Wednesday, March 18, 2015

SXSW 2015 Recap

The 2015 SXSW Interactive Festival has come and gone.  This was my 9th year participating in this epic event, and while I have seen South by Southwest change over the years, I still find it to be one of the most relevant and inspiring events for those with an entrepreneurial spirit.  

While some might describe the focus of the Interactive Festival as "technology", I think it goes beyond that label.  Tech used to mean "tools", but now it is integrated into our lives, and thus I find the the whole message of the conference to be about innovation.

Some say that the event has lost it's luster as the numbers have grown and the corporate sponsors have joined the fun (even McDonald's has a presence at SXSW these days).  I disagree with the naysayers, who do not like how large the event has become.  While it is true that the lower attendance did have a more intimate feel, SXSW is not just a conference, it is an experience.  Real experiences are not like painting by the numbers, and thus must change or they become stale.  The best event professionals I know are always seeking to enhance and change their meetings, not simply replicate them year over year.

The changes have come both organically and with well-thought intention from the organizers.  Over the years I have seen them morph the focus of the topics, style of the keynotes, and the flow of the event.  The addition of the new JW Marriott to downtown Austin has provided a new large venue and that changed some of the feel of how the event played out.  In some ways the "vibe" felt more like it did years ago, and so those who might have complained recently (and did not come this year) missed out on what they had been wanting.

My experience at SXSW this year was very positive.  My panel, "Mastermind Construction Zone", was fun and the audience seemed to like the discussion.  It was special to share the experience with two of the people from my own Mastermind Group (Jessica Pettitt and Gerry O'Brion), and to be part of their first experience with SXSW. 

I enjoyed the casual feeling this year, and even with over 30,000 participants, never felt the lost in the crowd.  I was sorry that the marketing sessions were held across the river at the Hyatt, as I tend to stay in the area of the Austin Convention Center, and never took a shuttle (the rush to get to a far off venue is not worth it to me). 

While I missed some great marketing sessions, I went to many other topics that helped me to think bigger (and discovered topics I might have otherwise missed). I attended sessions that inspired me in my own entrepreneurial efforts and took nearly 50 pages of notes.  My next step is to review and extract the most important nuggets of information and to take action.

I also interviewed several people who I met in the trade show or at a roof-top party for an upcoming episode of "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" - and got a good variety of other insights into the festival, entrepreneurship, and life.  (Look for that show to post on iTunes on March 24, 2015)

The real power in attending SXSW (or any event) comes from the people.  I met amazing folks who contribute to society in a variety of business, government, and philanthropic endeavors.  In spending time with those who hold different points of view and have lived interesting lives, we can all discover personal growth. 

I over heard a conversation about how those who live in the suburbs can learn from the artists in places like SoHo, but if they artists never attend a family dinner with those in the suburbs, they are missing out.  I like that.  It is good to remember that the benefits of diversity runs in all directions.  Don't prejudge others, and seek for ways to learn from everyone.  That is what I did at SXSW, and I am am very excited about the future.

If you have never been to SXSW, start planning now for 2016. 

Have A Great Day

thom singer 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Each year there are dozens (if not hundreds) of blog posts written on the topic of how to maximize SXSW.  The South by Southwest Festival is an amazing series of events (EDU, Interactive, Film, and Music) that bring tens of thousands of visitors to Austin, TX each March. I could easily produce a top ten list of suggestions that would be useful, but this event (and all other conference) come down to one thing.  The people.  

The investment of time and money to attend SXSW is steep, so everyone who attends wants to make sure they get the most out of each day.  The festival kicks off each morning with speakers, panels and a trade show, but the fun goes late into the night with hundreds of official and unofficial parties taking place all over Austin.

In our social media crazy world it is easy to be nose to screen much of the time.  Putting your attention toward your phone or tablet is tempting, as there is no fear that your iPhone will reject you.  Checking to see what is said online about the SXSW happenings, and the desires to Tweet your activities to the world can be very strong.  But the power at SXSW resides with the people all around you. Don't miss your opportunity to connect.

Relationships drive the success of an event, not the other way around.  Too often we assume a great event brings networking opportunities, but the truth is the serendipity of conversations with the people you meet makes the event great.

My advice simple...  To achieve the highest level of ROI at SXSW there is only one piece of advice:

Engage in live conversation.

You have to take ownership of instigating conversations.  Say "hello" to people and many will be thrilled to chat with you.  Do not over-think the social contract of being at a conference.... people come to learn and network, and some of the best learning comes from the impromptu "Hallway Conversations".  

So, welcome to Austin and have an amazing experience at SXSW.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

I hope to meet you at SXSW.  Come to my panel presentation "Mastermind Construction Zone" on Saturday, March 14th at 9:30 AM.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Happy 10th Birthday to my BLOG

March 2, 2015 marks ten years since I launched my blog. Wow, time flies.

(The first post from 2005 is here.)

I would like to believe that I have come a long, long way over a decade.  It has been a great experience.  This blog has been a major part of my life and has lead to the writing of eleven books, speaking to over 450 audiences, and the launch of the "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do Podcast".  

At the time I started writing this blog I dreamed of earning my income as a speaker, trainer, and professional EmCee.  Today that dream is a reality, and I have had the honor to speak all over the world, including in China.  

I am very fortunate because of the amazing people in my life: Family, friends, clients, other speakers, etc... all have shared in my journey.  I am enthusiastic about the next decade!

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Cool Things My Friends Do (Week #124) - Your Nerdy Best Friend (Beth Ziesenis) KickStarter Campaign

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


I have a friend who is a speaker and a nerd.  Beth Ziesenis is known as "Your Nerdy Best Friend" and she speaks at association and corporate events teaching people all about the latest nerdy technology apps they can use to make life better.

Beth currently has a KickStarter campaign to raise the money to launch her new book, "Nerd Know How: The 27 Best Apps for Work and How to Use Them".  

Evernote. LastPass. Prezi. Elance.

Maybe you've heard of these tech tools -- but do you know how to use them?

In her newest book Author Beth Ziesenis gives you the what, why and how for dozens of the most critical technology that will help you at work and home. With plenty of screenshots and tons of tips, Nerd Know-How will get you started using the cutting-edge apps that increase productivity, organization, collaboration and awesomeness.

Each of the 27 apps includes screenshots, tips, at-a-glance facts and alternatives. Plus you'll find bonus lists of extra apps that will turn you in to the nerdiest person in the office.

Beth is seeking 200 supporters (she already has raised the necessary money in a very successful campaign... how cool is that?).  For as little as $1 you can support her cause (she is at 109 supporters at the time of this blog post), but at the $15 level you will get a copy of the book, and have YOUR NAME listed in the book!!!  Come on, show her some love!!!  I pledged $15.

Let me tell you more about Beth Ziesenis.... she is a giver and a doer.  Everyone in our extended group of "speaker friends" will tell you she takes action and helps her peers meet new clients.  She tells her clients about other speakers, and is always available to give introductions, advice and moral support. She is the "REAL DEAL" when it comes to wanting others to be successful.  She does not view life or business as a zero-sum games, but instead believes everyone can find their success path.  

She calls herself a "Nerd", but Beth is really one of the "Cool Kids".   I am excited to feature her as week #124 of "Cool Things My Friends Do". (She was also an early guest on the "Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do" Podcast!!! Check it out).

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, February 20, 2015

We All Have Stuff

Life constantly reminds me that I alone own my own "Stuff"... and that I cannot unload it onto others. We all have stuff; that baggage we carry, and failures we have that we later dwell on in our thoughts.  As humans we contemplate things, but too often this over-thinking makes our perspective depart from reality.

It could be a self-preservation thing - that we change our memory to keep ourselves from having to face our flaws. If I did nothing wrong, then I am okay. Maybe superior to others.  This brings good feelings.  To look at the stumbles could make a person feel bad, and feeling bad is not acceptable in our world today.  

Often times when facing mistakes or short-comings we file them away, hoping to never unlock that drawer again.  Stuffing our business and personal loses in a box that we don't review seems like the easy path. 

However, in a weird way I like my flaws, as they never allow me to be complacent in my growth.  If I did not realize my mistakes, I could not strive to do better next time. Looking back at ways I have screwed up motivates me to fix whatever I have done in the past that created the negative situation.

It makes it easier to face your dark side when you have a supportive significant other and friends who believe in you and hold you up when you need them.  This means you are free to examine your weaknesses, as you will not fall into the abyss of crap.  I am grateful for my wife, daughters, and those "forever friends" who accept me unconditionally.  Their being part of my path is paramount to my success.

Several people in our lives find ways to boosts us up and allow us to keep fighting the good fight.  Often these special souls do not even know they play such and important role.  Hopefully I am that person to others, as so many are the scaffolding around the construction sight of my life's journey.

The opposite is also true, there are people who undermine you and the world around you.  They take joy in the drama that nibbles at your foundation.  Keep your eyes open for those who do this, as they also can have an impact (not in a good way).

Accept your "stuff" and learn from it.  But also, accept that others have their own "stuff", too. The right people matter, and they don't mind your baggage. 

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Physical Address on a Business Card.... A Thing of the Past?

As children we watched our parents get mail everyday, and somehow that seemed special (we did not realize the percentage of mail that was advertising or bills).  On the rare occasion that we got a card or letter it was awesome.  I believe that getting snail mail is still cool.

In business there is awesome power in the handwritten note.  When someone takes the time to mail a letter it shows a level of intent and effort above that of a text or an email.  The tools we use to communicate are always changing, but there is something about a card in the mail that makes people feel special and makes them think better of the sender.

I recently got a question from my friend Patrick.  He is an awesome person who cares a lot about people.  He has decided to send more notes, and after attending a conference recently he found that not everyone he met had their physical address on their card.  He wanted to reach out and show them they mattered more than a digital blast, but was perplexed about the new trend not to list all contact information.

Patrick asked:
I've been trying to write to many of those I met this weekend, but I'm finding 75% of the people don't have a mailing address on their card or website... 
My question--in these situations do you just do an email? Anything else you do here? 
I was surprised because my lack of addresses. Do you ask for mailing addresses in those cases?
He brings up an interesting point.  What do you do when you want to show someone the "extra love" and they block you by not having this information available?

This is becoming a bigger issue, as it is more common these days for people to just put a single point of contact on their card (phone, email, or Twitter). Larger companies still put their locations on cards, but many solopreneurs have eliminated this option. It is common for people to work from home, thus they do not feel comfortable about putting their location out to the world (which is why I have a PO Box). 

I believe it is important for people to make it easy for others to contact you in the way they see fit (make it about the other person's convenience, not you own), but most of the advice given these days is to instruct people to contact you the way you want to be contacted.  A good friend's voicemail used to instruct callers that leaving a voicemail was not what he preferred, and then instructed his callers to send a text.  That never seemed like the friendliest greeting.

After I meet someone if I want to send a note, and there is no address, I will often try to visit a person's website and see if they have a physical location listed.  Beyond that I do not want to be a stalker (I know some people who do more detailed searches and find home addresses online, but that can be creepy).  In my email I sometimes add "I intended to send you a handwritten note (because you are worth the handwritten level of a note!!), but your address was not listed on your card".

Another option is to email them or message them via social media and ask for the address.  In a way this is a "spoiler alert" about your intention to mail a card, but I think that is okay if the person is really worthy of the extra effort.

In the end, try to send a handwritten note, but if you can't find the address, go with the email.  Just remember, many people get 300 emails per day.  It is not the best way to stand out or show them that they are a priority.  

What do you think?  Leave a comment, send an email, Tweet, leave a FB message or mail me a letter (which ever way is your favorite). 

Oh, my address is PO Box 12793, Austin, TX 78711

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

8th Annual Fundraiser: Kate Singer Endowment for Cranio-Facial Research

For the 8th year in a row our family is hosting a fundraiser for Cranio-Facial Research at Dell Children's Medical Center.

As many of you know, Kate was born with a condition called Sagital Synostosis, and required surgery to rebuild her skull at age six-months. At the time there was no Dell Children's Medical Center in Central Texas, thus we had to search outside of our community to find the right doctors who would operate on Kate and give her a fresh start in life. Since the opening of Dell Children's our family has supported the hospital with regular donations and the hosting of this annual fundraiser. 

We celebrate Kate, now age 13, each February by raising money to help others who are born with Cranio-Facial abnormalities. One might think that a small donation does not matter, but over time these fundraisers and our contributions have grown to over $50,000 at both Dell Children's and Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego.  Your support of this effort is making a lasting impact.

Thank you for your support of this great cause!

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Recipe for Referrals -- Jessica Pettitt and "Good Enough Now"

Each week in 2015 I will be trying to refer someone special.  I want these introductions to matter and to have an impact.  This "Recipe for Referrals" is playing out on my blog (here) and in real life.  Each week I try to make sure that I have talked up the business of a person I admire. 

Today I want to introduce you to my friend and colleague, Jessica Pettitt. Through her business, Good Enough Now, Jessica provides change and crisis management, policy and HR development, motivational keynotes, and team engagement. Her premise is this - what if we are good enough now to do the work and make the change we want to see?

If you are working of corporate issues that involve change (and who isn't?), I suggested Jessica and Good Enough Now  could be a strong fit for your needs. And based on what I know of Jessica's impact with clients, I know that you'll get a lot out of connecting with her. 

Here's a little more on Good Enough Now and the philosophy behind Jessica's services.

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Jessica Pettitt

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Not Everything Is A Competition

Take joy in the success of others, even your competitors.  There are too many naysayers who are full of jealousy and send negative vibes. When others succeed they are not taking away from your success.  The pie is not finite, there are plenty of unique slices of life's pie to go around. Not everything has to be a competition.

As a member of the National Speakers Association I learned about the "Spirit of Cavett". Don't worry about how we divide up the pie, there is enough for everybody. Let's just build a bigger pie!”  This philosophy is present 40 years later in many (not all) of those are active in NSA, and it has allowed me to build some amazing supportive friendships with others in my industry.  Seeing each other expand that pie is a joy for all of us.
 Cavett Robert was the founder of the organization and in bringing the industry together he told his fellow speakers “

It is exiting to me when I witness another person finding their next level of success.  It always reminds me that I, too, can wrestle a new rung on the ladder.  A person I know had a great 2014 that launched his career out ahead of my own, and he is positioned to crush 2015.  That cool.  Yes, I have an ego and wish I was the one who had the rockets firing in this manner, but I am not jealous.  I am enthusiastic about seeing him turn up the dial, and want to learn from him how I can do the same thing.

In our social media crazy world it is easy to feel the need to constantly compare ourselves to the successes shared on Facebook, Twitter, etc...  But if we are always measuring, we can become quickly disappointed.  There is always somebody who will pull out in front, and if that saddens us, we are destined to be gloomy.

Beyond social media, there are also those people in our lives who mascaraed as friends that find ways to bring us down.  While there is no need to "break up" with friends, sometimes you are better off when you are distanced from those who try to undermine the pursuit of goals.  I met with a bright young man who I mentor (age 25) who is realizing this hard fact early in his career.  He has discovered some co-workers and friends mock his ambition and his desire to grow and succeed.  He is realizing that he must seek out people who are supportive and who share his positive outlook.  A good lesson to learn early!

5 Tips For Getting Past the Naysayers

  1. Be aware that some people will try to cut you off from your success.  It is similar to storing live crabs or lobsters in an open top box.... when one tries to crawl out, others will grab them and pull them back into the pile.  Knowing that there are people who want to hold you back makes it harder for their negativity to stifle your ambition.
  2. Surround yourself with positive people.  Look for those who find joy in the success of others, and get to know them better.  But remember, it is not just about them supporting and promoting you... you need to show them the same level of enthusiasm.  Seeking new friends and building long-term and mutually beneficial relationships takes effort, but it is worth having the right people in your world.
  3. Have clear goals and review them often.  It is easy to get blown off course by the high winds of life.  But when you are focused on what success looks like, you can reset your efforts and move back on plan easily.
  4. Do not make everything a competition.  If you are measuring yourself against all your competitors (or a specific competitor), then you could easily be left licking your wounds. Instead of feeling down about another's victory, celebrate it.  The pie is infinite, so help them enjoy their success and then look for new ways to find your own slice of triumph.
  5. Be slow to anger and fast to forgive.  People will piss you off.  It happens.  However, too often we create an impression of another person that is based on our own perspective, not their reality.  When we wrongly jump to a conclusion, it can keep us from finding the good in someone, and limit our chance to establish a friendship.

As we get older it is harder to make new friendships.  We are busy, set in our ways, and people have their routines.  But all opportunities come from the relationships we have with the right people.  The negative people and our own limiting beliefs can be overcome when we have amazing people in our lives who share in the desire to grow the pie.

Have A Great Day

thom singer