chat, if it is crowed we will have more short format sharing.  My hope is that it will be both informative and funny.

If you have ever thought about attending SXSW, there are few experiences that rival this event.  I highly recommend the investment of time and money.  But you need to book your hotel room a year in advance if you do not live in the area.  It is not for everyone, and with so many panels, speeches, parties, and other activities happening at once you cannot wing it.  Preparation is the key to success at South by Southwest.

If this is your first time in Austin, you will love the city.  The weather in Mid-March is usually picture perfect, and the city itself is part of the SXSW experience.

Get ready, there is no turning back.  SXSW starts this week!

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Health and Wellness in Central Texas - Leadership Austin Engage Breakfast

The March 6, 2012 Leadership Austin "Engage Breakfast" focused on Regional Healthcare: Does Austin deserve its "Fit City" moniker?

Austin is acclaimed for its fitness lifestyle and our youthful and fit population, natural resources and great climate all lend themselves to our designation as the “Fit City.” But how well does this description fit our population at large?

The discussion with the expert panel explored just how healthy Central Texans really are and what that means in the long term to our region.

The panel included:
  • Paul Carrozza - Founder and CEO, RunTex
  • Dr. Stephen Pont - Medical Director, Texas Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity, Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas
  • Ellen Richards - Director of Planning, Central Health
  • Leslie Sweet - Austin and Central Texas Public Affairs Director, H-E-B
As always, the Engage Breakfast engaged the audience with a variety of things to think about.  While we are a "Fit City" the region still faces statistics of over 60% of the people being over weight. This impacts many areas, including the long term healthcare costs.

The fastest growing segment of our population is those 45-64.  This means over then next 30 years the median age of Austin will rise, and this too has a major implications (as people tend to have more medical issues as they age).  Being fit helps people age better.

Companies are trying to address this issue as the insurance costs are getting out of hand.  But no changes can be made without igniting a passion for healthy living.  HEB has over 2000 employees participating in this year's Capitol 10,000.  It works well when companies can get their people to workout in groups, as it not only promotes health, but also builds bonds.

Paul Carroza mentioned that many people are turned off to the idea of exercise because of some poor experience with middle school PE class, but that movement is not about heavy workouts.  Instead consistency and commitment to physical activity can have an impact that continues beyond the exercise, and show itself in other healthy lifestyle choices.  Even one hour a week can help, as 52 workouts a year beats zero workouts.

Companies can guide their employees, but it is harder to impact the population as a whole. Everyone wants the best for their life and for the lives of their kids.  Education plays a big part as when we educate kids and keep them in school they are more likely to make better choices for their health in the long term.

Catch the next Engage Breakfast on April 3rd.  If you live in Austin and are not familiar with Leadership Austin.... it is one of the best organizations in town for information, education, networking and community impact.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, March 02, 2012

Should You Send A Handwritten Or Email Thank You Note After An Interview?

Jessica Liebman wrote this post about emails vs. handwritten notes as a follow up from a job interview on the Business Insider Blog.  I fully disagree with her hypothosis that email thank you notes are better than handwritten notes.  My comments follow each of her points:

ANSWERED: Should You Send A Handwritten Or Email Thank You Note After An Interview?

By Jessica Liebman

I'm the Managing Editor of Business Insider, in charge of all our editorial hiring.
I wrote a post last week about the number one mistake people I interview are making these days: They don't send thank you notes. 
If I don't get a thank you note, I assume the person doesn't want the job, is disorganized, and I'll likely forget about them.
The thank you should say a few things:
  • Thank you for meeting (or talking) with me.
  • I really want this job.
  • Quick plug about why I'm perfect for it.
Since my post went up, I've gotten scores of emails asking the same question: Should I send a handwritten or electronic thank you note?
While it varies depending on the industry, I'd strongly suggest going with the email. Here's why:
Dangers of the handwritten thank you:
(Danger? The word itself is leading. There is no "danger")
  • There's a delay. I'm a firm believer in following up with a thank you note less than 24 hours after the interview, while you're still fresh in the interviewer's mind. (This may be true, but if you get it in the mail the day of the interview, and you are in the same city, most people will get it the next day. Thus the person gets it within 24 hours (or 48). Thus, if you are on top of things and not lazy, this point vanishes, so making it an excuse is more on the person who procrastinates than it is on the note itself.)
  • The letter might never get to your interviewer. It could get lost in the mail, the secretary could throw it out, it could end up in a pile of envelopes that don't get opened for months. ( While maybe true... I send lot of handwritten notes and have almost NEVER had this happen. I get 200+ emails a day and almost zero handwritten notes ... thus the you might have this backwards.)
  • It feels old. It's 2012. Sending a handwritten note just feels ancient to me. Especially if you're up for a job in the Internet industry. Be current. (This argument goes back to the beginning of email. I have heard of people getting the job BECAUSE of the handwritten note, never because of an email. Plus, text is more current, so are you saying to skip email? Think about it. Just because something is new does not mean it is right.)
  • The chances of the interviewer writing back to you are less. The letter feels more final. (So the purpose of the note is to get a person to write you back?)
Why the email thank you works:
(Again... a leading headline).
  • You can send it the day of your interview to show just how eager you are. (True. But if it comes too quick it can be creepy. And by text you could send it while sitting in their office during the interview, how eager is good?)
  • You know it will at least find its way into the interviewer's inbox. Whether they read it or not is a different story. ( Email has more filters, so I fully disagree. I have had more emails never be read than handwritten notes.)
  • If the interviewer ever searches for your name in their email, the note will pop up and remind them that you followed up and really want the job. (True. But if your note was so dumb that they don't remember it then you missed the mark. The handwritten note is so unique they wont forget you in the first place.)
  • You can easily tailor it to the vibe of the interview. It can be as casual or as formal as you decide. Handwritten notes always feel too formal to me. (Maybe... but I have the opposite gut feeling .... because email feels to casual to me for something as important as a job you really want. People can easily send an email. The handwritten note takes effort. As a person doing the hiring would you rather hire the skater or the worker?)
  • The interviewer might write back to you. The email will be open on their computer, and there's a bigger chance they'll respond, or ask you a follow-up question, or continue the conversation. (This argument appears twice in your article.... and thus I must have missed the point. I thought the note was about the person who gets the note, not the one who sends it. Maybe I am not getting the vibe of your post, cuz this part sounds selfish. Of course you did type this, so I should be able to fully grasp your vibe without a misunderstanding... because clearly typed is better than handwritten?)

***** Most CEO's tell me the handwritten note matters when they interview people. While an email is fine, they prefer the note as it shows effort (yes, even tech executives have told me this). They also say they get so few notes that it stands out. And yes, I ask this question of CEO's often because I am a corporate trainer and consultant who teaches the power of business relationships.  I am a strong believer in the power of a handwritten note and have rarely seen a reason that makes email better (yes, sometimes email is better, but not most of the time).  

People make this argument of email over notes often, but I often think it is easier to send email, and that is their motivation.  Lazy is not the way to get a job. I think the email route is "Dangerous".

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Your RSVP Is Your Word

It is amazing how many people RSVP that they are attending and then fail to show up.  While there is always a variety of "things" that can come up, and certain work or personal "emergencies" will happen from time to time, this has become a prevalent issue.

This is true at business events and in social commitments.  I talked to a friend who said many of her and her husband's friends are flakes.  They agree to do things and then bail at the last minute for all kinds of reasons that they expect are understood by those they stand up.  Happy hour, dinners, parties, attending concerts, etc... can all be skipped on a whim.

The check-in table at business functions can have as many as 1/3 of the attendance list who never show up and claim their tag. This not only creates havoc for the meeting planner, but it also means extra food that is ordered, paid for, and thrown away.

It is not only happening at free and hosted events, but this is very common after high registration fees are paid in advance for luncheons, seminars, trade shows, conventions, etc...  There are usually no refunds issued, and the business professionals still put the expense reports through to their company as if they attended.  I think most CFO's would have a screaming fit if they knew how often they are paying registration fees for employees who never set foot inside.

When you tell others you will be at an event you are making a commitment.  While it might seem harsh, if you RSVP that you will attend and then do not show up (or contact the host to let them know your plans have changed) you are a lair.  Yep.  Your RSVP is your word and others take action based on the actions you told them you would take.

Most people will have an excuse, or rationalize that any certain event was not that important, but if you went far enough that it caused a person to print a nametag, then you made a commitment.  Do not RSVP for events you do not plan to attend, and do not put things on your calendar that can easily be ignored because you got busy.

I assume that if you agree that an RSVP is "giving your word" then you will not have problem with the tone of this post.  If you are one who regularly ignores your RSVP's based on any number of situations you may not agree with me. For goodness sake, yes, there are occasional exceptions.... but if you cancel on people, change plans at the last minute, or skip out on things more than once a month then this post is for you!

When meeting with your biggest client is the item on your calendar you will find a way to show up.  If people know when they see your nametag on a table that you "always RSVP's and never actually come" then you have a reputation problem.  Sorry, it happens.. but at business events people scan the nametag table on the way out the door to see who is a no-show.  In social situations people's feelings get hurt when you do not keep the appointment (it can hurt friendships if you do it more than once).

I would love to hear your thoughts on this....

Have A Great Day

thom singer