Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I Am Too Young To Have A Brother Who Is 60-Years-Old

Happy Birthday to my oldest brother.  He is not just my brother, but also my Godfather.  And in many ways a role model.  When I was two-years-old I called him Chee-Bee (I guess I could not say "Steve").  He once dressed up like Santa Claus so I could see the magic of Christmas "live" in the middle of the night in our family living room (yes, my folks let me peek, but not get too close).  I still have the letters he wrote me while I was in elementary school and he was traveling the world for fun, study, and work.

Rumor is he reads my blog.... although he does not mention that to me very often (such an older brother!).  I figure that this post is better than any old paper card --- there was not going to be a gift anyway!  (such a younger brother!).

I hear 60 is the new 40.  If that is true than I am only 26.... and that sounds good to me.

Have A Happy Birthday!!!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Risky is the New Safe by Randy Gage

I do not often write about books before I read them, but Randy Gage's new book "Risky is the New Safe" is creating a buzz.  I know some folks who read the advance copies and all were excited.  The title itself speaks to me as I think it says it all.  Think about it.  Those who are playing it "safe" are possibly the ones at the biggest risk in our new world.

I have met Randy, but do not really know him.  He is a member of the National Speakers Association and spoke at the 2012 Winter Conference.  I was impressed with his presentations, and have been anticipating this new book.  He is a character... but he also has a great way to motivate and inspire.  You will not always agree with everything he says, but he will challenge you to review how you think.

Randy says "rich people think differently then broke people".  His book is designed to be the 2013 version of Napoleon Hill's "Think and Grow Rich".  The thoughts you make priorities are what bring you to your future.

Take the time to look into "Risky is the New Safe" and let me know what you think.  I plan to read it this week.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, October 29, 2012

Is "Playful" The Right Word For An Association Event?

I recently wrote a post for the TSNN Blog (Trade Show Network News) about the personality of an event. Having created the post several weeks ago I was a little unsure when an association meeting planner friend reached out and questioned my use of the word "Playful" in the article (I wrote it a while ago I was not even sure why I had chosen the word).

She mentioned that she has seen that word, "playful" showing up in several articles in the meetings and events industry and wondered if it was appropriate to be playful at a business environment.

I re-read the article and here is what I said:
"There was no time for people to be playful or engaged with each other, and so they were not having any “Hallway Conversations” or other meaningful interactions".
Playful?  Hmmmmm.  I think it was the right word.  I believe that being playful is needed at more business and association meetings.

Yes, yes, I know... we are all serious professionals who come to conventions and conferences to seek information, data, and content.  Content is king.  Data rules the roost.  Information is the purpose!!!

Nope, I disagree.  I think that without fun then a conference, trade show, convention or other meeting is not the right way to dispense information.  Sending a white paper would be better if attendees only want hard facts. But humans are experiential beings and without a little fun, we easily get distracted.  If the joy is missing from an event then it might SUCK.

And what is wrong with playful?  Who among us wants to be described as overly serious, stuffy, stodgy  stale, uninspired, etc....?  We have all encountered people like this and they rarely make the top of the invitation list when we host a party.  If our event has these same traits why the heck would anyone want to attend?

Playful does not exclude education.  In fact when I look back on my own schooling (formal and informal) the best learning came from teachers who served up information with some fun in the mix.

I think as planners, speakers, sponsors (and everyone who contributes to a meeting) we need to work to be playful... as we owe that to everyone who is in attendance.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Saturday, October 27, 2012

To Error Is Human....

A smart friend told me something very important:

"Making a mistake is not a fault of character, not being able to forgive others for their mistakes is a big one!"

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, October 26, 2012

Cool Things My Friends Do - Tim Tyrell-Smith's Job Search Software

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

My friend Tim Tyrell-Smith just launched something that he’s been working on for about five years.  Well, that’s a long time, so I figure Tim deserves a spot here in this week’s “cool things my friends do” post.

Tim’s a 25-year marketing guy who quit a full time VP Marketing job to become an entrepreneur. And to dedicate a larger portion of his life to helping people do great things. 

Tim and I met at San Diego State University back in the late 80’s .  We were in "rival" fraternities... but really everyone was friendly. Tim is a Sigma Chi and I am a Beta -- not that any of that stuff matters 20 years later!  ;-).  I had lost touch with Tim for many years, but we reconnected via social media and have become great friends again.

Over the last five years, Tim’s been working hard to create helpful content for a community of professionals going through job search transition. It’s been a passion project for him to reach this community with structured and strategic guidance. And to watch their positive progress toward a new job.

During these five years, a complete strategy was born. From each blog post, template, speech and video he created, the puzzle pieces came together. And about two years ago, he decided to formalize the strategy and make it available as an online software program.

So that’s what Tim just launched – his job search strategy software.

The software offers a structured, step-by-step process to establish a job search strategy. As one user said, “It’s like tax software for your job search”. A complex and often misunderstood process is broken down into smaller, “easier to chew” pieces. And there is significant help (including video) at every step.  Specifically, the software delivers the following:

  • Identification of clear and specific job search objectives (plus help with target companies)
  • A personal branding strategy and profile
  • A complete set of personal marketing materials (resume, cover letter, bio, business card, elevator pitch, references)
  • A customized networking strategy including targeted introductions
  • A purposeful strategy for interview preparation

And since I told Tim I might write about his new software, he said: “Make sure they know about the early bird special we’re running through December 31.  It offers a big reduction in the sign up fee for anyone who will offer feedback during the beta period.” If you are interested or have any questions, you can contact Tim via his blog. Tell him Thom Singer sent you!

And so there you have it. If you are out of work and need new structure and a strategy for your job search, you should visit to learn more.  You can also find him on Twitter (@TimsStrategy) and on Facebook (TimsStrategy).

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Inquiry and Exploration vs. Assumption

I had a conversation with a business acquaintance   Upon sharing a story she jumped to a conclusion about the motivation for my actions.  She was critical, and shared her advice, but she was wrong about my intention.  It was not a major issue, nor was she seeking conflict.... yet her point of perspective was wrong, so her advice was useless.

I tried to explain where I was coming from, but she was pretty sure I was just being defensive.  It was not a big deal, but she had filled in a lot of blanks without having any first hand knowledge of the back-story.  Since we are not close friends, her decisions how I thought on the situation came from inside her head, not from anything she knows about how I view the world.

This happens often to all of us.  It is so easy to take a slice of information and make assumptions about the whole picture.  We all do it.  This incident reminded me about how often it happens, and how wrong any one of us can be when we jump to conclusions.  In business and our personal lives we are making decisions about others think when there is no way to really know what goes on inside their heads.

Walter Matthau as Morris Buttermaker in the 1976 classic film "The Bad News Bears" summed it up best.  He wrote on the chalk board the word "ASSUME" then pointed out to the young team that when you assume you make an "ASS" out of "U" and "ME", while circling each part of the word.  I have always tried to remember this (it made an impression, as I was ten-years-old...and he said "ass"!).

How often are we making asses of ourselves (and others) because we are not asking questions instead of making assumptions?  

Take a minute and look at your interactions with other people today.  How many of your opinions are based on inquiry and exploration vs. how much is based on assumptions?  

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, October 22, 2012

Conference Speakers- Please Provide Three Learning Objectives AND Three Connection Objectives

People do not attend business events simply for the content.  There is a perceptional disconnect that "content is king" when it comes to planning events.  If the purpose of events is only about content there are many more efficient ways to garner information.  If people only desire the educational component, they could read books, surf the net, watch videos, take a class, view a webinar, hire a consultant, etc....  If your attendees only want content.... send them a white paper!

Connections with others is an important part motivation for attending conferences, trade shows, conventions, seminars and other gatherings.  Humans are social beings.  Even with all the discussions about introverts and extroverts, all who attend events hope that they will create some meaningful relationships.  Being an introvert does not mean they never want to associate with others (introvert does not translate to hermit), but instead it is about the need for some private down-time to recharge their batteries.  Most introverts enjoy their time with others, and I know many who thrive while attending business events (they are just not getting their energy at the happy hour like many of their extrovert brethren).  Yet many planners think if they have a "left-brained" crowd that they do not care about connections.  Not necessarily.

It is an easy excuse to hide behind the importance of the learning component to mask the failure to create an atmosphere for better networking and beneficial connections.  I am not discounting the legitimacy of learning at events (so don't mis-interpret my purpose).  People are not only seeking great parties when they attend a conference.  They want both education and connections.

The best learning at events is often claimed to come during the "hallway conversations", those spontaneous deep-dive chats that take place with other attendees after participating in a keynote or breakout session.  People have ideas, and when they share them with each other bigger ideas can be born.  Additionally the old-style expert lecture has lost appeal to those in the audience.  People want interactive, which means more than open-mic Questions at the end of a talk.  Yet defining "interactive" is not easy, as it is a feeling.  Some of the best interactive speakers do not do traditional Q & A or live exercises.  Yet their style leave people feeling they were part of the conversation (when maybe they never said a word).  The speakers ability to created community is paramount to success.

Creating a better "Conference Attendee Experience" means that all aspects of a conference must move toward both learning and connections.  Speakers are regularly asked to provide there learning objectives to the planners in advance of the talk, but I believe event organizers should also be asking those that present for three ways they encourage audience connections in their presentations.  Regardless of their topic as speaker should be prompting conversations in the hallways after their session ends.  If there is just a dump of data without anything more the whole session if a flop.  Planners should demand more from those who present.

Many speakers claim their job is to share their expertise, not contribute to the overall effectiveness and success of the meeting.  WRONG.  All speakers (keynote and breakout) are responsible for setting the tone for the whole event.  Presentations should actively engage the audience before, during and after the speech (this means live at the event and before and after via social media, etc...).  Having the speakers present at breaks, happy hours and meals the day of the talk (if not throughout the whole conference) is usually desired by attendees, and makes the speakers part of the mini-society that is created at an event.

What are the connection objectives for your event?

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, October 20, 2012

It All Began At A Toastmasters Meeting in 1992

In 1992 I joined Balcones Toastmasters.  I had been encouraged to join a Toastmasters Club to fine tune my speaking skills, as it was suggested that the ability to communicate was necessary for future career advancement.  I never dreamed that this would be the first step in a journey toward a career as a professional speaker.

Several years later I moved my membership to the West Austin II Toastmasters Club (which was closer to my home).  In 2002 I was a semi-finalist and runner up in the Region Three speech contest, placing me in the top 18 Toastmasters that year (out of 20,000 that entered around the world).

As my skills as a speaker advanced, I have usually kept my membership in Toastmasters active, although my travel schedule does no allow me to participate regularly.  I have remained a member because I know that one must never lose sight of those that helped them achieve their goals.  In Texas there is an expression "Dance with the one that brung ya".... and too many seasoned speakers forget that they had to start somewhere (and many began in Toastmasters).

This week the Balcones Toastmasters group is hosting an "Old Timers Meeting" where they are inviting back former members to revisit the club.  They have asked three people to give special talks.  In addition to me there will be speeches by legendary story teller Hollis Baker and former mayor of Austin Ron Mullen.

My presentation will be about my journey from a 25-year-old kid who liked to talk, to a professional speaker (who still likes to talk).  It has been a lot of work, but also full of fun, establishing a career as a speaker.  There is more to the business than most people would ever imagine.  In addition to Toastmasters I am an active member of the National Speakers Association (I currently serve on the board of the Austin Chapter and the NSA XY group) and I have had the pleasure to speak in nearly half the states in the US, and several other countries.  Without Toastmasters I am not sure that I would have ever had this opportunity.

I am looking forward to delivering the keynote for the "Old Timers" event, and hope that the current members of the club will find some value in my story.  But aren't I too young to be and "old-timer"?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer


The Balcones Toastmasters meeting to commemorate the members of yesterday was a big success.  It was an honor to share the program with Hollis Baker and Ron Mullen.

Many alumni of the group returned to spend the morning sharing stories and remembering those who has passed away over the years.  Hollis had joined the club in the 1970s, Ron in the 1980s, and I was there in the 1990s, yet the positive experiences were often the same!  

Most who shared stories credited their participation in Toastmasters as a direct reason for their success in personal and professional endeavors.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cool Things My Friends Do: Cindy Lo - Red Velvet Events Celebrates Ten Years

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

My friend Cindy Lo is celebrating ten years in business with her event management company, Red Velvet Events.  

The company, based in Austin, Texas, assists companies, associations, non-profits and government agencies with all aspect of planning and execution for events, festivals, charity, fundraisers, meetings, conventions, trade shows, seminars, employee gatherings, client conferences, etc...

Ten years in business is a great accomplishment for any business, and this is an especially big accomplishment in the meetings industry.  Cindy and her team have earned a national reputation serving a variety of clients in creating meaningful experiences.  

Congratulations to Cindy Lo and Red Velvet Events!  Best wishes for the next ten years!

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Monday, October 15, 2012

My Day Flying In A Cirrus

I had a great time at the 2012 AOPA Aviation Summit.  I enjoyed being the Master of Ceremonies for the convention and the AOPA Foundation Dinner.  The event gave me the chance to meet many interesting people and be exposed to the world of flying.  Pilots are an eclectic group of people, but they all have a passion and are eager to share their enthusiasm for aviation.

I was supposed to fly into Palm Springs with a friend who owns his own airplane.  I was going to be in California for another conference, and I was excited to take this short flight, as I had not had very much experience with general aviation (I went up with a friend once in my 20s).  My friend owns a Cirrus SR22, and in preparation for the conference I did a lot of research on planes.  I was excited to get to fly in a Cirrus, but at the last minute my friend's plans changed.  I had to rent a car in Orange County and drive to the desert.

Alas, the conference was a lot of fun, but I was sorry I did not get to go up in a plane.  I shared this with a few people, and the folks at the Cirrus Aircraft trade show booth offered to take me up....  But I was busy throughout the event, and did not want to impose.  I am not a pilot, nor am I in the market for a plane.  I have worked plenty of shows, and did not want to waste anyone's time.

I enjoyed talking with many people on the trade show floor, and I learned a lot about what it means to be part of the general aviation community.  I like it when I discover close knit industries where everyone cares about their greater community.  But time and time again, the folks at the Cirrus booth were wonderfully engaging.  They were like the Nordstrom's of the aviation world when it came to friendly and interested people who lived to deliver a positive customer experience (even to those who were not customers!).  Clearly their employees like their jobs, and while they do a lot of shows, they did not seem to tire to talk to anyone about their products.

Before the AOPA show ended they had offered to fly me to my next destination with one of their employees.  He was heading to Denver, and I was going to Albuquerque for another association event. Thus it was not too far out of the way for his flight plan (I really was not wanting to impose). The thought of canceling my commercial flight and going in a small plane with a stranger was unsettling at first, but the more they offered, the more I realized I wanted the experience of flying.  And a three hour flight from Palm Springs to New Mexico was surely going to be an adventure.

My new pilot friend is Ryan.  He is 23-years-old (he was not even born the last time I was in a private plane), but has been flying his whole life.  His father is one of the founders of Cirrus Aircraft.  He clearly understands all aspects of aviation, and I could not have asked for a better pilot.  He explained everything from the pre-flight list to sharing stories about his Dad's early vision for designing a plane that was built for the passenger's comfort.

The plane, a Cirrus SR22-GTS, was great.  The cockpit was roomy enough that a big oaf like me was not cramped.  The glass display screen instrument panels were easy to understand (even for a non-pilot). The safety features made a novice like me feel good the whole time.  It was like a flying BMW.

How you see the world in a Cirrus at 11,000 feet is much different than being in the flying bus of a commercial airline at 30,000 feet.  It was fascinating to see the little towns and houses in the middle of nowhere that go unnoticed when you fly commercial.  The skies were clear and the whole time I was taken with the beauty of the land below.

I also enjoyed watching how Ryan flew the plane.  The care he put into each thing he did from before take off through landing.  How he talked to the air traffic controllers and listening to the conversations of other planes on the frequency was very educational.

I am not saying after one flight that I want to be a pilot (I am going to explore more about the process), but I do have an amazing new appreciation for general aviation.  I also see the convenience of having a plane if you travel a lot for work.  We scheduled our own departure time, there was no dealing with TSA, no long layovers, or sitting next to someone obnoxious (well, Ryan may disagree with that last one!).  I met him at the airport and we were taking off soon after arrival.

But I am clearly a new fan of Cirrus Aircraft.  They did not need to let me bum a ride with Ryan, but their dedication to wanting people to experience flight (especially flight on a Cirrus) was true and real.  It was a very comfortable trip, and I had only one disappointment.... that it was over too fast.  The three hours flew by (no pun intended).  Once I had reached my destination I wished that I could have that type of travel experience on a regular basis.

Thanks to Ryan and the rest of the folks at Cirrus, this is a day I will not forget.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

UPDATE - Two Weeks Later.  I have continued to think about my flight.  I understand clearly why the community of pilots is unique, and they really do love aviation.  I have enrolled in an online "ground school" course (See for more info) to better learn the basics of flight and understand all that is involved in getting a private pilots certificate. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Lessons From "Uncle Joey"

I had the opportunity to meet comedian Dave Coulier ("Uncle Joey" from the legendary television show "Full House") when I was the Master of Ceremonies for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and the AOPA Foundation Dinner.  Dave is an enthusiastic pilot, and is on a mission to help promote general aviation to the next generation of pilots.  He was attending the AOPA event to present awards at the Foundation Dinner, and also gave a talk on his experiences as a pilot for over 35 years.

I was excited to meet Dave.  We have a mutual friend who told me that he is a great guy, and the description was right on target.  We had some fun at the event, and he made me laugh a lot. It was especially fun to watch him take time with fans of all ages who approached him for an autograph or photo.  He never tired of giving his time to those at the event who wanted to speak with him and share their love of this time on Full House.  

I imagine celebrities get stopped all the time by people wanting to speak with them, but even 25 years after his show became an international sensation, he was enthusiastic to talk with people.  It is a great reminder to the rest of us who go through our busy-busy work days in the business world and DO NOT make time for others.  It takes very little effort to be generous with time.  If the guy whose show continues to air in over 100 countries can be approachable (and nice)... why can't business professionals be more gracious to those around them?

If you are not open to engaging with those around you.... "CUT IT OUT".  (Who gets the reference?)

My kids are big fans of the show "Full House".  They have seen every episode on Nick at Nite over the years.  I asked Dave if he would call my house and speak to my daughters.  He did not hesitate.  The kids got on the phone and he chatted with them for several minutes.  It is not everyday that "Uncle Joey" just calls to say hello.  It was a special moment for the girls.

Thanks to Dave, and his delightful girlfriend Melissa, for a fun time at AOPA.  

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, October 12, 2012

Cool Things My Friends Do - Jerry Shea: Palm Springs Realtor

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

My cousin, Jerry Shea, is a successful Real Estate Agent in Palm Springs, California.  This week I had the chance to catch up with him while I was in PS to be the Master of Ceremonies and "Conference Catalyst" for the 2012 Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Aviation Summit.  One of the cool parts of my career as a professional speaker is that I get to visit a lot of great cities and see friends and family who live in these places.

Jerry is a busy man, but he made time in his schedule to come and meet me for a beer while I was in his neighborhood. We come from a big family (He and I are two of 26 grand-children on my mom's side... and most of my cousins are well over a decade older than I am). Growing up I was very close to Jerry's family.  His sister is my godmother and my youngest daughter is named after his mom (my aunt).  And most importantly, when I was in first grade it was Jerry who gave me my dog.  I desperately wanted a white female coc-a-poo (which was the type of dog that Jerry had).  He secretly worked with my parents to find me the right pet, and I will never forget him coming to our house and sending me out to his car to get a present.   There was the cutest puppy, which I named Margo.  For that alone he holds a high place of esteem in my world!!!

Jerry works hard to serve the Palm Springs community with their real estate needs.  It is a competitive marketplace, but he faithfully represents those who live locally and those from all over the world who have second homes in the booming desert community.

His website,, is full of information about real estate, his business, and Palm Springs (and the surrounding communities).

Have A Great Day.


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Engaging Brand Podcast - Thom Singer Interview

I was interviewed for The Engaging Brand Podcast by the delightful Anna Farmery.  We talked about the theme of connecting with people in a social media crazy world.  

  • How people are going social media crazy - yet forgetting how to be social!
  • How people are forgetting about networking at conferences
  • Is it a problem that social media is replacing face to face connection?
  • The removal of the word know...inbusiness relationships
  • How do we harness strength of social media(quantity) with the strength of really knowing someone (quality)
  • The coffee, meal or beer rule!
  • How to network for business after a conference - what is networking in the real world?
  • Is there a difference between social networking at the office and outside of the business?
  • What is presentation? Learn how to wow with presentations - and it is not about the content!
  • Presentations should be centered on a story 

She has over 20,000 subscribers... if you do not already listen to Anna's great interviews... you should start today!

Have A Great Day.

Thom Singer

Monday, October 08, 2012

Take Ownership Of The "Conference Attendee Experience"

This week kicks off countless conferences around the United States.  October is high season for conventions, trade shows, conferences, seminars, etc.....

If you are planning to attend an event be sure that you maximize your "Conference Attendee Experience" and be engaged in the learning, networking, and the fun.  The results that you achieve and the ROI you attain are based on your own actions.  The value in attending an event is not an accident, and those who will get the most from participating in meetings are the ones who take charge.

Meetings in 2012 are not the same as they were a decade ago.  People have more choices now on where to direct there attention.  The agenda alone is not enough. Speakers cannot count on people sitting through a boring talk.   Connections to the outside world via email, text, Facebook, Twitter and other apps can undermine effectiveness of a any event.  It is more important than ever that the organizers create a conference culture that encourages human-to-human interaction.

The time and financial investment in attending a multi-day gathering can be thousands of dollars.  Regardless of this is your personal money or if your employer is funding the costs, you cannot afford to be wasteful. Do not leave the success of being there to chance.  Choose to be present at the conference and contribute to the "mini-society" that is created when people come together.

Five Tips For A Better Conference:

1.  Have a plan.  Do not just wander around the conference hoping to accidently find the best learning and best networking.

2.  Put your phone away during networking breaks, happy hours and meals.  Many people look at the breaks as the time to check in with the office, but these are the only times that you can really engage with others.

3.  If a speaker is boring... walk out.  Often speakers tell the audience to put their phones away.  But if a presentation does not capture your attention you should not be expected to sit there quietly.  SXSW Interactive conference has a policy of "voting with your feet".  It is not uncommon for people to walk out of one breakout when another gets positive Twitter chatter.

4.  Remember, "Hallway Conversations" are the best part of a conference.  People often claim that the spontaneous conversations they have with others after keynotes or breakouts are where some of the best learning takes place.  Make an effort to engage others in deeper discussions.

5.  Plan for follow up.  Meeting people once does not make them part of your network.  If you want to create meaningful long-term relationships it takes effort.  Think about how you can extend the dialogues after you get home.

Take ownership of the next conference you attend and get the most from the entire experience.  Oh, and have fun, too!!!

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, October 07, 2012

Beach Boys in Austin

I grew up in Southern California and with three much older brothers, and many family trips to the beach, I was indoctrinated to the surf sounds of The Beach Boys early in life.  Cars, girls and surfing made up the themes of all their music, but in a simpler time that was all anyone needed to sing about.

In the 1980s, while I was in high school and college, the Beach Boys began to make a comeback, and thus there were ample opportunities to see the band play live in concert.  I am fairly sure the first concert I ever attended was the Beach Boys at Irvine Meadows, and while an hour from my home, it seemed that half my high school was in attendance.

Their music was considered "oldies" in the 1980's, and while we liked to band, they seemed ancient.  Well some things never change (Mike Love is now 71 years old).  They are now 30 years older, and yet they still bring Fun, Fun, Fun to an audience. 

Over time I have seen the band play about a dozen times.  Though before last night it had been since 1994 that I had last seen them play.  When I heard they would be in Austin, I wanted to go.  However, my wife is not a fan of the So-Cal beach band (she grew up in No-Cal... and let's just say the Beach Boys do not resonate the same with the Bay Area natives) and she had no desire to attend this performance.  She saw them with me once in 1994, and apparently that was enough.

But my 15-year-old daughter was happy to accompany dad to the show (she is used to my listening to the Beach Boys in the car when her mom is not with us).  It was even better when she learned their sometimes drummer, John Stamos (better known as "Uncle Jesse" from the TV show Full House), would be playing with the band for their Austin show.

We had a great time.  I appreciate that the Beach Boys understand the one rule of a nostalgia band: "Play your famous songs".  They realize that is why people come, and they limit most of their set to the songs that made them famous.

The only downside to the night was the temperatures dropped well below 60 degrees during the concert.  As a So-Cal kid at heart, I am not really comfortable with weather outside of the eighties.  57 degrees is not quite Beach Boy weather.... and as much as I hated the cold, it was clear the band was also not accustomed to the chilly temps.

Yet a little cold weather would not spoil the night... plenty of Good Vibrations to warm the heart! (sorry, I couldn't resist!).

Have A Great Day.

thom singer.

Saturday, October 06, 2012


I just completed my first Coursera Class.  Several months ago I heard about Coursera, and was intrigued by the opportunity to take educational classes taught by highly praised professors from top Universities (Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, etc...).   All of these classes are offered for free and tens of thousands of people are signing up for each class.

I enrolled in the Gamification course taught by Kevin Werbach (Associate Professor, The Wharton School, The University of Pennsylvania).  I was interested in this class because of how gamification is impacting the ongoing discussions and changes in the meetings business.  There is a big push to find new ways to get attendees engaged at conferences, and gamification keeps popping up as a topic of interest.

The class was very well structured, and was by no means an easy endeavor.  It was clearly a college level course and required several hours each week to complete.  There were video lectures, quizzes, written assignments, online discussion forums, and a final exam.  The commitment to the class was more than I had assumed, but the educational value was high level.

The information was thought provoking, and I looked forward to watching the nearly two hours of lectures each week.  Professor Werbach made the topic interesting and the Coursera platform was excellent in how it made the entire experience challenging and rewarding.

The class did have a "pass / fail" element, and was heavily tied to the calendar deadlines.  Early in the six week period I did not realize that there was no gray area for a time to take a quiz or submit an assignment.  Somehow I thought the online elements of the class lent to more flexibility.  NOPE.

While the early work was not weighted as heavily on the final grade as later assignments, I missed two early deadlines because of my work related travel schedule - and that put me into a no-pass situation.  (While the final grade is not yet posted, my guess is I will miss it by just a few points... which would have been a non-issue had I not missed a quiz or the first writing assignment).  There was no way to go back and make up the work, and with 80,000 people enrolled in the course it was not as if one could to to the professor and ask for an extension.

However, I did not take the class to earn a "certificate".  I enrolled for the learning and to experience all that Coursera had to offer.  I wish I had better understood the importance the small stuff early on in the process, as not receiving the "passing" grade left me feeling as if I had somehow failed (I hate to fail)..  Yet there was no failure.  My Coursera experience was a success.  My grade on the final was 86% and I have a new understanding of what it takes to successfully engage game elements into a non-game environment.

I will be taking more Coursera classes.  I am a big believer in "life-long learning", and while I read a lot of books and attend many seminars, this class was a superior way to engage in a topic.  If you have not yet explored Coursera, I suggest you sign up for a class (But take the time commitment seriously and do not miss any deadlines!).

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, October 05, 2012

Cool Things My Friends Do - Zach Horvath Travels The World

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

I met Zach Horvath over a year ago.  He is in his early twenties and full of energy and ambition.  He openly seeks an entrepreneurial life and does not feel he needs to play by the traditional norms.  He clearly would be board working for an accounting firm.

What I like about Zach is that he does not wait for life to happen.  He tries stuff.  If it does not work out, he tries something else. Zach is a seeker (one who openly seeks something greater than the standard).  He was doing some coaching for Gen Y folks who felt disappointed and disenchanted by the "system".  He designed T-shirts which he sold.  He hosted "Salons" where he brought together interesting people to talk politics, philosophy, and the meaning of life.  He orchestrated public art creation.

Now he is on the road.  He realized that life could get more complicated as he got older, so he figured now was the time to travel.  Several months ago he went to Europe.  He may be there for a year.  Maybe longer.

I follow him on Facebook (for some reason, unknown to me, his name has become "Zoom Horvath").  Each week there are colorful photos of his trip and stories of his encounters.  It always is interesting.  He finds people and places while freely living his life.

I love writing this weekly post on "Cool Things My Friends Do" as it forces me to look closely at what people are up to in their lives.  Zach was an easy choice to add to this collection.  Imagine going throughout the world without a plan.  Think about the conversations you could have with people when you are not shy or worried about what they will think of you.  Consider how you can discover the human condition while waiting for hours for a slow train to somewhere.

Zach is the poster child for cool things people do.  No matter where life leads him, I doubt he will ever be board or boring!

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Burn The Ships

I got a call from a young professional who is thinking about moving to Austin, Texas. He is about the same age that I was when I chose Austin as my home twenty-one years ago (or rather, Austin chose me).  We have a mutual friend and he was counseled that I would be a good person to talk with about his pending relocation.  I was 25-years-old when I left my native California and came to Central Texas.  I came here for a job thinking I would stay three years and I got lucky -- Austin became a great home for our family. This enterprising young man is 26-years-old and has researched where would be the best place to build his creative career and future. That is better than luck... that is foresight!

We talked about why Austin is great and he shared that he was having trouble finding employment opportunities from 1000 miles away.  I explained that there are lots of creative, young, hard-working, educated professionals in Austin.  Thus there was little reason for a company to invest the effort in interviewing him, waiting to see if he is really coming, etc...  Even though he did not expect for a company to pay his relocation fees, the reality is he is not the easy choice.

I suggested he get in his car, drive to Austin, live with his friends (he has college buddies how live here) and seek employment as a local.  At 26 he has no other responsibilities.  With a car and his friend's couch he can re-position himself as the easy and best choice for a potential employer.  Looking for a job from a distance (without something unique that is overly appealing) was not going to get the job done.

My advice of "Burn the Ships"....(get to Austin and make it home... then figure out the rest) would not work for everyone.  Some might be frightened.  Others have financial or family commitments that will not allow an "all-in" action plan.  But this guy understood.  He immediately changed his social media profiles to show his residence as Austin, and is on his way to Texas.  Right on!!  My guess is he will find a great life ahead and Austin will be a better place to have one more person who understands the value of taking risks.

And what happens if he can't find a job?  Or if Austin does not work out as he hopes?  At least he tried and he will not spend a life wondering.  He is 26 and has parents in his home state that would welcome him back.  He can easily start over if Texas is a flop.

Not just making a geographic move, but in many things, those who succeed are committed, focused, and do not "hem and haw" about all the options.  They take action.  They go for it.  I did this with my career as a professional speaker.  In 2009 I made it my full-time effort.  With a family to support and a recession tearing many businesses apart I started earning a living as a speaker and trainer.  It was hard.  We took risks. While I have worried, fretted, and struggled all along the way.... I have never regretted the decision.  To have gone in with a toe in the water would not produced the same results.  To have never tried it would have left me incomplete. I still have not "made it" to the end-goal, but the journey itself has been great.

How about you?  What do you want to do?  Are you hemming and hawing?  Maybe it is time to go for it.  Burn the ships!

Have A Great Day.

thom singer