Sunday, April 24, 2016

People Are Difficult (This should not be a surprise to anyone)

Interacting with people is not always easy.  When you are around other humans, it is hard sometimes as we all have our own opinions, experiences, desired outcomes, and emotions.  Everyone has ideas of how they want things to turn out and some people become difficult if your outlook differs from their own.

Being wrong is part of the human experience, and I have come to understand that when socially engaged I do not have to be the smartest in the room, nor do I have to connect my self-worth to my bring right.  This is a lesson that was hard learned.  But my own path has become simple since I know I might be wrong (and that it is okay).

I spent a long time being sad and was full of self doubt in my career.  My own internal dialogue caused me to worry about what others thought of me.  To mask these feelings from the outside I over compensated.  Overall this did not serve me well, but the more I have realized this is normal for many people, the less I needed to behave in this manner.  Everyone is dealing with their own "stuff", and that makes my own issues seem manageable. 

It is common to see someone caught up with issues of self and then they project their feelings onto the social tapestry.  They work to recruit people to their "side" escalate minor things into major ones. You cannot stop this from happening, and everyone knows someone who has done this.  

You have to choose.... accept them (with their flaws) or move on.  Either is a fine choice and there is no way for anyone but you to know what is best for your exact situations. 

You cannot change another person and this is what messes up so many relationships.  We think we can "fix" them and in the end we just increase the tension.  Realizing you cannot change others takes away the power they want to have.  I just shrug and say "oh well" and try to love my friends and family unconditionally.

An outlook that "every interaction is a NOT a competition" is the best medicine.  It has made me happier and allowed me to let go when a friend seems to be undermining something that matters to me.  Reminded yourself that the actions of those around you are most likely more about their own "stuff", and not yours.  

Have a great day

thom singer

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I Want To Love My Job

A friend told his daughter that he hoped she would find a career where she was fully engaged and thrilled to be part of her industry.  He added that of all their friends, nobody loved their job as much as I did.  He told her to watch the passion I have for being a speaker and master of ceremonies, and how I want to impact those I encounter, and seek out a similar way to work when she grew up.

When I heard this I was a little embarrassed, as I was not sure the my career path is the best example of a road to happiness.  Along the way I made some bad choices and had a few bosses who were awful. I work many days and screamed out loud in my car as I commuted to the office.  I always worked hard, but too often I had my ladder against the wrong wall, or was in a situation where the money took president over my total satisfaction.

Seven years ago I began my career as a professional master of ceremonies and keynote speaker.  Working for myself has been both amazing and frustrating, but my friend is right about how much I enjoy what I do for a living.  I really love my job.

My business is still growing and I believe that I should be doing a lot of things more efficiently.  I am struggling to keep up the momentum that I have created, as competition is everywhere. Meeting planners, committees, and everyone in an association or company has an opinion about who is the right speaker and what is the appropriate topics for their events.  Too often speakers miss the mark, and thus everyone is suspect of who they hire and seek reasons to justify why or why not make a speaker selection.

But if this business was easy, there would be more people working as speakers, because it is truly and awesome way to make a living.  Last week I spoke to a group in the building and construction trade and the planner was such a nice person with a giving soul.  In our conversation after my speech she told me that when anyone she knows is having a tough time she gathers up her nieces and they bake cookies.  She tells the kids that the person getting the treats is in need of "extra love" in the cookies and makes sure her assistants knows the purpose of their baking.  The cookies are a nice gesture, but I was blown away by the message this sends to these young girls in her kitchen.  It is stories like this that reminds me of all the good in the world.

I am not sure everyone gets to encounter as many people as I do in such positive ways.  Those who plan events work hard and have a lot of stress, but in the end they are creating experiences for others, and most planners love their jobs and the meetings the curate.  Being with them, and adding to their attendees experience, means I am surrounded by good vibes.  In over seven years I only encountered one meeting organizer who had a dark soul.  She was like a robot.  We did not see the world the same way, and she did not like me at all.  That is a pretty good ratio: 300+ were wonderful and one was not.  I will take those odds all day long.  Most people I encounter are amazing.

For the past six months I have been writing a one-man-show that can be used in place of a keynote.  The message is about finding creativity and more satisfaction in career and life. It is a keynote in the fact that it is both content rich and motivational, but is presented in a way that will not be what audiences expect.  This "play" is a unique way to tell a story and share ideas for success with business and association convention audiences.

Most planners will never take the risk of putting a professional speaker on stage as an actor who is playing a role.  However, some will (I am already talking to a few adventurous meeting organizers who like the thought of an out of the box show).  When it all works together we will have more fun than anyone could imagine at a conference.  Imagination does not have to lay dormant in you work either.  I am living proof of this.  One does not have to leave a corporate job to work as a solopreneur to find this level of excitement and joy at work.  It is just about being open to the idea of loving your job.

The friend who told his daughter that he wants her to enjoy her career as much as I do is right.  I want that for my kids.  I want that for everyone.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

Monday, April 18, 2016

My Experience at the NSA CSP/CPAE Summit

Last weekend was the National Speakers Association "CSP/CPAE SUMMIT" at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.

The small (77 people) conference was a series of mastermind discussions in large and small groups with other Certified Speaking Professionals (CSPs). I had the honor to be the co-chair (and the master of ceremonies) for this event.

(Do not think for a minute that being up in front of a crowd of speakers is not scary. Speakers are a tough crowd. I will admit to being a little nervous about this one).

Even with responsibility in the running of the event, I still was able to participate in the conversations about trends in the meetings industry and ways to impact our individual businesses. The list of things I need to be doing differently is very robust.

We had several video interviews with experienced meeting professionals who talked about how the business of meetings is currently undergoing major changes, and what this means for the speakers they put on stage. Association and corporate events are facing lots of pressure to reinvent the experience they are delivering for attendees, and the speakers are intimately integrated into that experience.  We all need to be having this discussion no matter what industry we work in, as change is always going to happen.

We also heard from a university researcher about what motivates people to participate in group situations.  His area of study began with decline in participation in some churches, while others thrived.  However the data matches closely with the Meetings Industry.  Talk about having to look at the world differently, this guy was a highlight of the whole weekend.

There was candid discussions about how speakers need to modify our delivery, marketing, audience engagement, and interaction with the planning committees as the new rules for events looms on the horizon. Nobody wants to be Blockbuster in a Netflix World.

I was reminded by being part of this event that is is a good thing to be involved in your industry association (no matter what you do for a living). Engagement can have deep value when you get past your own "self" and "ego" and become part of a community.  Volunteering showed me a whole new side to the organization and many of its members.

An association, like any group, will have a variety of people and a wide-range of personalities. I found that when I remember that I am not the smartest person in the room the best ideas come my way.  Being open to a variety of points of view is key if you do not want to feel like you are always fighting an uphill battle.

A higher understanding and respect for those who plan events also became evident.  Spending a year working on The Summit with my co-chair and the NSA Staff person (who is amazing) was an eye opening experience. There is so much to do to ensure a positive culture at a multi-day event, and there is no way any event professional will please everyone.  You have to find your vision for the whole experience and move ahead the best you can.  

The CSP / CPAE Summit allowed me to grow as a professional speaker and as a person. I was inspired and challenged both in my role as co-chair, but also as part of the tribe of CSPs. There is a lot of gratitude inside me for the people who were present at this conference.   While I am sure that different people had any number of personal experiences, I hope they all feel inspired from this gathering.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Monday, April 04, 2016

Eight Tips for Solopreneurs

April 1, 2009 I was laid off from my corporate marketing job.  This was the height of the great recession and my employment options were non-existent.  On that day I decided to follow my dream of self-employment and begin my creating my own career path that would not tie my job status to someone else's company.

Becoming a professional speaker and master of ceremonies was a long-time dream, and something I had planned to eventually pursue. With a young family to support, making such a leap seemed too scary, but with no other employment options I began to build my own solopreneur existence, and I have never looked back.

As the job market continues to be awkward, there are more and more people who are making the move to being solopreneurs (some by choice, others by circumstance).  This is not an easy existence, and while I have worked hard and had some great opportunities, each day I start over at the bottom of the hill.

I have learned a lot in seven years.  Here are the most important lessons I have discovered, and are paramount to what I am helping others understand with in my "Cool Things Project" group coaching program.

Eight Tips For Solopreneurs

1.  You are in sales.  No matter what your product or service, if you work for yourself you are responsible for revenue generation.  Sales is the life-blood of every business, and to lose sight of this is a recipe for failure.  Doing good work is not enough in our noisy world.  Anyone can access social media and claim credibility in your industry, so thinking reputation alone will generate new business will limit your future.  Invest the time to learn about sales and marketing skills, and then take action.  Selling is hard work (that is why sales professionals in the largest companies earn so much money), so be ready for the time and effort you will have to put in to generate results.

2. Most friends in your network will not help you.  We are taught at business seminars that all opportunities come from people, and thus we falsely believe the people in our networks will refer us business or hire us to serve their company's needs once we launch our company.  The reality is that most people you know are not thinking about you or your business.  While people generally intend to help others, the reality is many of your friends are too caught up in their own day-to-day lives to remember you are trying to build a business.  Do not expect a huge line of people who will be active in supporting your efforts.

3.  A few contacts are worth their weight in gold.  While not everyone will be a recourse to help connect your business to success, there will be some people who will move mountains to see your find new customers.  These rare souls who go out of their way to refer you, promote you via word-of-mouth and social media, and who buy your products (sometimes when they do not even have a need for your service) are to be cherished.  The weirdest part is that the people you think will be your supporters often will disappoint you, and the most random friends will become your champions.  

4.  Get involved in your industry association.  Solopreneurs are busy, and often they feel they do not have the time or the money to participate in their industry trade groups.  I found that my involvement with the National Speakers Association to be the key to my success as a speaker.  It is not that my membership in the association got me any direct business, but my activity exposed me to information and to other people who were living their lives in the business.  Having friends who are successful in your area of expertise means you do not have to reinvent the wheel.  

5.  Watch your expenses closely.  Too many who come out of corporate jobs are used to large budgets and not experienced being the person who has to pay all the bills.  I have seen too many solopreneurs who believed that spending a lot of money on websites, coaching, database programs, marketing videos, and other expensive services.  I spent as little as possible on everything when I was starting out, and would upgrade to higher levels as I could afford it.  This meant that I did not always have the best of everything (and often used other providers who were just starting out), but it also meant that I was realistic about cash flow and kept the expenses in check.

6. Say "Yes".  I find a lot of small business professionals and solopreneurs who are obsessed with protecting their time. They skip networking one-on-one or do not attend events with the rationalization that they are wasting time by not buckling down and working. They worry about their calendar to a level that they are missing out on opportunities.  While most people you will encounter will not become valuable resources, some will have the ability to change your future.  You cannot pre-judge events or people, so make it a habit of saying yes to being involved with others and over the long run it will pay off.

7.  Make sure your family is on board.  Being a solopreneur often means you do not get to shut the door to work.  The concerns over stability and money can be overwhelming, and if your spouse and children are not part of your journey, it will create problems.  While some people have their significant other active in their business, this wont be ideal for everyone.  Regardless of if they work with you or not, you have to keep them in the loop as to how things are going.

8.  Help others.  Be the person who is actively working to be a catalyst for success.  Find small ways to serve other solopreneurs in their journey to build their businesses.  While they wont all return the favor, never keep score.  Find ways to promote the businesses of people you know, even some in the same industry.  Every action you take is a brick in your reputation, and those who work for more than self will find more people will do the same.

Have A Great Day

thom singer