Friday, August 31, 2012

Cool Things My Friends Do: Josh DeFord - The Global Human Progress Foundation

Each Friday on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their work and personal lives.  

My friend Josh DeFord cares. In 2009 he helped found the Global Human Progress Foundation with his friend Anaclet Barega. Anaclet had grown up in DR Congo and moved his family to Austin, Texas in 2006 where he met Josh.

After working together for a couple of years Anaclet and Joshua developed a lasting friendship. Joshua began learning about the immense suffering Anaclet's friends and neighbors were forced to endure in Africa. Anaclet suggested to Joshua that they start an organization to build schools and help address areas of suffering in DR Congo.

This was the birth of the Global Human Progress Foundation, a 501 (C) 3.

In the spring of 2012 Josh and Anaclet took a trip to Africa to visit the two schools in DR Congo they have helped support.  The story of their adventure through the war torn region is like a movie.  To hear Josh recount the two weeks in Africa is an amazing story in human suffering and endurance.  His photos, videos and first hand accounts of the lives of the people in this part of the world is unlike anything most Americans will ever encounter.

Anaclet did not return to Austin.  He became ill and died while in his native land, leaving behind a wife and three children in Austin.

Josh is heart broken over the loss of his friend, but he is not letting this tragedy sideline his desire to help those in need.  He is looking to share his story and raise money to fund the two schools the foundation already supports, and to possibly start a third school.

If your organization in Austin, Texas is looking for a speaker.... Contact Josh at joshua (at)  His recounting of the trip to Africa will leave your audience in awe of the conditions of those living in this part of the world.  If you are seeking a way to make an impact... Contact Josh at joshua (at)  The organization is small, but it has a direct impact on the lives of kids who when not in school are forced into the mineral mines.   

To help Anaclet's family in Austin, you can find more information on this Facebook Page:

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Enroll In Speakers College Every Four Years

About the time I decided to pursue speaking as a career I discovered... (or was it invented?)... "Speakers College" (which is different from "Speakers University" which I created later).

Speakers College happens every four years in the late summer.  I first recognized this valuable institution in 1996 and have attended religiously each time it comes around.  Anyone who wants to improve their public speaking skills can enroll as a student.

What is Speakers College?   It is the combination of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.  Each run for three or four days, along with some key addresses in they days immediately before and after the events.

The broadcast networks cover the main prime-time speeches by they party leaders and other celebrities, while other less famous presenters can be found on cable TV or online.

In order to benefit from the advantages of Speakers College one must leave their political feelings outside.  If you get irritated or mad at the policy positions taken by the speakers you will miss the chance to review the elements of style and delivery.  Students at Speakers College are there to learn, not scream at the TV because of opposing opinions.

Not all of our national leaders are actually that good at giving speeches.  One would think that to reach the highest levels of government that you would gain some oratory capabilities... but the reality is the great ones are few and far between.

In my life time there have been only a few who could really give a fantastic speech (these come from all both of the isle).  But we do not only learn from the good examples.  The times when speakers fall flat, or come off wooden are also learning opportunities.

Politicians do not usually write their own speeches.  They have paid speech writers who craft the words.  Listen closely as you will find some wonderful examples of imagery.  While the credit goes to the candidate, the best lines are often wordsmithed by their staff.

Watch their poise, vocal variety, level of comfort, body language, eye contact, hand gestures, tone, and comfort level as a speaker.  How they behave may or many not directly relate to how you will speak.... but you can learn if you watch.

There are no formal classes at Speakers College.  No dormitories or meal plans.  No quizzes or final exams. There is no football team (But it is like one big fraternity party if you watch closely).  Yet if you enroll you can learn a lot from the teachers from both parties.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, August 27, 2012

BE SOCIAL - Talk To People

We are obsessed with "social"... but people are being less social in their in-person actions.  You can hardly attend an association or business conference that does not have a track of breakout sessions focused on "Social"... but then you go into the hallways and the attendees are ignoring those around them.

Everyone is buried on their phones trying to keep up on what is going on someplace far away.  They stand around and avoid eye contact with those around them.  We are hungry to connect, but we are not taking actions to engage with other people.

This SXSW Film Festival promo clip makes me laugh (see below or at this link:  

The couple meet in line while waiting for film.  The are not on their phones, they actually talk.  They hit it off.  Their lives flash forward to marriage, kids, etc...  But the guy is in the wrong line.  

Even if you are in the wrong place, strike up a conversation.  You never know what it could lead to.  All opportunities come from people.  

If you are at a conference and you are spending your breaks with co-workers or surfing the web on your phone... you have flushed opportunity down the toilet.  If you are waiting in line, turn to someone and say "hello".

I have heard that at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival they are going to sponsor "Line Meet Ups"... a semi-organized effort to get people waiting for a film to network and have fun with each other.  Going beyond a line of hundreds who are reading Facebook and Twitter posts, a "Line Meet Up" could be a spontaneous party on a side walk.  Think about the possibilities. 

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Best Speakers Tell Stories

I have said it before... and I will say it again:
"Just because someone is smart or has done something cool -- it does not mean they belong on stage"
The argument over content vs style in conference speakers is silly.... as it is not too much to expect BOTH from those who present.

Yes, information and learning are key factors to a good presentation, but alone they are not much worth remembering.  While in advance of the event people claim that content is king, when they are sitting in a long presentation they desire some speaking style embedded inside the person talking.

Often we sit through presentations that are simply data dumps.  I recently experienced this and I watched as the speaker proved his credibility and sited study after study.  There was nothing in his presentation that was about the audience.  It was just statistics and quotes coupled with charts and graphs.  While the speaker had a naturally pleasing personality that came through in his talk, he had not invested any effort into polishing his style to connect with the crowd.  He referred to his own book so many times that most in the audience wanted to scream "YES, we know you wrote the book".

I do not think anyone in the audience was challenged to think or ponder.  It was just information.  There was no call to action, but worst of all there were no stories about how his theories work in the real world.  A whole presentation without an single anecdote.  He made it clear he was the smartest person in the room, and if that was his goal then he gets an "A+".

People learn through stories.  If we look back to ancient times the tribal leaders did not show pie charts and excel spreadsheets. They told stories.  We are wired to remember stories.  I once read about a study referenced in Discover Magazine (July 2010) that said that the brains of story tellers and those listening actually sync up.   Without stories a speaker is not necessarily on the same page with those listening.

If a speaker is a "Talking White Paper" then we miss out on the ability to have a meaningful experience.  Data without a story is orphaned from the stage.  The speaker is cutting it off from being effective.  If we only are there to receive data the speech is better served as a PDF that is emailed to the audience.

Most people understand my reference to the "Talking White Paper" because that is who takes the stage at countless events.  We do not love these talks, but we get caught up in the "smartness" and fail to complain.  Thus we get the same thing time after time.

"Talking White Papers" are often forgotten before the attendee's heads hit their pillows.  Those who can create an emotional link through the use of story are remembered into the future.  It is not just about the speaking style (YES, YES, YES - we want content).... but it certainly makes a difference in how we experience the conference attendee 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.

Cool Things My Friends Do -- Dave Lutz and Jeff Hurt Are Always Serving Those In The Events Industry

Each Friday on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their work and personal lives.  

Today's post is not so much about a single cool thing, but instead a "thank you" to a couple of guys who have been very cool (and helpful) to me and others.  In a world where too many are focused on self... it is wonderful to see people who are real givers.

I met Dave Lutz 18 months ago at a conference where I was the keynote speaker.  About the same time I got to know Jeff Hurt via Twitter and other social media communities.  Both of them have become friends and mentors.

They, along with the very cool Donna Kastner, make up the team at Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, Inc.

Velvet Chainsaw Consulting exclusively services companies and associations with their annual meetings, conferences, education and events. They also help technology, service and membership organizations establish and execute plans and processes that result in improved business results.  Their expertise includes – education program design, social media strategy, virtual or hybrid meeting strategy, competitive assessment and change initiatives. Basically, they help make your major meetings bigger and better.

I am highlighting them in my weekly "Cool Things My Friends Do" blog post because they are doing cool things for their clients (they have unique ideas about how to re-invent annual meetings and other events).... but beyond that they always go out of their way to help others find success.

They have helped me several times in formulating ideas for my business, and have introduced me to key people in the meetings business.  At first I was honored that they took a liking to me.... but then I realized it was NOT about me.  Nearly everyone in the meetings and events world tells similar stories about how Jeff and Dave are willing to to help, share ideas, and brainstorm paths to success.

By the way.....Their blog (mostly written by Jeff), Midcourse Corrections, is a must read for everyone who works in and around business and association events.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hey Critics - Read This (By Teddy Roosevelt)

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."  
-Theodore Roosevelt

"Citizenship in a Republic,"
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Creating a Unique Keynote Experience

"We would like to work with you, but we want to try something new.  For our event we would like to change out the standard opening keynote.  Are you willing to shake things up with your material?"


I received this call from an association about speaking at an event.  I was thrilled.  I write a lot about the need for taking risks with events, thus I must be willing to go out on a limb myself.

My Conference Catalyst program is already a bit different from your average opening keynote, but this client wants me to push it even farther.  Think theater in the round and finger-painting meet Oprah.  To experiment with something at this level needs buy in from the speaker and the client.... and I am confident that this presentation will have a lasting impact on the audience and my business.

Their purpose is well thought out.  They are not looking to be different for the sake of being different.  They want to get people engaged, make them think, and take action.  They understand that humans have different learning styles and the traditional lecture is not always the best situation to make lasting impact.  The element of  surprise for this audience with a conference attendee experience that is unique will have real meaning.  This will not be the same-old / same-old talk expected from a speaker at an event.

There are five months to prepare this unique program, and I can test the elements that will make this a "WOW" event.  Working with clients who want to push the envelope is exciting.  Creating this unique keynote will set the tone for the whole event.  Can you tell I am pumped up??  ;-)

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ice-Breaker Games and Free Shrimp Do NOT Create Community

When I wrote about "How an Icebreaker Can Kill Your Business Meeting" I discussed that many business professionals do not want to play silly games.  They are not really excited to get their card signed by every vendor, nor do they want to share their secret fear of "noodling".

The response was interesting, as it put some people on the defensive for icebreakers.  Getting people to step out of their comfort zone and talk to others is paramount to success at conferences, trade shows, conventions and seminars - but too often organizers insert icebreaker activity without any context to their purpose.  If an ice-breaker sits as a random stand-alone I argue that it is not usually effective.

(*Note: I did not say all "Icebreakers" are bad... just that many are silly and can turn-off then engagement with some people in attendance).

The same problem exists with networking happy hours.  People say they want to network... but free booze and peel-and-eat shrimp alone are not enough to get conference attendees to engage in conversations without the context of the purpose of bringing people together to have meaningful interactions.

I often have conversations with meeting professionals and association executives about how to create a networking culture at an event.  Too many attendees spend all their time at breaks on their phones and they always are clustered with their co-workers and their friends.  However, when people do break free and engage they always report that their "hallway conversations" were the most powerful moments of their attendee experience.

But without a plan for a networking culture, and until you have earned the "buy-in" from the participants, they will not change the standard conference behavior.  Telling people to "put their phones away" only gets resentment and most wont do it anyway.  Treating ice-breakers and social events as a stand alone Check-The-Box activity will get mixed results.  If we want more me must make it happen.

To create a culture you need to engage everyone involved in your event.  The speakers on your program should be educated about your desires to get people talking, and how they structure their interactive programs and their own engagement at your event will have a huge impact.  Ask your speakers if they intend to stay at your conference following their presentation.  You want them to be involved, as attendees like to mix with the speakers.  (Legitimate celebrities, such as Bill Clinton, cannot and will not stay for your event, but others should be asked to be involved for at least the whole day they speak).  Those who "speak and run" may or may not help your cause.

Design alternative learning areas where people can gather and have conversations.  Make these areas inviting, and then spend some time educating your audience about what it is all about and how it will make their conference experience better.  Too often an organization will create a "Learning Lounge" or other unique alternative conference program and then nobody shows up because they failed to promote it in a way that is understood.  Putting a blurb in the program is NOT enough.  Feature the explanation of your special program in your opening session, and not just a mention in the welcome.  Too often these areas are under attended because the organization does not want to really highlight them.  If people do not "get it" they wont come check it out.

(I attended a conference where the organizers said they did not have time in the schedule to promote their alternative learning program, then invested 30 minutes to promote the next year's conference.  Yikes.  Few people went to their unique area, and most people thought the commercial was excessive.  Disconnect!).

What is your catalyst?   Organizers talk about changing the culture at their events, but wanting to create something unique will not make it happen by magic.  There must be an outside element that gets people excited to take ownership of the new direction.  Stir the pot or the contents will get stuck to the bottom!

Think deeper and get lots of people to input ideas all year long.  Be willing to try something new if you really want change.  Champion those who have fresh ideas and make a rule that "just because we did it before does not mean it is always right".

What do you think?

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

Have A Great Day

thom singer

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, August 19, 2012

What Others Think

After a presentation I had a person come to me and share that she enjoyed my talk.  She had preconceived me and my message one way, but after being in the audience for my most recent speech, she now had a new opinion.

It got me thinking about how quickly people judge others.  Sometimes we do it with limited information, other times with no information.  But this happens all the time.  How many folks are out there that carry skewed opinions of  our abilities and purpose.

Regardless of if you have thought about it or not, you have a reputation in your community. This can be hard for some folks to accept, as it is often beyond their control.  It can also be wrong.  Things like your job title, degree (or lack of degree), friends, age, etc... give people a superficial impression and they fill in the blanks with their own imagination.

Over time, your actions speak louder than your words.  Even if people are jumping to the wrong conclusions, your consistency will show the truth more than anything else you can do to "re-brand yourself".  But this means you must be visible.  Out of sight is out of mind, and people carry over their past ideas about who you are (regardless of accuracy).

When they are not in contact with you they file away their impressions and they do not modify these views as you grow and expand.  

People do change.  We learn from experiences.  We modify, grow and expand our abilities.  But perceptions of us are often set in stone.  If you have made mistakes or have done things wrong... yes, an active renovation is a good idea.  However, if your reputation concerns are based on others jumping to conclusions.... then I am not sure anything can be done.  You cannot go door to door and get into the heads of everyone you have ever encountered.

I have learned not to take it personally.  Only I can know my thoughts, feelings and intentions.... so when others make biting assumptions in these areas I realize it is about them, not me.  I can only try to make the right choices in my words and actions (oh, and yes,.... I can screw that up, too!).  My hope is that over time I can build understanding through my actions.

I am working to look deeper when I meet someone new (and give a fresh chance to those I already know).  Since I am not clairvoyant I push out any thoughts around my impressions of another's thoughts or feelings.

We cannot change others... but we can lead by example.  Three actions you can take:

1.  Do not make grand assumptions based on limited exposure.  

2.  Be slow to anger and quick to forgive.  

3.  Ask question about the whole person.  

The more we understanding the realities behind our impressions of others, the faster we can accept the mis-understandings that we find others to have when looking our way.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, August 17, 2012

Cool Things My Friends Do - Pam Sherman, The Suburban Outlaw, Speaks at TEDx FlourCity

Each Friday on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their work and personal lives.   

I started this weekly post, "Cool Things My Friends Do", in March 2012 when I saw the video of a friend's TEDx Talk (Ed Cavazos).  It got me thinking about how we need to publicly celebrate the cool actions of those we care about.  Too often blogs get self-centered, and I wanted to do more than just show my own stuff.  I found that it is always easy to run across a person in my life who is up to amazing things.

This week I am highlighting another TEDx Talk.  My friend Pam Sherman gave a presentation at TEDxFlourCity (Rochester, NY). Pam is known as The Suburban Outlaw, and is an author, speaker, consultant and magazine columnist.  

Pam's TEDx talk chronicles her journey through the Arab Spring.

Congratulations to Pam.  TEDx is a wonderful program that highlights interesting and thought provoking speakers in a variety of ways.  It is great  to see some of my friends sharing their stories with the world!

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

8 Things To Do After The Conference

Attending a multi-day association conference (or other event) can be inspirational and chalked-full of education.  There is a lot of industry information.  Some of the best networking around.  Tons of good food.  Beneficial investment of time and fun, fun, fun!!!

It can also be exhausting.  The long days followed by the happy-hours and other parties can leave anyone feeling the pain once they get home.

Plus, after being out of the office all week can leave you with a full email inbox and a to-do list a mile long.

Yet, to maximize the ROI from attending the event, there are a few things you should do as soon as you get home.  Yes, I know  - your family and co-workers have immediate expectations of your attention.  However, if you put off your post-event wrap up, you may never gain all the benefits that were possible from attending the event in the first place.

Post Event Wrap Up - 8 Things To Do After The Conference

1.  Un-pack your suitcase.  Leaving your clothes, toilteries and other convention materials sitting on the floor for several days will only add stress ("Ahhh, I still have to unpack").  Unpacking gives you a chance to process some of your thoughts about the experience and create some closure.

2.  Sort through your business cards (or electronic contact information).  Some of the people you met at the event could become amazing long-term contacts, but not all those you encountered are equal.  Assess the purpose of keeping in touch with each person and review the level of conversation you had while at the event.  Some people may not require a follow-up, while others could become part of an amazing friendship.  If you do not sort through the pile of contacts you most likely not reach out to anyone at all.  This would be opportunity lost.

3.  Follow up with three people.  Yes, I know, you met so dozens of interesting people.. but start with three.  Who had the biggest impact on your conference experience?  Write a note, send an email, or call them and tell them you enjoyed your conversation (s).  I do not care how busy you are, or your level of self-importance.... you CAN follow up with three people.  (NOTE: a handwritten note still stands out from the crowd in our social media crazy world).

4.  Follow up with more people.  Three is a good start, but go a bit further.  If you skip this step, at least you contacted a three of your key contacts.  Ten would be best, but I don't want to freak you out.  ;-)

5.  Review your notes.  Meetings industry guru Jeff Hurt reminds us that our minds are not recording devices.  Sitting in a lecture and listening is not the best way to establish a memory of the information.  Without review you will forget most of what you heard.

6.  Share what your learned.  Transcribe your notes (this will help you retain the information, too), and share them with your co-workers or other peers who were not at the meeting.   When you share your notes it will reminds those in your office that you were at the conference for business purposes, not just to hang out in a nice hotel and go to parties.  Plus some small tid-bit you wrote down may be the big inspiration someone else needed to read.

7.  Reach out to the organizers and sponsors.  Putting on a conference is hard work, but few attendees really think about the amount of effort that goes into the execution of a multi-day event.  Take the time to contact the organization that hosted the gathering and those that sponsored the key portions of the agenda, and thank them creating a positive experience.

8.  Plan for next year.  If the event was worth our investment of time and money, be sure to get next year's dates into your calendar.

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, August 14, 2012

Speak More! by the National Speakers Association

I am honored that I was selected as one of the contributing authors for the National Speakers Association new flagship book Speak More! Marketing Strategies to Get More Speaking Business, which details the strategies, tactics and wisdom necessary for professional speaking success. The book is available to 3,000 members across the country on the NSA website, as well as through Amazon and other online bookstores.

"Speakers must adapt to the ever-changing marketplace," said Stacy Tetschner, Chief Executive Officer of the National Speakers Association (NSA). "Luckily, Speak More! gives speakers a detailed blueprint to boost business with a multi-faceted approach to the industry."

In Speak More!, 33 accomplished professional speakers share cutting-edge—but commonsense—approaches to help readers tap into multiple income streams. So what's stopping entrepreneurs from applying these principles to their business? Nothing. Whether you want to build a prominent online brand or create a publishing presence, Speak More! gives you actionable, effective tools to thrive. Sample chapters include "How Author and Book Platforms Lead to Rock-Star Branding"; "You're Hired! Using Sales and Marketing to Book More Speaking Gigs"; and "Go Global with Your Message."

"Speak More! embodies the very essence of what NSA is all about: incredibly accomplished and successful people telling you how they’ve succeeded, spilling the beans on their ‘secrets,’ giving away the very ideas and strategies that they use to create a competitive edge," said author Joe Calloway, CSP, CPAE. "If this book doesn’t help your career, then you didn’t read it."

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, August 10, 2012

Cool Things My Friends Do -- Vegan 1 Day Project 2012

Each Friday on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their work and personal lives.  

John Merryfield lives in Lake Tahoe, Ca. and Los Barriles, Baja, Mexico with his wife Carol and works as a painting contractor.  He is the founder of Vegan 1 Day - An international challenge for everyone to adopt a vegan diet for at least one day of the the year (August 31). He is an avid surfer, kite surfer, stand up paddler, paraglider pilot and a published haiku poet.  (Author's note... I also have known John since our days in Ms. O'Brien's kindergarten class.  No, he was not vegan nor did he write haiku at that point in time!)

August 31, 2012 is the "Vegan 1 Day Project".  This is an international movement to promote the benefits of a plant based diet.

Our food choices play a significant role, helping to solve some of our societies most urgent problems, like marine ecosystem collapse, climate change, poor human health and global violence. 

Eating animal foods is the elephant in our living room that we all pretend not to see when discussing how we can change the world for the better. 

On August 31st, 2012, a group of extreme SUP paddlers will circumnavigate 72 miles of Lake Tahoe in one day—paddling all day and all night—to promote the Vegan 1 Day Project. They hope to garner international attention from this challenge to encourage everyone to adopt a vegan diet for at least one day out of the year. 

Will you join us by pledging to eat vegan for just one day, 31 August 2012?  Can you help spread the word in your community?

I am already planning to eat at Casa de Luz, Beets Cafe, and The Vegan Yacht (My three favorite vegan restaurants in Austin, Texas) on August 31st.  Who is going to join me?

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Introverts Are Better At Networking

Introverts are better networkers when they engage with purpose at conferences.  For those who attend industry events or association meetings..... remember... introverts rule at networking... but they allow the extroverts to think they are better at the social side of events.

I am an extrovert, but I know that if the introverts took back control of the art of building long-term and mutually beneficial relationships.... they would own it in the blink of an eye.

Long ago someone decided that networking was a game for extroverts.  They saw the fun that the outgoing folks have at conferences, trade shows, conferences and seminars and decided that it was not a place for introverts to shine.  Thus many introverts shy away from the best parts of attending industry gatherings.

The reason introverts are better at this is because networking is NOT about talking about yourself.  To really network you must listen to others... and really hear what they are saying.  Then you must take the necessary actions needed to be of assistance to them.  To establish real connections you must give first of yourself.

Extroverts are not bad people (although I find some introverts do think this about their more talkative peers).  However, talking is not a way to learn about others.  To really help someone, you must know what they need.  If you are talking... you can't get there.

Some outgoing folks struggle with letting go of talking.  I know I have a problem not letting my natural side run wild.  But when I can really hear the other person and let their message sink in without worrying about when it is my turn to talk.... I become a valuable resource.

Introverts not only hear what you say, they will remember what you said later when they are in a place to help you.  Introverts are often the ones with the best "Follow Through DNA"

So if you are an extrovert... and want more success with your networking efforts you need to learn from the introverts.  Observe.  Ask questions.  Listen.  Repeat.

Extroverts discover that it can be hard work to network like an introvert.  It is easier just to talk.  Ahhh, but the true introverts understand that successful networking is hard work (The center of the word "networking" contains the word "work").... but just because it is difficult does not mean it is not valuable.  If you are an extrovert and find it hard to hold back... imagine the reverse... and this is what the introverts deal with all the time.

Go out and channel your best introvert and you will have more success at making connections your next conference, trade show, convention, seminar, etc....

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Changing The Conference Experience - It Is Not A Zero-Sum Game

Many associations, companies and other groups are talking about ways to re-invent their conferences.  Professional planners are seeking ideas.  Industry organizations are leading the way by introducing new formats into their programs.  Attendees claim to desire unique experiences, and not just the same cookie-cutter events.  There is a buzz in the air for change.

Those of us in the meetings industry are reading countless expert articles on re-invention, but when push comes to shove, many conferences and their audiences are striving to remain the same.

An association planner I talked with said that they loved my "Conference Catalyst" program.  In the early negotiations they said it was "different", and that made it ideal for their goals for this year's event.  They were looking for a fun way to engage their audience in a non-traditional manner, and having speakers from outside their industry was exactly what they were seeking.

In the end they went with a speaker (one who is well known in their space and will do a great job at their event!) who is a more traditional choice for their conference.  When I asked them what influenced the decision they said their board of directors wants to try new things, but believed they should wait another year or two before introducing anything out of the ordinary.  They wanted to be "safe" this year, as the recession was still impacting their numbers.

At another conference I was hosting the "Learning Lounge" (an area with several alternative learning environments).  When an attendee came in the room she was confused by the causal setting and the variety of small expert-led conversation clusters to choose from.  She asked for more information about the format of the "Learning Lounge" and then announced she was more comfortable with a breakout where the speakers lectured rather than held an intimate discussion. She walked out.

So are we really ready for new programs and alternative options?  

Yes... I think we are ready.  And I think, NO... we are not ready.  

This is not an all or nothing change.  Some people are not comfortable with too much change, so they will move slowly (or not at all).  This is okay for now.  Others will go too far too fast and have negative reactions to their new formats.  This is okay too... as we have to try new things or nothing ever happens.

Some "mavericks" will succeed, others will fail.  Some who take no risks will succeed, others will fail if they remain the same.  The trick is that everyone should be learning.  All of us who work in the world of meetings need to observe and discover ways to share best practices.

The key is to find the balance.  Introduce new options into your conference, but be prepared that many people will not select the fresh choices.  Don't wait for next year to try things... but do not toss out the old ways all at once.

My two cents:   For my prospective client... they could have had both their traditional keynote and a non-traditional speaker from outside their industry (like me?) to do a "pre-keynote"... thus giving their audience both the old and the new.  For the woman who was more comfortable with a regular breakout session, maybe she could have come to the "Learning Lounge" for one hour over the three days to try out the alternative option.

Yes changes are coming, but it is not an zero-sum game.

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, August 08, 2012

10 Things to Remember About Networking

What resonates in your mind about networking?  These are the easy, but often over-looked, ideas and actions that can have an immediate impact on a person's personal and professional life.

The Things To Remember About Networking

1.  Networking is not a verb.  You don't "go network".  It is a lifestyle.

2.  Do not confuse networking with personal friendship.  While some people certainly do become your friends, you will be disappointed if you expect to reach a quick level of intimacy with the people you meet in professionals setting.

3.  Regardless of if you are an introvert or extrovert you can network and stay true to your own comfort zones.

4.  If you want conversations to go deeper than surface "chit-chat" you must have a purpose in how you ask questions (and listen).

5.  Online networking is not about the numbers.  You will get better results when you have a mutually beneficial relationship.

6.  Make the time, because it is an investment in your future.

7.  Treat everyone with interest and respect as you never know whom might become that connection that have meaningful impact in the future.

8.  The best networkers find success in being a giver and connecting others without being worried about "what's in it for me".

9.  Social media is not a fad.  The time for making excuses about why social media is not for you is past.

10.  Having your phone out while in a live conversation is rude.  Nobody really has to check their email or texts constantly.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

"The Conference Catalyst" Means Your Meeting ROCKS

Few keynote speakers  deliver the combination of useful information and instant actions.  From the moment Thom Singer takes the stage he gets the audience's attention.

While many speakers tell people to "put you phones away"... Thom believes if the speaker is not captivating, people should surf the web or check their email.  Too often speakers deliver book reports on their own brilliance.  But just because someone is smart or has done something cool - it does not mean they belong on stage.

A main reason people attend conferences is for the networking opportunities, but once they are present they often fail to make the meaningful connections they desire.  What is the tone for your event was all about participants getting the most from their conference attendee experiences?

For more information visit

Be Respectful

Telling another person "I respectfully disagree" does not mean you are actually being respectful.  Your actions, not words, expose your soul.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012


"All the things we do on a daily basis seem really important.... until your kid's hamster escapes and you cannot find it. Suddenly you have a whole new list of priorities".   -Thom Singer

Saturday, August 04, 2012

WANTED: Better Social Media Conversations, Value and ROI

There seems to be five types of people:

1.  Those who use social media and it has had a HUGE impact on the success of their business.

2.  Those who use social media and pretend it is impacting the success of their business.

3.  Those who use social media and have no idea if it has any impact on the success of their business.

4.  Those who have tried social media and think it sucks.

5.  Those who still don't know much about social media and have not really participated in the whole movement.

Then there is me.

I am a heavy user of social media.  It has helped me grow my business.  It allows me to discover information about clients, prospects and others.  The conversations are often useful.  I learn. My participation on Twitter, Facebook, etc... has allowed me to make and grow business relationships.  But I am not seeing a HUGE impact on sales.  I clearly do not want to pretend it is more than it really is.

I track all leads that I have in my business, and some of them clearly come from the social media world.  But most of my business comes from person-to-person word-of-mouth.  Nearly all of those who refer me to clients for speaking or consulting are people with whom I have recently seen in person (while it is true some people know me online before we meet.... the real referrals tend to come from those I have met in a live environment.

Of my last 200 speaking presentations (and in-company training programs), less than 10 have come from social media leads.  The majority of business (and my business is nearly 100% referral based) come from people who I knew personally, had met recently in-person, or had been in one of my audiences.  While some of these folks may have first known of me via social media... the referrals only come after we meet or they have seen me speak at an event (which means we can argue that those original social media connections did directly prime the path to real business).

This does not mean I do not believe in social media.  I am a fan-boy of all the tools I use to communicate.  But I do not think I am alone in wanting deeper conversations in this medium.  I am tired cat videos, "To Chick-fil-A or Not To Chick-fil-A" re-tweets, or photos of Ryan Lochte.

Now here is where the critics can say I suck at social media, and therefore this is why I am left wanting for more.  Perhaps I use it poorly or am lacking a coordinated strategy?  Maybe I am not intellectual enough to chat with the really cool kids.  I once heard someone say social media now resembles high school... with a few cool kids sitting at the "right" table in the lunch room while the rest of us gaze over longingly.

Yep... maybe it is me.  Those with social media guru status have lots of ideas, but often their fame and large following makes them unable to see the forest for the trees.   I am seeking ways to raise the bar on my own interactions.  I can take it if you want to tell me how it is.

How about you?.... anyone else left feeling like you just ate a big meal and are still hungry?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

One More Thing About Cathryn Sloane

Last week I posted about the twenty-something Cathryn Sloane who wrote the blog post for NextGen Journal about "Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25".  While I thought her opinion was silly, I also know I said silly (and arrogant) things when I was 25-years-old (gosh, I am sure I still say stuff).  The difference was there was no internet when I was that age.  With this one post she launched a generational firestorm online.

I have been wondering what she was going to say next.  Her next step could be a foundation for a successful career.  She certainly got attention, but now the question is what will she do with the platform.  A few friends said she is probably hoping for a reality show or some other quick fix leap to fame.  I hoped she would work to earn the next step in her career.

In seeking her response I ran across the website  It was not her.  In fact, it was not claimed when she wrote her July 20th post where she applauded her generation for just being smarter online than those who were born earlier.  Ummmm....  some old dude named Craig Barry purchased the URL last week and popped up a one page WordPress site pointing out that while claiming her superiority in understanding social media marketing, she had never secured her own  Ooops.

I now hope she is working on that Reality TV angle.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, August 03, 2012

Cool Thing's My Friends Do - Mike Dilbeck's Response Ability 2.0 Program

Each Friday on this blog I enjoy highlighting some of the cool things my friends do in their work and personal lives. 

Mike Dilbeck is one of my newest friends (I met him at the National Speaker's Association 2012 Conference - only three weeks ago).  Mike is the founder and president of the RESPONSE ABILITY PROJECT.  His program is a favorite on college campuses and with fraternity and sororities, and teaches the message of "by stander behavior".  He encourages people "Get involved, stay engaged, and be an everyday hero". 

Mike has personally trained over 500 people to facilitate this program on campuses and for organisations around the country (and beyond) - working hard to ensure that this movement can spread.  This week he launched the RA 2.O DVD Set Certification Program.  People now have the ability to become Level 1 facilitators for the RESPONSE ABILITY PROJECT for the low price of $197.  Those who want to share the message can get trained at their convenience and in the comfort of their own home.

Since it debuted in the summer of 2008, this award-winning program has become one of the most powerful, effective and successful educational initiatives on bystander behavior. Created initially for college students -- and now expanding to the general public with the Every|Day Hero Campaign -- this program empowers the 80% of individuals who are not causing, or even participating in, problematic behaviors and are also not standing up to the 20% who are.

In a world where many people standby and do nothing, there are also heroes who step in and give assistance.  If you saw injustice, what would you do?  We all hope we would be the ones who do the right thing.  Mike's life is dedicated to helping teach us all to not turn a blind eye.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thursday, August 02, 2012

10 Tips for Being the Master of Ceremonies

A friend and fellow speaker called me recently and asked my advice about being a Master of Ceremonies.  She will be doing this for a major awards luncheon, and while she is an experienced presenter, she had not taken on this role in the past.  As someone who cares deeply about serving her audiences, she did not want to "wing-it", and thus was collecting best practices and ideas.

Being an Emcee (or is it MC?) is different from being a speaker.  I have served as the MC for several events, and find that it involves a different set of skills from giving a speech, but at the same time a good Master of Ceremonies needs similar traits to a speaker.  In many ways the MC role can be more difficult.

When I think of how an MC can make a difference in the success of an event I am reminded of the Academy Awards.  Over my life I have seen a variety of celebrities host the Oscars, but nobody (in my opinion) holds a candle to Billy Crystal.  Mr Crystal sets the tone for the event on the years they are wise enough to ask him to serve as the host.  Other years we are left thinking "I wish Billy Crystal was the MC".

My "Conference Catalyst" program is often morphed into an MC style role at multi-day events.  This means that I am juggling educational / motivational material with the important tasks of introducing the speakers and keeping the whole schedule running on time.  When you have to balance between both roles (speaker and MC), it can be a juggling act....and I mean juggling knives or fire.  There is a lot to do as the MC, and a slip up can cause the vibe of the meeting to hit the floor.

If you are going to be the Master of Ceremonies for an event, here are ten tips that will help you contribute to the success and help give your audience a good experience:

1.  Prepare for an opening.  If you just come out and start the introductions there is no show.  The Olympics do not just start with some folks running races or lifting weights.  They have a choreographed opening ceremonies.  You need the same thing.  Crafting a pertinent story that draws in your audience before you get into the mundane (but necessary) tasks of thanking the sponsors and honoring guests is a great way to launch.

2.  Remember that you are not the star of the show.  When you deliver a speech, there is a part of the role that requires you to take center stage, but as MC it is not your time in the spotlight.  You are there to keep things moving and to make sure the others on the program (or the award winners) are celebrated.

3.  Your personality sets the tone for the event.  While #2 holds true (you are not the star), you still set the pace.  If you are buttoned up and serious, you can be sure the whole show will be stiff.  If you are all over the map without purpose, .... there will be no focus.  Find a happy medium, while putting out a high-energy vibe.

4.  If you are not a professional comedian, do not tell jokes.  A big mistake is made when people think a joke is the key to putting an audience at ease.  Nothing is worse at an event than seeing an amateur bomb a canned punch line.  Humor is important, but do not force it. Be yourself, and avoid the one liners!

5.  When giving the microphone to others, make sure they have a time frame for their remarks.  An award winner who rambles on and on will bury your momentum.  If you cannot brief the other speakers in advance, work in some instructions about how much time they have.  When appropriate do not walk far from the lectern.  If you are standing close, they will keep their remarks brief.  If you walk away they will talk forever.

6.  Have transitions between speakers or award winners.  A great way to transition is to give a short recap or compliment of what was said by the person before, and then set up the next presentation.  Have stories prepared in advance about those you will be introducing (if possible) so that you have something to add each time you speak.

7.  Be prepared.  If someone does not show up, or if a waiter drops a tray... be prepared for how you will handle the confusion, etc...  Live events often have things that can be a distraction.  The key to being a good MC is to keep control of the meeting no matter what happens.

8.  Shorten the script.  If the meeting organizer gives you a script that is horrible, make changes. Your job as MC is to ensure the event is not boring.  If the program flops you will be blamed for the poor reviews, not the person back at the home office who wrote the words.  Thus you must be involved in creating a tight script that has a good tempo or be able to make changes as you are on stage.

9.  Stay positive.  Even if something goes wrong or someone is out of line, the MC must stay up-beat.  If you get nasty about anything the audience will resent you for it.

10.  Have a prepared close.  Just like the opening ceremonies, you need to tie it together with a closing story or a call to action.  Recap the highlights of the evening, and challenge the audience in some way (even if it is to come back next year!).  If you have no closing ceremony then there is little to remember.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Speakers are an Important Part of the Meeting Industry

An unexpected side effect to my career as a speaker has been my immersion in the meetings industry.  Yes, meetings mean business.  In fact there is $263 Billion spent on meetings each year, and that makes it a big business!

Conferences, trade shows, conventions, seminars, company all-hands gatherings, incentive events, association conclaves, etc.... are wide spread. In most cities you can have a "three-name tag day" with local networking events (meaning you'll wear a name tag at breakfast, lunch and dinner).  Then there are the regional, national and international events.  There are nearly 2 million events per year in United States alone.

Many speakers do not see themselves as part of the greater meetings industry.  They are happy to speak, but miss the pivotal role they serve.  Additionally the meeting professionals can easily overlook the close ties that speakers can have to the greater business success.  Most meetings utilize people who speak, but without speakers there would be less meetings and more white papers sent by email.  Speakers (professionals and others) have the ability to set the tone for every meeting.

Speakers are not just vendors.... but success partners.  Being part of this industry is an honor... and a lot of fun!!!

I will speak at more than 50 events in 2012 (I have delivered over 300 career presentations).  These meetings range from small local events to international conventions.  This year I have the pleasure of presenting at conferences for PCMA, MPI and DMAI (plus several chapter meetings for these groups).  I have developed close friendships with those meeting professionals who put in long hours to ensure that events kick butt.  Meeting organizers have amazing work ethics and at the same time know how to have fun!!!

(In March of 2011 I wrote a blog post about thanking organizers at events.  This post was edited an appears in my book "The ABC's of Conferences".  Meeting organizers often comment to about how this article makes them laugh, because of my joking about their shock at being thanked).

The meetings industry is going through a lot of changes, but the need for people to come together to share ideas will never go away.  The future is bright for meetings and I am confident that it is a great time to be a speaker, too. It can be competitive (seems everyone these days wants to speak) and audiences are demanding speakers who engage them in new ways (not just dump information) -- but there is also an exciting vibe spreading around the whole meetings world.

I look forward to finding ways to grow my business and continue to serve the industry.

What are ways you have seen speakers go beyond the "norm" and be more than a vendor?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer