Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Real Entrepreneurs See Ideas In Everything and Take Action!

My friend Kelsey August is an entrepreneur. She has founded multiple companies, written a cookbook, owns rental property, and has created several products. She is a natural "doer". Many people think of ideas, few take the action necessary to make them happen.

Those with the entrepreneur spirit find business ideas where others find frustration. Kelsey has cats (yes, plural). They destroyed the bottom of her bed, but more important, a cat hiding in a box spring can be injured when people lay down.

Nobody want to kill their cat by squishing it!! (Yikes).

Alas, she created a new product that will "Cat Proof Your Box Spring". Once she created the idea, she went and made it happen. The product comes in sizes for all beds, and she has options for sofas and chairs.

Now available online (and it makes a great gift!).

Check it out at

Have A Great Day


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Too Many Choices

Everyday we are bombarded with choices. We face so many decisions that people stop even considering new things and go with what they already know. Too many choices confuse people and get them to put on blinders.

Here is a video clip rant of me talking about choices and cookies:

Have A Great Day


People Do Business With Those They Know, Like, and Trust

For years I have told you that people do business with those they "Know, Like, and Trust". When you have all three working together, it is a solid standing three-legged stool. But if you are missing one, your business relationships can be wobbly.

All things being equal, most people prefer to give their money to (or hire) people with whom they have confidence. We spend our time researching products and services using our logical mind, but many decisions are made with the gut and heart.

But something significant has happened over the last two years: The definition of the word "KNOW" has changed in our society. The reason for this is the heavy adoption of the use of social media. Via the internet, too many people falsely believe they "know" everyone.

"I know her... I read her blog!"

"I know him, I saw him on YouTube"

"I know that person, I Googled them"

In today's competitive business world there are many complex issues that impact sales decisions, --- and "know, like and trust" are a key factor. The problem is that your customers and prospects also "know" your competitors. So you need to care if they "like" you (and "trust" you). These are subjective feelings, but I have known many people to make important decisions based on these factors. However, they will rarely tell you they did not choose you because your personality. They give all sorts of other false answers instead of just saying - "you are a prick".

Some sales trainers and consultants try teach that the "personal touch" stuff does not matter, but when making sales calls to be hired to work with a client company, they work hard on just that... being liked and trusted (as they know it matters!). Never kid yourself, relationships make a difference.

Gone are the days of gimmicky closing techniques and sales "tricks". Buyers are more sophisticated, but they are still human beings who will follow their gut when making decisions.

If I think you are a jerk, I am not going to give you my business!

Since we all can "know" everyone with just a few clicks, it leaves "Like and Trust" floating alone in the wind.

How you treat other people will effect how they feel about you. If you want to win more business (or find a job), you need to embrace the power of establishing meaningful relationships with others.

I recently had a conversation with a professional speaker / trainer who disagreed with me on my theories of "the power of business relationships". She rubbed me the wrong way, and had an abrasive personality. Her name came up in discussion with a Fortune 500 company who had considered hiring her for a training program. While she was smart, she would not work for that company because of how poorly she treated one of their training managers on the phone. They did not "like" her and could not "trust" that her personality would not negatively impact their training program. BANG.... she lost business because a potential client did not like or trust her! They did not tell her those reasons, but instead gave another explanation. (There is justice in the universe!).

Like matters. Trust matters. Know has become generic!

Have A Great Day.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Re-Ignite Your Dream Machine

We all have dreams for our future, but sometimes those dreams are stolen from us. Perhaps your dreams were stolen by negative relationships in your life or maybe by a tough year in your business. You can turn around your life and your career simply by remembering your dreams and turning them into goals!

You can be successful in whatever it is that you want to do!

Please join me and Bill Moyer, an expert on leadership and goal setting, for a motivational and inspirational event. Come network with other professionals and “Reignite Your Dream Machine”.

Close out 2010 strong!

CLICK HERE to register.

WHEN: November 1, 2010

WHERE: St Edward's University (Mabee Ballroom), Austin, Texas

TIME: 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM (Followed by networking at Opal Divines Penn Field on South Congress)

COST: $10 (in advance) / $20 (at door)

Have A Great Day.


Make 4th Quarter Count For Achieving Your Business Goals

The Fourth Quarter of 2010 is about to arrive.

Wow, in just days we will hit the ending quartile of the year and many people are not living up to their own goals, hopes, dreams, and wishes that they had envisioned for 2010. Most people, whether they set formal written goals or not, do think about the future at milestones like New Years Day. They want to take action in a new year to bring greater success into their life. But wishing alone will not make it happen.

If at any point in Q4 2009 you thought about how much you wanted to accomplish in 2010, and then have not achieved the mark.... do not despair. Having target goals is not always about total achievement, but instead about the habits your create while working to achieve them. If you are behind, now is NOT the time to forget your desires, either. I find those who say "oh well" and start fantasizing about 2011, and then repeat the same thing year after year.

With three months left on the calendar we can still make a difference in how the year finishes. I consulted with a lawyer in Q1 who wanted to create and act upon a business plan that would help him win more business and grow his reputation in the community. His plan was completed by March 31st, but he has done nothing in the following two quarters that could be considered "action steps". That's normal, we all get busy, and having a focus on new business development and a personal brand are learned habits that take time to become a regular part of our lives. Now that he sees how easy it is to do nothing with his plan, the time has come to get realistic and decide what he is going to do to make 2010 at least a partial success.

If any of this resonates with you, then take action in October, November and December to push your career forward. Get over the standard rationalization that "nobody works much in the holiday season, so I will wait until January". LAME. The most successful people work in all seasons! Join them.

Have A Great Day.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Psychology of Successful Job Search (with Tim Tyrell-Smith)

This quick video on The Psychology of Successful Job Search features Tim Tyrell-Smith of Tim's Strategy.

In a short time Tim has become a powerhouse in the career world. He has become a speaker, writer, blogger, social media maven, and job search guru.

If you are looking for a new job, you need to know Tim's Strategy. Tim has been there, done that, and loves to share ideas that will help you succeed.

***Side note, Tim Tyrell-Smith and I went to college together over 20 years ago in Southern California. I had not seen him since 1989, but last year was reconnected to him when his blog began to explode on the national scene. Since that time we have been in touch regularly, and have helped each other find additional success. I tell you this because you need to look around and find people from your past who might work in complimentary areas. When growing your network, it is often faster to re-establish a lost friendship than it is to create a new one!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Always "Thank" The Meeting Planner After A Business Event, Conference, Sales Meeting or Other Gathering

I have been writing a lot lately about professional speakers and other aspects of what makes a meeting successful. It is my personal goal when I deliver a keynote presentation to set the tone for a great meeting that impacts all attendees. I put a lot of faith in the power of the right speaker to make meetings thrive.

But more than that, I believe in the power of bringing business professionals together for conferences, conventions, sales meetings, etc... Anytime people meet and share ideas... BIG THINGS happen!

The downturn in the economy has impacted the meeting business. Many companies have canceled their meetings. Others have held them on shoe-string budgets. But many have continued to hold these industry gatherings, as they know the power.

The reality is that no matter how great the speakers, panels, meals, venue, etc.... it is the meeting planer who really puts into motion all the factors that lead to the success of the event. The best meeting planners have found amazing ways to put on great events on smaller budgets over the last few years.

The best meeting planners are wizards who sews together the program and ensure that everyone has a fantastic experience.

Then how come very few people ever seek out the meeting planner and say "Thank You"? They find the speakers and praise them (Keep doing that, too, by the way!).

I made this video a while back, but never posted it on the blog. It is short, and to the point:

Have A Great Day.


"I Want To Be A Paid Professional Speaker"

I regularly receive phone calls from business professionals who say "I want to get paid to speak!". They are not always sure what that means, but they have received positive feedback from people who have heard them present, and are interested in getting money for their talks. They call me to "pick my brain" about how they can enter this world.

Due to the high level of interest in this topic, I have started a consulting program to help people navigate their initial interest in speaking as a career.

I have spent fifteen years studying the Professional Speaking Industry. It is an exciting, unique, and serious business that requires a mix of skill and intention. I honor and respect the industry and those who earn their living through speaking. I am very excited to be a professional speaker, and really do love my job. It is wonderful to be able to share this passion with others.

Most people view the "big-time" celebrities and assume that is the whole business. People who are famous for something else (titans of industry, sports heroes, politicians, reality TV stars, etc....) headline many events and take home large paychecks. Some of them are great speakers, others are good, many are just famous (or infamous) so people want to hear what they say. Bill Clinton (who is a great speaker!) makes over $100,000 per speech and is the highest earning professional speaker in the world.

However, most of us were not the leader of the Free-World, so our path to speaking success is a little different than that of Mr. Clinton.

I have begun to consult with people who have an interest in the speaking business to share my ideas, observations, pontifications, etc... on the industry. While I cannot magically bring success to anyone, I have seen a lot of people come and go over the years, and have useful advice that can help. I have talked with speakers, speakers bureaus, agents, meeting planners, sales managers, CEO's, association executives and others about the trends in the business, and ways for up-and-coming speakers to get established.

My goal is to provide a perspective on the business that will assist with developing an understand of the variety of different ways one can be successful in the speaking industry. This is not a "get-rich-quick" program, as there are lots of people out there offering such courses (Good luck with that!). Instead this is a facilitated dialogue that will help someone explore the business and begin their pursuit with a realistic foundation.

If you are interested working with me to discover more about my perceptions, ideas and suggestions on how to grow a speaking business, call me at (512) 970-0398 or email thom (at)

Have A Great Day.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hiring A Speaker For Your Business Events

There is a great article in this month's "Meeting South Magazine" about hiring professional speakers and maximizing value. Economic pressures have mean meeting planners are facing smaller budgets for their conferences, but there are many reasons why they hire paid professional speakers rather than just finding anyone with a pulse and knowledge to take the stage.

My mantra is: "just because someone is smart or has done something cool does NOT make them a speaker!" Seasoned event organizers understand the right speaker sets the tone for the whole meeting. Finding the balance between cost and value is key to a successful conference!

The author of the piece, Ruth Hill, does a great job of covering the realities of how the recession has impacted the meeting business, specifically those who speak at conferences, conventions, sales meetings and other gatherings,... while giving great advice on how to get the most value when engaging a speaker.

For me, being hired to speak at a conference is about much more than the keynote itself. I work closely with the event organizers to ensure that I provide them with more value than they expected, and that my interactions with the audience are ongoing beyond my time on the stage.

The "Conference Networking Catalyst" program keeps me involved at all breaks, happy hours, meals, etc.... and I have found that those in attendance prefer it when the speakers are visible throughout the conference and not just "speak and run".

I always am willing to provide extras that help the organizer succeed in their event: breakout sessions, book signings, special education programs for trade show vendors, etc... I want every meeting planner to think of me as a strategic partner in making their event spectacular!

From the article:

Speakers bureaus are among the first to note that planners should explore the variety of services that today’s speakers and presenters are often capable of providing. If not, they are leaving money on the table.

According to Gail Davis, president of Gail Davis & Associates, a Colleyville, Texas-based speakers bureau, smart buyers are looking for a maximum return on investment when they shop for a speaker.

"They ask about what this speaker can do in addition to the main presentation," she says. "Will they do a breakout with strategic sales managers, and will they include travel expenses in their fee?"

In a side panel to the article, Ms. Hill reminds meeting planners not to treat speakers as "commodities" when negotiating speaking fees. Professional speaker Laura Stack provides several tips that can help meeting planners and professional speakers create win / win programs:

According to Stack, the following strategies will help create a win-win outcome:

  • Barter System: What is there to offer the speaker instead of cash? Consider resources from members, suppliers, exhibitors or sponsors that are tradable. The possibilities could include hotel stays, a spa treatment or exhibitor products. Some speakers have traded portions of their fee for, say, travel, boating equipment and electronics.
  • Creative Payment Plans: If immediate funds are short, think about paying part of the speaker fee in installments. For example, if the fee is $5,000 and only $4,000 is available, negotiate to pay the extra $1,000 over a later time period.
  • Airfare Considerations: The speaker might have frequent flyer miles he or she can use to get to the event, saving the organization cash travel expenses. Another strategy is to negotiate that air expenses are not to exceed a certain amount, particularly if the event is more than six months out—enough time for fares to change dramatically.
  • Draw Funds from Varied Budgets: If the speaker has authored a book, provide one copy per attendee as an event gift. At $10 per copy for 500 people, it’s possible to reduce the speaker expense line item in the budget by $5,000 and charge the materials budget, professional education or publications budget instead.
  • Find Mutual Value: Talk with the speaker until you uncover a situation that represents a mutual "win." Does the speaker value being paid in full in advance? Does he or she have relatives in that city who would like to attend? Maybe the speaker just wants to get on the inside track with the organization. The speaker must be able to justify the negotiation and explain why they did what they did to the next client.
  • Get Sponsorships: Get an exhibitor or supplier member to sponsor the speaker. This can be a good marketing opportunity for sponsors. In return for paying the speaker fee, planners can provide the sponsor with live and media mentions surrounding the event.
  • Marketing Assistance: Some engagements are great marketing opportunities for speakers, exposing them to audience members who have the ability to hire them for future work in their individual organizations. Some of the ways to enable speaker "exposure" are via a booth in the trade show, a link to the speaker’s website from the meeting’s website, publicity about the speaker in meeting marketing materials or approval to sell books and other resources at the event.
Good points! The best one is "Get Sponsorships", as I have worked at several events where the hosting organization found a specific sponsor to cover the cost of the keynote speaker(s). In some cases they have had the sponsor pay the speakers directly. This is a good way for a sponsoring company to get extra exposure, and the right speaker will honor (not pander to) the sponsor.

Have A Great Day.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ambassadors For Growth

I was asked to deliver a presentation for a group of leaders at a church. This long established institution is growing, building a new sanctuary, and looking to invite additional families into their congregation. They have a wonderful community, but if left to chance they would not have the same levels of success in their expansion. A seminar to bring the internal leaders onto point in regards to creating a "welcome wagon mentality" was right on target.

In discussions on ideas for the program I came up with the theme of "Ambassadors for Growth", as it was clear that this church wants to highlight its grassroots culture and encourage existing members to take an active roll in making new families feel welcome.

I spent many hours working on my "Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow and Keep Your Business Relationships" presentation to customize the messages to meet the needs of a religious community instead of a business organization.

I consulted with several friends who are active in their religious communities (from several different religions), and found similar concepts around how "People Are Seeking A Feeling of Connection". This is the same point I teach when I speak to companies and law firms, or coach individuals on business development topics.

The seminar I conducted for thirty leaders in this faith community was an hour presentation followed by another hour of facilitated discussion. The idea that every church leader and member was an "Ambassador for Growth" resonated well with the participants. There was an excitement in the room when all agreed to expand the existing a culture of connection throughout the parish by taking a specific action step. While many useful ideas were shared, and will be embraced... one idea from the crowd was the "ah ha" moment in the dialogue:

Each of the thirty people in the room would recruit three other "ambassadors" who would agree to meet one new person or family each week following the services. This would equal nearly 100 people who would approach one stranger (existing member or the church or new-comer), and make them feel more welcome.

What was best about this action is that even an introvert can agree to talk to one person a week, and with 100 people doing this, the idea would spread to others. Soon there will be more connecting going on within the church, and thus it will become a more welcoming place (this church already has a welcoming reputation, but wants to do even more!).

Simple. Sure. But without having the leaders all sit together and discuss the process, it would just be another idea that everyone assumes is already happening, or was too simple to have an impact. People over-think and over-analyze concepts all the time rather than taking action. This little action, if executed, will be a seed that can sprout into a mighty oak!

Leading this workshop was a great experience. I love when the message of my presentations translates to new demographics and diverse audiences. I also get very charged up when the best ideas and action items come from the participants sharing and inspiring each other.

Have I mentioned I love my job!

Have A Great Day.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Create Your Own University

Do you study at the feet of others in your industry?

I am not talking about literally sitting at their feet (yikes, maybe their shoes smell bad!), but I am serious about studying how others are achieving their successes. Knowing who they are is not enough, you must observe and learn.... taking the parts that will work for you and importing them into your own life.

This does not necessarily mean you have to personally know all the "industry giants" and meet with them face-to-face. I know lots of people who stalk industry leaders and hope they will magically lift them to the next level. The reality is those who are on top of the heap are busy, (and some are jerks who do not want to help you - even if they had the time) and too many up-and-comers are jockeying for their attention. Expecting them to invest in teaching you is not realistic.

If you want to be at the top of your field, but do not know how to get there, you need to become a student of success. Do not expect a miracle or lucky break, as those rarely happen in the same way they do in the movies. It is not about meeting a famous success story and copying their life, but rather seeing all that is happening around your industry and interpreting how to use what you have learned to construct your own victories.

I suggest you create your own university and always be learning. Everyone in your industry (and beyond) will instruct you how to succeed. They do not even need to know they are teaching you. We always can learn from others, whether they know it or not!

Over a decade ago I became fascinated with the business of "Professional Speaking". Long before I was ever paid to talk I studied speakers. Everything they did helped educate me for my future in the business. I enjoyed watching anyone who presented (professionals and others) and started to study how people utilized the spoken word to inspire, educate and motivate audiences.

I called this "Speaker's University", and the student body was one.... ME!

But the faculty was unlimited. Professional speakers, authors, entrepreneurs, politicians, preachers, coaches, co-workers, entertainers, sales professionals, etc... Anytime someone spoke to an audience I took copious notes on as much their speaking style as I did the information they were sharing with the audience.

I have watched all the Democrat and Republican National Conventions on television since 1992 with an eye for how each speaker chose their words. At every business convention I have attended my ear was tuned on the vocal inflections of the guru's. In church the priests manner of relating to his flock was observed. Annual State of the Union Address: Extra Credit!!! Everybody who was on stage was my "Speaker's University" professor.

I joined speaking organizations and read everything I could get my hands on about the industry (the National Speakers Association's "Speaker Magazine" is a great resource, and you do not need to be a member of the organization to subscribe to the publication).

I also spoke to any and every audience I could find. I set a goal to speak 50 times a year, as much like Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour theory (did you read Outliers?), I knew that doing was what would make me great, not just studying! In 2008 I gave 48 talks. 2009 it was 53. In 2010 I will top 65 presentations. I have give close to 500 presentations, teleconferences, and webinars in total.

Does this make me a better professional speaker? YES IT DOES! Many people who speak at conferences and other events have never invested five minutes in thinking about the real art and science that goes into creating meaningful connections with the audience. They are on stage for a variety of reasons, but it is often not because they honor and admire the industry of speaking. I love working in this business and will continue to study at "Speaker's University" for the rest of my life. There is no graduation ceremony!

If you set out to learn the ins and outs of your industry, and the people who work in the business, you will become great. Do not limit your study to the top tier industry leaders. I have learned a lot from lousy speakers! (and not just what NOT to do, everyone has something good inside them that can contribute to your education). Training yourself be an enthusiastic and open minded student will bring you more success.

Avoid being critical of the people you observe. There are many paths to success and when you discredit your peers for how they are navigating their careers (as long as they are being ethical) you are missing out on valuable lessons that could help you reach your own goals. You need not adopt every idea, concept, action or practice that you uncover.... but you should try to understand how and why those items are working (or not working) for others.

Being a student means you have to check your ego at the door, as it is admitting you do not know all the answers. No matter your personal levels of success, you can still learn. The best of the best that I have ever seen are always stretching and growing. Be open to the great supply of knowledge that others in your industry can impart into your life.

Create your own university and learn all you can every single day.

Have A Great Day.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Gary Vaynerchuk at TEXCHANGE in Austin

I have attended almost every TEXCHANGE meeting in Austin over the last nine years. Yes, I have missed a few, but I was part of the founding board, served as president of the chapter, and have continued on the advisory board of this great group that has made a big impact on Austin's Tech Community. Thus, I can say with authority that this week's meeting featuring best-selling author Gary Vaynerchuk was among THE BEST nights in the history of the organization.

Gary is nationally recognized as a passionate speaker and a person who does not just pontificate about entrepreneurship, social media, and success, .... he lives it!

Over 170 Austin area entrepreneurs and other professionals filled the AT&T Center to listen to Gary share his observations about the continued growth of social media and the effects on marketing.

Gary's background speaks for itself, as he grew his family's liquor store from $4 million to $60 million via his early recognition of how the internet was going to change how we all lived and shopped. He believes the changes are still coming, and is shocked when he consults with companies who have still not realized that the world is undergoing the biggest culture shift ever. Meanwhile more dollars are available, and many companies are not taking the action to win more customers via social online interactions. The realities of the new age are being underestimated and he is driven to help businesses find their way.

However, with all the changes in the interconnected online world, there is a push backward toward old fashioned small town values. Gary stated that our grandparents are better suited to win in the future than many of the younger generations because they understand these basic premises of the personal touch and caring about the customer. (Gary is obsessed with the concept of "Giving a Fuck", as those who really care will win in the long run!!!).

Information is being generated at unprecedented speed and there is a lot more "noise" out there.... thus marketing is about to get really hard. Those who think they can keep marketing the same way are in for a rough road. Google TV will displace the estimated numbers of Neilsen Ratings, and thus show exact numbers of eyeballs viewing any given show (which might not be as many viewers as many people think!). Additionally, when people watch television or read newspapers they now do it with their hands on laptops, cell phones, and other distractions that keep them from viewing the mass media with the attention they did just 10 years ago.

Gary's next book (due out in March 2011) is called "The Thank You Economy" and will focus on his mantra that Brands that out-care their competitors will win in the long run: Manners, birthday wishes, thank you notes, and responding to customers online (think Twitter) comments directly (not ignoring them) are what will have the biggest impact. He challenged the audience that if someone at their table in the dinning room began randomly discussing their company they would join the conversation.... then why in the hell do they NOT do this online? To executives who say "My clients are not there... or don't care" about social media, he says..."NOT YET!".

Vaynerchuk thinks everyone should be layering social media into their marketing plans, TODAY. Even if they are not ready to abandon their traditional marketing, advertising, PR, etc... they need to be moving with social media and not ignoring the coming waves.

Ten years ago if you were talking to your friend about Bud Light while watching TV at home and your doorbell rang with a Budweiser rep on the porch you would have freaked out. Yet today if you Tweet about your Bud Light you expect the company to respond (if necessary or appropriate). Companies must be monitoring the chatter online (and responding) or they are making a huge mistake. ***Take note, if your competitors are listening they might be discovering ways to respond to customer online discussions and win the business.

It is necessary to create a dialogue and build a true relationship in this new world. People are being re-trained in society to expect this type of interaction. As the younger generations have adopted Facebook (and other technology platforms), they have pulled their parents and grandparents in at adoption rates never before seen. The reason the "over-sixty-crowd" is the fastest growing segment on Facebook is this is they way they keep up and communicate with their grand kids.

Those small town values are what make you stand out. He used the example of a "Baker's Dozen" -- pointing out of how the baker in a small town cared about his customers,.... enough to toss in an extra donut. Yet he questioned if we went to Whole Foods and picked up 13 donuts, would they only charge us for 12??? (The answer was "NO").

I have spent the better part of a decade watching and learning from speakers. Long before I became a professional speaker, I studied how some experts can impact an audience and inspire the soul of those who are listening to their presentation (while others fall flat). I observe every reaction from the audience and judge their connection to the speaker. Often it is polite, but not engaged. Gary had them from "hello". He is a pro!

He took Q&A from the audience for over 20 minutes, making extra sure that his answers satisfied the desires of those asking the questions. Then stayed and talked to everyone who wanted one-on-one time for nearly 90 minutes. He was genuinely interested in all he encountered and his passion for people and helping others find their own path to success was evident in the attention he gave to each individual.

The night was a "TOUCHDOWN". (I would have said "HOME RUN", but Gary Vaynerchuk would one day like to own the New York Jets!).

Have A Great Day.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Maximize Your Conference (Part 10 of 10) - "Know Before You Go"

Before you commit to attending an industry conference (or sending a group of employees) you must know what you want to accomplish with the necessary investment of time and money. Very often people look at the registration cost as the investment, but forget the travel, lodging, food and drink costs that also add up very fast at a multi-day event. Attending for the sake of "being there" will leave you will less money and no tangible return on investment.

What do you want to learn? The best events offer many concurrent educational sessions and other opportunities to gain knowledge. Closely review the daily schedule and list of trade show vendors to assess what information will be available to you.

Make sure that everyone on your team knows the priorities of the desired learning experience so that they are sure to show up at the keynotes and break-out sessions. The reality is that once people get to the event, stay up late and drink too much, feel the pull of email, texts, conference calls, etc... and it becomes easy to skip out on the meat of the conference.

Tolerate no excuses from yourself or others for not heavily participating in the scheduled events, as you can play on your iPhone, check email, make calls and sit with co-workers back at the office without having to spend the money involved with attending a convention.

Who do you want to meet? Industry events are ripe for networking opportunities, but if left to chance you can miss out on making the types of connections that will lead to real business in the long run. Many people are not good at spontaneous networking, thus it is in your best interest to pre-set meetings with those who you know will be at the convention that you would like to meet or get to know better.

Make people your priority, not your electronic gadgets. Do not sit in sessions and punch away at your SmartPhone. You are always being watched. When you are tuned out from the speaker and wildly texting, you are sending a message to everyone in the room that you are not part of the group. You are all there together, and if you are focused elsewhere you show that you are not part of the team. A conference is a mini-society, and if you choose to be disengaged you will not be approachable.

Attend all the social events and coffee breaks. Too many people use this time to check in with the office, but they miss the chance to meet people. If the conference is worth attending then the other people in attendance are worth knowing. Seek out other people and have meaningful conversations. Ask questions of them, as when they first meet you people are more interested in talking about themselves than hearing about your and your business. You will get your turn to talk.

Meet the vendors. The sponsors and those with trade show booths can always be a valuable resource. Know which of your vendors, competitors, and others will be at the show and seek them out. Also, find you vendors competitors. Even if you are happy with their services it is in your best interest to have a "back up plan" just in case the relationship chances or they go out of business. Be clear with potential vendors whom you do not want calling you all the time that you would like to know them, but do not want to be chased like a rabbit from a hungry wolf. Smart salespeople will work with you to be the "on deck" vendor without being too pushy.

The more vendors you know who serve your industry the more information you will gain over the long run about market trends and the actions of your competition. I have never understood why people avoid vendors, as they are often the best source of knowledge.

When you have a plan about how to best use your time at a convention you will see much better results than if you just "wing it". A pre-convention discussion with the key members of your team (those attending and those who will not be attending) about the goals for the event will ensure you will have maximized your conference long before you arrive.

Have A Great Day

Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Networking Catalyst". He regularly speaks at industry conventions and trade shows where he inspires the audience (and vendors) to maximize their participation at the event. One of the top reasons people attend business conferences is for the "Networking Opportunities", and yet once there they fail to create connections that will have any meaningful impact on their career. Thom sets the tone for the culture of the conference which becomes the foundation for a more meaningful set of interactions.

Monday, September 13, 2010

13-Year-Old Artist Takes On Landscape Architecture

Bobby is 13-years-old. He is an accomplished artist who has won many school and city-wide awards. The world is his canvass; he paints, sculpts, twists wire into amazing shapes, and takes found items (aka "junk") and makes them amazing pieces that "wow" the imagination. He works with wood, cardboard, paper-mache, clay, metal, oil paints, water colors, styrofoam, etc...

For Bobby the whole world is art.

His next project? Landscape architecture! He asked his parents if their simple grass backyard could become his next artistic venture....

They said "yes".

He is now in the process of out with the old, and in with the new. He rented a BobCat and carved the slope in the yard into a level field (his dad helped). He will construct a retaining wall and planter to frame the yard with flowers and plants. There will be a patio, BBQ area, and grassy knoll.

I was not this ambitious at 13-years-old.

Also, how many parents just say "OK" and then take the kid to Home Depot to rent heavy machinery?

I am confident this yard will become the showplace of the neighborhood when he completes his landscaping adventures.

How come Bobby can do this? Because nobody told him he couldn't. He sees the completed project in his mind. As he toured me around the muddy palate behind his home he pointed out exactly where his dad will stand to BBQ burgers for the family. He visualized his mom with a cold beverage sitting at the table, that is only now in his imagination. He knows where the dog (a giant St. Bernard named "Tug") will nap in the sun.

Did I mention he is thirteen?

I know many grown ups who never follow their dreams. They have ideas in their mind, but never create paths to accomplishing greatness.

Your dream might not be art. You may not want to do the heavy lifting of yard-work and landscaping.... but I would wager you have something you desire to take from the corners of your mind and share with the world.

Who said you can't? Go find a way to do it.

Have A Great Day.


Friday, September 10, 2010

The Entrepreneur As A Hero

I was recently the keynote speaker at the Killeen Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet. In preparing for the presentation I had the honor to spend time in this wonderful Central Texas community and meet many of the people who live and work in the area. Killeen is the home of Ft. Hood, and the town is heavily influenced by both the presence of the military and a vibrant small business environment.

It dawned on me that this mix of soldiers and entrepreneurs means that Killeen is a city of heroes. I believe that both soldiers and entrepreneurs are the heroes of the future. They take risks and make sacrifices that allow tomorrow to be a better place for everyone.

While we all think of soldiers in this way.... take a minute to think of entrepreneurs in the same light.

I filmed this short video blog right after my presentation. Enjoy!

Have A Great Day.


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Maximize Your Conference (Part 9 of 10) - "Be A Connector"

Maximize Your Conference (Part 9 of 10)

Be A Connector
By Thom Singer

When you attend an industry conference it is easy to forget that you and the other attendees are all on equal footing. Often people feel they are on the outside of some super-secret "industry clique" and mistakenly believe that everyone else already knows each other. You are never an outsider at an event, as the society and culture of most multi-day conferences are open to everyone who takes initiative.

(There are exceptions to this. I once belonged to a national association where a "power clique" ran the convention and other parts of the organization. This association was prosperous, but their repeat attendance numbers were always lower than expected because it was well known to members that the "insiders" who controlled the strings were self-serving jerks. If your industry association is dominated by some fools, there are ways to reclaim the reigns).

The reality is that most people who go to a convention do not know many other people in the room. Some know nobody. Thus, if someone is not naturally comfortable interacting with strangers, they will often withdraw from meeting and mingling.

One of the main reasons people attend a conference is for the "networking opportunities", When they do not network, they are setting themselves up to fail in their objectives.

Taking action and becoming a connector will allow you to have a stronger experience at the event. When you meet new people, ask them questions about who they would like to know at the conference. If you have a keen ear, you will quickly start to interact with people who be introduced. When you make a successful connection, you will be a superstar in the eyes of both people.

Knowing "who should meet whom" is not enough. You must take the next step and introduce them to each other. This is hard for many people. They want to do it, but they over-think the process and rationalize why they should not make the connection. Remember that people want to meet others and that some are just not good at taking the first step. Helping them reach their goal should be empowering!

A bigger mistake than doing nothing is blindly introducing people for no reason. They read the advice of being a connector and drag strangers around to meet others without having put any strategic thought into why they are making introductions. A real connector never wastes time or resources.

Being a connector is not throwing spaghetti against a wall to see what sticks. You have to establish an understanding of the people you meet and know what they want and need. Once you do this, the rest becomes easy.

Another way to be a connector is to be the person who organizes an off-schedule get-together. This could be a pre-planned dinner or party... or just a few cool people grabbing lunch or dinner together when the program has nothing planned.

This can even be done during a scheduled meal, too. You can tell a group of people whom you met that you will get to the dining room early and save a table. Be sure to get their cell phone numbers so that you can text them your location in the room so they can find you easily. People are awkward about where to sit, how to talk to stranger, etc.... Or they sit with co-workers, which wastes their conference experience. By pulling together a table you make it easy for everyone else to meet new people. You will be remembered for this effort and it will help you establish your own connections.

Always be a connector (at the conference and everywhere you go), as those who serve others in this manner never seem to be lacking in opportunities!

Have A Great Day.


Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Networking Catalyst". He regularly speaks at industry conventions and trade shows where he inspires the audience (and vendors) to maximize their participation at the event. One of the top reasons people attend business conferences is for the "Networking Opportunities", and yet once there they fail to create connections that will have any meaningful impact on their career. Thom sets the tone for the culture of the conference which becomes the foundation for a more meaningful set of interactions.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Re-Thinking The Role of a Business Speaker

Many meeting planners, and others who organize business gatherings, have a "check the box" attitude when it comes to hiring a professional speaker. They are concerned with getting someone who fits the desired topic, while not crossing the line of their budget. They only take into account how the person will perform on stage. However, the overall personality, business style and interpersonal skills of the speaker off-stage can also impact the success of the event.

It is not that those doing speaker selection do not understand the important role a speaker plays in the success of an event. Everyone agrees that the speaker will set the tone for the success of a meeting. While all sorts of variables add up to the audience experience, the right speaker will create a level of buzz that can not be equaled by a good creme brulee.

The issue is that individual speakers are not a commodity, and the "speaking business" is not simple to define. You cannot easily compare one speaker to the next without having experienced their work product first-hand. This is why the business is so heavily dominated by a few "celebrities" and word-of-mouth referrals. Most of my business comes via those who have seen me speak (or know my books, blog, videos, etc....) making strong recommendations to the meeting planners inside their companies, law firms and professional organizations. It is impossible for those making speaker selection to always have that first hand experience with everyone they hire, therefore there is no way to do apples to apples comparisons. Because of this, they look to "check" simple boxes to make their decisions easier.

The problem is that many rely on subjective opinions of the person who is making the suggestion, and these are only based on the speaker as a stage performer. A speaker's ability to positively (or negatively) impact an event goes much deeper.

The speaker needs to have a partnership with the event planner. He or she must do more than show up to talk for a designated amount of time and then leave. They must be invested in the program and willing to participate in the promotion of the event, actively interact with the attendees, and help with any post program follow up.

I have witnessed speakers who show up at the last minute, speak, hard-sell their books and coaching services, and then leave town right after they exit the stage. They are are aloof or dismissive to people who want to talk with them. They behave like prima donnas. This is unacceptable (unless that is all the organizers desire).

Audience members like to meet and socialize with the presenters after a speech. Those who take the stage, even if not famous, become mini-celebrities at the conference. When speakers choose not to engage in the entire event (beyond their presentation), the audience misses out.

The best meeting planners will have detailed conversations with a speaker before making a hiring decision. They explore how the speaker feels about being a partner. Will they write advanced articles? Can they help you find other speakers? (the best "partners" have built relationships with other speakers with whom they have shared the stage and will happily make introductions). How much time are they willing to invest at the event? Will they attend happy hours, meals, and other social gatherings? Will they help with some type of post event follow up? Will they refer you to people to speak next year? (even if your policy is not to have the same speakers back two years in a row). Asking only about topics and fees can leave you vulnerable to a less than desired experience.

If you are looking to hire a speaker for an event, consider that you are doing more than filling a "speaking slot". Re-think the role of the professional business speaker, and instead look to join forces with someone who is engaged in the success of your conference. If they are only worried about their presentation, your audience will come up short. Even someone with a good topic and excellent platform skills should be giving you more than a 60 minute monologue. Avoid hiring a "Sage on the Stage" and look for a partner who is invested in seeing your whole program succeed.

Have A Great Day


Friday, September 03, 2010

Real Networking Is About Following Through

Your networking DNA will determine how you follow through. Many people naturally like to meet others and help them succeed. Most people want to help... but never seem to get around to actually connecting the dots. And some are just indifferent or selfish. The trick is moving from wanting to help and actually assisting others reach their goals and dreams.

Following through is simply about making a choice. When you say you will do it, just go and do it.

Have A Great Day


September Newsletter - Back To School Edition

The September edition of the "Some Assembly Required Newsletter" has been sent. If you have not signed up yet, you can do so here on the blog. CLICK HERE to check out the newsletter.

Starting this month there is something new. I took the suggestions of some of the readers and added "Speaker's Corner". In this section of the newsletter I will share articles from friends and associates who are also professional speakers and trainers. I hope that these tid-bits of information will be valuable to everyone.


Have A Great Day.