Sunday, September 29, 2013

Speaking at SXSW? (or another conference?) - Practice, Practice, Practice!!!

Are you going to speak at South by Southwest (SXSW) in March 2014? The annual tech, film and music conferences will soon be announcing their line up for presentations and panels.  This is a giant conglomeration of conference activities and being selected to present can bring amazing opportunity (and fun, too). 

However, too many of those who will take the stage at this event (and other events all over the world) will suck.  Yep, they will range from average to awful as speakers.  There will be little preparation, they will not be audience focused, and many will attempt to "wing-it".  The actionable information and inspiration the people desire will be missing, and far too often attendees will be left thinking "that break-out session was BLAH".

Speaking at a major event brings opportunity to present yourself as an expert, but if you are awful at how you communicate with the audience you will not only miss this opportunity, but you can crater your reputation.  A great topic is not enough.  I have watched many successful and smart business professionals bore an audience.  

Just because someone is smart or has done something cool, it does not mean they belong on stage.  We live in a polite society, so most will never hear the feedback of what the audience really is thinking. They will be told "great speech" or "nice job", and leave feeling they rocked the house.  

If you are going to speak at SXSW in 2014 you need to start thinking NOW about how to ensure you are not one of the many presenters who will SUCK as a speaker. This conference has a tradition of people walking out of sessions that do not meet their needs, and nobody wants to see their audience pouring out of their breakout session ten minutes after they being.

Join at Toastmasters group, hire a coach, and/or practice at least a dozen times in front of a live audience and video camera.  If you have submitted a presentation idea, and are selected to present, this is a commitment you owe to your audience.  It is selfish to "wing it", and it is a crime to be horrible when you could have taken steps to improve in the six months before arriving in Austin, Texas for SXSW.

The best TED speakers are said to invest 45-60 hours in preparation for their talk.  My guess is that the majority of speakers at SXSW (and most other events) do not invest much time in practicing their talks.  

If you do not care, do not sign up to speak!!!

If you are going to be a speaker at SXSW 2014 and you stumble across this post.... PLEASE care about your audience and do not suck on stage!!!

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, September 27, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do: Neal Schaffer's New Book - "Maximize Your Social"

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

My friend Neal Schaffer has just released his third book, "Maximize Your Social: A one stop guide to building a social media strategy for marketing and business success".  

I met online Neal through my friend from college, Tim Tyrell-Smith, several years ago. Then we met in person at the 2012 PCMA Convening Leaders Conference (where we were both speakers and had our book signings at the same time).  Neal is a wizard at social media, and does not simply try to act like an expert... he is an expert.

I purchased the book on Kindle and am currently reading it with my daily coffee.  Wow, good stuff even for those who already are actively using social media. 

Neal was also interviewed this week by my friend Stephen Lahey on the Podcast.  In the interview he talks about his new book, and his outlook on how social can help a drive business success.  Click over and take a listen to the podcast!

He also has a great promo video for his book:

Congrats to Neal on his new book.  Very cool.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Should Younger Generations Join Industry Associations? Yes!

While speaking to a group of young professionals I was asked about the importance of joining industry associations.  

The person asking the question thought that membership organizations were dead and that the live (face-to-face) meetings industry was drying up.  He was convinced that the internet had brought live events to a trickle, and that only his grandmother could find value in joining a business / trade group.

The audience nodded along as he made his points, but some were surprised to hear my response and advice:

While it is true that there is much said about Generation Y not flocking to join old-school associations, I pointed out that many industry groups were changing with the times.  The best ones are changing their meeting agendas, adding generation specific sub-groups, allowing younger members to have a voice, and adding valuable online and mobile tools to their traditional offerings.  

While the recession did hurt the meetings industry, in 2013 it is currently booming. The Economic Significance of Meetings to the U.S. Economy Study (2011) 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. Those numbers are growing, and the predictions are that there will be more face-to-face meeting in the future (not less).

The advice I shared with the audience was to be open minded about industry associations.  I pointed out that while a fast "like", "link", "share", or "follow" is one thing, sharing live experiences with other people is still how real relationships are built. 

People will always bring opportunities to those they know, like and trust.  Throughout time humans have congregated in community, and that is not going to change.  Being part of something will expose all involved to fresh ideas, interesting experiences, fun times, and more opportunities.

While fewer of their 20-something peers are currently joining trade groups, the path to leadership opportunities inside these organizations is not as competitive.  The time is now to get involved.

Their perception that that these groups were populated with "old" people is not necessarily a bad thing.  All the generations can (and should) actively learn from each other.... so the age of other members is irrelevant. If they can find a solid mentor with whom they can establish a long-term and mutually-beneficial relationship, then everyone wins.
My advice to the generations:
  • If you are in your 20's you need to make a friend every year who is over 50.  This will expose you to a variety of experiences and a different world view.
  • If you are over 50 you need to make a friend in their 20's every year.  This will keep you exposed to new technology and you can witness the opinions and actions of those from a different age group.
  • If you are in your 30's and 40's you have double the work.  Make a new friend over 50 and one under 30 each year.  This will bring you countless opportunities.
When we only spend time around those our own age (or our same gender, religion, political party, sexual orientation, etc...) we limit ourselves.  Knowing people who have differing backgrounds helps us grow and learn.
Since these membership associations are not going away (some will fail, but overall most will continue to serve their industries and change with the times), these younger professionals may eventually see the value in participation.  Seeing their peers discover key connections and advancement in careers will be all the encouragement required.  Those who join early will have an advantage, as it takes time to cultivate the benefits from being engaged in a community.

Over the last few years there has been much said about the "differences" in the three generations that are currently in the workforce.  But we are more alike than we are different. My 98-year-old father pointed out that people continue to fight the same battles throughout history.  He says that by reading the Bible you discover that for thousands of years man has struggled with money, careers, fame, sex, raising kids, natural disasters, jealousy, corruption, wars, sadness, etc....All the same issues that exist today. New technology is not going to change the human condition, thus people are still people (and not as different as we like to believe).

What do you think?  Will Gen Y join trade associations in greater numbers as they get older?  Is there still value to a career in being part of an industry group?  Do personal relationships matter in growing a career?  I think YES.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

100 Days Remain In 2013 -- Make Them Count

One hundred days.  This can seem like a long time or a blip on the calendar depending on how we view the block of time. Public corporations are judged by Wall Street on their quarterly performances (which are just shy of 100 days). We make assessments of US Presidents based on their first hundred days in office, and forever look to their activities in this time as a barometer of their term in office.  

Since January 1, 2013 Steve Harper (the Ripple Effect guy) has been tweeting a daily countdown reminding his army of followers that they can make a difference in the lives of others by taking a single action a day.  Today he pointed out that there are 100 chances left in this year: 

We all have 100 days remaining on the calendar in which we can take any variety of actions that can improve the world.  We can help others, impact our careers, improve a relationship with a loved one, etc....  There is plenty of time to create something important.

I challenge everyone who reads this to embrace the next 100 days and create a plan to accomplish the amazing. I have written about my Q4 strategic planning, and the actions I now need to take to make it real.  Anyone can make a difference if they act with intention. Do not leave the rest of the year to chance.

If you were the leader of a public company, your executive team would be expected you to show detailed success to your investors at the end of the quarter.  Had you just been sworn into office as a newly elected president your staff would be focused on the legislation you would introduce, as the press would be reporting your progress.  But as an individual person (most likely not the head of a multi-national corporation or the leader of the free world) you still should hold yourself accountable and strive for results.

Create a plan and take action.  Make the next 100 days count.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Creating My Strategic Plan

Strategic planning for my Q4 business took place on a free day before a presentation.  I arrived at my hotel at around lunchtime on Thursday, and did not have to meet my client until Friday morning. There was not much to do in the area of the hotel, and thus I dedicated the afternoon to deep and focused thinking about what I need to accomplish in my business over the next few months.  When you are a solo-entrepreneur and working alone it is no less important to have a plan and goals for success.

Each quarter I try to create targets for my attention and intentional business actions.  I must wear all the hats and it is easy to get distracted or lured away from the big picture of growing my business.  While serving my clients is my number one priority, without a solid business development focus there will not be new association and corporate conferences (or internal company training) where I can do the work.  

If someone was sitting by the hotel pool watching my third floor window they would have wondered what I bizarre stuff was doing.  I had collected a list issues that impact my company, and I put these on Post-it-Notes.  I stuck these notes to the window and moved them around as my mind contemplated the priorities and marketing ideas for the later part of the year.  I then used a dry erase pen to make notes on the window and annotate my thoughts before transferring my brain dump into a two page strategic document. 

I spent three hours on this exercise, and I have already begun to execute on some of the ideas (why wait until October 1st to begin making progress?).  The key is to take these concepts and translate them into actions.

You do not need to be a solo-entrepreneur or the boss to create a strategic plan for your business.  All of us are the owners of our own careers.  When I coach lawyers (and other executives) the once who have noticeable results are the once with a clear plan who take it seriously.  Those who do not think about their goals and targets just got through each day tackling whatever comes their way.  It is harder to reach your desired level of success without a plan.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ten Thoughts For Solo-Entrepreneurs

Ponder each of these:

1.  Your business is YOU.

2.  Do not assume you understand the success of others without getting to know them.  Outside judgments are incomplete.

3. Mis-steps and mistakes do not derail you.  You have to try things, and not all of it will work out the way you desired.

4. You are not one thing, or easily defined. 

5. Provide value that exceeds your fee.

6. Clients deserve great work.

7. Creating an experience is what sets you you apart.  Be unique.

8. Being a good is not enough - you need to market and cultivate a brand.

9.  Daily activities move the ball.  Do something every day.

10. You are still very early in the journey - enjoy the ride.

Have a great day

thom singer

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do: My Nephew Is A New Marine

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

My nephew, Hunter Stark, graduated from boot camp last week. He is now a proud United States Marine.

Hunter joined the Marines Early Enlistment Program during the summer before his senior year of high school. During that year he met weekly with his recruiter and worked out with like minded “Poolees” for PT (Physical Training) in preparation for boot camp.  Knowing he was joining the Marines was one thing, but leaving for boot camp was something totally different.  It was hard for his mom and dad to see him go, and to have no communication with him for three months.... but they (and all who know him) were very proud of him.

He joined the USMC for the adventure and to challenge himself. His boot camp experience, in his words, was “amazing, extremely painful and fun!” He also “learned a lot of cool shit!”.  It was clear in looking at him that he had gotten stronger, and evident in talking with him that the being a Marine has a positive impact on him.

While at boot camp he was awarded the leadership position of squad leader (there were only 4 out of the 85 in his platoon), earned the Rifle Expert Badge and the National Defense Medal for enlisting during time of war. Additionally, he graduated boot as a Private First Class (instead of Private) due to having previously earned the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America.

What was the BEST part?:Being part of something elite.

What was the WORST part?:Being away from family for so long.” (13 weeks with no communication except through delayed mail communication).

What is next? This week he returns for more schooling and then his five year commitment to proudly serve our nation.  We can all feel a little safer with this Marine on duty!

So far he says this has been an amazing experience and one he would definitely do all over again!  And he definitely belongs here on the "Cool Things My Friends Do" weekly blog post (the kid is a stud).

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New Keynote Presentation for Law Firms (and other professional service firm's internal meetings): The ABC's of Entrepreneurs Inside The Firm

The lawyer who thinks about business development, and takes actions, will have more success.  
"If you make your business development efforts a second tier priority, you will have second tier results!"  -thom singer
I am excited about speaking at more law firm retreats.  It is one of the favorite parts of my business, and for a few years these firms have not been as active in holding strategic planning meetings or hiring outside presenters.  But that has changed, as the most progressive law firms are getting very engaged with upping their competitive advantages in regards to their business development efforts.

Challenging lawyers to think like entrepreneurs is fun.  "The ABC's of Entrepreneurs Inside The Firm" is a fun topic for me and thought provoking for these audiences of left-brained professionals.  And they get excited by the message. 

To coincide with the release of my new book, "The ABC's of Entrepreneurs" (due out in October), I am working on this new keynote for law firm retreats (Partner retreats, associate retreats and all-hands meetings, etc...).

If your firm is planning a 2013 "end of year" meeting or a 2014 "kick-off", this program will educate, inspire and intrigue your team.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Monday, September 16, 2013

Program Your NPS: Networking Positioning Strategy

When you make a wrong turn driving to a destination your GPS (Global Positioning System) begins to recalculate.  It only takes a few seconds for the system to examine the situation and re-map your route to get you back on track.

In your journey to create a productive and mutually-beneficial network of professional contacts you need to have a GPS of sorts,.... you should create your own "NPS" (Networking Positioning Strategy).  It is easy to get off track in cultivating meaningful relationships, but when you make your network a priority and have a strategy on how to engage with others, you can quickly recalculate your next action if you drift off course.

A Networking Positioning Strategy will remind you to focus on why you are investing in people over the long run.  It is a gut check to stop seeking short term personal gain.  Too often people are waiting for others to magically send referrals, without ever looking for how to help those they encounter.  In our social media crazy world it is easy to confuse a "like", "link", "share" or "follow" for a meaningful connection, but without a establishing an ongoing relationship there will be little value.

Your "NPS" is your key to making networking a priority. Everyone is busy, and without a strategy you may not gain much traction in building connections.  Knowing your purpose and your desired outcomes will help you make the tough questions as you engage with people in your business community.

To create your NPS plan, ask yourself seven questions:

1.  Why do I network? Know what you want to accomplish by being an active member of your business community.  Showing up and trading business cards is a waste of time unless you have a plan.  If you only show up at events when you have a personal need you will be seen as a "taker", and others will not go out of their way to help you.  Networking is not verb (you do not "go network") - instead it is a lifestyle.

2.  With whom should I network?  There are a lot of business and social organizations, and you cannot be active in everything.  A key to having a productive strategy is selecting the right places to be active.  Knowing the types of people with whom you will best be able to create mutually beneficial relationships is paramount to success.

3.  Where do I fall on the introvert / extrovert spectrum?  Knowing yourself matters.  Introverts and extroverts find their energy through different situations.  Going to a big event can be draining for some, while others get excited by the experience.  This does not mean introverts can't get value from going to networking events, they just have to prepare differently.  When you are honest with yourself about how you react in group situations you will have more success.

4.  What do I expect from people in my network?  If you expect others to assist you in making connections, then you should lead by example.  Too often people hope others will help them without ever thinking about how to create a give and take friendship.

5.  Am I comfortable serving others without a direct personal reward?  Networking means helping others, and often the people you assist will not, or cannot, return the favors.  Some do not have the right contacts, others do not have "Follow Through DNA" (meaning they want to help you, but never seem to get around to following through).  You have enjoy seeing others succeed without keeping score or you will quickly become disillusioned.

6.  What do I bring to others?  We all have unique abilities in what we can do to serve others.  Understand your talents and use them to have an impact.  Remember that your talents are valuable when shared in the right circumstances.

7.  What does success look like?  If you do not know what you desire, you will spin your wheels and get frustrated.  Be clear with what you are hoping to achieve in your career and personal life, and it will make it much easier to answer the tough questions that come up along the way.

Review your answers and create a plan of action.  Have a strategy for what you want to accomplish and with whom you want to be associated with in your efforts.  All opportunities come from people and your commitment to being an active part of your community will lead you to better results.  

When you feel you are not making progress in cultivating relationships, take time to "recalculate" and check in with your "NPS" to help you plan how to continue to position yourself with value to those around you.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Saturday, September 14, 2013

It's Not About Me. Shocking.

It is a choice to focus on the good side or the bad side of many issues.  

Some people subconsciously seek to find a point of view that shows they have been short changed, wronged, or otherwise cheated by everything that happens.  Yes, there are legitimately bad things that come along, but most situations are not life impacting deal-breakers, and often we get to choose how we react.

It dawned on me long ago that others were not out to get me.  The truth is that even the people closest too me are not making their decisions on how to act (or what to say) based on me or my feelings.  They do what they do based on themselves.  We are not clairvoyant, and thus we cannot assume what is really motivating other people.  It would be self-focused to believe all they do is based on me.

In conflicts that arise people are convinced that others were intentional in hurting them, when that is not necessarily the case.  In response, they get mad, seek ways to get even, and undermine relationships.  It's a shame.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, September 13, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do: Sylvia and Ron Got Married

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

Sylvia Stern is a wonderful person and a great friend.  I have come to know her well over the past few years through the Austin Chapter of the National Speakers Association.  We have both served on the board of the local organization, and she has worked very hard to help launch the local NSA Chapter. 

Sylvia has had an eclectic and successful career as a communications and image strategist and is an experienced speaker, trainer and coach.  Her expertise has spanned the years and she continues to work with businesses of all sizes (from a local tech a start up to IBM).

Last week Sylvia married Ron Stone.  They had a surprise wedding (they knew about it, but maybe not their guests who were at the house-warming party).  The news broke on Facebook soon after the nuptials.  Very cool.

Congratulations to Sylvia and Ron!!!

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

10 Years of Social Media

The term "social media" was first used around 1997, (credit is given to then  AOL executive Ted Leonsis).  It was around this time that the internet began to become a commonly used tool in the United States and around the world.  Email emerged as a primary communications tool, and the fascination with the World Wide Web began to infiltrate all types of businesses.  But it was a few more years later before it went wild.

LinkedIn an MySpace both launched in 2003.  Today we have lived through a decade of active mainstream social media usage.  Facebook was founded in 2004 (but did not open beyond college campuses until later), YouTube in 2005, and Twitter was late to the game in 2006.  And of course the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 changed everything.

At the time it seemed like every year there was something newer and cooler (and everyone wanted to launch the hot new product at SXSW).  But now these tools, and countless others, are commonplace.  It has been awhile since anything with legs has garnered the imaginations of the masses, but we are forever changed by this thing called "social media", which has been amplified by the use of our mobile devises. 

In a world where we are all hyper connected, are we better networked?  Is a 'like", "link", "share" or "follow" leading us to better relationships?  There are many stories of those who have seen unparalleled success in social media circles, but are most people feeling the impact?

This is a hot topic of discussion at conferences.  A few years ago business events had entire "Social Media Educational Tracks", but recently the discussions seems to be moving to "Now What?".  After ten years with the online tools, many people are still feeling as if they are not reaping the rewards.  Is it the fault of the individual, or is massive connectivity not really as practical on a world-wide scale? 

Nobody has all the answers, but it is an interesting conversation to facilitate.  Social Media often reminds me of high school... the popular kids seem to think there is no issue of controversy in the way the social landscape plays out.  But others who are not at the cool-kids table see the world differently. There is certainly a popularity hierarchy in social media and some are not seeing the hyped levels of results.

It will take another few decades to reach a viewpoint that will put this all into perspective.  We are still in the early stages in the changes to how we communicate, but does this change how we connect?  I wonder if most people feel more connected in 2013 than they were in 2003?  I am having more conversations with people I know, but do I feel I have a deeper friendship with most because I read about the burrito they ate for lunch?  And do we care more because we have more information?  

How do you feel after 10 years of social media?

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Monday, September 09, 2013

Cal Worthington and His Dog Spot

In the late 60s and early 70s every kid in Southern California (and beyond) new knew Cal Worthington.  Cal owned a car dealership in the Los Angeles area and dominated the TV Commercials with this quirky ads.  

Cal always had his "Dog Spot" at his side, but it was never a dog, instead an exotic animal that he would lead in or ride across his car lot (The dog not being a dog thing made a lasting impression).

He died this week at age 92. While I never met the guy, when I heard the news of his passing the jingle "Go See Cal, Go See Cal, Go See Cal" flashed through my mind with the image of him riding an elephant.  Who says advertising does not work.  The Saturday morning cartoons of my youth were sprinkled with this guy selling Fords and showing off a zoo-ful of his "dogs".

Rest in peace, Mr. Worthington.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Three Ways To Follow Up After A Conference

This post originally appear on August 8, 2011.  It was too good not to share again (2013 edited version)

People attend business conferences and events all the time with the hopes to make meaningful connections.  The meetings business is a huge industry and even through the rough economic years and the increase in online options, there is a plethora of face-to-face gatherings.

A main reason people attend business events is for the "networking opportunities", however once they get there they stink at making meaningful connections.

Worse is when people make a contact at an event they rarely follow up.  Meeting someone once does not make them part of your network.... it makes them someone you met once.  There is a huge difference between having a brief chat at a convention and establishing a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship.

In today's fast-paced and impersonal culture a quickly sent LinkedIn request is often mistaken for an effort to add people to a network.  A social media link is not the same as a friendship that is established through shared experiences.  

To create a real relationship you must have ongoing conversations.  If you want to go beyond just trading information you must "own the follow up".  Meetings are great tools to bring people together, but some conferences invest to create a culture that is more than a few keynotes, breakouts, and meals.  When you are part of something bigger than an "event" you are more excited to follow up with people when you get home.  

Here are a few ideas:

1. Send a handwritten note.  Yes, email is easier and text is concise.  But these communication methods are often part of the ongoing noise that many try to filter out all day.  Many professionals get over 150 emails everyday.  Since so few people send these types of notes they really do stand out.  

2.  Schedule lunch or another activity.  The sooner you get together again the higher the odds you will establish a real friendship. While this works best if you live in the same area, too few people ever take this step even when they work in the same building.  Humans are experiential beings, so when you share experiences you build bonds.

3.  Have a "tele-coffee".  My friend Neen James coined this phrase.... it is where you make coffee in your office, they make coffee in their office across the country (or across the world) and then you have a scheduled conversation via phone or Skype.  This is a great way to have a memorable conversation with those who live far away.

Don't delay in planning for the follow up after a conference (yes, if you want success you need a plan).  The more time that passes they less likely you will ever have any other contact with the people you meet at business events.

What do you do to cultivate the connections you make? 

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

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

Friday, September 06, 2013

Scott Robinson - A Friend to Many

In place of my weekly "Cool Things My Friends Do" blog post, this week I am remembering a friend who passed away unexpectedly.

The Austin community was shocked and saddened this week by the unexpected death of Scott Robinson.  He was 41 years old.  This father of two young children (he leaves behind a son and a daughter, twins, age 8) was a tireless supporter of the Austin Entrepreneurial Community.  

It was nearly  two and a half years ago when I first met Scott.  You could not miss him at a networking event, as he had to be 6'4 (maybe taller), and was always very well dressed.  Scott took a sincere interest in others that instantly made people feel as if they were his long lost friend.  Every time I would see Scott he would have an idea of somebody I should meet.  He was all about helping others discover the connections that could lead to mutually beneficial success.  And he was not just an idea guy, he was a doer.... as he always followed up with an email making the introductions between people.

I would run into Scott regularly around town about once a week, and we were part of an occasional business networking group that met for lunch semi-regularly.  He was always excited about a project he was working on (TEDxAustin Youth, StartUp America, RISE Austin, or helping promote The Wire) to help make Austin a better place.  His smile was contagious, and he always was supportive of the causes of those around him.

The folks at Silicon Hills News wrote a wonderful tribute to the memory of Scott Robinson (link to article  Take a minute to read what they said, but also view the comments section, as so many people added their thoughts about this man who was a real "giver".  

Scott Robinson was one of the good guys.  He will be missed.

To honor Scott there is a scholarship set up for his children ("The James Scott Robinson Memorial Fund" through Wells Fargo Bank). 

 In addition to making a donation, I suggest those who knew him (and others) should deliberately seek out a way to help another person find success.  Make an introduction between two people, or sit down with someone to help them brainstorm their next project.  When you do that, think of Scott.... I bet he would like knowing that he inspired us all to lend a hand and be better "givers".

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Assumptions Are Probably Wrong

People behave as if they are clairvoyant.  We too often make assumptions about the personal and professional lives of others without enough knowledge, and forever hold onto our misguided opinions.

It gets worse when people are looking over the wall at their competition.  They jump to conclusions about the success, failures, feelings, actions and motivations of people in their industry.  Without facts they are sure their competitors suck for some reason.  And god-forbid someone is angry, as in that case they make up all kinds of crazy stuff to fill in the gaps in their field of view.

The problem here is our assumptions are probably wrong. 

Walter Matthau, as Morris Buttermaker, in the 1970s classic film "The Bad News Bears" told the team "Never assume, because when you ASSUME, you make an ASS of U and ME."  (I loved that when I was ten years old, because he said "Ass").  And he was right, but we didn't learn from this sage advice.  

We all create opinions about others, script what they think and feel, and then go on about life convinced we are right.  

Let's try to catch ourselves assuming, and then stop.  To really know what is going on with another person we must invest in building a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship.  We need to come at them from a place of understanding.  

Ahhh, but that takes time and hard work, .... so we go back to our imaginations.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Monday, September 02, 2013

The Speaker As Part Of The Meetings Industry

While I have participated in several live "TweetChats", I have never before been the main guest.  This week (Tuesday, September 3, 2013) I am jumping in to share my thoughts as the featured guest on #NSAChat at 12:00 (noon) Central Time.  #NSAChat is a weekly Twitter Chat for those in the business of speaking, and hosted by my friend and fellow National Speakers Association member Eliz Greene.

The topic this week is "The Speaker as Part of the Meeting Industry".  Since creating the Conference Catalyst program I have come to view the role of the speaker at any event as greater than their time on stage.  Speakers set the tone for conferences, trade shows, conventions, seminars and other gatherings.  They are in a unique position to partner with meeting planners to help create a better conference attendee experience.

Those who present at meetings can be a valuable resource before, during and after the event.  The best ones work with the planners at all stages to help have a positive impact on the conference.

Speakers should also be involved with industry organizations (not just when they are speaking).  I am a big believer that those who speak to membership associations should also belong their own industry group(s).  The National Speakers Association (NSA) is one, but there is also Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), etc...  

In my involvement with my local MPI Chapter I have donated programs to their silent auction at the annual banquet, and I am now writing a monthly column for their e-newsletter.

There are many changes that are happening in the way meetings are being run and the expectations of how speakers engage the audience are always being discussed in industry forums.  Interactive presentations are becoming more popular, and planners are looking for unique programs that challenge their attendees.  Any speaker that wants to remain relevant should actively follow industry trends.

Other vendors in the Meeting Industry are very active in supporting the causes of the industry, and often attend (and sponsor) events and conferences..  Hotels, transportation companies, florists, outside meeting planning firms, printers, audio visual suppliers, meeting facilities, etc... are visible in the industry, but not as many speakers are present at the table.  

Please join us on the #NSAChat if you have opinions or thoughts on the topic.  Added bonus -- seems to be back online....which makes participation in a chat much easier.

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, September 01, 2013

Is Your Meeting Focused On The Attendee?

In our busy world we invest time judiciously.  Attending an event is a serious commitment for many professionals, as it will take them out of the office for hours or days.  Nobody participates in a conference, trade show, convention or other business meeting hoping it will waste their time. 

Those who plan meetings are among the hardest working and most dedicated people in the business world. They put in long hours and an extreme level of detail to ensure a positive experience. Nobody organizes an event hoping it will be a waste of time.

The focus of all decisions must be on the "Conference Attendee Experience".  What seems right ahead of time in an office far from the site may not be best for those in the crowd once the event begins.  There are so many small details and little room for error.  Gone are the days of taking last year's agenda and filling in the blanks.

To Have Outstanding Meetings:

Strategize Innovation:  The meetings business is evolving, and there is a lot written about how to recreate the way learning is structured.  People learn differently, and thus having only traditional lecture format keynotes and breakouts is no longer enough.  The agenda needs to have a variety of programs, breaks, networking opportunities, entertainment and downtime built in to the agenda allows for everyone to maximize their experience.  

Organizers should be open to fresh ideas, but not blindly follow the hottest recommendations they read in industry publications.  Each meeting is unique and gathering ideas from committee members, attendees, and vendors is paramount for success.  Brainstorming and strategizing desired outcomes for the event will open up a variety of options.  Speakers and other other activities are nor plug-and-play commodity items.  The same-old/same-old schedule will never create an innovative program.

Nurture Goals:  The event organizers have goals for the meeting, but so do the attendees.  To achieve outstanding events the priorities of those who are going to be in the audience must be understood and prioritized.  People come to conferences for a variety of reasons and humans are complex creatures, thus they do not always clearly articulate their motivation.

Surveys only go so far, and thus you need to be having ongoing dialogues with participants before, during and after the event to gain insight into what impacts their experience.   People will tell you more about what resonates with them when they know you are working to support their goals.  If they believe the host organization has their own agenda, they will shut down and go through the motions.  Your goals have to be synced with their goals, and they have to know it.

Encourage Relationships:   A top reason people attend business or association events is for the "networking opportunities", however once they arrive they often fail to make the type of meaningful relationships they desire.  Creating a culture for better connections at events does not happen by accident.  There must be a commitment that goes beyond the open bar at the Welcome Reception.  People need to be given permission to engage with each other or they will fall into the routine of sitting with co-workers or passing time on their phones or tablets.

Cliques will occur at conferences (as they do in any social situation), and those who attend for years develop their own circles of friends.  But we need to remember that a conference is a mini-society and the social interactions are paramount to the learning.  Many people get the most valuable information from the impromptu "hallway conversations" that occur with others they meet.  If there is little opportunity for people to engage, then the overall experience is limited.

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.