Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Association Meeting Ideas for Local Chapters

Many of us belong to local chapters of national associations.  These area groups are often the life-line between the large national headquarters and the local members.  The annual meeting might be a great event to network and be seen, but not everyone can attend. 

Time, travel and money can keep some members from getting to the big events, and thus the local monthly gatherings are how many stay connected to the organizations they support.

However, the success of the local meetings can be hit or miss.  Some fall short of expectations for many in the membership.  Too often local chapters get stale and have the same format month in and month out.  It is not uncommon for the much of the target audience to develop a pre-conceived idea of what to expect from every local gathering.  When this happens it can taint the expectations and key members simply stop attending.

Local chapters of any national organizations can spark-up the meetings that local members attend, but only if those in charge are willing to think beyond the status quo.  It takes an investment of time (and sometimes money), but the end result will be a better educational and networking experience for everyone involved. Creating awesome local chapter meetings will drive membership and participation numbers and people will spread the word about the entire organization.

Three Tips For Better Local Chapter Meetings

1.  Change the format.  A luncheon with a speaker is the standard for a chapter meeting.  The format is often 30 minutes of networking with an hour for announcements and a talk by someone who is willing to speak without being paid.  Little attention is focused on how good the speaker is at presenting.  Instead the idea is on their title, company or topic.  

Too often little at these meetings serve the needs of the members.  The same agenda at the same location every time with a cookie cutter approach to speakers and your group is doomed to being dull.

Try exchanging lunch for some evening or morning events and host a special social reception at least once per year.  Additionally, create an advisory board of your most important members and have a dinner for them twice a year so that they can share best practices they see in other groups they participate in around your city.  This VIP dinner will also be the opportunity for you to discover what they would like to see in the future. The more ideas you hear, the better chance you will have of discovering new concepts that will work for your organization.

2.  Get great speakers.  This does NOT mean getting a list of local executives who have done cool things and inviting them to speak.  Instead, find people who not only have good experience, but that also are seasoned speakers. Speaking is a skill, and not everyone belongs on your stage.  

At least twice a year get special sponsors and bring in a speaker from out of town (and pay their fee).  Try to hire someone who will provide information and entertainment, and use the meeting as a recruitment tool.  I regularly hear from groups who say it is not possible to raise money for a special speaker, but I see other groups do this successfully year after year.  It takes effort to find the perfect speaker and to raise the money, but when done right it will have a lasting impact.

If you usually have industry specialists speak, try getting someone from a different field of expertise once a year.  Make one or more of your meetings a panel discussion.  Do not be afraid of getting an author or professional speaker from outside your industry, as their point of view might be just what your audience needs.  

It is also a good idea to have one meeting without a speaker, and let the audience share their thoughts.  Your members are experts, give them the chance to be heard.  But this will require a good facilitator who can keep the meeting running smoothly and limit any one person from dominating the conversation.  These types of town hall conversations can make more people feel included and the power of the information will surprise you.

3.  Host an event in someones home.  Many groups meet in hotel ballrooms or restaurant private dining areas.  While these are the best options for most regular meetings, hosting a special holiday reception or other VIP event at the home of a member can create a unique experience.  Parties in a private home have a more intimate feel than those in traditional venues, and this allows people to bond in a different and more casual manner.

If someone on your board is willing to host a special event, the organization can take care of the catering and hiring servers to help with clean up, etc....  You may want to limit such an event to members only or otherwise have a VIP event where it is invite only, but this type of special meeting can create a one of a kind evening.

Trying new things is the only way to keep your local chapter fresh.  If your organization is always following the same calendar, your members might find your agenda boring.  Boring meetings are never remembered.  If all your events are quickly forgotten, you members might forget to renew when it is time for their dues to be paid.

Trying new meeting formats involves some risk.  But risk is part of success.  If you are willing to shake things up, in the long run you will have a better organization that will attract new members.  If you are stale, you know what happens (and it is not good).

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Speaker Mastermind Meet Up

It is not a secret that I credit part of my success as a professional speaker to my involvement with the National Speakers  Association.  It is not that the association itself does anything that directly brings me business, but I have had the opportunity to meet so many talented professionals at all levels of experience, that I have become a better speaker, a better business owner, and a better person from what my peers consistently teach me.

In addition to my participation in the national association, I am involved with the Austin Chapter of NSA, and I am on the board of a "virtual chapter" within NSA called "NSA XY" (we are not officially recognized as a chapter, but we operate in a similar manner).  The XY group is made up of speakers born in 1964 or later (and while some like to say it is a group of "younger speakers", the oldest in our group are quickly approaching 50-years-old - so it is NOT about age!).

Recently the NSA XY hosted a "Meet Up".  These informal day-long gatherings have been held from time to time around  the country for several years (with the majority of them being held in Chicago).  The purpose of a Meet Up is to bring together speakers to share best practices, engage in discussions about the business, and brainstorm ideas to help each other expand business.  It is also about friendships.  Speaking can be a lonely profession, as no two speakers I know have identical business models.  We work alone, travel alone, and often only see the industry from our own lonely vantage point.  For those of us who have forged connections with other speakers, we see the network as a powerful tool to stay informed and a way to push forward to the cutting edge.

Having never before attended a Meet Up, I was not sure what to expect.  Some of my peers (mainly non-NSA speakers) question what I can gain from spending time with other speakers?  Since many in attendance were already friends, would it be too social?  Was there any way to measure success?  

WOW is the only word I have to describe the experience.  I not only got to learn from my peers, but the group helped me clarify an idea for a new program that closely aligns with my experience and my passion.  Alone I had spent weeks trying to shake out the specifics for a new topic, and together we came up with the idea in twenty minutes.  This is the power of being open to coaching, but also it was a powerful exercise in how people can accomplish more together than alone.

No matter what your industry, I encourage you to get involved in an association of your peers.  Too many people sneer at their competition, but my experience show that those who share your path can be the best asset in your future success.

There were 12 speakers involved in this day-long mastermind session.  I encourage anyone who reads this blog post to click on each of the names below.... as it will expose you to some incredible people who are doing great things.  If you are looking to hire a speaker, anyone of them would be a wise choice.... as they are more than "experts", they are speakers who are dedicated to their craft.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, April 26, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do - Jessica Pettitt at Dartmouth College

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

Dartmouth College canceled classes this Wednesday (April 24, 2013) because of issues around social justice and threats of violence following protests. My friend (and fellow speaker and NSA XY board member) Jessica Pettitt was brought to campus by the administration to address the entire student body and start a healthy dialogue.

Jessica is a professional speaker who specializes in social justice and diversity issues. She regularly speaks on college campuses and consults with corporations on issues surrounding tolerance and acceptance for EVERYONE in the education and work environments.  Jess is an amazing speaker who can captivate an audience while educating them on this very important topic.  (I am still waiting to find a link to the video from the Dartmouth presentation... when it is posted I will share it).

Her workshops, trainings, and keynotes take participants on a journey weaving together politics, theory, current events, and storytelling with large doses of humor.  Plus she make you think.

The presentation at Dartmouth was standing room only and was broadcast across campus (and I hear she got a roaring standing ovation!!!).  Read more about this event in the school's student newspaper; The Dartmouth. I have read comments about how wonderful her presentation was, and how it got the many in the student body to rethink how they will approach issues with those whom they disagree.

I love seeing my friends do such cool things!!!  Great Job, Jess.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Speakers: The Stories You Tell Take The Audience On A Journey

While in New Orleans to be the keynote speakers for a business conference, I had the opportunity to join some of the folks from the meeting at the New Orleans School of Cooking.  The private class was set up as one of the activity choices for those in attendance, and it was a GREAT experience.  While I do not always go on these outings at conventions, this one seemed especially appealing.

The woman who taught the class, Harriet Robins, was a local woman who grew up cooking in the New Orleans styles of Cajun and Creole.  She was also half Irish, and the mix not only lead to good food, but she was a delightful instructor who ensured that everyone had a great time in her class.  She was not just a cook, or a cooking teacher... she was a delightful presenter who genuinely cared about her audience.

The demonstration included the How-To's on how to prepare Shrimp Creole, Corn & Crab Bisque, Pralines, and Bananas Foster.  Yet beyond the food, it was how she drew the audience in with her personal and professional stories that made the impact.  It was not just a list of ingredients in a recipe, her class was a shared adventure between teacher and students because of the tales she told.

Much is discussed in the "Meetings Industry" when it comes to educational presentations about "CONTENT, CONTENT, CONTENT". Too many keep yelling that "Content is King"..... But the unforgettable speakers who have a lasting impact also have a style when they speak that draws in the audience.  They also tell stories.  Harriet could have simply taught us how to prepare the food (AKA: content), but instead she took us on a culinary journey through the history of her life and the life of her local ancestors as she taught about all that went into each dish (style and content together make a presentation.  One or the other alone is not enough).

Never let anyone tell you a real experience (at a cooking class, business conference, or anywhere in life) is only about content, as I see lots of people dump important data, but few will I write about on this blog and sing their praises.  Harriet deserves to be highlighted, as she gave 100% to this class over a 2 hour period.  It was a "WOW".

The next time you deliver a presentation.... ask yourself if you are going all the way to share from the heart, and that you are going farther than the content alone in your delivery.  Touch the soul of the audience beyond the data you intend to teach.  Tell the stories that will make people believe and they will do more than learn -- they will be inspired!!!

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Our Computer Algorithm Appreciates Your Service

A man gets an email celebrating 15 years that he has worked with his company.  The text of the email praises his service to the organization and lets him know that the business appreciates all that he does.

The last line of the email reads:
"This email was computer generated; please do not reply"
What?  Ummm?  Huhhhh?  

Yep, thank you for your service.  We have created a computer algorithm that will send out this message to those who reach important milestones, but also to ensure that neither your supervisor nor anyone in human resources will not have to be bothered with acknowledging you on the anniversary of this important day.

The above quote is from a real email that was shared with me by a gentleman who received this message recently.  He understands that a company with 40,000 employees worldwide has some limitations on how personal they can be with each interaction, but the last line left him cold.

I agree.  We are all actively seeking ways to shortcut the human-to-human connections and streamline our business relationships... but you cannot outsource a meaningful interaction.  We do this too often within our  social media usage, believing that a "link", a "share", a "like" or a "follow" is equal to a friendship.  It isn't.

Think about this at home --- would you outsource bedtime stories for your children to a computer?  Imagine a 4-year-old girl going to her room and a monitor lights up with a narration of a fairy-tale followed by a message reminding the kid that the story was computer generated, and to go to sleep immediately without bothering a parent?  Sound pretty bad.  While I am not comparing business professionals to 4-year-olds, at any age we all still long for the personal touch.  Real connections sill matter.  

Saving time and automation are wonderful.  Yet, when it those on the receiving end realize there is no effort involved, it limits the effectiveness of the gesture.  

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, April 22, 2013

Reaching Goals

Go all the way.

If you have a dream, goal, or other desire you want to accomplish in life, do not quit short of the finish line.

Many people talk about wanting something, but they are hoping for a shortcut.  They see others find success,   and wish they had the same thing.  However, too many fail to see all the work that the person has put into the achievement.  Those who reach a goal and live their dreams are not "lucky", they go all in to reach the destination.

There are sacrifices along the way, and you will want to quit.  But do not quit.  Sure, you may need to reshape parts of what you seek, but there is victory ahead.  100% of those who quit never reach their goal.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Friday, April 19, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do - George Hillhouse is CEO of Mug Muscles

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

I have known George Hillhouse for over a decade, although I had not seen him in a long time.  He is an investor and business advisor who has worked with a variety of start-ups, and I was curious when we sat down for coffee this week to learn about his latest venture.

George is currently the CEO of Mug Muscles LLC, and they are in the middle of a successful Kickstarter campaign whose slogan is:  
"Finally, a way to enjoy a frosty brew while getting an intense workout! Work on your six pack while working on your six pack!"
As you can see from the photo, this ridiculous idea is the combination of a beer mug that has one of those hand grip exercisers.  Novelty item... yep... but everyone wants one (which means they will sell a lot of these!)

When I looked at the prototype I knew this is one of those things where everyone says "Dang it... why didn't I think of that!!!".  My guess is that it is going to sell like Pet Rock in the 1970s (come on, admit it... if you were born in 1968 or earlier you had a Pet Rock! - or you wish you had once and just picked up stones off the dirt).

It took me all of two seconds to realize that George was going to be this week's feature on the "Cool Things My Friends Do" blog post.

I even joined the Kickstarter campaign and gave him some money to be one of the pre-ordering fans.  Come on, you know you want to also!!!

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Going Dark on Social Media

What is the right thing to do in our social media conversations in the face of a tragic news story?  I had not thought much about this before the Sandy Hook school shootings in 2012 in Connecticut.  That day as the horrors of the shooting played out across the media, I noticed a lot of tweets, Facebook posts, and other social media updates that were "normal".  But was the world normal in that moment?  Too much of what was going on in social media was too self-promotional to match the situation of this national (and worldwide) tragedy.

Immediately following such an incident I often see authors saying "Buy my book", (or those in any profession hawking thier goods) and it can feel akward.  While some of these tweets and posts come from the use of pre-scheduling software to release updates.... other people will continue to add to the live online steam without a thought about the news that is dominating the day. 

When people die, is it really right to be barking for sales?

Since last December I have had several conversations with other authors, speakers, consultants and small business owners about how we might properly behave online when it comes to promoting our businesses when there is a tragic news story that has an impact that reaches over our whole society.  (Additionally, several speakers have shared ideas about what to say from the stage if you are speaking to a live audience in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy.... which is also a touchy subject without clear answers).

There is no right answer here.  How people are impacted by horrors that are not in their back yard can vary.  Some may not be tuned into the news and not be aware.  Some may not feel connected the same way as others.  There are countless things that impact the proper course of action.

Personally I have decided it is best (for me) to "go dark" for 24 hours following some act of terrorism or other awful event.  The bombings at the Boston Marathon have again made me revisit my thoughts.  I do not think talking online about my books, speaking engagements, or other topics is necessary or appropriate in the time of a national emergency.  Thus I did not blog, tweet, or leave updates on Facebook or LinkedIn for the past day.

But this brings up another question.... is 24 hours the right amount of time?  Should it be two days or a week?  If we go too long before returning to our normal life are we allowing the terrorists to win?

My daughter asked if a policy of "going dark" also related to natural disasters (like a hurricane)?  And what if it is not terrorism, but an accident of some kind?  How about incidents in other countries?  Hmmmmm, I am not sure that I can pre-qualify the level of destruction or the severity of what qualifies for my holding quiet on social media.  I think it is more of a guideline that a policy, and I would have to make the decision on a case by case basis.

Should I tweet about the tragedy itself?  I had not thought of this before the issues in Boston.  Someone I know as running, and she was near the explosion, but was it my place to tweet that, or even re-tweet her updates?  Many people posted their thoughts and prayers online that day as they were learning of the incident.  I did not do this (as I decided not to make posts of any kind), but I do not fault those who publicly state their reactions to the acts of horror.  We have come use these social media outlets nowadays as part of our interactions with both friends and the greater society, and there is something comforting seeing so many stand united against evil.

I did leave a message on the Facebook page of that friend who was running the Boston Marathon.  She had posted early in the day about her upcoming race, and so we knew she was there.  She crossed the finish line as the bombs went off (she was right there) and she wisely used Facebook to let people know that she, and her family, were all unhurt.  I commented on her page that I was happy for her update, and praying for her (and others).  Was that really social media, or was that a private conversation with a friend?  Hard to know where the lines are drawn.

I do not write this post to dicate to others who they should behave online on days when the news is dominated by bad things.  I do not hold the answers to these issues of our modern times.  But I am curious how others feel about this topic.  What did you do that day? 

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Saturday, April 13, 2013

How to Vet Speakers

Finding the right speaker for an event is paramount to the success of the conference.  Speakers do more than just share content, they set the tone for the whole meeting.  But finding speakers who can have the right impact is getting more difficult, as more people are calling themselves speakers.

As a speaker I know that I am not the right fit for every event, yet I also am an attendee at many events.  I am perplexed sometimes as to how a speaker ever ended up on the stage.  Matching up topics and experience to the goals of the conference are paramount to the success, and speakers must be chosen for more than filling a  slot on the agenda.  It can be painful if the speaker is awful.

Then there is the long-suffering debate between the idea of content vs. style.  I have always argued that it is not an "either / or" decision, as the best presenters bring both.  It is not too much to expect the people you put on stage to have the ability to communicate and inspire the audience.  Your event is more than an 8th grade book report!

Yet I still hear the cry that "Content is King".... and many people are capitalizing on this by marketing themselves as "Content Speakers".  After all, what meeting planner does not want content?  But is content alone enough?   Content is not king... it is more like mayor.  It is important, but alone is not fully capable of doing everything.

The term "Motivational Speaker" has been marginalized - as many who are not focused on the audience experience have tried to make "motivation" a negative term.  They push professional speakers aside and define them as "fluff" (not true).  

Besides, what is the opposite of motivation? ---  "De-motivation"?  "Blah"?  "Sucks the energy out of the room"?  

What planner would want their conference seen in that light?  (I have never seen an event professional brag that they plan boring events, but we seem to attend lots of conferences that meet this description!).  

The reality is that all speakers should be motivational speakers, as without a call to action (or other impact on the audience) the presentation is reduced to a "talking white paper".  ***I am not saying content is not important, but so is the speakers ability to captivate!!!  Do not let you organizing committee settle for less than both content and pizzazz if you want a great conference.

Remember.... learning is not just about dumping data into the air.  People learn in a variety of ways, and how the speaker engages the audience will make a difference on if anyone retains information or takes action when they get home.

Vetting speakers is key to finding someone who can provide the right mix of information and still connect with the soul of the audience.  My mantra is "Just because someone is smart, or has done something cool -- it does NOT mean they belong on stage".  We have to go beyond a resume to determine if someone is the appropriate speaker for an event.

How does one vet a speaker?  Seeing them live is often the best way to know if their presentation is going to be a fit for your conference.  Reality is that not every planner can see every speaker, so we then move to relying on others recommendations.  Speakers Bureaus a good option, but can be limited.  The best way to find speakers is to ask your network of other event professionals whom they have seen live and / or worked with at their own events.  Beyond the speakers presentation, how did they engage with the audience?  Were they easy to work with before, during and after the event?   Would the planner hire them again?

Another good idea is to ask the prospective speaker for a list of the last 50 places they have presented.  If they have not delivered that many talks, or if that list goes back more than a few years, you at least want to know these details about their level of experience (this is NOT a reason pass on hiring them, but you need to know how often they speak to make an informed choice).  Some people are naturals, others must hone their skills.  I believe for many people it can take hundreds of presentations to master the art of speaking at large conferences.

To vet properly means digging deep, asking questions, and doing research.  Anyone can call themselves a speaker, but few can "wow" an audience.  I recently spoke at an event where I met another keynote speaker.  He privately shared this was the second presentation of his career.  When he took the stage it was clear he was not really what the organizers had assumed they were getting when they booked him to speak.  He was intelligent, but people were walking out of this talk.  Experience can make a difference.

5 Tips To Vet A Speaker:

1.  Watch them speak live, or make sure someone you know and trust has witnessed their presentation.  Watching a video is nice, but it does not give you the full perspective.  You would not marry someone you met in an online dating website without some live interaction (I would hope!).

2.  Ask them about their experience and get a list of former conferences where they have been the speaker.  Two Rotary clubs and four months in Toastmasters does not necessarily make them ready for prime time on your main stage.  Take the time to call several of their former clients and ask questions about the whole experience of working with the speaker.

3.  Have an extended conversation with them by phone or Skype.  Discovering their personality off-stage can often be as important as how they speak on stage.  A detailed chat can put both parties at ease that their is the right match for the speaker and the conference.

4.  Find out in advance how long they intend to participate in your event.  Do you want them to be engaged with your audience before and after their time on stage?  If you want them to stay for the day, make sure you communicate this with them while negotiating the contract. Participants often like to talk with speakers, and if you desire their participation you need to let them know in advance.

5.  Share with them the vision and goals for your event and get the speaker engaged as a partner in the success of the entire conference.  How can they help you promote the event and build community?  Make sure they see themselves as more than a hired gun or an interchangeable vendor.

Embrace the special place that your speakers play in the success of your event.  Seek out people who line up with the culture of your organization, and those who are willing to make you a priority in their schedule.  

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections. http://www.conferencecatalyst.com 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do: Master Juarez Achieves 6th Degree Black Belt

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

My oldest daughter spent five years studying martial arts under the instruction of Master Nick Juarez (owner of Master Juarez Bushikan Martial Arts).  Jackie had a positive experience in her five years at the karate school.  Four years ago she earned her black belt. After that accomplishment she continued to participate on the school's XMA performance team for one more year.  

Her master is not one to advance students just for participation, and he made her earn every promotion from white belt all the way to achieving black belt. She learned to work hard, focus, and get up when knocked down. 

It has been a few years since we had been involved with the school, but this week "Master J" earned his 6th Degree Black Belt.  Many of his former students, including over a dozen black belts, came back to the school (now at a new location) to celebrate the accomplishment of his promotion to this prestigious level.

His master presented him with the honor, and reminded the audience (most of whom were current students and their families) that he is one of the top instructors in the state of Texas.  Few who study martial arts will ever attain this high rank.  His combination of experience and the deep caring he has for his students is always evident to those involved in his programs (both students and parents).

He now is "Senior Master Instructor Juarez". We were proud to be there for this event.

Jackie enjoyed being back at the dojo and seeing so many old friends.  She like seeing all the young kids who are just starting their martial arts journey, breaking their first boards, and moving up the ranks.  I think it meant a lot to her to revisit this part of her life, as these days she is more into dance and tennis..... but her study of marital arts gave her a clear foundation of discipline for all that he does. Master J gets a lot of credit for being a positive influence.

Congrats to Master Nick Juarez on this cool accomplishment!

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

TED Talks - What Would You Do?

The influence of TED continues to grow.  Several of my friends have "Attending TED Global" on their "bucket list".  Countless communities are hosting TEDx events.  The TEDxYouth movement is gaining more traction.  Since June 2006 the TED videos have continued to populate the web and many have gone viral, achieving millions of views.

TED is about "Ideas Worth Spreading", but many people do not really understand what it means to give a TED Talk.  TED stands for "Technology, Education and Design", but it has come to mean so much more.  While not every TED Talk is itself a great presentation, the ones that have reached around the world are amazing examples of what happens when ideas are clearly and concisely communicated.  It is not only about content (although this matters), but the combo of the knowledge being shared and the speakers ability to deliver the message in a way that touches the soul of others.

Amazing TED Talks do not need a technically great or experienced speaker, as many who speak at various TED events are not trained orators... but the best speakers respect the art of speaking and dedicate many hours to honing their presentation.

I have begun to ask all my clients "If given the opportunity to speak at TED or TEDx... what would you talk about?"  This is a great exercise, as if someone was really given the opportunity to speak at one of these events it would be a once in a lifetime event.  Thus it would be foolish to waste the chance to deliver your great idea, concept, and story.   TED talks are limited to 18 minutes (some even shorter), and thus this is not a typical speech.  You have to get clear on what is the core of your idea, and there is little time to say everything.  The speaker must not make it self-centered or a sales pitch..... it has to be about the impact of the idea.

If invited to the TED stage you have to cut through much of your superficial story and leave behind all your "shtick".  It is different than most other presentations you would be asked to deliver, and if done right you could impact the world.  To explore this idea is to dig deeper into what matters to you, and what idea you think is worthy of such a platform.  We do not often have to get as serious about our thoughts as a potential TED speaker, but it can open up your blind spots and even if you never are on a TED stage, you will think differently about the topics you share in other parts of your life.

So what would be the message of your TED Talk?

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Law Firm Retreat Speaker

Do lawyers need to network?

Only if they want to have clients.

Too often I meet attorneys who wish they could just practice law, do a great job, and have clients lined up.  While this is a nice fantasy, the reality is that law is a service business, and that means that success is linked to relationships and personal brand.  

Many lawyers do good work, but without a focused business development effort and a healthy respect for what it means to cultivate a real network... too many are consistently worried about their future because they do not invest in their business relationships.

Over the past year I have seen a resurgence in law firms that are investing in training and coaching their partners AND associates on the necessary skills to ensure future business.

Is you firm hosting a partner retreat or an all-hands meeting?  Is the idea of getting your lawyers more engaged in the business community something that sound in sync with your firm's long-term goals?  Then let's talk about how the right law firm retreat speaker can ignite ongoing conversations that will change the way many of your team will approach this important topic going forward.

Call me today.  (512) 970-0398  thom (at) thomsinger.com

Have A Great Day

thom singer

National Siblings Day

National Siblings Day.

Cheers to Steve, Bill and Bob.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Refer Someone Today - Giving Is The Secret To More Success

Try to refer business to other people (or otherwise help them along the way) as often as you can.  

Our lives are busy and it is easy to get caught up in getting our own crap completed.  Many people work hard to reach their goals, and the laser focus can undermine doing anything to help others.  But does this attention to our own stuff limit our future success?

If we want others to sing our praises, we cannot make all our own actions self-serving.  We have to "give to get".  Why would anyone help me if I do not do anything to serve others in my community?

The New York Times recently ran an article called "Is Giving The Secret To Getting Ahead" in which they profiled the success of Adam Grant, the yougest tenured and highest ranked professor at the Whorton.  The gist of the article is that this 31-year-old has achieved his success by always going the extra mile to help other people find their own success.  He daily does things beyond what is expected of him, and he has achieved more than most of his peers.

The Times article is a bit too long, but the idea that giving to others brings more success to the giver is something I agree with in principle (and hopefully in practice).  I have seen that the real givers always seem to have more opportunities coming their way over time.  This does not mean that selfish people do not succeed.... we see that all the time too, but the givers are the ones who clearly enjoy their victories because it brings them more chances to give even more.

If you read this article online, do not miss reading the comments section.  I am shocked by how nasty and hateful some NYTimes readers can be when an article gives praise.  Wow, the cynical nature and excuse making that appears in some of the comments confirms much of what the article says.  The bitter people who  claim he must be a bad parent because he works long hours or state his success is solely because his wife does not work outside the home is hard to read if you are an optimist!  Some of those who left comments clearly will never understand the power that can come from connecting the dots to help others.  One person went as far as to claim that "selfishness is the secret to success".  YUCK.

As a professional speaker I am amazed at how many of my peers admit to never referring other speakers.  In this job it is an exception to be invited to deliver the keynote at a conference two years in a row (yes, yes, it does happen... and has happened to me, but it is NOT the rule).  Because of this, I know that I most likely will not be back at the same event back-to-back.  Thus, I tell my clients if they ever need a speaker, I have a list of friends who can WOW their audiences.  Not all take me up on it, but I regularly am asked to refer another speaker to a former client.  When I ask peers how often the refer business, many look at me like I am from Mars.  

One speaker told me she never talks about other speakers because she might be giving up the chance to be brought back if she praises others.  Ummmm, meeting planners know there are lots of great speakers in the world, and I would rather see the opportunity go to my friend instead of a stranger. 

It is often exciting to refer others.  By doing this it keeps me in long-term contact with clients, and the speakers I refer sometimes return the favor. (I can only refer those I have seen speak - and like their style -  so my list of those I send business is a short, but a powerful group!!!).  

Giving is the secret to more success!!!  I believe this.  Nothing anyone can say will convince me otherwise, and I give credit for much of my success to the strong connections with other speakers I have met through the National Speakers Association.  My circle of friends seem to all have a natural inclination to give (the takers don't fit in with this circle).  We find joy in each bit of success that comes to our peers, and together we look for ways to lift each other higher. 

If you ever need a speaker.... call me.... I would love to work with your company, association or other group.... AND if I am not the right fit, I will gladly refer you to several FANTASTIC options!!!

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, April 08, 2013

Corporate Culture Is Not An Accident

The culture of your company is too important to be left to chance.  Culture comes from people and your people matter.

The companies where I have seen good culture have cultivated that culture on purpose.  The leaders in the organization openly cherish those who work for and with the company, and they empower them to take ownership of their jobs.

When the company has a toxic culture it is often because the people are on the outside looking inward.

Invest in your people.  Train, encourage and trust those who work in the company.  Wishing and hoping for a positive culture is not a business plan for success.

Someone has to push for culture.  Why not you?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Friday, April 05, 2013

Cool Things My Friends Do - Successful Lawyer and StepMom Magazine Cover Girl Mary-Ellen King

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

My friend Mary-Ellen King is on the cover of this month's StepMom Magazine. She is the step mother to three great kids, and she takes her role in their lives very seriously.

Mary-Ellen and her husband, Rick King, are both successful attorneys.  In March 2013 their firm, King Law Group, with locations in Austin and Dripping Springs, Texas celebrated its second year serving businesses in Texas and beyond.

The firm has been successful in attracting insurance companies and business clients who value efficient, value-added, practical legal counsel — with big firm attention to detail but more realistic and attractive rates.

It is always fun to see my friends doing great things in their business and personal lives.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Merger of "The Conference Catalyst" and Master of Ceremonies

Over the past few years the "Conference Catalyst" program has taken several different paths.  It is always unique, as every conference, trade show, convention, and seminar has a distinctive purpose and culture.... and I work with the meeting organizers to fit the impact of the "Conference Catalyst" into their agenda.

In the past 18 months I have seen the program merge with being the Master of Ceremonies at a variety of different events.  Often the gathering is a technology company "Users Conference".  The hosting organization is investing to create an experience for their customers, and they want more than one of their executives as the EmCee and the thread that weaves all parts of the conference together.  

Rarely do companies have employees who have the right skills to MC the show, plus the amount of time involved would take a key team member away from being able to socialize with clients and prospects.  

Hiring a professional to take on the role of MC is a smart idea (it does not have to be me!).  My clients like the opening keynote (or the shorter "pre-keynote") that is filled with powerful advice on maximizing attendance, and then the ongoing vignettes of tips that are sprinkled throughout the two or three days as I execute the EmCee duties.  The merger of the "Conference Catalyst" and the Master of Ceremonies role always works, and sometimes makes the program event stronger!

It is fun to see the introverts and extroverts embrace the common message of "choosing people" while participating at the event.  When people come together and share ideas with each other in "Hallway Conversations" outside the keynotes and breakout sessions, amazing things happen with the cultivation of a conference "mini-society".

Humans are "experiential beings" and we have to make our events about those in the audience, not the organizers, speakers, sponsors, etc...  People know when they are the purpose for all that is planned.  They also know when they are not!

I recently was involved with an event where the company was 100% committed to their client's experiences.  Representatives from customers all around the world were present and they worked for months to ensure the event was not a company "commercial", but instead a community happening.  The success of their "Users Conference" was evident to every attendee.

When it works, it really works!

Does your conference have a Catalyst?

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections.  http://www.conferencecatalyst.com 


Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Delivering Better Presentations - April 16th - Austin Business Journal Smart Series Breakfast

Presenting information at a conference, or inside your company, is a great way to be noticed as a thought leader in your industry. Public speaking is one of the best ways to display your expertise, but many people are nervous about delivering a presentation.

Speaking is a learned skill, and most people can improve once they understand what it is that is holding them back. There is more to giving a speech than just knowing the information.

This Smart Series seminar will help anyone, novice or more advanced, to better understand how to improve their speaking skills.

Participants will:

*Learn how to get beyond the "8th Grade Book-Report" style of speaking
*Understand the power of a story paired with information
*Examine what they can learn from other speakers
*See why TED Talks are about more than 18 minute speeches

Thom Singer is a working professional speaker and the author of "The ABC's of Speaking"

Seminar details:

Tuesday, April, 16
8:00 - 8:30 am - Registration & networking
8:30 -9:30 am - Seminar
111 Congress Ave. 8th Floor
Austin, TX 78701

Parking is available in the convention center parking garage for $7

Cost to attend $59.

RSVP to reserve your spot.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

4 Years Self Employed - The Entrepreneurial Life

April 1, 2009 was the height of the recession.  It was also the day I was laid-off.  Not good.

In that moment I decided it was time to go to work for myself.  I had already written several books and was speaking professionally on the side, and had wanted to make the transition to full time career as a speaker, trainer, and consultant.... but the layoff was a hard push out of the nest.

I have never looked back.  There were some very lean times in the beginning, and there was little work to be found as a "trainer", as companies had cut out all staff development in the lean times.  But I did find work speaking at industry and association conferences, and the consulting and coaching business filled in some of the holes.

Today I am a working professional speaker who presents at over 50 events per year (57 speeches in 2012), and in 2013 we launched Davis / Hill Solutions LLC, which is a training company that focuses on sales training, business development coaching, presentation skills, and other topics to get employees more engaged in promoting their companies.

I could never have found success without the help and support of countless people in my network.  The amount of advice and referrals that have come across my path because of people have made the difference.  My wife and kids have been very supportive and have put up with the ups and downs of the entrepreneurial journey.  While it can be a lot of work, there is also amazing flexibility that has allowed us to have some better family experiences.

The past four years have been the most challenging times of my career, but also the most rewarding. Each April 1st I celebrate the anniversary my entrepreneurial life (the irony is not lost on me!).

Have A Great Day.

thom singer