Sunday, September 30, 2012

Speakers Are Important Part of Meeting Industry

Recently I had the honor to deliver the closing keynote address at the Meeting Professionals International (MPI) Chapter Business Summit where close to 250 chapter leaders and meeting industry professionals gathered to explore best practices.

My presentation was my 45th speech of 2012 (well over 300 career presentations to date), so I participate in a lot of meetings (this includes local talks to lunch groups, Rotary Clubs etc.. as well as major keynotes at large conventions).  I see myself (and my profession) as a key part of the meetings business, and believe that the speakers set the tone for the entire conference.  Both keynote speakers and those who conduct workshops must have a powerful mix of useful content and the speaking skills to engage people.  With thousands of meetings worldwide every day there is a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of those who take the stage and talk with audiences.

After my talk the MPI Chairman, Kevin Hinton, thanked me and pointed out that I had hit on many key points as if I had done a lot of research or was perhaps I was already part of the meetings industry?  I appreciated his kind words, but it got me thinking...... aren't all speakers part of the meetings industry?  Shouldn't every speaker be versed in the issues facing the business?

Apparently not.  According to many of the planners I spoke with at the meeting, some speakers (not all) have a reputation of being very separate and intentionally distant from the industry.  One person used the word "snooty" in describing professional speakers.  This lead to a discussion of why some prefer to utilize industry experts or other non-speakers in their meeting agendas instead of those who categorize themselves "speakers".  While it was agreed that a "professional speaker" is often more engaging, they are sometimes too difficult to work with and not seen as a partner in the success of the event.  Worse is they sometimes do not connect their content and message to the needs of the audience or the purpose of the gathering.

Wow.  That was tough to hear.  Of course the definition of what is a "speaker" varies between people (even seasoned professionals), so this was not a broad-brush categorization stereotype.

The meetings industry is more than planners and hoteliers and the entire industry has a larger economic impact in the United States than is the automobile industry (if the politicians understood this they would be talking about meetings all day long!).

At this conference I interacted with people who represented from a variety of business lines - but all who are involved in the mix of ensuring that meetings, conferences, conventions, trade shows, seminars and other gatherings are successful.  But there were very few "Working Professional Speakers" (those who have speaking as a primary focus) who seem to be participating in the greater industry.  The same is true for speakers lack of participation in the other industry organizations that make up the meetings world: MPI, PCMA, ASAE, HSMAI, DMAI, ICCA, EIA, IAEE, SGMP, AMPS, TSEA, NBTA, etc...  (Heck, many do even support the National Speakers Association.... is this because they do not see their speaking role as part of the overall industry?).

Nobody can belong to everything, but do I believe in engagement.  I think that when people come together we are all better for the communal experience.  We learn more and we gain vital understanding.  This is why I always talk to audiences about the importance of belonging to a trade association in their chosen field.  I am active with NSA (but if I was a locksmith I would be active in the National Locksmiths Association).

(Side note rant: I often wonder why membership organizations and associations do not require their vendors to be supporting their own industry groups.  It seems like the right message when you are telling your own peeps to join your group that you expect those you work with to support something in their own backyard!)

I am not saying speakers (or anyone) should join every organization under the sun in their areas of business, nor should associations should expect vendors to join their membership roles.  That is not practical.  Supporting an industry is not the same as joining a group... and everybody knows joining is not worth much without participation.  To give and get real value you must be engaged in the cause.

But are there ways that speakers can be more active in the meetings industry! Should they be seen by planners as important partners (like the hotels and others)? What do you suggest?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, September 28, 2012

Cool Things My Friends Do: Perry Campbell - Sales Recruiter Austin, Texas

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

Finding the right sales people can be a rough task for many companies.  Those who have the right mix of skills, personality, drive and proven success are hard to find.  Smart companies get professionals to help them discover the high-level sales people who will impact the bottom line.

Perry Campbell is one of those guys who goes and matches organizations to the right talent for sales.  I have recently gotten to know Perry (he has been in Austin a long time, and we have many mutual friends... but had never met before last month.  Like me, he is also originally from California).  His company C2H Recruiters specializes in sales professionals. Over the past 13 years, Perry and his team have put together the largest professional business to business sales vertical staffing network in the country, with a reach of well over 300,000 high revenue producing sales professionals.

But Perry is more than a headhunter.  He cares about assisting his clients in making the right selections that will be the correct cultural fit and also deliver results.

While he works with organizations of all sizes all around the United States, his home is in Austin.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Law Firm Associate Business Development

Law firm marketing, business development, and sales (yes, I said "sales") are NOT fads.  

Eleven years ago when I went to work for a big firm marketing department there were still many attorneys who were hoping that the whole idea of lawyers "selling" their services would go away.  Not where I worked, but those at other firms lawyers were sickened by the idea of their profession doing anything that resembled the elements of a business.  The preferred to look at the law as a calling that was above the things that plagued normal companies.

But the realities of running a law firm are that it is a business.  Too many firms pretended that the elements of accounting, staffing, marketing, and yes... SALES did not impact their success.  Boom, firms failed... and many struggle.

Today most lawyers realize that their firm is a business.  Yet some still try to pretend they need not do the necessary things to promote their practices.  They hope that doing good work will be enough to make the phone ring.

No lawyer would advise their business client to:  "Fire all your sales and marketing people (since they make a lot of money, and do not have JD's).  Next, get all your senior executives to do the sales when they have free time, if they feel like it, and regardless of if they have any experience".  That would be silly counsel... and yet many lawyers operate their own firms in exactly this manner.

A legal marketing executive recently told me that the associates in their firm skip out on the optional business development classes they offer.  Additionally when partners mandate attendance they all show up with bad attitudes.   If you are an associate in a law firm and your firm is looking to help educate you on the necessary skills to build a practice you should enthusiastically embrace the learning.  There are few firms willing to invest in teaching this stuff, and without it you are doomed in the long run.  

Remember, business development skills and the relationships you build are portable.  This gives you power in the future.  No ability to develop business and your future is at the whim of others.

If you are the eye roller who skips out on training or has a bad attitude for the mandatory classes.... you are an idiot.  Get over yourself or go tell the managing partner that you should be fired at once for not understanding the realities of business.  What partner wants to employ an associate who does not learn to cultivate client relationships? (Answer... one who wants your future to be at their whim!).  Business does not happen without sales.  The business of a law firm is no different.  

Look at the landscape of the last decade.  Thousands of associates and partners have been laid-off from large and small firms.  Some careers have never recovered.  Others are bitter as hell and blame others for their being pushed out. But the real "Rainmakers" still had jobs.  Even if their firms collapsed they were scooped up quickly by other firms who recognize the value in those who can develop new clients in addition to practicing law.  Doing good work is not enough.  Lots of people can do good work.

Law schools do not teach this, and few firms reward young associates for their community involvement... thus many assume it does not matter.  Oh, they eventually find out it is important, when they are passed over for making partner after ten years.  Ouch.

Have A Great Day.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Justine's Restaurant in Austin

A few weeks ago we asked a few friends for great restaurant suggestions.  With busy travel schedules, running our own businesses, kids activities, and general "life"-- we do not get out to dinner too often, and with many new places in Austin.... we did not know were to start.

A couple of people recommended Justine's Brasserie in East Austin.  Since Sara is a fan of French Food, we decided to try this bistro on 5th Street.

However, on the day we were going to go to dinner.....our plans changed (as plans will do), so we put Justine's on hold for a nice dinner out (sans kids) for Sara's Birthday.

Last night we had our date night, and Justine's was fantastic.  They do not take reservations for parties under six, so they recommended arriving before 6:30.  We were seated right away (we chose indoors, but in retrospect outside would have been better as the weather was nice and inside was loud).

The food was great, atmosphere nice (except the very loud music, which cause all the people to talk at a high volume) and we had a lot of fun.

Our server, JT, was AMAZING.  She made us feel welcome, and added to the restaurant experience.  Her friendly attitude never made us feel rushed (even as the long wait for tables appeared outside).  She brought our bottle of wine and poured both glasses with the traditional "taste".  I commented that I liked this move, as opposed to just having the man (or host) taste the wine.  I thought it made everyone part of the decision (although I have never remembered sending a bottle back, so it is a bit silly to do anyway).  The Paul Mas Malbec was great, by the way.

We both started with Escargots and French Onion Soup.  Sara had the Bolognaise and I ate the scallops.  There was no room for dessert, but I am sure it was all great.  The food did not disappoint.  It was really good.  A nice choice for a birthday dinner!

I do not often blog about food or restaurants... but this place inspired me (but their website is weird and hard to figure out).

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cool Things My Friends Do: PROMPTIVATE - Steve Harper and Drew Bixby Launch New Company.

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

Two of my friends have launched a new business called Promptivate.  The idea of this online tool is that there are many great places online to collect your contacts... but Promptivate™ web-app converts simple connections to valuable relationships.  Promptivate provides a system for you to see all your connections, receive reminders, and most importantly, receive valuable prompts on how to engage with your important connections.

Steve Harper (author of "The Ripple Effect") and Drew Bixby (author of "Why Not Blame Drew? How all your problems originate from him"), along with two other partners, have launched this company and are currently signing up new users.  If you have a digital link to someone but never reach out to them, where is the value in the link?  Their product will remind you when to ping your connections to keep the relationship alive (out of sight is out of mind).

What I love about living in Austin is that there are entrepreneurs everywhere.  Steve and Drew have both launched several ventures, and I am excited to see the success of this project.

Free 30 day trial available on their website!

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"The ABC's of Networking" Now Available in India

A publishing house in India optioned the rights to my book, "The ABC's of Networking" and has recently released the book in both English and Hindi.

This is exciting.  India is the 2nd largest population in the world, and the message of creating business connections that embrace long-term and mutually beneficial relationships is always well received by people I meet who come from any area of the world.  The message of "Connecting With People in a Social Media Crazy World" knows no boarders where generous people are involved!!

I am also exploring speaking opportunities for a seminar tour in India, although this is currently just an "idea" that has been brought to my attention.  There are no plans yet... but I am open to the conversations.  There would be many things that needed to line up, but it is interesting to think about it.

Special "Thanks" to Dave at New Year Publishing for always pushing to try new things.  His open-minded spirit has circumnavigated roadblocks and he understands the give and take of partnering.  This international book deal is just one example. It took a few tries over several years, but his long-term vision helped make it happen (and it is kinda cool -okay, not "kinda"... it is cool!!!).   He is a good friend and business partner!!! ;-)

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Conference Speeches Are Not Always TED Talks

There was chatter on Twitter recently about conference speaking.  Julius Solaris (Founder of the Event Manager Blog) said "Seems that most advice on giving speeches is focused on short time slots.  What about longer 1 hour + slots?"

Great question.

Over the past few years there has been a lot of focus on the short presentation.  The explosive success of TED and TEDx talks (in person and online) has mistakenly lead many to believe that "short is better".  Many event planners profess they want to "be like TED" and thus are going to limit their event's speaking times to 18 minutes and having more speakers.  The problem with this is that more presentations does NOT mean the speakers will be any good.  A byproduct could be more talks that are blah (or suck).

As a professional speaker I believe a shorter talk is harder to prepare.  There is less room for stories (which is interesting with all the discussion in the events world about "alternative learning styles"... as stories are one way people learn and retain information).  Additionally, since most conference talks are not delivered by "professional speakers" it can take the speakers a while to get in their comfort zone.  This means that most of their talk will be spent trying to get in the groove.  I have heard that TED speakers will invest upwards of 45-60 hours of preparation time for their talk.  Most business presentations I have seen do not come close to that level of the speaker's pre-planning attention.

Since the shorter TED format is trendy, I believe this is why so many articles are dedicated to giving the shorter talk.  But the long format presentation (one hour, ninety minutes, or more) is not dead.  There will always be a place for conferences, trade shows, conventions, seminars, and other gatherings to utilize presentations that go beyond 20 minutes.  Both keynotes and workshops cannot get deep without more time on the schedule.

When thinking about a long format talk (as the organizer or the speaker) here are three things you should remember:

1.  Content is NOT king.  Yes, I know, I know.... everyone says "content is king" - BUT if we only wanted your content you could email the audience a White Paper.  There needs to be some level of experience speaking, style, and ability to inspire an audience.  Some call this "Presentation Skills".

Occasionally organizers will tell me they are not interested in "motivational speakers", but all speakers should be motivational.  What is the opposite of "motivation"?  Un-motivating?  Demoralizing?  or "Sucks The Energy Out Of The Room".  Without some call to action and purpose a speaker can get lost in the data-dump.

If we say "content is king" we are implying that everything else does not matter.  Speaking is not a kingdom.  It is a democracy (and the constituency votes with their attention, their feet, and what they say in social media).  There should be no king.  Think of it more like the city council:  Content is Mayor, but there is more to it than just one "king".  You need content, stories, style, experience, purpose, preparation, engagement, and a relevant topic.

2.  Just because someone is smart or has done something cool - it does NOT mean they belong on stage.  Too often the opening keynote or high-profile breakout sessions are built around a celebrity or industry icon.  While some of these people are good speakers, not all of them have the experience level to carry a longer format presentation.  An hour or more with a blah speaker can be painful.

A person's career resume is not proof that they have the ability to give a speech.  We live in a polite world where unless someone is awful we often tell them after their talk "nice speech", which leads many executives to believe they are much better than they are on the platform.

It can take as many as 300 professional level presentations before people get the level of experience that will allow them to shine on stage.  While some pick it up faster, it is similar to Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour theory.  There is not shortcuts in becoming great at any skill.

Never forget: The speakers set the tone for the whole meeting!!!

3.  Get the audience involved.  There was a time when a speaker was automatically seen as the expert and the audience was eager to hang on each word.  The presentation was expected to be Moses coming off the mountain and handing down the tablets.  Today people expect a conversation.  This may or may not mean "interactive" (which is also a trendy topic for presentations).  Conversational is about talking with the audience, not to the audience.

Audiences have a short attention span and if there are not shifts in the presentation along the way... they will be lost.  If you expect them to sit on banquet room chairs and listen to a speech for 90 minutes without any engagement, then you will find an audience full of people counting ceiling tiles or reading Facebook posts. Telling people to put phones away is wrong (and they wont do it anyway).  If the speaker cannot hold the audiences attention then people should go surf the net instead of have their time wasted.

There are many ways to engage an audience, but it must not be forced into a traditional talk.  Dropping an exercise into your old presentation to check the "interactive" box will not have an impact.  You must purposefully be drawing the audience into the conversation.

Along the way the style has changed... and no longer is a presentation about a teacher educating novice students, but instead it is peer to peer chats where people can take the info out into the hallways and keep talking with each other about the topics that punch their brains.  The problem is that most speakers (and some audience members) did not get the memo.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cool Things My Friends Do - "Short Term Massive Action" by Honoree Corder

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

Honoree Corder is a strong personality.  She is a successful business woman and executive coach who moved to Austin a couple of years ago.  She began her coaching and consulting business in Hawaii, then lived in Las Vegas and now calls Central Texas home.  That must be because everything is bigger in Texas!

She is now launching an exciting new coaching program called "Short-Term Massive Action", a100-day combination of small group and individual coaching for people who are looking to make big changes in their lives.

The STMA 100-day coaching program takes place in three stages; daily group coaching calls for the first three weeks, weekly group coaching calls for the remainder of the program, and 1-on-1 custom coaching calls for deeper work and targeted strategies.

She has kicked-off the new program and is actively seeking action driven clients as well as coaches to be part of her team.  If you fit into either (or both) of those categories, check out her website:   (you need not live in Austin as all coaching is virtual).

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Introverts Are Awesome

My recent post "The Week of Living Introvert" has prompted a few interesting conversations with both introverts and extroverts.   My attempt to be less of an extrovert for one week (Monday - Friday) was very educational, and the deep thoughts that have been shared since are having a meaningful impact on how I view people.  While I have always professed the value in the differences amongst people, this post has prompted many to openly share with me how they feel in different social situations.

The most common comment was about how I "missed the boat" on my social media activity during my efforts to understand introverts.  I pulled back on "Liking" posts or Tweeting my thoughts on a variety of things, as I thought that may have been my inner extrovert trying to escape.  Most introverts called me out on this saying I had it backwards, and that social media is a great place for introverts, and that by not engaging I was clearly not on the right track.

The post received a large number of views.  Several hundred hits came from a Facebook page called "Introverts Are Awesome".  I jumped over to see what that was all about and found a community that was started in May 2012 an is over 3200 strong.  The curator of the page champions the introvert and seems to have created a welcoming home for many.

There were some comments on the link back to my post.  Most applauded my attempt at discovering what introverts go through being asked to act more extroverted (although comments noticed where I obviously had not gone far enough), while a few clearly thought me a fool (it's okay, it is not the first time!!!).

What was not evident from my original post was that I have always championed in my training programs that "introverts are better networkers", as they are more selective... thus when they connect it is often a deeper relationship. I also know the value of the introverted person as I have been married to one for over twenty years.  She and I have found that there is meaning to "opposites attract", as we are both better for where we are balanced by the other.  We have come to respect how each of us "recharges our batteries", and respect that there is a difference (not better or worse).

I also found power in my more "private" time.  I do not think I did a good job in the original post in expressing this positive byproduct.  In a group or alone I took time to observe and contemplate.  One person thought I must have been bored, but it was really the opposite.  While this was not a natural energizer for me.... it was beneficial and helped spawn a couple of ideas that could have a lasting impact.  I need to make a point to schedule more of this "down time" into my week.  (W.W.I.D.?)

The unexpected awesomeness of my experiment and the resulting blog post is how many people are talking to me about this topic.  After my presentation for a software company "Users Conference" in St. Louis this week an audience member came and shared her experiences as an introvert living in an extroverted company.  The discussion was raw and real.  She understood what I was trying to do by behaving counter to my natural state, and gave me some great insight into how she "feels" in social situations.

If you have a point of view... leave a comment or send me an email (or let's have a call on the phone or skype).  I want to "get it" (some on Introverts Are Awesome said I still do not "get it"... so I want to find better understanding).  I believe I am of better service to others when I try to understand what I am and what I am not.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Week of Living Introvert

There is much in the news lately about introverts and extroverts.  It seems that people on either side often look down on those on the other end of the spectrum.  Extroverts do not understand the issue, as they like people and crowds.  Introverts feel our society unfairly celebrates the extrovert.

Susan Cain's best selling book, Quiet, has gotten a lot of attention, as has her TED talk.  She is smart, and I read the book with much interest.  It is well written and full of understandable research.  But a bit snarky.  As an extrovert her examples of the "Culture of Personality" (of which I do not disagree with her points) is clearly written in a way to subtlety make introverts feel better while kicking the extroverts in the shin.  That said, I am happy to have read the book, as it has helped me better grasp this issue.

I have been presenting on the topic of business relationships for several years, and I have always contended that introverts are better at networking if they really understood what it was to network.  I do not have Cain's academic research - but after meeting close to ten of thousand people at business events over the years I have observed how folks interact.

While teaching a staff development class on "Connecting People in a Social Media Crazy World" a participant shared with me how much pain it causes her to go to business events.  Since I find them naturally fun, I spent time with this woman trying to understand.  In the end, I realize that no matter who we are, it is hard to push out of our comfort zone.

Thus I was inspired to spend a work week living as an introvert.  I challenged myself behave counter to my natural extrovert manner.  The purpose was to see what it is like to be asked to be something that is your default demeanor.  I know that some of my decisions were "stereotypical", and the whole experiment was not perfect, but I discovered a fresh perspective and am hopefully more empathetic towards others who find the extroverted world harder to navigate.

Day 1.  Monday.

I started off by scanning my social media accounts.  A friend said something interesting and I immediately hit the "like" button.  But should I have done that?  To instantly like his post lets him know I am reading it and possibly engages this person and others.  Certainly it draws attention.  It was only 7:00 AM and I wondered if I have already failed in my attempt to live more like an introvert.  I decided to close out social media and read a book for a half hour.

Later I had to meet with a coaching client.  I decided while working with a paying client I should not be involved in an experiment, thus I behaved in my normal ways.

Day 2.  Tuesday.

I decided to not post on Twitter or Facebook during this time, other than Birthday wishes.  But I found that I naturally want to click the "like" button as a way to show support for things others share.  But I figured many introverts would not do that, so I resisted the urge.  (What do you think?  Do introverts hit the "like" button less than extroverts?).  I did comment on a thread on the National Speakers Association Facebook page, but was not sure an introvert would have jumped into the conversation (old habits die hard).

I had planned to attend a MeetUp Happy Hour, but at the end of the day I was very tired.  It was a group of 100% strangers and normally I would have enjoyed meeting new people, but I decided not to attend.  Instead I chose a quiet night at home reading and watching TV with my family.

Day 3.  Wednesday.

I was on a panel for a meeting of the Austin Chapter of the National Speakers Association. I worked on being a little less "out front" as I normally might be while on a panel.  I went to the table and ate my breakfast while others were networking.  Interestingly, nobody comes and talks to the person eating alone.  Once the panel started I tried to let my fellow panelists answer first on each question.

Later I went to lunch alone and read my book in the corner of the restaurant.  I put my ear-buds in, although I was not listening to music.  I have found that people leave you alone when you have head-phones on and are not making eye contact.

Spent the night at home finishing some work and hanging out with the family.

Day 4.  Thursday.

Started the day at the "Social Media Breakfast".  I kept asking myself "W.W.I.D.?" (What would and introvert do?).  I arrived and talked to some people I knew, then sat alone at a table.  Interestingly nobody I did not already know came and spoke with me (I usually would start conversations with others).  Eventually a couple of folks I know well joined me at the table.  The experience made me appreciate extroverts who will come up and talk.... but I wonder if introverts hate that as much as I enjoyed it?

I did Tweet out a bit at this meeting... as it was "The Social Media Breakfast".

I worked from home the rest of the day.  I had a lot to do, but I usually enjoy the busy flow of people walking past when I work at a Starbucks.  Not this day.

Day 5.  Friday.

I had breakfast with a friend who is a very big and bold personality.  I decided this was not the time to be introverted.

Later that day I attended a high school football game (my daughter is on the dance team).  I do not know many of the other parents, and did not attempt to talk to strangers.  I sat close to my wife and watched the game.


I am happy that I spent this week living more as an introvert.  I discovered that it is not easy to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, and thus understand the difficulties that introverts face when being more social at business events than they may prefer.  The experience of the "Week of Living Introvert" is already finding its way into my presentations and is sparking some good discussion with the audiences.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Saturday, September 08, 2012

If Oprah and Michael Jordan Can Find Success.... So Can The Rest of Us

RT (from twitter) @DavisHillAustin- Never let anyone tell you that you "Can't". Go get the training and figure out a plan - so you can prove to the world that you "CAN".

My 8th grade English teacher (Mrs. Nicholidas) told me I did not belong in the advanced class because she did not feel I fully grasped the nuances of grammar. When I said I wanted to write books in my future... she told me it would not happen for me.

Well, she was wrong... I have penned 9 non-fiction books (with a 10th in the works and a contributed chapter in the National Speakers Associations new book "Speak More").  While I never claim to be the world's greatest writer on the planet, people seem to find value in some of my words.  And hundreds read my blog each week.  Maybe I am not a "great" writer... but she was wrong... I am "good enough"!!!  Plus, an editor and a proof reader come in handy when finishing a book. 

Her words were hurtful, really, as I spent 20+ years wishing and not doing ...when it came to writing.  And because of her I have never yet tried my hand at writing fiction.

I think of all the kids out there who have teachers with their own issues (chips on their shoulders?) who make them feel bad or discouraged..... and I hope they can prove them wrong by finding their own way to shine.  

We can't have a "do-over".... and I while I wish I could go back and kick my own butt a little to get some direction earlier, we have to work from where we are now.  I cannot change that teacher's words, but I can prove her wrong.  

Author John Assaraf posted a visual graphic online the other day that talked about "Famous Failures"...
  • Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team
  • Walt Disney was let go from a newspaper for lacking imagination
  • The Beatles were rejected by Decca Recording Studio and told they had no future in the business
  • Steve Jobs was fired from Apple
and my favorite... 
  • Oprah Winfrey was demoted from her job as a TV anchor because "she wasn't fit for television"
Ha.... These reminded me of how some who should be "experts" often have opinions that are so wrong it is just silly.  Can you imagine being at a dinner party with the guy who told Oprah she would not cut it in TV?  I assume that is not how he kicks off his elevator pitch.  

Never let those who want to kill your dreams win!!!!

Have A Great Day.

thom singer  

Friday, September 07, 2012

Cool Things My Friends Do - Marc Miller Gives Career Advice To Baby Boomers

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

Marc Miller is a baby boomer who is not waiting silently for retirement.  Marc is blazing a path forward and helping others deal with the changes in the world of work.

His career journey included 22 years at IBM, several thriving tech startups, a painful stint as a high school teacher, a gig raising funds for the Jewish Community Association of Austin and a near fatal bicycle accident that changed his perspective forever.

On a July morning in 2002, he was riding his bicycle and hit a car head on where the combined speeds exceeded 50 mph. After five days in a trauma center he was up on crutches, within ten weeks was back on a bicycle, and four months later was traveling internationally on business after surviving an accident that has a 10% survival rate. That gave him a new perspective on life.

Today Marc Miller is the founder of CareerPivot.  He consults with Baby Boomers who are unsure of what they desire from their careers, and helps them find their passion.  Many feel trapped in their jobs and are unsure and overwhelmed by the thought of change.  

I have been very impressed with the precision and planning that Marc has put into launching his company.  He deeply cared about doing it right, and cares even more about his clients.  He has become a leading authority on the subject of Baby Boomers and their future in the workforce.  

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Events With Multiple Presenters - A Guest Blog Post by Paul Grabowski

Presentations with Multiple Presenters – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
By Paul Grabowski

Recently, I attended two separate presentations for my daughter’s schools. As one is entering middle school and the other entering the uncharted waters of high school, both meetings were of particular importance to me.

Sitting through these two presentations gave me pause to think about what it takes to put together a program using multiple presenters. It also allowed me to relate these to the “business world” (well, running a school is now just like running a business, so there was a great deal of correlation) and how drastically different these presentations affected the audience.

What time are we presenting? Does everyone know?

Outside of the two presentations providing valuable information, this was where the correlation ended. One meeting at one school had been given three separate starting times. One time was provided by the calendar on the website, another time by email to all parents, and finally a third through an announcement earlier in the day at yet another parent meeting. The other presentation was set by email, on the parent portal and posted on the message board in the school driveway – all with the same starting time.

Knowing that everyone’s time is taken during the day and we live by our Outlook calendars, the changes in times caused great consternation and juggling of schedules. Just like the business world, it is important that if you plan to have a presentation or meeting, it is equally as important to schedule a time and stick to it. Moreover, communication and delivery of the message should be checked and controlled by one individual so that those attending know who is leading the meeting. There is nothing worse than having people attend a presentation or program who come in with a negative feeling about the presenters before the information is even disseminated.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, Practice, Practice

When a presentation is given by multiple people, it is imperative that you practice as a group. Practice does not just include making sure the slides are correct but also making sure that those presenting keep to the time allotted. If a program is scheduled for one hour and there are four presenters, each should be given a maximum of 15 minutes if you plan for no question and answer period. However, if a program is one that will inevitably invite questions, the presenters should prepare for this in advance and adjust their timing accordingly.

It is equally important to discuss amongst the presenters in advance the order of speaking and include this in the opening remarks along with each presenter’s topic. For example, in one of the presentations, the overall topic was information for parents of freshman regarding their roles and expectations as well as the academic requirements placed upon the students by the school. The order of the presentation began with a discussion about the parent council but was followed by the head of school on various topics. While we were told in our email, school calendar and announcement earlier in the day that the program would last one hour, when we were beyond that time frame with only the second speaker, the audience began to lose interest. By the time the academic dean began to speak, many in the audience were reading the materials and many had left.

Another note on practice is to check out the room in advance. Just as the PowerPoint needs to be accurate and working, it is equally important to know the condition of the room in advance. Are the microphones working and is there a back-up, is there someone from IT available to assist with technical issues, and (if you happen to be in the South in August) is someone from maintenance available in the event that the air conditioning is not working or similar issues.

Don’t Assume that having a title means that everyone knows you

With both presentations, there were multiple speakers. Never assume that everyone in the room knows who you are before you begin speaking. As a teacher once told me, “when you come back for reunion, always re-introduce yourself. I have had hundreds of students since the last time I yelled at you to turn in your homework!” The same goes for giving a presentation to any audience.
In one of the presentations, the first speaker got up, introduced herself and then ran through the list of names and titles of the others who would be speaking and a brief description of their topic. This is the best way to get a presentation started as the audience knows what to expect and who will be speaking on that topic. In the other presentation, two of the speakers started without ever introducing themselves. For those who were new in the audience you could see them leaning over and asking others who was speaking. This inevitably leads to further questions and comments among the audience and a lack of attention on the subject matter.

Always take the time to re-introduce yourself to the audience. If nothing else, it makes it easier for them to follow-up with specific questions on topics presented. For presentations with multiple presenters, having someone take the lead in providing an overview of speakers names, titles and topics, allows the audience to follow along and know what to expect.


Knowing your audience is only half the battle when putting together a presentation. Particularly when there are multiple presenters, it is always best to take the approach of putting yourself in the shoes of those who will be listening. Have we communicated the important information correctly in advance? What should we expect from a technical and room set-up perspective? How can we frame our presentation so that it is effective, on time and provides accurate information? Did we miss anything? Answering all these questions can help make for a better, more effective presentation and leave the audience with a good impression. 

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Notice People and Help Them With Something

My friend Tim Tyrell-Smith has a post on his Tim's Strategy blog that got me thinking.  His post is called "Three Good Deeds: Going Noticed".

Many people go through their day being UN-noticed. No one pays much attention as you proceed in your daily activities. Yes, those that you planned to meet with or talk with along the way are aware of your presence, but most who cross our path work hard not to make eye contact.

Tim tells three stories of how he "noticed" those around him one day. You should understand that Tim is a nice guy who cares about people, so I am not surprised by his kind actions.  But aren't most people nice? Don't most of us care about others?  Sure, there are some jerks out there, but even they often think they are nice.

In a recent conversation with a new friend who is very successful in his career and his life -  he said he was adamant that the more he gives, the more he gets.  I concur.  People often tell me they are frustrated that they can't "get a break"... but upon deeper discussion it becomes clear they rarely go out of their way to serve others. We live in a busy world and the pressure to get our own stuff done can be overwhelming.  But if we want others to do for us, we should show them what we mean through our own actions.

My friend Neen James (who is a fantastic speaker and productivity consultant) says she never lets her head hit the pillow without referring someone to another person who could benefit from that person's services. That is 365 outbound referrals a year (maybe she takes Christmas day off... but I doubt it!). She does not receive nearly that many inbound referrals... but she get a ton of business sent her way and everyone who knows Neen sings her praises.

We are all busy.  I am busy.  But the more we give, the more we get... even if the gift we end up with is that feeling of knowing we did the right thing.  Make somebody feel significant.  We all want to feel that way, but we cannot be significant alone in a field.  We need each other.  I call this "Cooperative Significance".  When you make other know their value.. you, too, find significance. 

Have A Great Day.

thom singer