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Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do with Thom Singer
We are excited to have an amazing speaker, somebody who I’ve come to admire quite a bit in the last couple of months. I got a chance to meet him at the New Media Summit that our buddy, Steve Olsher, put on that we had on. We’ve got the man, the myth, the public speaking legend, and budding stand-up comedian, our buddy, Thom Singer. What’s going on, Thom?
Scott, thanks for having me.
Most people don’t know that you have a cool podcast. The one thing that I love listening and been binging to is Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do.
That’s my one show.
It’s a stand-up that I’m thinking is the second thing that you’re doing out there on a regular basis. You’re also out there doing a lot of public speaking. Why don’t you share with our audience who you are and what’s so cool about you?
My name is Thom Singer. I live in Austin, Texas so you and I are neighbors. Although the conference was in Austin, still I’d never met you before. April will mark ten years that I have been working as a professional speaker and corporate trainer. I either go into association conferences or company meetings whether it’s as a team meeting of ten people to kick off the year or maybe it is 4,000 people at a sales kickoff or a big rally for a larger company. I try to talk to the crowd about how do you get your people more engaged. We live in a world where everybody is on their phones and are disengaged. I have some tips that get people engaged. I talk with teams about what is potential and how do you work towards it. I have a lot of fun.
It’s always funny because I love watching you online. You’re speaking in St. Louise, you’re here in a multitude of other places or you’re changing in a parking lot because you spoke this morning and you’ve got to get your shirt and shorts to come into another meeting.
I’ve changed in more airport bathrooms because I don’t like to travel in a suit. A lot of my peers are like, “You travel in a suit, so you’ll look like you’re important and you’ll sit next to a CEO and they’ll book you as a speaker.” That never has happened. I’ve gotten booked by people that I’ve talked to on the plane, but it wasn’t because they said, “Nice tie.” I’m a t-shirt and jeans guy. Usually, I’ll run into the airport and if I have time, I’ll dive into the bathroom. Unlike Superman, I just come out in jeans.
You celebrated how many episodes on Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do?
I started the podcast on September 30th, 2014. Episode 412 has come out or something like that. I’ve been doing it for a while, twice a week. I’m changing up the format in the new year. Every time I do a solo episode, I get tons of people saying, “You need to do more of those.” I’m going to go to one interview a week and one where I’m talking about potential, trying new things and getting your people engaged.
What’s been the biggest a-ha moment you’ve had from 412 episodes? Anything surprisingly stands out to you that changed the game for you?
For most of the last years, I’ve done a keynote speech or workshop that’s called Connecting With People In A Gadget Crazed World. It’s all about how you network and how you get to know people better. What I found is my podcast is the best networking tool I’ve ever had. I have met more cool people who I’ve kept in touch with and it’s not just an interview. These are people who are my friends both through interviewing them or maybe being on their shows or meeting them, people like you at the New Media Summit. The podcast has opened up a lot of doors for me as far as new people I’ve connected with and that leads to business. I’m like, “Why didn’t I start this four years earlier?” We could be at 800 episodes.
Podcasting has built some great relationships in the months that we’ve been doing this. We went over 200,000 downloads in our first fifteen months. It’s pretty exciting for us.
I’m taking on to a million downloads and I’m like, “Come on.” Not that it matters, it’s just one of those numbers. It’s like, “I want to have a million downloads.”
You speak about connecting, networking more and connected world. What are some tips or advice that you like to give people out there? Is that the secret sauce?
I share freely. One of the things is networking gets a bad name. There are a lot of people who when you say networking, they roll their eyes. I ask people, “What don’t you like about it?” They go, “I don’t like schmoozing. I don’t like standing around with wine and cheese.” I’m like, “That’s funny because neither of those are in the definition of networking.” Networking doesn’t happen at a networking event. The networking event is simply a tool to meet somebody. Not everybody you meet are going to have a love connection with. Not everybody you meet you want to follow up with. I tell people it takes seven to ten interactions with people. Those can be in person or digital. I’m pro in person but I’m not anti-digital. Seven to ten interactions, not before they’re your buddy. Seven to ten interactions before they even notice you exist. You have to keep participating and being out there. The biggest misnomer is people spend a lot of time trying to figure out, “What’s my elevator pitch?”
They’re trying to memorize something about their selves so when they meet Scott, they can be like, “Scott has a company and they going to do a year-end meeting. They could hire me.” I flick a switch in my back and go, “Hello, my name is Thom Singer. I speak to companies like yours.” Verbal vomit all over you. If I did that in elevators as we rode down 30 floors, when the doors open, you’d run. It’s one of those things that we’re teaching people to repel others by leading with an elevator pitch. You have to know when to be able to clearly and concisely talk about yourself. When you meet people, get them to talk, ask questions and then decide, “Do I want to follow up with this person?” Realize it’s not a numbers game. It’s not like, “I met Scott. I met Betty. I met Sally. I met Bob. I met this.” It’s finding people who you can create a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship with. Even people who say they don’t like networking, they go, “I liked the long-term mutually beneficial relationship part.” That’s networking.
It’s not more about throwing up everybody at a party but going out and building some solid connections. Everyone’s one connection away from a massive change in their business, whatever that is.
You have a podcast that’s widely listened to. I asked people who I meet who listen to my show, “How did you find the show?” Almost to a tee, everybody says, “A friend of mine told me about it. Another podcaster mentioned it.” It’s that one person who says something good about you that leads you to, in case of a podcast, a new listener. In the case of the speaker, a new place to go speak. In the case of somebody who sells real estate, a new buyer. You’ve got to be on people’s lips. You’ve got to be on the mouth or they’re not going to talk about you. If they don’t talk about you, you’re leaving in the business behind.
One of the things that are running are the Christmas parties, networking events or the end of year stuff. They also run into that especially with the real estate side come January and February. We were talking about how we try to stay busy when everybody likes to take their time off. We’re booking January, booking February, we got the calendars filled. The thing we keep in mind is to embrace that stuff. Embrace those type of events. Go out there. You don’t have to be the schmoozer. If you don’t like cheese, don’t eat the cheese. Come out and be prepared. Look to build some relationships. Look to build with people. One of the great things I would like to recommend to people that are investors or going to the real estate clubs is go up to the president of the club. The person who runs the meeting who knows who’s going to be there and ask, “Here’s what I’m looking for. Who should I talk to?”
Even better go up to him and say, “I like your meeting, is there anything I can do to help?” You’ve got to be prepared if you ask that question they might say, “Yes, as a matter of fact, we need someone to help at the door.” People who volunteer and people who get engaged, that’s how you meet people. You are bringing up the holiday season. People go like, “I’ve got all these holiday parties to go to,” whether it’s business or even personal. Go in with the excitement that there might be someone there who you can make a connection with. You don’t have to talk to everybody. You don’t have to like everybody but go in with the thought, when you go into one of these parties don’t go and thinking, “Who could I meet? Who could I do business with?” Go in thinking, “I wonder if I could meet one person who I could help.” If you go in with that attitude, the crazy thing happens. People end up wanting to help you and they don’t even know why. There are so many takers out there who show up going, “Scott is here and I will meet him. I will get all the business from him.” People can sense that stuff.
Go in and trying to say, “Maybe I could meet somebody.” Ask questions. The question I love to ask everybody, “What’s your biggest challenge for 2019?” Here’s the weird part. People tell me their biggest challenge and I’m like, “That’s a doozy. Good luck with that.” I have no idea how to help them. Every now and then somebody says, “My biggest challenge is I need to meet Scott Carson.” I’m like, “I know Scott Carson. I can make that happen.” Sometimes they give me a total softball of what their biggest challenge is. If I didn’t ask, I’d never know. Most of the time that I can’t help but when I can, that’s awesome. Find out what people need and be of service and all of a sudden, people are going to line up to help you.
My buddy, Greg Reid, is the author of Think and Grow Rich: Three Feet from Gold. Have you ever read that book by chance Thom?
No, but I know the story.
He’s a big thing. He started, “How can I best serve you?” That’s a great point to make. How can you help? Sometimes we get thrown in the door. Sometimes you’ll be in charge of name badges. Sometimes you’ll be in charge of refilling the Pinot Grigio or the punch. You’re doing some amazing things out there not just going out and speaking. For those who are looking to speak more, whether they’re starting a podcast because that’s a new trend for some more listeners.
Everywhere, if you breathe air, you’re supposed to start a podcast.
What are some tips because you’ve been doing this for a while? I don’t think everybody starts off as a natural born speaker. You have to develop into it and hone your craft like anything else. What are some advices that you give to those who are looking to start a networking event or speaking more?
Let me start with the speaking side instead of the podcast. I’ve got a couple of good tips for people who want to start a podcast and there’re some similarities. I had the advantage when I started my podcast that I had been a professional speaker at that time for six years. I knew how to use the spoken word at least to some level. I’m not the greatest speaker you’re ever going to see but I suck less than most of them. I knew how to use the spoken words and that made a difference. If you want to speak more, maybe you want to speak because you want to get in front of real estate clubs or you want to promote the business that you have, one of the ways to do that is to be seen as the expert in what you do. You want to speak at Young Men’s Business League, in Rotary Clubs or wherever you’re going to go. The number one thing to remember is that speaking is usually a learned skill. Some people have a natural gift for it but that can almost be worse because they get self-confident and they think that it’s okay, that they’re okay.
There are a lot of people out there who think in their mind and for good reason think, “I’m such a good speaker. I can’t figure out why I don’t get booked more.” I’ll say, “Why do you think you’re a good speaker?” They go, “Every time I speak, people come up to me and say that was great.” I look at them and I say, “Can I give you a little tough love?” Some people say, “No,” and they flee from me. The other people are like, “Yes.” I go, “Just because someone tells you your speech was good or great doesn’t mean it is.” Think about this. You’re at a conference and the speaker who speaks for an hour is mediocre. They don’t suck. People aren’t streaming out of the room. When he or she gets to the point where they say, “In conclusion,” you’re like, “Thank God.” You’re at the cocktail party two hours later. You’re reaching for a piece of shrimp and somebody else reaches for that same piece of shrimp and you laugh when that happens. You make eye contact, it’s the speaker and there’s nobody else around. What do you say to her or him?
Great discussion, great speech.
Or some equivalent of that. People hear, “Great speech,” and people are like, “I’m great because people tell me I’m great.” I had someone tell me when I gave that example like, “I’m honest, Thom. I would never say that.” I’m like, “What do you say?” We live in a polite society. No one’s going to go up the speaker and go, “You were borderline sucky as a speaker.” That was highly mediocre. I go, “What do you say?” They go, “I’d find the one part that resonated with me and I would say, ‘I love that story about your sister.’” I look at them and I go, “Do you know what the speaker hears? Great speech.” People think that they do a great job, especially if your title is CEO. Employees aren’t going to come up and go, “I was so bummed you were speaking to us today.” They would go up and they say things like, “You’re always so inspirational. Thank you for your message.” Lots of times they’re like, “Let’s kill this guy.” Just because you hear you’re great doesn’t mean you are.
What the feedback you want to get and when you hear this you know you did a good job is the equivalency of, “What else can you do for me?” If you give a speech and somebody comes up and says, “Scott, do you do personal coaching?” that’s what else can you do for me. “Scott, do you have a book I can buy?” What else can you do for me? “Scott, that speech you gave to realtors, would that work for lawyers? I work for a law firm. That would be good for my place.” Nobody goes up to a mediocre speaker and says, “You’d be great at my association.” It’s the equivalent of what else can you do for me and that can even be, “Can I take you to coffee for free? You buy your own cup and I’m going to pick your brain.” Somebody asking you for free consulting still translates to, “What else can you do for me?”
You’ve got to get out there and speak a lot and see what feedback you get. When someone says, “Great speech,” be polite and say thank you. Then totally discredit it and listen to what else they say. If you’re not getting, “What else can you do for me?” you’ve got to get better. The only way to get better is to speak more. I tell everybody, go join a Toastmasters Club. If you’re listening to Scott’s podcast and you work in the real estate business, you’ve never been to a Toastmasters meeting, you are selling yourself short. Not one meeting, you’ve got to go for it every week for a year. If you participate in a Toastmasters Club, there’s no way at the end of the year you can’t walk away without having learned something. If it makes you a little better, a little more confident, a little bit more engaging, every time you speak you win. You don’t have to become a professional speaker, you’ll win at real estate because you’ll learn to communicate better.
It’s one of the best things that you can do. There’s nothing better than iron making iron stronger and honing each other’s skills. Are you a member of one locally here?
I started in Austin 26 years ago. I joined Balcones Toastmasters, which meets at the IHOP up north of the Arboretum on 183. A few years later, I moved south and I ended up joining a club called West Austin II. When the club got too big 30 years ago, West Austin decided they’d split into two clubs and they fought over who was going to get the name and nobody got creative. They became West Austin and West Austin II. They meet at the IHOP at Bee Cave and MoPac. Balcones is Monday mornings at 6:30, 7:00, something like that and the Thursday morning, one that I still belong to. I’m a professional speaker. I don’t go every week, but I belong to my Toastmasters Club because I’m a Texan. Texans dance with the one who bring you. I had joined Toastmasters 27 years ago and in 2002, I entered my club contest and ended up becoming a semifinalist. I came in second in the semifinals. The guy who beat me, nine people went to the International Championship of Public Speaking that Toastmasters puts on, 20,000 people enter at the club level around the world. I came in as the runner-up at a semi-final to one of the nine finalists. He went on to win the whole thing. I tell people I was in the top eighteen in the world that year because I was the runner-up to one of the nine finalists. I could have been number two who knows. I don’t know who those other eight were.
You’re traveling all over the place.
I have two more speeches and they’re both in Austin. I’m doing a year-end team meeting for a big accounting firm based here in Austin so I’m their speakers to motivate them for the New Year. I’m speaking at a conference that happens to be in one of the big hotels in Austin. My last two gigs of the year both in Austin. That’s weird.
You’ve been doing a little bit more of stand-up comedy to help you out with speaking too, Thom?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an actor or a comedian. I would watch these people who would be in movies and stuff like that. I was like, “I want to do that.” I never had the guts. I didn’t have the balls to go try standup or even move back. I grew up in Los Angeles, that’s the worst part, to have a dream to be an actor and never do anything about it when you grow up eighteen miles from Hollywood is a loser thing. I always wanted to but never did it. I was at a conference and there was another speaker there who speaks on humor in the workplace. His TEDx Talk on humor has over two million views. He’s a legit expert on humor and he’s a friend of mine. He’s also a professional comic. I was going to be in New York and I go, “Let’s hang out when I’m in New York.” He goes, “When are you going to be there?” I told him, and he goes, “Come to open mic night with me next week or a couple of weeks later.” I’m like, “Awesome, that’s what I’m going to be there. I would love to watch you work on new material.”
The other guy who was with him was like, “No, that’s not what he’s asking you to do. He’s asking you to write a five-minute set and get up at open mic night in Manhattan at a comedy club in Greenwich Village.” I was like, “No.” We got talking about it and he was like, “Didn’t you tell me part of what you encourage people to do in your speeches is to branch out and try new things?” I didn’t have them at the time, but I have shirts that I sell that say, “Try new things.” He literally was like, “Aren’t you the trying new things guy?” I was like, “Yes.” I wrote a five-minute set. He helped me tweak it a little bit the day I got to New York. My name was drawn. I got to go up at this club in Greenwich Village. I did a five-minute set. There were about twenty comics who spoke that day. I wasn’t the best. I wasn’t even near the best, but I didn’t blow it. I wasn’t at the bottom of the list. I decided if I could learn a little once, maybe I should dive in and see what it was all about. I made a commitment that I was going to do 100 open mic nights. It could take me a couple of years because I’m busy. I’m not going to do it every night.
I’ve done 30 open mic nights in the past seven months since March. It has changed me as a speaker. I am much more playful onstage with the audience. I’m a little more confident. I give 800 professional speeches. What I learned was two things, comedy is the hardest use of the spoken word by 10x. If you think you’re a good speaker and you think, “I get laughs. I have humor,” that’s cool because I thought that too. I get laughs and I use humor. If you have to have a punchline every 20, 30 seconds and you have to have cohesiveness for a three to five-minute set, you got to be writing all the time. You got to be trying it all the time. It’s all about what comics call stage time. I have found that it scared the hell out of me the first ten or fifteen, twenty times. Now that I’ve done it 31 times, I know I’m going to bomb half the time and I get up and do it anyway. It’s making me stronger as a speaker. I also think it’s changing me as a person. It’s making me a little gutsier.
I’ve done some open mic nights in the past. I haven’t done in a while. I might have to do that. Are you doing here at Moon Tower or where at?
I’ve been going to one that’s by my house on Monday nights and outdoors. This time of year, it is getting a little cold. I’m going to go instead to a bar on the Sixth Street called the Volstead. It’s on East Sixth Street. I’m going to go there because it’s indoors. There are eighteen open mic nights a week in Austin. There are a ton of them. The professional comics who I’m getting to know and it takes a while, they’re not like the most open group of people like, “New guy. Let’s hang out with him, especially because he’s twice our age. He’s in his 50s. Let’s hang out with the old guy.” I’ve been doing it for seven months and some of them are nice to me. The ones who are serious about getting into comedy, they do ten and fifteen open mic nights a week. They’ll go from one to the other. I don’t want to stay out until 2:00 in the morning on a Wednesday. I have a kid at home. She has to get up and go to high school at 6:30 in the morning. I’m going to be awake. It’s like, “I’ll go and do the early open mic at 8:00 and be home by 10:00.”
I’m sure she’s not the most willing person for you to work your material on either.
I post stuff on Facebook. It doesn’t match my speaking brand. I don’t post a video, but I’ll post some stills. Her friends will see it and stuff like, “Your dad’s a stand-up comic.” She’s like, “That would be an overstatement.” My wife and I brought her to a place and I haven’t gone back because this particular open mic was a cluster. I didn’t like the way it was run. I thought the guy who ran it was arrogant. We brought her out and it was 40 comics. We went to 11:00 at night and all the comics were a bunch of 22-year-old guys telling dick jokes. My sixteen-year-old is sitting there with me and her mom. Later my wife was like, “Worst parenting moment ever.” My daughter goes, “I’m sixteen. I can handle dirty jokes.” She goes, “Just not sitting next to my mom and dad.”
I had a different experience a couple of years ago. We have a mastermind. It meets three times a year for our note business. We headed out in San Diego and we decided to take it to the American Comedy Club out San Diego downtown. They had a comic that we’ve seen before here in Austin and other places. People were like, “Great, awesome.” They were like, “Come on out for a live podcast recording.” “What’s a podcast recording?” We roll out there. It’s her and her husband. She’s pretty clean. Her husband is a complete total opposite. Talking about eating babies and putting kids in blenders. Half of my mastermind’s like 65, getting up, pissed off and walking out. This is the worst thing ever. I was sitting there like, “I’m so embarrassed.” We thought this would be good. Luckily, we didn’t have to pay for the tickets. You’ve interviewed a lot of great people. What’s probably two or three of the biggest coolest things you’ve heard from your guests?
The podcast is called Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do. One of the jokes I have when new entrepreneurs come and go, “I want to be on your show. I’m launching my company in three months,” and I’m like, “That’s funny. It’s called Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do not Cool Things Entrepreneurs Want To Do.” I try to talk to people, even if they’re a solopreneur, author and a speaker or people who have big companies. I interviewed the CEO of Ghirardelli Chocolates. I interviewed the founder of Fresh Books, some big companies. I ask them a lot of questions about how they got into what they’re doing, “What advice do you have?” I speak about potential, I’ve turned my podcast into a research laboratory. I asked them, “Why do some entrepreneurs have potential and never get off the ground and other people soar?” There are a whole bunch of answers that come out. One of the big answers was, “Try new things.” Many entrepreneurs have said, “I failed my first four businesses. The business I have has launched new divisions and we’ve had to shut them down.” If I hadn’t tried, you would never get to whatever their service, product, a new book or whatever.
I got inspired into this whole world of you do have to shake things up. If you want new results, you have to try new things. That’s been the biggest message that’s impacted my life. There are other stuff. Some of the other advice that comes out is you’ve got to learn to monitor your own fear. They said that people get stopped because they get scared. When they get scared, they don’t take the risk of trying new things, but they also get paralyzed. Fear is part of it. If you’ve got 300 employees and you’re worried about making payroll, it doesn’t matter if you’re scared, you’ve got to figure out a way to do it. Working through tough things like trying new things. Probably the other one that comes up a lot is the fact that entrepreneurs who are going to succeed have to have a plan. They have to have a goal. If you’re not working toward something, you may pivot 100 times. You may change that goal but if you don’t have momentum, it’s hard to go from a stop. You’ve constantly got to be moving forward. If you have to pivot, that’s good too but don’t sit still.
Many entrepreneurs are paralyzed by fear. They’re paralyzed by the fact that they may not know exactly or have to get outside their comfort zone and don’t know where to go or to talk to.
I talk to people all the time and go, “You have such a glamorous job. I would never get up and speak in front of a group.” I didn’t start off as like, “Everybody I can talk to you about the stuff that I’m an expert on.” I can remember when I was 25 years old, I gave a presentation and I was horrible. Have you ever sat in that presentation where you’re like, “This guy is a chump?” That was because you were in my presentation 27 years ago and my boss at the time said to me, “You can’t be in sales and not be able to speak to a group.” He pushed me into Toastmasters and I thought, “This sucks.” After I did it a few times, I ended up getting good at it. I ended up going far in a contest and I’d make my living doing that way. It was getting out of the comfort zone and showing up at that Toastmasters meeting. I remind myself of that all the time. I reminded myself of that when I did stand up for the first time.
My daughter is into boulder climbing. She goes to a rock gym and I decided I would go with her. She taught me how to climb. She was doing all these ones where she’s upside down on the ceiling and I was like, “How does one do that like Spiderman?” I went up the little yellow ones that were like little ladders of rocks, but I’m scared of heights. She had me go up on this one where you end up on top. She was like, “Stand up.” Climbing down, they have like a little down chute. It was not comfortable for me. My heart was pounding, and I was reminded of how uncomfortable I am with heights. She had me do it again. I ended up doing it three or four times and the fourth time, I was like, “I can do this.” I remembered that this is what we have to do with fear if it’s not like death fear. I wasn’t going to die even if I fell it was only fifteen feet off the ground. It was like nine mattresses under me. I probably would have been hurt but I had to do it a few times. I could go back and do it tomorrow without any problem.
It’s true you were not afraid to try new things. You were not afraid to tell your kids, “You can do anything you want but I’m not going to do it.”
I will say that somebody said, “Would you go back to the Boulder gym?” My hands, fingers, joints hurt the first day and my forearms. The next day I woke up and my legs from walking and those big mattress things and chasing her around while she was doing purples and harder ones. Next day, my ass and my legs were hurting. I was like, “Maybe I’m just too old. At least I tried.” There was one thing you asked about like somebody wants to start a podcast. If you want to start a podcast is going with the long tail thought. I am getting the opportunities four years and 400 episodes later. I’m getting that big pop. I’m getting more listeners but I’m getting hired to speak. I’m getting referred at least. I don’t always get the job but I’m getting referred more often than ever because the podcast has legs.
When people say, “You’ve been known for four years and 400 episodes,” that’s better than doing it for three weeks and seven episodes. Look at the podcast as I’m going to do this for a long time before I’m going to know if there’s value. When you think, “I don’t want to do this anymore,” keep doing it for a while. Make a commitment to do your show once or twice a week at least for a year. Most people get into it and after seven episodes are like, “I haven’t made $1 million. Sponsors aren’t calling me. I only have 100 downloads. I’m going to quit.” 100% of the people who quit never pop to that next level.
That’s with anything whether you’re doing a podcast, doing a regular webinar series or any type of marketing. Give it some time. People are going to fall over and like, “I’ll hire you. I’m going to fund your deal. I’m going to give you assets to buy in our neck of the woods.” You’ve got to be consistent about that. I see people, “You have a new podcast.” I’m like, “What episode are you on?” “Ten.” “How long?” “I’m going to do it for a year.”
The people who do what I call the occasional podcast, every time that they’re on there, they’re like, “I know it’s been seven weeks since I’ve done that but thanks for being here.” Maybe they’re different than I am. If I didn’t do my podcast regularly, I wouldn’t have an audience. There are people out there who have more religious followings than I do. If you’re not famous and you don’t have people who want to hang on everything you do, you have to have consistency. If I miss a show, and I’ve missed a few over the years, I’ll hear from somebody going, “I listen to you on Tuesdays when I drive or Wednesdays, there was no Tuesday show.” It was like, “Sorry, I was traveling. I didn’t get around to it.” They’re like, “I listen to you on my Wednesday drive.” I treated it as I have a schedule and I have to get it out. I’ve missed twelve shows in four years.
The thing I consider, if somebody is going to take the time to tell you, how many people did not take the time to tell you? It’s only about 5%. One out of twenty people takes the time to drop an email or text message.
Less than that. Probably near from one in 200 people who listen to my show regularly.
I didn’t do one for about a week and people start text messaging, “Are you okay? Are you sure you’re not sick?” They’re calling other people, “Have you heard from Scott? I haven’t seen him.” That’s a good thing. You start to do something good when people start to ask if you’re sick. I went on a three-week hiatus. We took a three-week European vacation. Instead of not doing shows for that time frame, I had to record a lot. I turn it over to eight of my students and they ran with the show. It was nice seeing how they evolve over that three-week period. Initially nervous at the beginning and in the end, you’re getting them to shut up. One of the things too, coming back to where is podcasting or speak and you hit the nail on the head there. Give it some time. Don’t look at the failure. The first webinar I did, I had two people on. I’ve been doing webinars every week almost since April 2011. People don’t show up, you’ve got to give them time to see. You said something important that you’ve got to touch base with people with five to seven times before they take you seriously.
Seven to ten times before they know you exist. We live in a very noisy world. Everybody’s like, “Look at me, Twitter. Look at me, Instagram. Look at me, Facebook.” If you don’t have some consistency whether it’s digital or in person, it’s easy to forget. I ran into somebody I hadn’t seen in five years who had only met once but they had seen me speak and they were like, “Thom.” I had no idea who they were and they were offended. They go, “We talked after your speech.” I’m like, “Which of the 800 speeches was that?” I was nice but I don’t know who they are. I was sad that they were sad that I didn’t remember. If we’ve only met once and we’re not corresponding digitally, I shouldn’t have felt bad. I did feel bad because they felt bad.
That same thing happened to me. I had to call somebody up in Minnesota. I was looking at their profile, “Have I met this guy before?” No post on LinkedIn, which I spent a long time on. No posts on Facebook except the picture of their family. I was like, “I think I’ve met this guy before.” I called him and talked on the phone, “I don’t know if we met before,” “Yes, we’ve met and talked a couple of times.” I was like, “I don’t remember you.”
I don’t get a lot of gigs from things where I haven’t had contact with people. They saw me on social media. I was the master of ceremonies for a three-day event. When we had our initial call and they got the CEO on the phone and I was like, “How did you guys find me?” He goes, “You have a good reputation, but I’ve been following you on social media for a long time.” He goes, “The fact that you work a lot gives me peace of mind to hire you.” I was like, “There you go. There’s my one Instagram, Twitter client.” He said, “You post and you’re out there.” He goes, “You’re always very pro-meetings, business and pro-associations. I’ve always liked that, and I’ve always followed you.” We never met. He didn’t know me, but he saw the little drip. I played in his field and then he hired me. I wish that happened every day but it does happen.
One of the big things that we like to tell people is, “You never know who is watching or following you.” Sometimes it takes people three months, six months or even longer to find the courage to reach out. Find someone that they have a reason to reach out to you, but you want to be fresh in their minds when they do.
That’s why I love to go on shows like your podcast. I love to go on shows because people who listen to podcasts are more apt to listen to another podcast. I love to have podcasters on my show. I love to go on their show because you never know when that one person is going to be like, “I’ll check this out.” They tell two friends and so on like the old hair commercial.
Thom, what’s a big goal you’ve got set for 2019?
2017 was my record year. I’d grown the business every year after year. 2017 was the delightful number I’ve wanted to make. The family was able to take more vacations. I fell on my little like, “Aren’t I cool?” I know that quite happen in your industry. 2018 wasn’t a bad year. Nobody’s business to share my numbers but if I was to share numbers, people go, “You did good.” It wasn’t as good as 2017. Part of what I’m trying to do is regroup in my mind and get over myself. Act as I did ten years ago when I first started speaking and maybe act like I did four years ago when I first started the podcast. Be a little humbler and be a little hungrier. My goal is to have a record year numbers-wise financially but at the same time, I want to be at peace with the fact that I’m fortunate. April 1st will mark ten years that I’ve been working full-time as my only income. The ten years that my whole income has been from being a speaker, trainer and a master of ceremonies. I make a little bit of money. I do a little bit of coaching.
Sometimes people want to become a speaker and they come to me and they go, “Can you help me?” For years I said, “No.” What I’m doing is I have a set of criteria. I only help people who meet the criteria. I call it a professional level speech. It doesn’t mean they have to have been paid. The speaking business isn’t about being paid. Sometimes you speak, and you pick up clients. You might make more money than I did from the client I picked up. They’ve had to have given 25 of what I call professional level speeches. I want to make sure that you don’t get asked to do 25 of them unless you have something going on for you. They have to prove to me that they’re a kick-ass expert in whatever their topic is. I only work with a handful of people that pull out most people who say, “Will you work with me?” I’ll coach them on the sense of what I’ve learned from the business.
I don’t make $1 million a year. If you want to go get coached by Tony Robbins, do it. He makes millions and millions of dollars a year. He also charges more for that coaching than I do. There’s a little bit of a tradeoff. I want to help people avoid a lot of the pitfalls that exist. Here’s the thing about the speaking industry, people think it’s the speaking industry. It’s ten or twelve different business models. Colin Powell isn’t my competitor and yet he makes most of his income as a professional speaker, but nobody sits around going, “Should we have the former Secretary of State speak at this conference or should we have Thom Singer?” This doesn’t come up. He gets $40,000 or $50,000 for 45 minutes. He flies and he speaks. I get paid a lot less and I usually stay for a couple of days. It’s a different business model. I don’t run head-to-head.
One time an association was looking at me and the CEO liked me. He kept pushing for me, so they started with ten people. They narrowed it down to two. Their budget was bigger than me, but the CEO was pushing for me. They narrowed it down to me and Biz Stone. They were having these interviews. They back to back interviewed us on the phone. The committee sat and talked about it. Biz Stone is one of the founders of Twitter. They ended up picking Biz Stone. He costs $25,000 and at the time I was $10,000. The lady said that she thought I was going to be better, more relevant but the committee wanted somebody famous and they had the money for it. I’ve never looked at that, that I lost that deal. It never should have been. If they had that budget and the committee wanted fame, he and I were in different business models. I’ve always looked at that you have to realize, “What am I speaking for? What’s my ideal client? What’s my purpose?” Figure out what slice of the pie you’re going after. I have some ideas on how you can jump in and do it.
Do you have any advice for those looking for more speaking opportunities? Things that they should focus on things that you started doing when you were first kicking things off or evolved over the last couple of years.
If you’re starting off, you have to decide, “Am I doing this to promote my business? Am I doing this to become a professional speaker?” Know your purpose but then go speak. Speakers speak. They ask Stephen King one time. Somebody came up to him and said, “I want to be a writer.” Stephen King said, “What do you write?” The man or the woman said, “I don’t, I want to be.” He goes, “No, writers don’t think. Writers write.” It’s inside of you. You have to sit down and write. If you want to be a writer that means you should be sitting down writing something. They’re like, “I don’t think it would be that good.” He goes, “It doesn’t matter if it’s published. It doesn’t matter if you share it. Writers write from their soul.” I’ve stolen that when I say, “Speakers speak.” If you want to be a speaker, you go speak. I’ll be fully transparent with you. Remember that $9 billion lottery? I didn’t win it but if I had won it, I would still speak.
I’m sure I’ll speak over 75 times between some small local stuff and some big national stuff. I tell people, “That’s not 70 different clients.” If I’m at a conference I can do the keynote and two breakouts. That’s one fee but I’m speaking to three different speeches. I’ll do over 75 talks throughout the year and have for years. Some of those when I started off were Young Men’s Business League, Rotary Clubs, association for corporate growth people who didn’t pay me. Sometimes I’ll do that because I can try new material at a free thing. If I won the $9 billion, I would still speak 50 to 100 times a year. I would do it for free because it wouldn’t matter. I would tell people, “I want to come to speak in your high school. I want to come to this. I’ll donate to you if you let me speak.” I find ways to say yes to speaking. I will do that my whole life even if financially it didn’t matter anymore.
When you do something you love, it doesn’t become work. It becomes being able to get paid, it is something you enjoy and it’s something that you end up doing no matter what it is.
I do like it. I wanted to be an actor or a comedian as a kid. Part of it there’s a little bit of ego. You want to be up on the stage. Sometimes speakers say, “I have no ego. It’s all about serving the audience.” Very few people say, “Put me on stage,” unless they want to be up there to teach and to share. Part of it is you feel you have something to share. Beyond the fact of wanting to be on stage, I do like when I can have an impact in a positive way whether it’s entertaining, life-changing ideas or something they can put into practice for their business. It’s that combination of, “I like the skill. I like to flex that muscle of being on stage and being good at it.” I also love the fact when people come up and say, “I took your advice and here’s what happened.” There’s nothing like that in the world.
Thom, what’s the best way for people to reach out and get ahold of you?
Thom, thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to join us here. Once again, ThomSinger.com or check them him out on Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do podcast. You will love it and get some great nuggets and obviously stay laughing. It’s a lot of good comedy on there as well. Thom once again, thanks so much. We’ll get together definitely. We’ve got to get the Austin podcasters to meet some other time then on Saturday morning when I’m on the road. We’ll see you later, Thom. Thanks so much. Check out ThomSinger.com or Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do, you will not be disappointed. Make sure to like it, subscribe it and add it to your regular playlist. Otherwise, go up take some action. Do some new things, try new things and we’ll see you later.
- Thom Singer
- Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do
- Connecting With People In A Gadget Crazed World
- Think and Grow Rich: Three Feet from Gold
- Balcones Toastmasters
- Thom Singer’s books
About Thom Singer
Thom Singer’s first job was a busboy at “The Big Yellow House Restaurant” in Southern California. It was in this role that he discovered the importance of customizing his work for whomever he had the honor to serve. From the vast number of customers who dined in the restaurant, to the three or four wait-staff whom he helped each night, Thom realized that you have to make personal connections and find ways to relate differently to each audience if you want to find more success.
Having worked as a keynote speaker and professional master of ceremonies for almost ten years, he has become an advocate for creating strong experiences for conference attendees. He has come to see the role of a speaker as more than a commodity that fills a space in the agenda. He knows that the speakers can set the tone for the whole event, and he takes his job very seriously.
In today’s distracted work environment, there is a disconnect between social media “likes”, “links”, “shares” and “follows” and real meaningful business connections. Thom’s work centers around helping people get back to the basics of relationships that lead to better opportunities and more sales. He focuses on the importance of helping everyone get closer to their own potential, and that of their organization.