Friday, May 31, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do: Bill Singer Saxophone Repairman - 30 Years In New York City

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

The song says "If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere" in regards to succeeding in New York City.  To be on top of your game in the Big Apple for thirty years is quite an accomplishment for anyone, and this month marks three decades that my brother has been the premier Saxophone Repairman in New York City.

Bill Singer moved to New York City to play music, surround himself with the best musicians in the world, and to repair instruments.  He has always loved the saxophone, and over the years his hands have saved many thousands of horns from disrepair.

Bill is 12 years older than me, and his constant practicing and playing music (and his love of Jazz) echoes in my childhood memories.  I can recall being unable to hear the television even though he was playing in his own room.  Not being able to hear The Flintstones meant complaints to the parents (maybe whining and tears?), and Bill was often sent out to the garage to practice.  I can still see the image in my head of him in exile down the driveway on rainy nights belting out tunes. 

To earn a living he began repairing horns.  The saxophone is a delicate instrument, and Bill's commitment to each repair is evident in the artistic manner in which he applies his craft.  I have watched him work, and he treats each horn repair as a work of art.  The passion of that kid learning to play that saxophone in the garage is evident today in the way he runs his business.  All jobs get the same level of attention, no matter how big or how small.  He enjoys working with the new aspiring musicians as much as he does the celebrities (He has repaired the horns of many of the most renowned saxophone players of our time, some referring to him as "the Music Doctor").

All of his clients find him through word-of-mouth, and he is known far beyond boroughs of New York City.  It is not uncommon for those coming the area to bring their saxophones with them for an appointment.... but an appointment is always needed, as his calendar is booked months in advance.  He is a great example of how "Word-of-Mouth Marketing" can book you solid.  Do great work in a niche business and the customers will find you!  While he is not the only repairman, his dedication to the craft of saxophone repair has made him "the" repairman of choice.

Bill has seen a lot of changes in New York City and in the music industry.  He has survived the good times and the bad with a strong focus on overcoming all odds. Quitting has never been an option. 

Passion, plus hard work, has transformed his love of the saxophone into his career. While Bill Singer works hard, I do not think he considers what he does to be "work".  He always seems to be having fun!  

Doing something you love and being your own boss can be pretty cool...thus he is today's entry into "Cool Things My Friends Do".

Congrats to my big brother on 30 years in New York City!!!

Check out the attached video created by one of Bill's clients.... it has over 18,000 views on YouTube and shows a great personal side of Bill in action!!

Have A Great Day

thom singer

(Note the below photos of a repair)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Jealousy Holds You Back

Jealousy.   It is as old as time itself.  No matter how advanced our society becomes, there are still those who are jealous of what others accomplish.  There is no app that changes how people will feel (or behave).  Jealousy is called the "Green-Eyed Monster"... and it really is a monster!

A question was raised this week by a client on how to deal with someone who is jealous.  She has a business relationship with someone who is constantly complaining about how others have more than her, despite her advanced intelligence and degrees.  This petty attitude and desire to keep up with the "Joneses" was well known in their group of friends, but it was starting to drive my client crazy.  She could not just cut this person out because of a long list of personal and business inner-connections.

I did not know how to advise my client, as I can think of few people I have dealt with that had that worn jealousy on the outside to this degree.  I have a few examples of people who did not share a like-minded view on celebrating success in others (and found ways to try to undermine others).  But those people seem to move to find others to annoy with their jealous nature.  

You cannot control what goes on in the heads of other people.  If you cannot remove yourself from a person who has something in their personality that bothers you, it is best to just accept that we all have our good stuff and bad stuff.  Accept that others are just human.  Move on when you can.  Smile and be nice the rest of the time.

Jealousy holds you back.  We all have those feeling of envy sometimes, but letting it bubble over into jealousy will block your own path to success.  I try to remember that other people's success is simply proof that there are pathways to my own achievement.  Then I go work on my goals.  The victories that others have in their life should be an inspiration, not a distraction.  We can all accomplish so much more in our lives.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tweet, Post, Update, or Share Beyond Yourself

Take a minute to promote something another person is doing.  Our "Social Media Crazy World" gives us plenty of opportunities to promote ourselves, but we can just as easily take the time to share a Tweet or Facebook Update on a project that is important to someone else (even when there is nothing to gain personally).

Do not make it all "Hey, Look At Me" --- Make some of it "Hey, Look At Them!!!"

The more you promote others, the more others will promote you.  (Note... it often wont be the same people, as not everyone has it in them to shine the light on others.... it's okay.... promote them anyway!).

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Attend Meetings If You Want Opportunity - Stay Home If Not Interested

When attending a conference do not underestimate the power of the human element. There is sometimes a feeling that it is "un-cool" to admit to wanting to network while attending an event, but this is where you find the value at live conferences, trade shows, conventions, and seminars.

When I speak at an event I often am making a case for connecting with people in a social media crazy world.  This is not to undermine the power of digital and mobile tools, but to make sure we do not forget to look others in the eye.  

If the purpose of a meeting was only to gain information then we would not need to convene. While I love experiencing the presentation of a GREAT speaker, those are rare in our day of everyone being an expert (regardless of their ability to speak).  Too few speakers have the ability inspire an audience to learn from their talk.  

Reading a white paper or watching a recorded video on your computer could transmit the data (if learning was the only purpose), but sharing all aspects of a conference with peers is how we find value in meetings.  The serendipity of "hallway conversations" can hardly be duplicated in an online chat box, and is often where people get their deepest learning moments.

While attending the luncheon at a conference recently I had a debate about the power of face-to-face meetings and networking with a guy who was convinced that the day of the meeting was behind us.  He was opinionated, but very well informed.  He was at the event himself, but seemed torn by why others would attend.

Our conversation was a respectful discussion, although we disagreed.  Over the next few days we hung around together often and became friends.  One night in the bar he was telling me how he got his current job (a great one, I might add).  Turns out he met his boss at a conference similar to the one we were attending.  I inquired if it was really a "live meeting" that lead to his dream job?

He smiled and said, "I guess meetings are a thing of the past, except for those who want opportunity".

What a great line: 
Meetings are a thing of the past, except for those who want opportunity.
When you attend you next live event, do not pretend that people do not matter.  Nothing matters more.  Take the time to meet people and get to know them.  You never know what can happen with the right connection.  However, if you do not connect then you can be fairly certain that there will be nothing.

Remember:  All opportunities come from people! 

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, May 26, 2013

Feeling Busier Than Ever


I do not remember life being this busy in the past.  It seems that I am never fully caught up and there is always some new deadline looming in my personal or professional life.  

Maybe it is the age of my kids (teens and pre-teens bring with them many activities), or perhaps middle age cumulatively brings more responsibility?  

It could be that I run my own business.  Being a solo-entrepreneur means that I have to do it all, and a business is similar to a living being that always needs to be nurtured, fed, and sheltered.

My belief on this constant bombardment of "stuff" has to do with the advances in technology and digital communication that have taken over our society in the last few years.  All of the social media and mobile tools were supposed to make our lives easier (and in many ways it has), yet it also makes it more complicated.

This is not an anti-technology rant.  Just an observation.  I could make the choice to walk away from the iPhone, tablet, and laptop.... but I enjoy the information that these devices bring to my finger tips.  

An option could be to let some of my ideas to grow the business go to the back burner, but the family has needs to fund things like housing, food, fun and college educations.  

I do not need to write my blog or be working on my 10th book, yet as a writer I love to write... so this is not one of the things that seem to overwhelm my day (in fact, this blog is one of the biggest joys in my business life - writing brings me to a peaceful place).  

Some people are great about stepping away from the constant stream of "stuff" that is engulfing our lives.  I am not one of them.  I cannot live my life in silos.  I am still a husband and father when I am speaking to a convention (those who have seen me present know my family and friends are often part of the stories that punctuate the ideas I share).  On the flip side, I am an entrepreneur and business owner at home.  My wife, children and friends are all part of the business (whether they like it or not).  Who I am and what I do are mashed together.  But this means there is not much down-time.

How about you?  Are you regularly feeling one step behind with the pressure to get "stuff" accomplished?  Have you found a way to deal with our busy, busy crazy world?  Is there anything on the horizon that will change this direction or are we destined to live this way forever?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, May 24, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do: Ryan Surber - Founder of MyCharityLife

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

I had the honor to meet Ryan Surber and Nora Harding from MyCharityLife.  They are part of a team that is growing the MyCharityLife program and taking it across the country with the mission of getting young people engaged with giving.  I was taken in by their story and think they are doing something very cool.  

Ryan has dedicated himself to this cause and is building a way for people to give small amounts, over time, and then watch their philanthropic endeavors grow to serve charities in their local markets.  He and Nora are currently visiting 100 cities to share the message, but are calling "home" a split between Austin, Texas and Des Moines, Iowa.

MyCharityLife began a little over two years ago. Since that time Ryan has sold his financial services practice, downsized his life and possessions, bought a touring rig consisting of a 33’ 1999 Bluebird and 28’ trailer that serves as their home, mobile office, mobile video production studio, mobile tradeshow booth, and their party-on-the-go.

The creative team is made up of a great crew from Des Moines and Bangladesh, and two of them were even crazy enough to join him on the road in launching MyCharityLife to 100 cities over the next 52 weeks.

There are so many reasons to give back, and Ryan strongly believes that the millennial generation wants to give back while being heard. He has been an active part of leading this generation in different ways to do good and give back for over a decade, and MyCharityLife is the best of these movements and organizations.

If you are moved by what they are doing, then get involved:  Create a profile, build a personal charity portfolio, and commit to funding that portfolio every month. Host a meet-up in your town, or maybe even get a few leaders together to create a local MyCharityLife team. This can become something very personal in this world of social media. And the world needs more givers!!!

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Monday, May 20, 2013

Tech Conferences Are NOT Destroying The World. That Is Just Some Dude Looking For A Catchy Headline!

LinkedIn is promoting a blog post that unfairly points to the Meetings Industry as the root of Global Warming.  Hunter Walk writes "Tech Conferences Are Destroying The World.  I Have A Solution" in which he points to live meetings (actually, live technology focused meetings...which makes me wonder if non-tech meetings cause the same issue or if he just wanted a powerful headline?) as a major cause of climate change, and he wants the conferences themselves to charge an extra fee to buy Carbon Credits to offset the air travel pollution caused by attendees.

Ummmm... this blog post has over 16,000 views as of my writing this here... but it only has 54 likes and 85 comments (because it is ridiculously off base).

Nowhere does he point out that most meetings are local and regional anyway.  Plus, the big national and international conferences draw heavily from their own area, so it is not clear if all attendees should pay for air travel related pollution, or just those who fly to the event. While the industry is working hard to implement many more "green" policies and procedures, Mr. Walks solution is really about something the airline industry should do (adding $100 per ticket for carbon offsets).  While I am not sure either way if this is really a solution, it is not on the back of the meeting to charge this fee.

Mr. Walk fails to give any credit to the positive impact that the meetings industry has on the economy.  The   Economic Significance of Meetings to the U.S. Economy Study reveals that the U.S. meetings industry directly supports 1.7 million jobs, $263 billion in spending, a $106 billion contribution to GDP, $60 billion in labor revenue, $14.3 billion in federal tax revenue and $11.3 billion in state and local tax revenue.

Yep, those are some big numbers.... but people who pick on the events business never show the value they create, as that takes away the power of a one-sided argument   It is easy to grab headlines when you pretend that meetings are just about the happy hours and beer, but the reality around the value of meetings (to the attendees and the economy) are powerful when you look at the whole picture.  

I am surprised to see LinkedIn promoting an article that wrongly pins the meetings industry as so evil.  While this online networking site is about virtual links, the real value in LinkedIn comes through the live connections that people make and cultivate.  Connections are more than "links", "likes", "shares" and "follows".  (Also, the comments on Mr. Walk's post that encourage only online meetings are silly, too).

Seems I blog often in support of the Meetings Industry, but that is because I am proud to be part of this business.  When people come together (and yes, that can happen online, but this should not discredit live) it is amazing what can happen.  Conferences, trade shows, conventions, and seminars are more likely to spur conversations, connections, ideas, and actions that will save the world (rather than destroy it).  Just saying!

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Car Trouble When Traveling. Yuck.

Nobody looks forward to spending a Saturday getting their car fixed.  It is worse when you are 500 miles away from home and have an something go wrong with your family's transportation.  

Yep, it happens.  This is when you hope for a run in with above average customer service!!!

The A/C in our Honda Odyssey stopped blowing cold air once we arrived in New Orleans for an impromptu family vacation.  While the temperature was warm and just starting to show signs of humidity, the weather had not yet reached the heat of the summer (I cannot imagine no A/C in a car in the summertime in the south!).  However, the nine hour drive back to Texas in 90 degree heat was not going to be fun.

I try to teach the kids that every problem has a solution.  While they are not always easy or inexpensive.... you need to seek out options rather than sulking about the problem itself.  

Thus, dad would skip the morning activities in the French Quarter and going to the Aquarium and see if I could get the car fixed while still in Louisiana.  Thank goodness for the internet, within minutes I had the address of a local Honda dealer only a few miles from downtown NOLA.

I showed up the next morning at Royal Honda in Metairie, Louisiana at 7:30 AM (They opened at 8:00).  I knew from their website that they did not accept cars without an appointment on Saturday, but I was hopeful they would fit me into their schedule.  Honda has always shown superior customer service and I just knew they would try to help... if they could.   (I cannot say that as easily about the service for other brands of car I have owned..... but this Odyssey is our third Honda).

The team at the Royal Honda Service Department was great.  They agreed to take a look at the car, and fortunately the problem was a simple fix (a fuse relay had failed... not the whole A/C).  I was in and out in less than three hours and the cost was minimal. Our road trip was not impacted by this small mishap and by lunchtime we were back to our regularly scheduled family fun (which meant driving an hour out of town for the Honey Island Swamp Tour!!  The highlight of the whole weekend!!!).  But better yet, our drive home on Sunday was cool as a cucumber. 

Thanks to everyone at Royal Honda.... This was a "Customer Service Victory".

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do - Rico Reyes for State Representative

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

My friend Rico Reyes is running for State Representative in the 50th District in Texas.  How cool is that!

Rico and I met when we were both in the 2008 Leadership Austin Essentials Class.  He is one of those people whose authenticity comes across instantly and his smile puts everyone at ease. 

He has always taken a strong interest in serving the community, and it does not surprise me to see him make a run for the State House. He is destine to make the people of Central Texas proud of their native son.

Rico Reyes is a former Marine and a graduate of both Harvard and the University of Texas School of Law.  Regardless of your politics (he is a democrat), he is the type of person we all want in public service.  He cares deeply about helping others, and wants to make a difference.

He comes from humble roots (his grandfather was a school janitor) and has worked hard to achieve all that is the American Dream. 

Texas politics can be crazy, but I believe that Rico is going to make a big impact on the future.  If you live in District 50 (or beyond), take a minute to look at his website and "like" his Facebook page.  If you are so moved, make a donation to his campaign.  Running for public office has become expensive, and quality candidates need our support.

I will update you on this blog when my friend Rico Reyes is elected to the State House of Representatives!!! Stay tuned.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

National Speakers Association Convention - I Would Not Miss It

**Note.  I wrote this in 2013... but the advice is still great for 2014 NSA Convention in San Diego.

Often people wonder why I am active in the National Speakers Association.  I have had several speakers tell me they would not invest their time and money in this organization because they only go to events that have potential clients present.  Since other speakers do not hire them, they cannot see a reason to spend four days at this annual event (or be part of their local chapter).  I can't see a reason to miss it the annual event (or local meetings).  I block the dates in my calendar a year in advance.

Do I get business from being an NSA member?  Nope, not directly.... but I doubt I would be in business if I had not joined NSA five years ago.  The business of professional speaking looks one way from the outside, but is very different once you are in the trenches.  Having regular exposure to others who are walking the same path is like having a "Fast Pass" to get on the good rides at Disneyland.  Plus, many of my friends and I have created referral relationships where we introduce each other to potential clients, so indirectly I have had bottom line impact.

For me, the NSA Annual Convention is a "must attend" event.  Over the past few years I have made friendships with other speakers who have become my peers, advisers and my cheerleaders.  While NSA prides itself on being very "welcoming" to all who are at their events, I am not fully sure that it is any different from other organizations.  There are the same issues with cliques that exist at all conferences, but once you find your own warm nest of friends, there is no replacement for being surrounded by people who get the quirky nature of this industry.

My oldest daughter is also active in the annual Youth Program.  For decades NSA has had a youth leadership conference connected to their annual gathering. It exposes the 100 plus teens to some of the best speakers in the world who share their messages to educate and inspire the children of the speakers in attendance.  The bonus to this is that she has grown to understand what I do for a living.

If you are a speaker and have never attended an NSA Convention.... this summer in Philadelphia will be a great time to come experience what so many others know about the power of NSA.  

7 tips to get the most from attending the NSA Convention

1.  Come to learn.  There are so many great speakers who will cover countless topics that will have an impact on your business.  Platform skills, marketing, travel tips, etc.... and the added bonus of the "hallway conversations" with others.  The nuggets of valuable information will be plentiful.

2.  Meet new people.  Do not sit with your local chapter friends.  NSA has attendees from all over the world, and the interesting speakers who you will meet will open your eyes to many different ways to grow your business.  If you can make one or two new friends each year who you keep in contact with all year, you will over time build up an amazing list of speaker buddies.

3.  Do not stalk the celebrities.  There are some uber-successful speakers who are part of NSA.  Some are there speaking, others are in the audience.  The mistake many new speakers make is they hope to find a mentor who will discover them.  While this does happen, it is rare.  You are best served by making friends with people at or about your same level, and then growing up in the business together.

4.  Vote with your feet.  If you are in a breakout session that is not meeting your needs, stand up and go to another session.  Not every breakout session is going to be fantastic or live up to your expectations.  Do not waste your time, move on and find a session that is best suited to your needs.

5.  Visit the Learning Lounge.  Last year NSA introduced an alternative program that ran concurrently to the breakout sessions.  In the Learning Lounge there are always several small group discussions or TED Style talks happening at once.  Some of these were lead by industry legends and only five or six people were present.  Many did not want to miss a breakout so they sat in a room with hundreds while others received customized education from amazing experts.

6.  Attend the Foundation Dinner and the Cigar PEG.  Both of these events benefit the NSA Foundation, but also give you a chance to share more experiences with others at the conference.  Last year's convention chair, Patrick Henry, is in charge of the Foundation Dinner.  Get ready for it to be very fun!

7.  Belly up to the bar.  You do not need to be a drinker to spend a little time in the hotel bar late at night.  It is in this causal social setting where I have met some of the people who have helped me the most in my career.  There is more to a conference that the formal agenda.... it is often the informal times that bring the biggest value. 

If you read this, and plan to be at the NSA Conference, reach out to me and introduce yourself.  I look forward to meeting you.  

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day.  It is a great day to celebrate my wife.... who does so much for our family everyday.  This year we made her beignets for breakfast (from Cafe Du Monde mix..... we honeymooned in New Orleans, so beignets have special memories of walking around the French Quarter covered in powdered sugar). We will also go to see a movie as a family and then I will make paella for dinner.

The day also reminds me of my my own mom who passed away 29 years ago.  She was cool, loving, funny, and died way too young.    

When your mom is gone, Mother's Day is bitter sweet.  I smile thinking about all the things she did to make life more fun, but I am sad she never met her daughter-in-laws or her grandchildren.

In college I spent several mother's days with my friend Jay, who had also lost his mom too early.  I have great memories of us having a few beers at the San Diego Padres game and toasting to the "Betty's" (they were both named Betty) or going out for dinner while most of our other friends were home visiting their families.

However, it is See's Candy that most often makes me think about my mother.  She had a bit of a sweet tooth, and every time we would walk into a See's store the people who worked there knew her by name and they knew what she wanted to taste as a sample.  Apparently she often went in just to buy one or two pieces.... like an addict sneaking a fix.

She once hid a box of the special candy in the dishwasher, then told my older brothers if they helped around the house, she had some candy as a reward.  Yes, my oldest brother ran the dishwasher as a way to be helpful. Oops.

Another time she hid a box in the linen closet, and forgot it was there.  Several months later there were thousands of ants in the sheets. YIKES.

When I travel to California I often go to a See's Candy store and have a few pieces of her favorite candy (the Bordeaux), and maybe a few of my own favorites (Dark Chocolate Molasses Chips).  Yep, I inherited that sweet tooth.  I can't say no to a piece of See's.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mom's out there!!!

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Saturday, May 11, 2013

"The Coffee, Meal or Beer Rule" of Social Media

There are many opinions about how to best utilize social media tools in your personal and professional lives. I maintain that you have to explore and learn, but in the end do what works for you. 

You will find plenty of "experts" who are sure that their way is the only way.... but there are many paths to building your online reputation and cultivating friendships.

My personal policy for whom I link with on LinkedIn and Facebook is "The Coffee, Meal or Beer Rule".  I have spoken about this for years, but decided to re-post the concept after a recent conversation at a business marketing conference.  

Simply stated, I do not link to people on LinkedIn and Facebook whom I have not interacted with personally.  On Twitter, Google+ and other sites I have different policies, but too many strangers in my LinkedIn and Facebook stream can cloud the value I receive from being engaged in the first place.  

Having read someone's blog, heard about their reputation or briefly meting them at a conference may or many not mean there is a foundation for a relationship.  Thus I established the benchmark of sitting with them for "coffee, meal or beer".  A conversation that lasts 45 minutes establishes a baseline for a minimum level of contact before the online link is made.  I also have "digital equivalent" options such as phone calls, Skype conversations  or Google+ Hang Outs.... as in today's online world our relationships can certainly grow via virtual meetings.

Not every one of my contacts originally met this criteria, but a majority of those in my LinkedIn and Facebook lists are those with whom I have had a substantial initial conversation.  A few got in before I established the policy, and I often make exceptions for meeting professionals and recruiters whose industries practices are to utilize LinkedIn as a way to reach out to people they may wish to do business with in the future.

There are those who disagree with my policy and believe one gains more from linking to everyone, but this has served me well. When I get a request, I will often ask for a personal meeting or a call.  If the person reaching out cannot make the time for a chat, I am not sure why they want the connection at all.

My advice to others is to have a policy (even if it is different from mine), and then to be respectful of others who use these tools in different ways! (Lack of respect for those with differing opinions is an epidemic online, and we must get beyond that!).

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Wheaton's Law

Wil Wheaton (yes, the guy from Star Trek: Next Generation) is known for a simple saying that is a good rule for everyone to learn and live by online (and offline):

"Don't be a dick"

It was originally stated by the actor at a conference to online gamers in regards to sportsmanship, but has come to be known to be advice for all aspects of life.

I became aware of this when a person I know said something highly snarky and a mutual friend called me to discuss the motivation of this person toward pompous jerk tendencies.  I tweeted a random question asking why some are prone to such behavior, to which several online friends pointed me to "Wheaton's Law" as the best way to live.

It is simple, but so true.   

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, May 10, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do: Cameron Gibson - Dollar A Day

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

Cameron Gibson is a young man with a vision for making the world a better place.  He realizes that you do not have to be rich to impact your community, and he is taking on a monumental project to help get his generation excited about making the world a better place.

Cameron is the founder and CEO of Dollar A Day.  Their mission is to give kids around the world the opportunity to learn invaluable life lessons through participation in sports, music, and creative arts. These programs are being cut in many schools because of budget issues, but Cameron knows that being engaged in these activities can change the lives of children.  He has a cause and he is looking to solve the problem.

Dollar A Day is doing things differently.  It is not a charity but a company.  At first I raised my eyebrows at a for-profit organization raising money, but Cameron is all about transparency.  He is passionate about the cause, open with his company's financial records, and looking for ways to get people involved with the idea of giving small amounts that add up to big changes.   Not all organizations that serve the greater good are charities, and he wants to grow something that has an impact.

I firmly believe that new and different models are needed to get better results.  The status quo does not seem to work in all cases.  Our world has some big issues that need creative solutions.  Cameron has that common trait of youthful excitement combined with the rare trait of taking action.  That coupling, when done right, can have a huge impact!

Dollar A Day is currently raising money on the crowd-source funding site Indiegogo.  Their goal is $100,000 to help launch the business to the next level.  Check out their efforts.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Captain Ahab - The Fisherman of Networking Opportunities

Geeg Wiles from Massachusetts was recently in Austin with his travel companion, Captain Ahab.  Geeg and I met to discuss the business of speaking professionally, as he has begun speaking on college campuses encouraging students on living life to the fullest, creating experiences, and cultivating relationships.... as it is the real life connections with people that make a difference in our lives ---  not just the "likes", "follows", "links" and "shares" of social media (hmmmm..... sounds like a refreshingly familiar message!!!).

He does not travel alone.  For over 12 years he has roamed the United States with Ahab.  His partner in crime is quiet, but always the center of attention.  People stare, laugh, question, giggle, roll their eyes, look away in horror, and/or come up to have their photo taken with the two foot tall fisherman that apparently wants to be a pirate.

This leads Geeg, and anyone with him, to start interesting conversations and build friendships.

Captain Ahab is a wooden sculpture.  He began his life on the front lawn of a middle-class home in Massachusetts (think "garden gnome"), but more than a decade ago Ahab was "acquired" by Geeg and his college buddies.  The idea was a short series of adventures and then his being returned with a photo album chronicling his destinations.  However this college prank has grown into a mission of fun, discovery and human-to-human connections.

Everywhere they go Ahab is a conversation starter.  Geeg has met people near and far.  Locals, tourists, celebrities  etc... all come up to learn more about this little yellow wooden man.  While not everyone is interested in talking to Geeg, he is sure that he has met thousands of people because of his not being shy about carting his wood carving all over the place.

I joined Geeg and his friends for lunch on South Congress in Austin, and tagged along as they took Ahab along the funky shopping district (he made an appearance at Allen's Boots and tried on cowboy hats!).  Even in a "Keep Austin Weird" part of town, Ahab turned heads (one would think in Austin a grown man carrying a large carved fisherman would seem tame... but people still wanted to know the back story).

Networking apparently does not need to be just between humans.  Wooden figures are not getting in the game.  To make connections all you have to do is be willing to talk to others.  Take an interest in people and share stories.  You never know what opportunities can grow from conversations with others.

Too bad some of the real people we meet at networking events seem more like wood statues than old Ahab!

To learn more about Ahab's Adventures you can follow him on Facebook or check out

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Monday, May 06, 2013

Motivational Speaker - Austin Texas

The keynote speaker sets the tone for the whole conference.  When you are looking for a motivational and educational speaker to inspire your audience for an event in Austin, Texas (or beyond), be sure to include Thom Singer on your short list.

Known as "The Conference Catalyst", Thom Singer is an experienced speaker who will get people more engaged in all aspects of the conference.

When you select Thom Singer as a keynote speaker, workshop leader, Master of Ceremonies, or engage him as "The Conference Catalyst",.... your vibe at your event will be supercharged.   All industries (including: lawyers, bankers, accountants, engineers, IT professionals, etc...) are inspired by his high energy and interactive presentations.

Select Keynotes:

"Connecting with people in a social media crazy world"

"Cooperative Significance for Business Leaders"

"Know your purpose beyond an elevator pitch"

Singer lives in Austin, Texas - and brings his local perspective to your event!!

Contact Thom Singer at (512) 970-0398  or Thom (at)

Motivational Speaker - San Antonio, Texas

The keynote speaker sets the tone for the whole conference.  When you are looking for a motivational and educational speaker to inspire your audience for an event in San Antonio, Texas (or beyond), be sure to include Thom Singer on your short list.

Known as "The Conference Catalyst", Thom Singer is an experienced speaker who will get people more engaged in all aspects of the conference.

When you select Thom Singer as a keynote speaker, workshop leader, Master of Ceremonies, or engage him as "The Conference Catalyst",.... your vibe at your event will be supercharged.   All industries (including: lawyers, bankers, accountants, engineers, IT professionals, etc...) are inspired by his high energy and interactive presentations.

Select Keynotes:

"Connecting with people in a social media crazy world"

"Cooperative Significance for Business Leaders"

"Know your purpose beyond an elevator pitch"

Singer lives in Texas - and brings his local perspective to your event!!

Contact Thom Singer at (512) 970-0398  or Thom (at)

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Great Presentation by Bill Clinton

While randomly clicking through the channels, I stumbled upon a C-SPAN rebroadcast of a speech by President Bill Clinton.  He addressed the students at Georgetown on April 30, 2013.  This was the first of four lectures that Clinton will deliver over the next several years at his alma mater.

The lectures examine the framework for a lifetime spent championing an idea espoused by his Georgetown professor Carroll Quigley: that America is the greatest nation in history because our people have always believed in two things – that tomorrow can be better than today and that every one of us has a personal, moral responsibility to make it so.

I tuned in late, but was blown away by his message and the stories he told.  Politics aside (this has nothing to do with being on the right or left), he is an amazing speaker, and a true elder statesman.  

As one who studies the art and science of speaking, I understand that Bill Clinton knows what it takes to connect his message to the heart and soul of an audience.  He is aware that it is not just about the content.  He is a master in the way he communicates with words, eyes, tone, body, and intention.  All who speak to audiences should watch and learn.

Near the end he spoke powerful words that everyone needs to hear:  "We have just one remaining bigotry in America -- we don't want to be around anyone who disagrees with us".  His point that people have no tolerances for those who do not share their same points of view is epic.  Wow. He is right.

Here is the link to the whole presentation.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

(photo from - I hope they do not mind my using it here!)

"I Prefer Boring and Inexperienced Speakers at Conferences" - Said No Event Attendee Ever!

The argument between content and style continues....

A friend recently attended an event where the keynote speaker was awful.  She said something to the meeting organizer who replied "yes, but he is so smart, it does not matter.... look at the content he shared.  We were all lucky to be here".  My friend disagreed and was told she did not understand the modern conference.... that everyone knows that "content is king".  YIKES.

I am not saying content does not matter.  YES, we must have valuable information at conferences --- but that is not the whole story.  If the goal is to share content we can just email a white paper and save the attendees a lot of time, money and travel hassles.  A live event is an experience, and the little things can have a big impact.  The speakers (keynotes and breakouts) set the tone for the whole event.

Speaking is a skill.  To call someone a "speaker" means they understand how to educate, inspire and motivate an audience.   I know that "motivation" has become a bad word,.... but think about the opposite of "motivation" (de-motivating, sluggish, sucks the energy out of the room).... and nobody wants those words assigned to their conference.

Being a "speaker" is not only about having words come out of your mouth... or everyone qualifies as a speaker.  It can take over 300 presentations to match Malcolm Gladwell's "10,000 Hour Theory " from the book Outliers..... experience and long-term commitment impacts skill.

Just because someone is smart, or has done something cool --- it does NOT mean they belong on stage.  It is not too much to expect both content and speaking skills (and experience).

What do you think?  What was special about the best presentations you have seen at a conference?

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, May 03, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do - Linda Swindling Releases New Book

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

Linda Swindling, JD, CSP, is a professional speaker, executive coach and former president of the National Speakers Association - North Texas Chapter.  

I have known Linda for as long as I have been active in the speaking industry and she has always been a good friend.  We both speak often to law firms (she is a "recovering attorney") and she is always one to share ideas and advice on the world of attorneys.

Her new book, "Stop Complainers and Energy Drainers: How to Negotiate Work Drama to Get More Done (Wiley 2013)" was just released and it covers a topic which resonates with many people---  stopping the madness of whiners and complainers in the workplace!

Constant complainers take up resources, time and mental bandwidth. When you change a culture of complaining to one of contributing, you boost morale, increase productivity and promote effective communication. In short, you get more done with less drama. Stop Complainers and Energy Drainers shows you how to
negotiate through the toughest workplace situations by revealing strategies for refocusing conversations with whiners, using phrases to turn complainers into contributors, and stopping complainers from wasting your time.
It has been fun to watch Linda promote her book, as each day she posts new photos of people reading her book in interesting places.  On planes, in restaurants, at meetings, etc.... the book keeps popping up.  Linda said that she looks for people who look friendly and then asks them if they will pose for a photo.  The biggest thing she teaches in her negotiations skills classes is to ask for what you want..... and guess what?  -- It actually works!  

You can take her free assessments:  “Spot Your Complainer’s Type” and “Am I Seen as a Complainer” (use the code “Thom”) to determine what type of complainer you are working with or if you, yourself, might be a complainer.  Additional resources are at

Have A Great Day

thom singer

**PS - not sure I loved that the special "complainer code" for readers of my blog was "Thom"... but I did not want to complain.   ;-)

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Employee Engagement - Your Secret Weapon

Team engagement is paramount for a company to succeed in today's world.  With fewer resources there is no room for employees who are not committed to the cause.  Gaining market awareness is not something that can be left to a few people in sales and marketing.... the whole organization must be on working together.

Nobody longs to work for a company where the staff is treated like cogs in a wheel, but many people go to work day-in and day-out feeling they do not make a difference.  When I meet someone who works for a company with a great culture, I know it instantly from how they talk about their career.  On the flip side, you can easily spot those who are just going through them motions.

In the meetings industry I often see great engagement from those who plan events.  They have a commitment to creating meetings that impact those in attendance, and they will work long hours to ensure that they exceed the words on their job description (this is why I suggest other industries recruit people with meeting planning experience).   

Long hours (with little praise) would lead some to believe these professionals would not be as dedicated to their jobs, but I rarely meet anyone who works around "meetings" that does not push hard in every way.  They are engaged in the success of the events they plan and do not quit short of the goal.  


I believe it has to do with the authority that meeting planners have to make decisions on the fly.  When you are involved with a live event many things can go wrong.  The best planners do not wait for a committee to come to a conclusion, they just take action.  When you have the ability to make choices, you have a deeper feeling of ownership about your job.  While often these same people do not have this freedom in the early planning stages (the dreaded committee often has to weigh in on everything), while the event is happening they are the director.  This ability to be in charge can bring a lot of satisfaction (especially when they solve a problem and nobody ever knows the issue existed!).

Are you giving your people the power to act?  It is a good thing, as it hands them a powerful sense of ownership.  Engaged employees bring more to the workplace and that impacts your bottom line.

Have A Great Day

thom singer