Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" - The World's Newest Business Podcast

Announcing My New Podcast - "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do"

It has been a year in planning, but this week I am launching my new podcast.  Today (September 30th) is National Podcast Day, and my goal was to release the first shows today.  Alas, it takes longer to get these things set up than I had imagined, but we are days away from this being real.

 I am very excited to have this platform to interview some cool business leaders, entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and others with a strong dose of the entrepreneurial spirit.

In the next few days the podcast will hit my website, iTunes, Stitcher, and other places that host podcasts.  Please take a few minutes to listen to the early episodes.  I interview some cool people including Bryan Menell, Mike Dilbeck and Jessica Pettitt.

This podcast grew out of the "Cool Things My Friends Do" blog posts.  My friend James Hahn suggested I turn these posts into a podcast, and he got me thinking.  Once I start thinking... something is bound to happen.

I realize I have to get some things figured out to make this show a regular success. My goal is two interviews per week, but more important is I have to fine tune the details on the recording quality, etc...  I also need to find my voice as a host.... but this has been a ton of fun and I know it will just get better with each episode.

Thanks for your support.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Conference Conversations - The Power of Hello

People attend conferences to learn, but they also show up to network.  However, once at an event too many spend all their time talking to co-workers or staring at their phones. Their intent is to make connections, yet few ever maximize their networking.

Making connections at an event should be simple, since the other attendees also want to meet other people. It sounds easy, but often people over-think the whole process.  Once you have said "Hello" to someone, and they have reciprocated, you now have the right to chit-chat.  A conversation can grow out of that one word.

Starting a conversation with a stranger is the first step to discovering if there is a path to a deeper relationship.  And it is not hard to meet others in these situations, as you are allowed to chat at conferences.  People expect it (they even desire it).

Most people who go to conferences, trade shows, conventions, seminars and other professional gatherings are there to make connections with others. Across all industry lines people cite "networking opportunities" as a primary reason for attending these events, however once they arrive... they stink at making any meaningful connections.

Help others meet you by being the one who initiates a conversation. Be approachable and smile at people. Once you have the chance, say "Hello", do so with a sincere interest in finding out more about the other person.

You will discover when at a multi-day event that the people you speak to early on will cross your path repetitively over the course of the ensuing days. These people will be in line for food, at a nearby Starbucks, and getting on or off the elevator. The first conversations you have with others once you arrive could create the groundwork for most of your social interactions at the event.

I call this "The Power of Hello". You will not have a strong connection with everyone you meet, but the more people you talk with, the higher the chance of encountering one or more with whom you will find common ground.

If you are shy, push yourself just a little to talk to two or three people at each break, happy hour, or meal (really shy?  ONE person per break!). Hiding in the corner will keep you from finding those "networking opportunities", and deprive others from knowing you.

Remember, you might be the person who can help others succeed. It is not just about you finding links to future success, you could provide a path for others to discover a major opportunity.  Why cheat others from your knowledge and network?

It all starts with "Hello".  Remember, you have permission to start a conversation while at a business event (as everyone present is there for the same reasons).  Go for it.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Accentuate The Positive - Eliminate the Negative

Be slow to anger and fast to forgive!!!

"The Ripple Guy", Steve Harper, wrote a blog post this week about the "Tend Toward The Negative".  He read the comments on a LinkedIn post about the Apple Watch and discovered that many of those leaving their opinions were nasty toward Apple, the product, and the writer of the article.  For those who read comments on anything online, you know that the negative tends to flame out of control pretty fast.

It struck a cord with Harper.  He hit his boiling point about people going negative, and jumped into the discussion.  He had an interesting conversation with someone who never realized that such mean-spirited comments are linked to their LinkedIn profile forever (oops!).  Go read his post on his Ripple Central Blog.  (Steve is a really good guy and you will like his blog).

Steve Harper is right.  People are quick to go negative on all sorts of issues.  They often go down this hateful path without anything more than their opinions (facts?  research? nah... just their feelings).  It is a trend that has not gotten better because of the growth of social media, but instead the ability to be commenting via computer has exploded the public rant, bitch and hate.

Being nasty is not the best way to build your network.  The words you choose and the actions you take are your brand.  As Harper pointed out in his article, the comments you leave online are very often linked for your real world contacts to see, and are going to be found at some point in the future.  A future job opportunity or new client could vanish because of their seeing a nasty series of comments.

This does not mean you cannot disagree and join in the conversation.  One of the greatest positives about social media is the ability to have many voices heard that would otherwise be silent.  

Yet disagreeing is not a green light to be mean spirited.  

There are ways to share your thoughts while still being respectful toward other people.  We can have conflicting points of view (especially on topics like the "Apple Watch", etc...) and not have to make it personal.  Individuals tend to assume their own point of view is always correct, and anyone who disagrees is clearly lower down on the intelligence scale. (My own life has gotten better since I realized I am not always right, and that I make mistakes... regularly!).

Another problem is that when people get mad, they mistakenly think they are clairvoyant and assume they know what others are thinking and feeling.  Humans are fast to fill in the blanks where facts are missing.  Their own interpretations become their reality.  This fuels their anger, and exasperates the situation. 

We get to choose our attitude in all situations.  Sometimes someone or something is going to not fit in with our vision.  We can lash out and create a negative scene, or we can seek a different perspective that does not cause our nasty side to come forward.  If we need to say something, being mean is not necessary.

The popular song of the 1940s advised that we "Accentuate the positive, eleminate the negative.  Latch onto the affirmative, and don't mess with Mr. In-Between".  While a bit corny, the song is right.  It is a choice we can all make in responding to anything that happens in our lives. When we grab hold of the negative we are more likely to hurt someone and undermine our own future.  My dad always told me to be slow to anger and fast to forgive!

Each day I try to find something good that someone else is doing and draw attention to it.  I like to highlight some of those things in my own writings (ie: the "Cool Things My Friends Do" blog posts and also the focus of my soon to be released "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" podcast).   Most often I simply compliment someone privately for what they have done that I think is cool.  The amazing thing is how many people are blown away by the positive comments.  This means it is not happening often enough in the daily lives of people.  Our busy schedules can be overwhelming and it is easy when stressed out to see only the dark side.  I suggest we seek out the light and go positive.

***(That being said, there is a time and a place for anger and a negative opinion.  I am not saying never to speak out when something bad is happening, or the situation is near the top of the scale.  But don't make a 3 into a 10 at every turn!!!)

Have A Great Day

thom singer 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cool Things My Friends Do (Week #116)- Kelby Carr and the Type-A Parent Conference

In this post I am blogging about bloggers!

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

I recently had the opportunity to be a keynote speakers at an event hosted by my friend Kelby Carr.  I met Kelby at a conference in 2013 in Washington DC.  We kept in touch, and through a series of connections she selected me to be one of the presenters at the 6th Annual "Type A Parent Conference".  (I spoke on "The Power of IRL"...AKA: In Real Life).

The Type A website was established in 2007 and combined with the yearly conference Kelby and her team have created the first online community for mom and dad bloggers.  This is a place for influencers  and super-influencers to come together to learn, share ideas, and network.  

It was an honor to be part of the 6th annual conference in Atlanta.  The event attracts major corporations and hundreds of parents who blog on a variety of topics.  The community is awesome.  Those present were engaged and engaging.  

Many people try to start conferences, but Kelby had done something special with this event.  Not only has it sold out year over year, and continues to grow.... but she has a circle of people who are there to support her efforts at every turn.  It was exciting to share in the experience.

If you blog about parenting (or pets... I met several parents of four-legged kids), you need to sign up early for the 7th Annual event in 2015.

Have A Great Day.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Launching My Podcast

I am getting much closer to launching my new podcast.  This has been a fun journey for the past several months as the people I have met are amazing.  Many have given me the opportunity to be a guest on their awesome shows.

There is so much to learn to do this right.  I think I am ready to go in the next few weeks (but my speaking schedule is busy, so there is calendar issues).

Coming soon to an iTunes account near you will be my new show.  I will be interviewing business leaders, entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and those with a high does of entrepreneurial spirit (who may also have day jobs), 

In my travels as a speaker (I have already delivered 50 presentations around the country in 2014 and over 400 talks over my career) I get to meet amazing people.  This new podcast will give me the chance to share their brilliance. 

Currently I am seeking ideas on people to interview on the new show. If you or someone you know is doing something cool, and has an interesting story to share, and are naturally generous with sharing advice, tips, knowledge, etc....  please, please, please introduce them to me via e-mail - thom (at) thomsinger.com.

More to come very soon.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Travel the World and Get Paid

Every now and then I stumble across a link, a book, an idea, etc... that is a bit random, and yet I wish it had existed twenty years ago.  When I was 22 nobody was encouraging new graduates to travel the world and live experiences.  "Get a job" was the advice that came from family and advisers.  Flash forward 25 years and I regret not going and living someplace exotic.  It becomes much harder to pack it all up and go off on an adventure when you have a children, a mortgage, and a business.

Check out this new book by Brent Danis:  The Post Grad Party: How to Travel the World, Get Paid, and Teach.  

For the small investment of $4.99 on Kindle, Brent will show you how to see the world while earning money, teaching, and having a great time.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Tech Industry Leaders Write Handwritten Notes... Do You?

Walking around downtown Palo Alto we stumbled upon a paper and stationery store called Letter Perfect.  This long standing independent shop has been around for over 30 years, and you can see why... it is great.

Since I proclaimed 2014 as "The Year of the Handwritten Note", I have taken a special interest in great cards, pens, etc...  While many turn up their nose at the idea of writing cards and letters, there is clearly still an interest in this important form of communication.

While browsing the amazing selection of cards and gifts I met the owner of the establishment, Gwen Gasque.  We had a delightful conversation about the power of a handwritten note.  While she did not name-drop, she assured me that some of the Silicon Valley's most successful people actively write notes by hand and order unique and interesting stationery on a regular basis.  They also encourage their employees to do the same thing.  

Interesting -- In the heart of where much of the world's technology is born, those at the top realize the power of pen and ink.

Many make excuses to avoid sending notes.  They rationalize being "busy" means they need not ever put in the effort involved to write by hand.  Others believe that a Tweet or text is more effective (it is not) in communicating their feelings. However, Gwen assured me that CEO's and top Venture Capitalists all send handwritten notes regularly.  

Makes me wonder... Do these people write by hand because they are successful?  OR are they on top because they know the value in sending notes to people?  I think it is the latter.

If you are in Northern California... go to Letter Perfect and get some personalized stationery.  If you are not, find another option to get some note cards and them put them to use.  2014 still has 3 1/2 months to go... it is not too late to embrace "The Year of the Handwritten Note".

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Monday, September 01, 2014

How To Find A Speaker

Audiences deserve an awesome experience at conferences, trade shows, conventions, seminars, and other live events.  People spend money for registrations, travel, lodging, and invest time away from work and family to be present at events.  Superb speakers in every keynote, breakout, and panel discussion are mandatory for high return on investment. 

Speakers Set the Tone for Live Events.  

While there is much talk about the importance of content (and yes, content is important), a speaker who is experienced and has the presentation skills to educate and inspire will make an impression that will last in the minds and hearts of the attendees.  When that same speaker can motivate people to take action, you have a winner.  

Being Smart Is NOT Enough

Just because someone is smart, or has done something cool -- it does not mean they belong on stage.  Often when speakers are selected for having some level of "fame", but without dedication to how they convey their story to the audience, they may fall flat.  Speaking is a learned skill and an art that needs to be practiced.  The more times someone presents, the better they become at delivering presentations.

Selection by Committee Brings Compromise

Compromise is simply a mathematical equation to split the difference.  Those who are choosing speakers should not assume they are buying a commodity item.  No two speakers are the same, and the ones that are put on the agenda should clearly meet the goals of the conference.  Create a list of what you want from every speaker, and do not trade away the important factors to have peace on the planning committee.  Certain things are worth the emotional investment to fight, and speaker selection is top of that list.  Pie vs. cake for dessert often gets more attention than who is asked to set the tone for the whole event.

Ask Other Speakers for Referrals

One of the best way to find great speakers is to ask other speakers for recommendations.  While some are not clued into who else is out there, most professional speakers have colleagues in the business who you otherwise may not be able to identify.  Experienced speakers will not give suggestions without having vetted the other speakers ability to "wow" an audience, thus your inquiry will bring you amazing talent.  

Call a Speakers Bureau

Speakers bureaus exist to help you find the right speakers for your event.  They make their money from a percentage of the fee you pay the speaker, and thus there is not additional charge to your budget.  They will uncover what your needs are and find you several options.  They will also handle all the negotiations.  Bureaus are excellent at vetting those who are committed to art and business of speaking, and they will not put an inexperienced speaker on your agenda.  To find a good speakers bureau ask your favorite professional speakers for introductions (they will happily connect you with a couple of bureaus!).

Know How Often the Speaker Presents

A speaker who only speaks on occasion is not going to have the same skill level as someone who speaks 50 times a year.  While there is no magic number as to how many talks make a speaker great, there are warning signs to those who are not at the level you desire.  Some people are naturally great speakers, but for most their abilities are linked to experience.  Those who are good will be invited to speak often.  Someone with over 300 professional level speeches will usually deliver a better experience for your audience than an expert who has given ten talks. Ask the speaker about the number of presentations they have given at events similar to yours (over a lifetime and in the past two years).  

Seek Stories

Content and information are important, but do not fall for the old line that "Content is King".  Content alone is not king.  It is widely reported that the human brain learns from stories.  Go back 2000 years and man did not sit around the fire and pass out graphs, charts and excel spreadsheets.  Instead, the village elders told stories to educate the next generation.  If you think that storytelling is not important for the speakers you put on stage, then you may be organizing a boring event.  If the idea of "stories" make you think "fluffy", you are missing the point.  I do not mean fairy-tales, but stories as examples that will anchor the content in the mind of the audience.  Do not fall for the "content speaker" label, as that could be code for a long and drawn-out data dump.

Find Interactive and Engaging Speakers

No longer is a lecture enough to meet the needs of an audience. A sage on the stage who tosses out brilliance is yesterday's news. But interactivity is not a formula of having three exercises where the participants talk to the person next to them or touch their neighbor's elbow.  Interactivity and engagement are created through how the speaker communicates and sparks the whole experience for the audience.  A speaker with a conversational style can weave engagement into a lecture while making people think and feel.  Do not force speakers who are not experienced with engagement activities to do formulaic exercises.  Inquire how they engagement and what they consider "interactivity", and if they are not sure, move on.  

Communicate with the Speakers

Once you have selected speakers, spend time getting to know them personally and engage them to utilize their unique talents for a positive impact on the overall event.  A phone call at the time they are booked, and one a week or two in advance of the event is common, but when planners engage the speakers as part of the team, they will have better results.  Make sure the speaker knows all the goals of the meeting so they can assist.  If you want them to attend happy hours or meals, discuss this up front.  Often the expectation of additional participation is dropped on the speaker once they arrive at the conference.  Many speakers will happily engage with your attendees if you set that expectation in the beginning.

Schedule Follow Up Sessions After Keynotes

Keynotes by their nature are not the same as workshops.  If you have a great keynote speaker, and want the audience to have a more intimate opportunity to learn from them, schedule them for additional breakout sessions in addition to their main stage talk.  Experienced speakers know that a great keynote is different from what makes an impactful workshop.  Give them the chance to do both at your event.  Some speakers will charge more for breakouts, others will add additional sessions as a bonus for the doing the keynote.  Talk to the speaker and / or speakers bureau about what you are seeking and negotiate a mutually beneficial solution. 

Filling the agenda with speakers is more than populating names into the blanks.  The speaker's content, style, personality, engagement, and dedication to your event have a direct impact on your success.  The more you communicate your goals before you hire speakers, the better chance you will have for amazing presentations by talented experts who are committed to helping you create an amazing conference attendee experience.

Have A Great Day

thom singer