Monday, August 31, 2009

Ubiquity Marketing unSummit - 9/3/09

How Local Entrepreneurs can Save the World and Pay the Rent in any Economic Climate

Thursday, September 3, 2009 is the Ubiquity Marketing unSummit.

The day looks to be an information packed plethora of quality information presented by some of the marketing and social media world's most fascinating personalities (both from Austin and beyond).

Those who attend will receive:

  • Complete access to the Ubiquity Marketing unSummit, September 3, 2009 in Austin, Texas. 8:00 AM - 6:30 PM (at the Shoreline Grill).
  • One complimentary, autographed copy of Chris Brogan's book, Trust Agents care of Stagira, Inc.
  • One, two-year subscription to the Stagira, Inc. Ubiquity Marketing Forum.
  • One Shoreline Grill Gift Certificate in the amount of $10 for lunch the day of the event.
  • One, 30 minute, in-person consultation with Stagira, Inc. at the Blanton Museum of Art September 4th (including admission), or at a time convenient for you.
  • Lotsa freebies
For the agenda, itinerary, and registration information...CLICK HERE.

See you there!

Have A Great Day.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Company Meetings Are An Investment In Your People

I have talked with many companies and organizations that have canceled or severely toned down their team meetings and other conferences in 2009 due to the economic conditions.

Additionally there are many "gurus" out there who are wrongly claiming that social media replaces face-to-face networking, training and other interactions. They counsel their clients that online is the new in-person. While the tools to communicate have changed, the human being has not. We are social animals who benefit from congregating in the same room.

Meeting planners, professional speakers, hotels, and convention centers have seen the reality of decreased opportunities in 2009.

According to the Professional Convention Management Association, meeting cancellations and postponements in 2009/2010 are projected to result in $781 million of lost room revenue and $2.5 billion of lost total revenue for the host destinations, lodging accommodations and meeting service suppliers.

The meeting industry is big business, but some have attacked meetings as frivolous in these economic times. The truth is they are actually important to the whole business ecosystem. Without the meeting business, hotels, airlines, rental car companies, and others would need to provide less options to the individual traveler (have you noticed this recently in the fewer number of flights available?)

There is now a pent up demand for meetings from people and companies who are used to having these events. I am starting to see it from potential clients who either canceled their meetings or had no budget in the past 12 months for outside speakers at their gatherings. They are starting to realize that eleminating the user conferences or sales meetings have a downside, and are looking for ways to bring back their events.

A prospect told me this week, "We cannot simply save our way out of the recession. All the cuts we have made in the last year have certainly helped the bottom line, but have hurt the morale of our employees. We are realizing that we must invest in the development of our team if we want them to be loyal and enthusiastic when we see the up-tick in the economy that is expected this fall. If they feel we have cut too much, they will jump ship as soon as there are new jobs opportunities".

How about your company? Have you been so focused on the economy that you have forgotten to look at the morale of your people? This is not just about hosting a meeting to motivate the troops, it goes farther to how you communicate the business situations and future of the whole company. If your people are telling others "I am out of here as soon as I find something new" then can they really be giving your company 100%?

I write and speak about networking, why people matter, and the reality that all opportunities come from people. This is not just an externally focused topic. You treat clients and prospects like gold and invest time and money into making sure your personal relationships are strong.... but many forget that they need to do this with the people who work inside their company. Managers who do not understand this are WRONG. If you have ever thougth that the paycheck you provide them makes interpersonal relationships different.... get over yourself.

People are people and they have a need to feel connected with others. If you are not looking inside your business and finding ways to invest in the relationships, you will never have the level of employee loyalty that you probably wish existed. Loyalty is a two-way street. Investing in the individual (by having educational and motivational meetings ...OR... just spending time getting to know the people who work for you) will make a difference.

Bring everyone together for an offsite meeting and ask them for input on how to thrive in these economic times. It will be the best investment you can make after a year of all this negative mood that has prevailed in the news. Work with your whole team to lead your company out of the recession ahead of your competition.

Have A Great Day.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Character Counts

Strive to have diversity in your network. Make sure that you are exposed to ethnic, age, political, regional, religious, orientation, career level, gender, nationality, and opinion diversity. Surrounding yourself with people too much like you is one dimensional. Go deeper.

Cherish the differences and learn from each other.

But do not tolerate diversity when it comes to character. Keep the people with good character in your life and reject those who do not have cherish doing the right things. Those who will lie, cheat, steal and speak ill of others will always harm you in the end.

Have A Great Day.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Dollar Rent A Car Follows Their Policy And Makes Me Bitter

I am amazed when big companies do not work with their customers. When they send form type notes that basically say, "Our Big Company Policy Is The MOST Important Thing To Us....and We Thank You For Understanding".

Let me begin with the fact that this was MY MISTAKE. I did not choose to pre-pay for a full tank of gas in advance with Dollar Rent A Car because I knew I would only use about a half a tank. Paying for a full tank seems like a total rip off.

Then we were a little late in getting to the airport to return the car, but not so late we could not fill up at a gas station. But apparently half the city of San Diego was at this gas station. There were about four or five cars in line at each pump (think 1970s gas lines... well not that long. But when you have a flight to catch...five cars in line at a gas station can freak you out!!!).

Thus, I had to return the car without having filled up the tank.

What I did not realize was that the charge for this mental decision (pay a fine or maybe miss my flight) was going to be $71 for seven or eight gallons of gas.


Now I understand policy. I know, I know, this is the way the world works. But I also know that if someone reaches out to me and explains a situation I want to be as fair as I can no matter what my policy is in that moment.

So I wrote Dollar Rent A Car customer service and got the following reply:

Dear Mr. Singer,

Thank you for notifying us of your recent experience with Dollar Rent A Car in San Diego. On behalf of Dollar Rent A Car, please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience you experienced. (Why are they apologizing, they did not inconvenience me, I was the one who inconvenienced them by first making their employee fill the tank and second by making a person read my email)

Our Pre Paid Fuel option is designed to offer our customers peace of mind when it comes to refilling the tank upon return. Unfortunately we are unable to offer refunds for a full or partial tank for this fuel service. Upon review of your contract, we will have to respectfully decline your request for reimbursement. (They are "respectfully declining" my request? Seems more like just sticking to policy that helps them, and does nothing for me. There is no real respect I am feeling from them)

We appreciate your business and hope you will allow us another opportunity to fulfill your car rental needs in the efficient, professional manner you expect and deserve. (I am glad they "hope" I will allow them to fulfill my car rental needs again. I will try my best to not go back to them...even though I am the one in the wrong. Somewhere the world has gone weird when I want a vendor to meet me half way when I screw up. Charging me a 100% mark up on the gas would have seemed about right. But $10 per gallon. Wow.)

Thank you once again, Mr. Singer, for taking the time to notify us of this situation. We look forward to serving you again soon at Dollar Rent A Car. (Again, they thank me for notifying them? I am not sure they are thankful. Instead I feel dismissed by a big company who has my $71 and all the rights in the world to keep it. Fortunately I can choose them...even though I know that all their competition is the same way.)

You know, they are totally in the right. I cannot blame them for following their policy. But "peace of mind" on returning the vehicle would have also meant paying for a full tank when I knew I would only use half. This is a great scam that Dollar (and others) have going on. Touche for making me the dumb-shit in this situation. I can either have no peace of mind (knowing I will be overcharged at criminal levels for 7 gallons of gasoline) or pre-pay for gas I will never use. Brilliant!

I rent cars often, and can only think of one other time that I could not return the car with a full tank. This was with HERTZ. The guy who checked me in saw how late I was, and told me that they would only charge me for the amount of gas used (at a mark up of like $4 per gallon or something)... but he said that he would waive the policy this time, and the fuel charge would show up on a separate charge on my card. I am not sure if this guy had been given the power by his bosses to make this type of decision, or if he was just an entrepreneurial employee who knew that when you do the right thing, everyone wins.

So Dollar Rent A Car followed their policy to the tee... and made me a bitter consumer all at the same time. They could have said, "You know, we have these policies for a reason, but we will make an adjustment of $25 to your account"...and I would have been the happiest guy in the world. They still would have made a ton of money off that 7 gallons of gasoline for $46. But that would have involved empowering their employees to make decisions and caused more work for someone (yikes). Too many corporations are like this. They would see this option as the loss of $25 instead of my future rentals and good will.

So what do you think? Am I wrong to vent this story on my blog when I was the one who made the mistake?

Have A Great Day.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hunting AND Farming on The Ladders to Success in a Job Search

I read an article on The Ladders, a career website for those who earn over $100,000 per year. The piece was titled "Are you a Hunter or Farmer" by Debra Feldman. While well written, it missed the mark when it came to good advice for those seeking jobs. It oversimplified the idea of "hunting and farming" and created the falsehood that life is a competition between those who strike fast and those who cultivate meaningful connections.

Feldman said about Hunters and Farmers (as job seekers):

"One role may be a better fit depending on the market conditions. However, today’s highly competitive job market demands that candidates adopt the hunter approach. "

I disagree. This is only true if the individual has totally ignored building and cultivating real relationships throughout their career. If they find themselves out of work and have ignored the concepts of networking, then yes... they had better become a hunter. Farming takes a lifetime of dedication.

Ms. Feldman said that farmers:

**maintain the status quo
**are content to harvest existing customer business
**are often in maintenance mode

WRONG. Not the farmers I have seen (real ones in the field or the proverbial job seeking type o whom the article refers). Farmers are not about status quo or harvesting existing resources. They are about looking forward, calculating the unknown, and creating valuable and sustainable opportunities that benefit more people than just themselves. She implies that farmers are lazy. I assume she has spent her life in the big city!

You cannot create lifelong respect, understanding and referrals from the people in your network overnight. Investing your attention in other people and establishing yourself as a key contact in their lives takes time.

Taken as a competition between "hunters" and "farmers", her article makes everyone seem in need of a shower. Dirty and selfish. The thought that you should only be a hunter or a farmer goes back to the silly, but ongoing sales debate of "networking vs. cold-calling". Who in the name of Pete thinks it is only one or the other? Success in sales comes from both cold-calling and networking. Success in a job search comes from being a "hunter" and a "farmer".

In this one-sided argument she added:

"The farmers are often left waiting in the dust while their proactive, persistent hunter competitors land new jobs."

I cry foul. If this was really a contest then the farmers are NOT being left in the dust. They have already found new opportunities because they have spent a lifetime establishing relationships and constructing a personal brand that has lead them to new jobs before the hunter has woken up (and hunters are early risers!!!). The people they have helped for years step up and help them. Farming communities have a long history of assisting others whom they know, like and trust (ever built a barn alone?).

I hate to pick on Ms. Feldman, as I am sure she is a great person. But her article over simplifies the topic and leaves the job seeker who has not spent much time caring about establishing a real network with the false belief that they can win by being self-focused on the career ladder.

If you really want success (especially in the $100,000 + job market) you had darn well better be hunting and farming!!! Be cunning and creative in your efforts to seeking out new leads, but you will be best served if you began sowing the seeds for your future a decade ago.

Have A Great Day.


*** "Batteries Not Included: 66 Tips to Energize Your Career" (New Year Publishing, 2009) is now available at

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Connecting Online": Steve Harper and Thom Singer To Speak at Breakfast Seminar

My friend, Steve Harper (Author of "The Ripple Effect", professionals speaker and business consultant) and I will be leading an informative business seminar - "Connecting Online: Leveraging the Power of Social Networking". (Sponsored by the Austin Business Journal)

This is the first time that Steve and I have ever presented together!

Business professionals interested in how Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Plaxo, Blogging etc... can have an impact on their professional brand, marketing and sales should attend this interactive discussion. We will discuss best practices for both introverts and extroverts at all levels of experience utilizing online connection tools and social networks.

Please join us for this interactive and informative seminar and breakfast.

Date: Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Time: 7:15 - 7:45 AM - Registration and Networking

7:45 – 8:30 - Presentation

Location: AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center, 1900 University Avenue Conference Room 301

Cost: $35

Reservation deadline is Friday, September 11 at 5:00 pm CST.

CLICK HERE to sign up NOW!!!

Have A Great Day.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Generational Memories

When I was a kid growing up in Southern California my parents used to take me to San Diego for short getaways. My mom liked the beach and in the 1970s San Diego was not the major bustling city that it is today. It was a relaxing place to spend a weekend in the wonderful temperatures and salty air of "America's Finest City" (A term coined by Teddy Roosevelt, i think, when he visited San Diego).

Our favorite place to stay was a motor lodge comprised of small bungalows on a little island in the middle of Mission Bay. Vacation Village was a kid's paradise. It had a beach that surrounded the motel, five swimming pools, a game room, jungle like foliage, and lots of birds and other wildlife. I will forever remember the times I spent there with my folks. WONDERFUL.

In college I attended San Diego State University and I worked as a front desk clerk at that same hotel. In the 1980s the property had been purchased by Princess Cruises and was upgraded from a motor lodge to a "resort", and renamed The San Diego Princess Hotel and Resort. The facilities got a face-lift, but the place itself was still a great family vacation destination... with a strong focus on family-friendly activities. I loved working at The Princess, and still keep in touch with one of my co-workers - who is now one of San Diego's top architects. The memories of that job are amongst some of the best times of my college days!

As I write this I am sitting in the lobby of the Paradise Point Resort and Spa. Same bat time, same bat station... but again a new owner has upgraded the hotel to a higher level (add the word "SPA" and it must be swank!). The place is the same... but very different. They moved the front desk to the building that used to be the coffee shop. Go figure?!?

My parents never would have paid the high prices that these same bungalows now rent for a night. There have been some additional renovations, but it is still obvious that the rooms were built in the 1960s (most high end hotels these days have more space in the guest rooms and bathrooms!). But my kids think place is GREAT. The pools, the sand, the boat rentals, the put-put golf.... the high-priced everything... all adds up to great memories for my daughters.

We do not always stay here when we come to San Diego, but roaming around the grounds of this hotel somehow touches me deep in my soul. I feel connected to myself when we come here. I smile because I know how much my mom loved watching me feed the ducks when I was little or thinking about how I made my dad climb the observation tower twice each day (yep, now I am the dad, and my knees feel all 81 steps each day... sometimes twice!).

There are nicer hotels in the area, and some that are more conveniently located.... but whoever said "you cannot go home again" was wrong. You can and you should find ways to reconnect with the best parts of your life and share them with others who are part of your current world. It can fill you with peace and joy to share your memories and experiences with the next generation.

I have no idea if my kids understand how much it means to me to take them to this hotel or the way my heart feels watching them feed the ducks and explore the beautiful grounds. I wish my mom had lived long enough to know these kids and to see them explore the world. But somehow I think she was with us all here in paradise.

Have A Great Day.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Just Be

Take a few moments and think about a happy time from your childhood.

Mentally get lost in the thoughts, the smells, the touch, the feelings.

In our busy "grown up" world we forget the joy that can come from just "being". As a kid I could just enjoy the moment. I did not worry about the cost of things or the impact that my actions had on anything beyond the present.

There is power in just being. No worry, no goals, no plans. Nothing but feeling inside of yourself.

When you find those feelings of youth again it can brighten your whole day.

Have A Great Day.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Great New E-Book For Those In A Job Search

I know in my core that relationships are essential to success. All opportunities come from people, and you never know how or when the people you encounter will come in and out of your life and provide you with the boost you need to excel.

Those looking for jobs must pay special attention to their networking skills. But even those not searching for work need to make networking a priority. Pay attention to people and understand their goals and dreams. Look for ways to help them when ever you can.

Sometimes you meet people there is an instant connection that leads to more business or other success for both of you. Other times you cannot see the reason for your meeting or discover ways that you can both have a positive impact on each other - but they are interesting and nice... and nobody should ever shrug a friendship for the sake of friendship.

Then there are people who you don't know well, lose touch with, and then cross paths again decades later to discover you are in the same line of work, industry or share similar goals. When this happens it is a sign that there is true and mutually beneficial opportunity in the works, and the universe is dropping the connection in your lap!

Let me tell you about one such friend -- and his fantastic new e-book for people who are in the middle of career transitions, job searches, or just concerned about their employment future.

Tim Tyrell-Smith is the author of the new e-book, "30 Ideas - The Ideas of Successful Job Search". I knew Tim at San Diego State University over 20 years ago. We had some mutual friends and always got along well - but we did not run in the same circles. We were in different fraternities (I was a Beta, he was a Sigma Chi... but don't hold that against him!!!) and our paths did not cross again for many years.

Recently, via Facebook, we became re-connected. Tim is now a leading expert in the job search arena, and is the founder of two websites that are both informative and powerful for those who are seeking more from life. Spin Strategy - Tools for Intelligent Job Search was founded because of his passion to help others overcoming the difficulties of being laid off and who are looking for their next career opportunity. Quioting - A Quest of New Ideas is designed to help those who have unique and creative ideas, but never know what to do with them.

Tim's message closely matches what I profess here on the Some Assembly Required Blog and in my books. He is growing his business, blogs, writing and speaking career .... and it is clear to me that we can be valuable resources to help each other find greater success.

I have downloaded Tim's free Job Search E-Book and I recommend you do the same. It is full of great advice and he clearly provides useful tips for anyone who is concerned about how to cultivate a more successful job search.

Share the link with your friends who are looking for work, and let them know about the resources he has available at Spin Strategy.

Have A Great Day.


We Are Not Alone

Those who seek to understand the power of networking go through many stages of self-discovery. Much of the draw of having a network is about self. We witness those who are well-connected living on the receiving end of opportunities and we desire to have others help us achieve success. We network to get.

Eventually we learn that to get, we must give. It is hard for some to realize this, and with busy schedules and life commitments they shy away from networking as they cannot see the short term value in dedicating time and resources to serving others. Giving takes time. Time is a precious commodity.

The important lesson to learn is that all parts of our lives are a journey, including cultivating personal and professional relationships with others. While it takes time, it cannot be avoided if we want to achieve all that we can. Building a network is not like building a house. Once it is built you cannot walk away from the solid structure. The foundation of your network is directly tied to other people, and thus always in flux.

When one person holds the relationship dear only for their own gain, there are flaws in the structure of the network. Selfish networking exists when a scarcity mentality is dominant. If there is only a certain amount of success to be divided, each person will grab all they can get. But when we wake up each day knowing that there is unlimited opportunities and who gets the prizes will change from day to day, we can easily embrace assisting those around us to find victory.... as we can be sure that our time on top will come as well.

When we live in an ecosystem of givers, everyone will prosper.

Being a "giver" can be uncomfortable for some people who have always felt that others were out to take advantage of them. They feel vulnerable. It can take a long time for people to change their mindset, and to do so they must expose themselves to the right type of people who care about their success... and then take a leap of faith.

This perceptual shift in the brain will allow everyone to live an extraordinary life of abundance. I believe this is possible and that we are all capable of living in communities of contribution. It is not about finding happiness or constantly being blissful (constant joy is not going to happen) -- but is more in tune with finding your potential and helping others reach their own goals and dreams. Impacting the greater good for the universe has power.

If you have never thought about the greater purpose of networking, spend some time looking at how all people are connected and can positively change the world for the better, if they choose to do so. All opportunities come from people, so people matter in your life.

Finding balance between the needs of self and the pull of our commitments while making a difference in the world has forever been part of the human condition. Those who succeed in this are the ones who know at their core that they are not alone. Nobody is an island, and we are here to help each other win the prizes we seek.

Look at your own journey and uncover the ways that it is joined to the journey of others. Be still in your own mind and allow the connections to how you impact others become clear. The directions to how you can be the catalyst to boost other people are visible if you take the time to look for the clues.

You lead by example. If you are outwardly giving, others will see your efforts. It is hard to get past self-focus, especially in tough economic times. With so much uncertainty it is natural to circle the wagons and protect what we have. Hunkering down until the recovery has been the mantra of many, but I do not think this is the best answer.

Look for somebody in your circle of influence and give to them. It can be a small boost that launches them into the stratosphere. You need not abandon your own goals and responsibilities to help others. Even kind words of encouragement and praise can make the difference.

Take joy in the successes of others and most of them will do the same when they see you triumph. For those who are not on board with celebrating your successes or that of others, do not fret about them (you cannot change them). Be grateful for those in your life who do share your abundance mentality and realize you have your success because they are part of your life!

Have A Great Day.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

The ABC's of Public Speaking -Z is for Zipper

Z is for Zipper

Make sure yours is up!

....And pay attention to other seemingly minor details before you go on stage!

Have A Great Day.


Friday, August 14, 2009

The ABC's of Public Speaking - Y is for Yes

Y is for Yes

If you desire to improve your speaking skills, and I assume you do if you have made it this far in The ABC's of Speaking, then you must speak. Say "YES" to every opportunity you can find to address an audience. The more often you speak, the more comfortable you will become and your experiences will help you fine tune your oratory skills.

Let people know that you are available to talk to their company, association, conference, club, or other group. Be clear about your range of topics and be excited to be asked to speak to crowds of all sizes.

The skills it takes to be on the big stage speaking to thousands of people are both the same and different from those needed to speak to half a dozen. The only way you will know how to react to different audiences is to have hundreds of presentations under your belt.

Do not over think the opportunity or pre-judge the group. Your goal is to get the stage time (See "S is for Stage Time"), and thus you should be excited about every chance you are given to speak.

Making yourself available and agreeable to speak will be part of a continuous cycle. The more you speak, the better you will get at speaking. The more you say "yes" to speaking, the more organizations will pop up with invitations for you to speak. Do not rationalize that you might become "over-exposed" in your city if you speak too often. If you are good, and have a powerful message that is important to people, smart groups will invite you to speak.

Have A Great Day.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Early Praise for "Batteries Not Included: 66 Tips to Energize Your Career"

"Thom managed to put a lot value in a little book. This is essential reading for anyone looking to get and stay influential. Very well written and leaves a lasting impression about the accountability it takes to be successful. Buy this book before your next mistake!"

Garrison Wynn CEO of Wynn Solutions and Author of “The REAL Truth About Success: What the top 1% do differently and why they won’t tell you!


The ABC's of Public Speaking - X is for eXtra

X is for eXtra

Because it is called "giving a speech" it is a good policy to remember that as the presenter it is your duty to "give" to your audience. Your talk is a gift to your listeners. Everything you do when you are on stage must be done with the listener in mind.

When you focus on giving to your audience you will always be a more successful speaker.

Deliver inspiration, advice, humor, compassion, knowledge, and challenging motivation to those in the crowd. Always be prepared to put 100% of your ability as a speaker into your preparation and execution of your speech. That is expected of all speakers.

But always give something extra that the audience does not anticipate. Speakers who bring something more are always remembered. Several years ago I witnessed the CFO of Brown-Forman Corporation speak at an event. Brown-Forman owns several adult beverage brands including Jack Daniels. She had a gift of a bottle of Jack Daniels for each person in the audience, which was a big hit with the crowd! Years later those who attended her talk remember it very well!

If your company's product or service is too expensive to give to everyone, consider doing a drawing a rewarding one or two audience members with the valuable sample.

When you do not have a product or service that that lends itself as something you can give away, then create a hand-out that has the most valuable points from your presentation so that every audience member recieves something to take home.

Anytime you can give the audience something extra, they will remember your presentation with greater intensity.

Have A Great Day.


Sunday, August 09, 2009

The ABC's of Public Speaking - W is for Walking Around

W is for Walking Around

Effective speakers move around the room. Do not forget to walk when you are speaking, as nobody wants to see as statue deliver a presentation. If you appear stiff or stuck the audience will see that as part of your personality. If you utilize the freedom to command the space, you will be seen being in control.

Many people feel a sense of security if they can hold onto the lectern and keep close to their notes. Having their body shielded saves them from needing to worry about how to stand or what do do with their hands. They grip the sides of the wooden structure and rotate their head from left to right, thinking that their eye contact is enough of a connection with the audience to show their humanity.

When you are given the choice of a stationary microphone on the lectern, or a wireless microphone, always choose wireless, as it provides you with flexibility to move when appropriate. If you are speaking to a large crowd where a sound system is necessary you do not want to be tethered to one place on the stage. This is especially true on a large stage with a big audience, as staying in one spot will make you appear small.

If you don't need sound amplification, then there is no excuse for being stuck in one spot - but even in talks in a small room to a dozen people, you still need to walk around.

The best orators go beyond the stage. They walk into the crowd as they deliver their remarks. Oprah Winfrey is famous for this style of speaking while amongst the audience, and it is one of the reasons that people feel connected to her when she speaks.

The best non-professional speaker I have ever seen was a CEO delivering a lunch-time talk to a group of 200 professionals at a meeting of the Central Texas Chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth. This group has successful business professionals address their members each month, but this one speaker stood out because he was one with the audience. He flowed away from the front of the room walked around, looking into the eyes of the people. Everyone was captivated. While his message, words, gestures, eye contact, poise and style were all great, it was his movements that made him spectacular.

I have seen equally successful businessmen and women stand anchored to one spot barely ever even shifting their weight from foot to foot whose presentations fell flat.

While it can seem awkward at first to move around, or to roam into the crowd, while speaking, it quickly will become a natural part of your speaking style with a little practice. Make it a point to review your speaking area before you begin your presentation and plan where you can go. Only move when it feels natural, never force yourself into situations that make you uncomfortable.

No matter what the stage set up, at the end of your presentation or during the Q&A part of your talk, move closer to the audience. By crossing toward them you become part of the group. Since the last moments of your talk are your final impressions, this feeling of intimacy will solidify the connection you have to the individuals who have been listening to your talk.

Pay attention to how and when you walk around and you will improve your speaking style in a subtle, yet powerful, way.

Have A Great Day.


Thursday, August 06, 2009

Equity In Your Company - Protect It !!!!

This blog post originally appeared on the Austin Startup Blog.

Today’s guest blogger is Ellen Wood who is the co-founder and CEO of Austin based vcfo, inc. The firm specializes in operational finance and accounting, HR Solutions and recruiting services for companies of all sizes. She can be reached at 512-345-9441.

For most entrepreneurs equity is just a word the lawyers and finance people use when talking about funding. It’s not something that is front and center on a daily basis - but it should be. Equity is everything. You need to take the time to understand it and protect it.

Specifically, equity is ownership. When you start a company, it’s common for someone or a small group of people to initially own 100% of the company. Usually ownership is represented in the form of shares. You commonly hear lawyers talk about incorporating your company with 1,000 or 10,000 or 10,000,000 shares. It doesn’t matter whether you start your company with 1 share or 10,000,000 shares, the value of the company is the same. You do not own more just because you have more shares. The value of your company is based on what the market says you are worth. Your ownership of the company is directly related to how many shares you own as a percent of the total shares.

You will never have more ownership than you do when you start your company. You may have more shares but you will never own a bigger percentage than the 100% you start with. The percent you own over time is the key. Every decision you make going forward that uses equity is going to reduce your ownership. You will use it to recruit key members of your team. You will use it to entice funding sources to invest. You may use it in exchange for services or materials that you would otherwise pay cash for. Make sure you project what the impact is of using equity. You only want to use it as currency if you believe you are getting something that will make the equity you have left worth more than it was before.

I can tell you story after story about founders that have given away large pieces of equity early in the life of their company, not understanding what that meant to their own ownership position. Decisions made in the early days of your company about the uses of your equity are the most important decisions you will make. You can’t undo them and nobody is going to give you more equity to make up for decisions you wish you hadn’t made. To minimize regrets, go beyond the revenue projections all entrepreneurs love to do. Make sure your projections cover at least the first few years of your company. If within that plan you will be seeking funding, plan for using equity there. If you are hiring a top flight team, plan to use equity there. Market data is available to you on what you will have to give in equity for these types of uses. You are making these grants to grow the value of your company. Presumably your projected smaller piece of a bigger value pie will be worth more. That is always the bet. Look at what your ownership is after these equity transactions and make sure you understand it and are satisfied with it. Remember – equity is your most valuable asset so use it judiciously. Make sure your bets are informed ones.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Almost Everyone Deserves A Second Chance

In the course of our busy lives many people make negative snap judgments about others. We pre-qualify them based on a quick scan of what we see on the outside or make a character call on one isolated incident. We rarely have time to go deep with the people who are on the fringes of our lives, and thus we jump to conclusions often too quickly.

Take a moment and look at your family members, co-workers, clients, prospects, friends, competitors, neighbors, etc... and identify the people whom you have put into that place on the "dark side" of judgment. Do the people to whom you turn up your nose really deserve the bad mojo you think you feel?

Sure, some folks are bad eggs. But my experience has proven to me that most people I know have a good heart and they want to do the right things,.... even those who, for whatever reason, have left a sour impression.

Take the time to clean the slate. Reach out to people whom you have negatively judged and give them another chance. You might be surprised to find delightful souls who will touch your life for the better.

Of course, some of them will drop more darkness on your world -- but then you will know for sure it is their petty nature at play and not you just your over active imagination that has labeled them a jerk.

Have A Great Day.


The ABC's of Public Speaking - V is for Verbal Tics

Ummm, Ahhhh, You know, this is a tough topic for those who speak.

Many who are nervous or inexperienced about speaking in front of an audience are scared of pauses, and they fill in the gaps with filler words, repeated sayings, grunts and other noises. They often do not know they are doing it, and have no idea how the continuous use of such "verbal tics" can cause the audience to lose track of their message.

If your verbal fillers are too prevalent some members of the audience will begin to count your "ums" and "ahs". I once tallied 65 such tics from a speaker in a thirty minute presentation. Another speaker said "Ya know?" so many times in his talk that I wanted to stand up and scream "YES, I know!". I have no idea what either speaker was there to say to the crowd, but their repeated unwanted sayings were forever burned into my memory.

While these verbal tics are usually seen in inexperienced speakers, I have witnessed highly paid professional speakers and top politicians who also suffer from this unfortunate distraction.

The best way to know if you are making the mistake of overusing "ums" and "ahs" is to ask a friend or co-worker to attend your presentation and to look for the little things (like verbal tics) in your speaking style that are harming the effectiveness of your message. Recording your speech and reviewing it yourself will also make you aware of the bad habits.

Having someone count the number of times you make these noises to fill in your pauses will surprise some people. However, your awareness is the first step to getting past this bad habit.

Do not be scared of a pause in your speech, even if you are searching your mind for the next word. While it may seem like an eternity, often it is only a second or two that you are there without making a sound. While your fears will wrongly make you feel it is awkward, if you learn to hold the silence with confidence, the audience will be drawn in by your powerful use of a pause.

As with all parts of public speaking, your awareness and practice will help you improve your skills.

Have A Great Day.


Monday, August 03, 2009

Last Chance to Register for the "Smart Visibility" Seminar this Thursday

Thursday morning breakfast seminar: "Smart Visibility" - Hosted by the Austin Business Journal.

August 6, 2009

7:15 - 9:00 AM

Click here for more information.


Sunday, August 02, 2009

The ABC's of Public Speaking - U is for Understanding

U is for Understanding

When giving a talk to an audience it is important that you understand what the people in the chairs are expecting to hear from the speaker. If you get up and deliver a genre of presentation that is not in line with what the people signed up for, they will not be in sync with your from the start.

Many professionals are so nervous about delivering a presentation that they spend all of their time thinking about themselves. They devote time to the flow of the words, the creation of the slides, and their own delivery while forgetting about the needs of the audience.

Sitting in a meeting and listening to a presentation is a commitment. Nobody enjoys being stuck hearing someone who is going through the motions of speaking, but who clearly has no concern for the audience. If you do not have an understanding of the audience, they will see you as a fraud or a wast of time.

People gather for many reasons. Groups that invite speakers are made up of different types of people with a variety of backgrounds. Speakers are often invited to educate, entertain, motivate, convince, inspire, provoke, sell, inform, etc...

Before you accept an offer to speak, ask about the make up of the audience. Age, gender, occupations, backgrounds, job titles, purpose of the group, and the expectations of the talk are part of the information you need to prepare. While many people who speak occasionally have a standard speech that they give, you must be sure that you customize your remarks to the demographics and needs of the individual audience.

The more you understand about who will be hearing you speak, the better you can tailor your presentation to create a connection with the group. Think about those who will sit in the uncomfortable chairs and make them the priority.

Have A Great Day.