00:00 Michael Port: Welcome to Steal the Show with Michael Port. This is Michael. Today’s guest is Thom Singer, and he has an eclectic background working in sales, marketing, and business development for Fortune 500 companies, law firms, and entrepreneurial ventures. He’s a professional master of ceremonies, motivational keynote speaker and the author of 11 books, and the power of business development, networking, entrepreneurship, legal marketing and presentation skills, while also serving as the host of the popular Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do podcast. He regularly speaks at businesses and association conferences around the United States and beyond and has presented to over 600 audiences during his career as a speaker. Hey Thom.
00:50 Thom Singer: Hey Michael. Thanks for having me.
00:51 Michael Port: You’re very welcome. Thank you for being here. I’ve been told that you’re a conference catalyst.
01:00 Thom Singer: Yes.
01:00 Michael Port: What the heck is that?
01:01 Thom Singer: That’s a term that I came up with because I was doing something a little different as a speaker and the fact that I wasn’t just speaking about the topic I covered, which was sort of getting connected in this gadget-crazy world, your network, your brand, but I was also taking the content and sort of spinning it around and talking about how do we make this event that we’re at, the best event that you’re gonna go to all year. And it started to having a real effect on the way people engaged in network and showed up at the conference. And then somebody said to me, “Gosh, you’re like the conference catalyst.” And that stuck.
01:34 Michael Port: What are some of the things that you did that produced that catalytic effect?
01:39 Thom Singer: Well, people go to live events, to network. We can say what we want, but that’s really to be in the community, is one of the reasons that we show up. Now, it used to be that you went to events because that was the only place you were gonna get the cutting edge information in your industry. But today, Michael, every bit of information you could want about just about any industry is right there in your cellphone. You don’t have to go to the event to get information because you can download the information. People go for the networking opportunities, but once they get there, oftentimes, they stink at it and they sit with their friends or they’re buried in their own phone, in their own email and they don’t actually do what they came there to do which was to make meaningful connections with other people who are attending that same conference. What I do is I give people permission, I set the tone to make the event about the people.
02:34 Michael Port: It’s so true. It’s a little scary, isn’t it? Sometimes, you go with the best of intentions, but sometimes, you find yourself staying in your hotel room because going up to people that you don’t know and chatting can be a little bit intimidating. People are often surprised, but I’m much more of an introvert than one would think. Often, we’ve conflate the terms shy and introvert as if they are the same thing. But even though I can perform and speak, large crowds are sometimes overwhelming to me. If I go to a conference by myself, oftentimes, I’ll stay out of the crowd and that’s not good. But if I go with my wife, then I’m more comfortable. I have somebody there to support me. How do they get over that concern or that fear that they have of being around so many people?
03:28 Thom Singer: Well, and you are right. It’s sort of people think it has to do with this introvert-extrovert spectrum that people are on. And while that is part of it and I am more of an extrovert and people say, “Well, how can you talk about this stuff because you’re an extrovert?” Well, I’m married to an introvert and so I go through it. Every time we go to an event, I know what it is for somebody who that’s not your natural thing. You don’t get your energy from being in a big crowd. In fact, it’s just the opposite. It can be very draining for some people to be in a big crowd. But what I’ve learned is it’s not that introverts don’t like people, they just don’t like 500 of them all at once.
04:02 Michael Port: Yeah. That’s right.
04:03 Thom Singer: One of the things I talk about is, how do we get the 500-person conference down to the two or three people that you’re in a conversation with? And when I talk about this, I sort of use the example and it only works for those of us who are over 40 years old, of the old TV show Get Smart. Do you remember Agent 86?
04:21 Michael Port: Of course.
04:22 Thom Singer: Agent Smart, when he would meet with the chief, they would bring down the cone of silence and they would sit under this big plastic bubble. Now of course, the joke was, the cone of silence never worked, but they would sit in this big bubble. And what I remind people is, just because there’s 500 people at the conference, whoever you’re talking to, that’s a one-on-one conversation. That’s the first thing, is to get over the overwhelm because when we walk in to these conferences, especially if you show up a little late, like fashionably late, 15 minutes after the cocktail party starts, it almost seems like everybody in the room, it almost seems like they all went to kindergarten together and you’re like, “How did 500 people all know each other before they showed up in Orlando?”
05:01 Thom Singer: The first thing is to realize that there’s a lot of people just like you who don’t like to talk to people, don’t like to start the conversation. And once you realize that that’s common for a lot of the people who are there, then it takes on a different thing because then you’re there trying to help other people, because you know it’s difficult for them. You look for that person who’s alone and you say, “God, I hate these big events.” And all of a sudden, it sort of gets going. That’s the first part, is bringing it down to the fact that you can only talk to one or two people at a time, remind yourself that that’s all that you have.
05:32 Thom Singer: And then the other piece of it is, is reminding yourself of why you’re there. If you really are there to meet other people in your industry who are attending, then you have to make that a priority. I often challenge people to make it a game. Just say, “Okay, I’m gonna go to this lunch and I’m gonna sit at a table where I don’t know anybody at that table. And if I do that, I can have the dessert or whatever it is.” And it becomes really easy for people. And once I’ve been on stage, either as the master of ceremonies or as the opening keynote, talking about all this stuff, it sort of becomes the culture of the event that it is totally okay to walk up to a stranger and say hello.
06:09 Michael Port: Oh that’s nice. And if I can get the dessert for doing it, I’m in.
06:13 Thom Singer: That’s right. Or maybe two desserts because there’s always someone who doesn’t eat dessert at the table, so you can eat yours and theirs.
06:19 Michael Port: Oh fantastic. I’m in, done. We focus on performance skills on the show and not just on the stage, but in all aspects of life. And when you’re at these events and you’re sitting with folks and meeting them, whether you’re in a group or one on one, there are elements of performance that you can draw upon that can help you make better connection because the performer’s job is in large part to make connection, not to do a song and a dance or to show off, but to make connections. Do you see elements of performance in this kind of networking and connecting that people can do at conferences?
07:07 Thom Singer: It’s interesting because I haven’t actually thought of it that way, but you are right. A great performer isn’t showing off for doing a song and a dance, a great performer really is emoting. They’re having that emotional connection like when I go to a play, if the actor is great, they’ve touched me sort of at that soul level. And I haven’t thought of it in that direct comparison, but yeah, absolutely. That if you’re remembering that your purpose when you’re out networking isn’t to get something, but it’s to create that mutual connection.
07:40 Thom Singer: A lot of people have a misnomer of what it is to network and it makes me mad because people oftentimes say, “Oh, I hate networking.” Well, if you look up the definition, the definition of networking is just the creation of long-term and mutually beneficial relationships between two or more people where everybody finds more success because of the relationship. Well, what is there to hate about that? What we’ve come to hate is schmoozy fakeness. Well, that’s really not networking, that’s schmoozy fakeness. I think you’re right that when you’re out there, if you’re realizing that element, that your job is to emotionally connect with other people, then it’s gonna work so much better for you. I think that is a great analogy.
08:20 Michael Port: We often assign negative values to things that make us uncomfortable. We say, “We hate networking.” This way, we don’t have to do it because why would we do something that we hate? And maybe we hate it because we don’t feel comfortable and it frustrates us that other people do, so we say, “Oh, they’re schmoozy and I don’t like them. I can’t do what they do so I don’t like it.” The same thing with performance, “Well, I don’t… Performance is phony and I don’t wanna be phony.” We assign these negative terms when networking is a benign term in and of itself. It’s just a word. Performance is just a word. But how we relate to these concepts is very important. And I really love how you relate to the idea of networking and how important it is to find actually more fulfilment and connection with other people.
09:16 Michael Port: Then you mentioned emoting, performers often emote. Great performers, they will show you that you will see their feelings because they’re being affected by other people because acting is in large part listening. That’s really what acting is about, it’s about listening and reacting to what’s coming at you. And that’s gonna produce emotion and it’s gonna then produce intention and action from you. Can you talk about listening when it comes to networking, connecting with other people? Because sometimes we feel that we’re supposed to go in there and have whole bunch of great, impressive things to say and we don’t do a lot of listening.
10:01 Thom Singer: Well, one of the big misnomers in people who go out and teach networking is they spend a lot of time. And companies invest a lot of money teaching people how to create an elevator pitch or an elevator statement. And the idea being that if we got an elevator together and we rode down 30 floors and I realized that, “Oh Michael, so I could be in his podcast. We could do business together.” I flick a switch in my back and go, “Hi, my name is Thom Singer, I’m a professional master in ceremonies and speakers. I’ve written 11 books.” Just blah, blah, blah, just verbal vomit all over you. Now, the problem is, if I really did in an elevator, Michael, what would you do when we get to the lobby?
10:34 Michael Port: I would run.
10:35 Thom Singer: Everybody says, “I would run.” Nobody has ever come back and said, “I would invite you to Starbucks to learn more.” The fact is that, if we lead with that elevator pitch, we’re not listening. We’re just reciting some rehearsed, memorized quippy little thing about ourselves. What I try to teach people is, there’s a time and a place to know how to describe yourself. Learn your elevator pitch and then file it away. Don’t ever lead with it. Lead with questions. If you can get the other person to talk, they’re actually gonna find you more interesting. They’ve done surveys of people who go on blind dates and the person who talks the most says, “I love him. I hope we get married and have three kids.” And the person who talks the least says, “Yeah, I’m not sure if I wanna have another date.”
11:19 Thom Singer: The same thing is true for networking. You wanna get the other person to open up. You want to have a series of questions, ask people why did they attend the event, more than just, “Where do you work and what’s your name? Why did you attend the event? What are you trying to accomplish in your job this year?” Lots of open-ended questions. And then the key is, listen to their answers. Because so often, people ask a question and while the other person is talking, they’re thinking, “What can I say next?” If you can get the other person to talk and then listen, a conversation will explode because they’ll say something to which you have a connection. They’ll talk about where they went to college or where their first job was or what they’re trying to accomplish this year. There’s gonna be something that touches up to something that you have in common.
12:04 Thom Singer: And once you find something like they have something that you have in common, now you can talk it, it brings you closer together. You need to be looking for similarities. Adam Grant calls it in his book, Give and Take, he calls it uncommon commonalities that we need to look for. He says that too often in life, we’re living on this superficial plane where if we can dig deeper and look for things that we have in common with the person we’re talking to that we don’t have in common with everybody in the room, then you’re gonna have a better chance of building a real relationship. The only way you’re gonna get to an uncommon commonality is you have to listen to what they’re saying.
12:40 Michael Port: What’d you say?
12:43 Thom Singer: That’s funny.
12:43 Michael Port: Thank you. Thank you. No, it is so true. I’ve been in conversations where the person will stop talking and I’ll have no idea what they just said because I was thinking about what I was gonna say next. Then I forget what I was gonna say next because it wasn’t relevant to actually what they were saying and I didn’t even know what they were saying and then there’s this weird awkward pause. I often look for… First of all, we’re kindred spirits because the fourth chapter of my first book, Book Yourself Solid, is about killing the elevator speak, so I am with you a 100%. The only time people wanna hear a speech is when they are in an audience and someone else is on stage and they have gone to see that person give a speech, but not when they’re in an elevator. That’s for sure.
13:26 Thom Singer: Amen.
13:27 Michael Port: I’m with you on that. One of the things that I do because sometimes I’m not sure how to do the small talk, sometimes it’s… I know it’s another thing about that’s surprising because you think, “How could someone be a professional teacher of public speaking communication and not be good at small talk?” Well, because the two things are not necessarily the same. What I’ll do is I will try to talk about things that I see in front of me with that person. Maybe their shoes or something their computer that they’re carrying. I might ask them questions about those things. If someone is carrying a Razer computer and I’ve never seen one in person, but I heard about it, I might ask them about that and then we have a conversation that we can engage in that’s around something that’s not obvious, not an obvious question that I might be asking that I think will elicit some kind of important connection professionally or something. Do you think that… Have you ever done that? Do you find value in that looking for things right around you to speak on to talk about?
14:41 Thom Singer: Sure, because we build relationships through shared experiences. If you’re at a conference and the Beach Boys are playing and you ask them, “Hey, have you ever seen the Beach Boys in concert before?” They might hate the Beach Boys. But they might say, “Oh my God, they’re my favorite band.” Well, I gotta tell you, if you find somebody that the Beach Boys is their favorite band, you’ve found an uncommon commonality because I’m the only person I know who the Beach Boys is my favorite band.
15:07 Thom Singer: But if that’s who’s playing at the conference, and I’ve actually been at conferences where they’ve played, all of a sudden, you find someone who’s a Beach Boys fan, where were you the first time you heard a Beach Boy song or something about that. Then yes, the thing in the room that you’re sharing in that experience then can lead you to other conversations. The trick is, is once a conversation starts, if you’re tuned in and you’re listening to what they’re talking about, then you can find those commonalities. Now, the trick is don’t be a Baser. If somebody talks about fly fishing for some reason, don’t go, “Oh, I love fly fishing,” if you’ve never once put on waders and been out in a lake or a river. See, I don’t even fly fish.
15:47 Michael Port: Yeah. A couple of friends of mine were talking about this the other day, where sometimes, somebody will say something and they’re going quickly and you’re not exactly sure what they’re referencing or talking about, but you find yourself nodding as if you do. And then a minute later, you’re very confused because you didn’t understand the thing they said and then you don’t wanna go back. “Well listen, I nodded as if I knew what you’re talking about, but I had no idea what the heck you were talking about.” We find ourselves in that position like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Uh-oh, shoot. “BEEP”. Oh no.” I was talking about finance with somebody the other day and that happened. And I was talking to them and they stopped and they said, “I’ve been nodding for about three minutes trying to seem like I know what you’re talking about, but I have no idea what you’re talking about. I gotta be honest with you.”
16:33 Thom Singer: That’s actually great on their part because that was one of the things I was gonna say. If you ever find yourself in a position where it’s there, just own it. I’ve always found like if someone comes up to me and goes, “Thom,” and starts having a conversation with me like we’re old friends, I can play along for a second. But if my mind doesn’t catch up and tell me where I know them, I will actually just stop them and say, “I’m really embarrassed, but I can’t place how we know each other.”
16:57 Thom Singer: Now, most of the time, someone will go, “Oh, I saw you because you were the master of ceremonies at that event I went to last year. We never met.” I’m like, “Well, that’s really not fair to me, how would I know, you talk so familiar.” But sometime, it’s somebody who goes, “Oh, well, we used to live on the same block two houses ago.” And it’s just out of context and my mind just didn’t place it together, so I just usually own it. And same thing, if someone’s talking about something and you don’t know what they’re saying, you can say, “I thought I knew what you were saying and let’s back up.” And people usually are pretty respectful if you’re honest and sincere.
17:29 Michael Port: Yeah. People seem to like sincerity. I think they do. I think people seem to like that. The other thing that I try to avoid when I’m doing that small talk and commenting on things that are around us is not to be negative about them. For example, let’s say, I don’t know, Britney Spears’ music was playing and I met somebody and I’m talking and I say, “Oh,” I mention the Britney Spears thing. I’ll be like, “Isn’t Britney Spears ridiculous? I don’t understand.” Worse, like, “She can’t sing.” Not a great way to start a conversation because that person may say, “Yeah, Britney is actually my cousin.” That was pretty rude. But the way you presented it was, you might ask, “Are you a Britney Spears fan?” And if they say, “Yeah, I’m a huge fan,” you don’t have to be a fan, but you can talk to them about when they got into Britney. And it doesn’t matter that you’re not a big fan, but it’s still a conversation that you can have and still be honest about, “Well, I’m not a big fan. I never really connected deeply to it, but it’s pretty cool how you have and what you’ve done with it.”
18:35 Thom Singer: And the same thing is true of politics because lots of times people will say, we have two candidates now, somebody will say something about one of the candidates like, “Oh my god, I hate him,” or “I hate her.” And you don’t really know who’s in the room, you might have somebody with a different political view. Or if you say, “Anyone who supports that candidate is an idiot.” Well, you might have just loss any chance of that. We can do business and have great relationships with people who have diversity and different backgrounds and different beliefs than we do. I don’t think we have to always jump in that we’re so right about everything. Oftentimes, it pushes people away, so I think the same thing is true not just for if you’re a Britney fan, but with politics and religion, et cetera.
19:18 Michael Port: Absolutely. What percentage of your work is as a master of ceremonies versus a keynote speaker?
19:30 Thom Singer: I think my master of ceremonies work is probably up to about 20%, and it’s growing, but I also do sort of a hybrid. Sometimes, I’m the opening keynoter and then I stay as the emcee or I stay working with the emcee because I’m trying to keep this life of connecting along, but pure emcee work is probably about 20% right now.
19:52 Michael Port: One of the things that you mentioned… On your site, you have a list of beliefs, which I really appreciated. I liked that. You’re stating right up front, “Here’s what I believe, here’s the way I see the world,” and you give people the opportunity to connect with you around those things. Now, one of the things you say is you believe in engaging on social media with audiences before, during, and after events. And recently, Neen James was on the show and Neen is a friend of yours and one of the things she was talking about is what she does with social media before, during, and after, and it was a very, very well received by my audience. I wanna talk about that some more because you probably have some ideas that are consistent and also are complementary to what she was sharing. We didn’t spend a lot of time on it, but people commented on it, they wanted to learn how to do this more so that they were more involved in the conference before they got there and stayed involved in the conference after it was over.
20:51 Thom Singer: One of the things, whether I’m the master of ceremonies or a speaker, I will ask the meeting planner, “Do you want me to create a video up front that sort of talks about what I’m gonna talk about?” Because even if I’m the master of ceremonies, I tell people who hire me that I’m a master of ceremonies with content. I am coming in with this whole set of tools on how do you connect with people in our social media crazy world. My job, whether I’m the speaker or the emcee is to remind people that real relationships are more than a like, a link, a share, and a follow. And that’s really important at a conference, before, during, and after.
21:26 Thom Singer: I’ll create a video upfront that they can either post on their social media or they can send out in an email that says, “Hey, this is Thom Singer. I’m gonna serve as your master of ceremonies for this event. We’re gonna have a lot of fun. And this event is very different because it’s all about the people.” And then I’ll go into just setting the tone of who I am and what I’m gonna do, so I’ll do that first of all. The second thing I’ll do is I’ll find out about… Do they have hashtags that they’re using, are they using Instagram, are they using… What are the tools that they’re using? Do they have an app internally? I’ll sign up and download that. And then I will just go through and say things leading up to it like, “Wow, four days until my keynote at XYZ association.” I will play along.
22:08 Thom Singer: And oftentimes before, a lot of the attendees aren’t using it. You see a lot of vendors doing it, but you haven’t got a lot of attendees on yet. When they log on, I already have three or four posts leading up to the days of the conference, so they already have an idea who I am and what I’m gonna talk about which makes them feel a little bit more familiar with me. Now obviously, not everybody uses social media or the app, but those who do have sort of a kinship with me before the thing starts.
22:35 Thom Singer: And then part of what I do at the end of a conference, whether I’m speaking or master of ceremonies, is I have this set of tools that you can take away for how do you follow up, how do we keep relationships alive? I’ll go back to the hashtag or back to the app for a week or so afterwards and leave little comments about, “Have you followed up with the three people you met?” And just kind of reiterate what I said on the stage. I use all of that. And almost always, the client is thrilled that I’m doing that.
23:04 Thom Singer: And sometimes if it’s a smaller conference, I will even do a thing, like from the stage, I’ll say, “Hey, let’s play a little game. Whoever has the most interesting tweet today will win a copy of one of my books.” And I tell them, I make a joke out of it going, “I’m the judge, you don’t have to mention my name, but that helps to win.” I make a joke out of it. And then I will go during the break or at the end of the day or overnight, if I’m giving the prize out in the morning, and I’ll go look for who had a funny tweet. And usually, there’s somebody who has a good personality or says something they observed something in the conference. And what happens is that drives more people to using the app or using Twitter. And again, then the meeting planner is thrilled about that.
23:43 Michael Port: Often, when somebody gives a speech, they’ll come on stage and they’ll do a little bit of filler and then they’ll say, “Okay, let’s get started.” And I often point out that they started a long time ago. They didn’t start when they said, “Let’s get started.” And if of course they do say, “Let’s get started,” it suggests that everything they said previously was a waste of time because they hadn’t started yet.
24:11 Michael Port: What you’re suggesting and I think is right on the money is that your speech starts way before you show up there. It starts the very first second they become aware that you are gonna be speaking to them. Maybe they read the description in the program. Well, that’s when your speech started. And then the next time they interact with you is on social media. Well, your presentation has started. All of the interaction that they have with you either through something printed or digitally, that’s part of the material. You’re bringing that part of your personality, you’re bringing your content upfront and the same thing is true afterwards. The speech doesn’t end just when you walk off stage. It carries on. And what you do afterwards is still part of your work and I think it’s all the same speech.
25:04 Thom Singer: And I think that speakers… And the world is changing a little bit. And I think that if you think you’re just gonna fly in, be introduced from backstage, come out, deliver 45 minutes to a standing ovation, sneak out the back, get in a car and drive away and you’re gonna have everybody be thrilled, I think those days have passed. I think now, you have to be engaged on social media, before, during, and after, but also at the conference before, during, and after. If I’m the keynoter or the master of ceremonies, I’m at the event the night before, before it kicks off. I’m at the cocktail party and I’m talking to people and asking them, “Why did you attend?” because I wanna be able to work that in. “Hey, last night, when I was talking to Michael, when we were out at the welcome reception, I met this guy named Michael and he told me the reason he comes to this event is blah blah blah.” All of a sudden, everybody feels that they’re part of the community with me because they know I was there the night before. And then I stay afterwards, at least through the next meal. Sometimes through dinner that night or whatever.
26:00 Thom Singer: And if I’m the emcee, they go off to breakouts. I schedule in my phone when are the cookies and coffee. And I come back out, even if I don’t have to be around for the breakouts because I’m just dealing with the main stage stuff. I come back down and I’m standing by the coffee and I’m having cookies and I’m asking people, “What are you learning?” Because the next time I take the stage for the general session at the end of the day, I need to be able to say, “Hey, Mary told me that the best thing about the breakouts today has been blah blah blah, the inner activity,” or whatever it is. And then everybody notices that I am part of the little society that’s been created rather than just some sage on the stage.
26:38 Michael Port: Yeah, you just called me out. I gotta do more of that. Historically, I’m used to going in, if I’ve got to… If part of the contract is that I go to the dinner the night before with the executive team or the sponsors or whomever, I do that, I go back to my hotel room. I come in for my tack rehearsal, I give my speech. There’s a car waiting. Boom, I’m at the airport, off to the next thing. And it’s not always that bad, but I’m recognizing through what you’re saying. I just need to do more of the online digital social media communication before, during, and after. And I actually don’t love being on those platforms that much, so I gotta find a way to fall in love with it a little bit more so that it’s natural and organic that I want to do it, not forcing myself to do it because I think that’s the right thing to do.
27:34 Thom Singer: Right. And if you remember why am I doing it? I’m doing it because it’s better for the audience. Then all of a sudden, your “want to do it” comes up. This is the thing like I met a guy the other day and he told me, “I never carry business cards because too many yo hos follow up with me.” And he goes, “If you want to find me, just Google me.” And I was like, “Now wait a second, you don’t carry business cards because it makes your life easier.” That’s the wrong reason. You should be thinking of, “Does it make my life easier?” Because the guy and I had a connection where I could really refer some business to him. And I’m like, “You’re asking me to go Google you. If your name is Michael Port, maybe I can find you because you have a best-selling book and you’ve been on TV and all this stuff, but the other Michael Port that I meet at an… “
28:20 Michael Port: I’m getting the emails from the other Michael Ports. That’s how it works. I’ve got the whole Google. Yeah, I’ve got the first two pages of Google, so that other Michael Port and there’s a few others out there, I’ll get the email for them. That’s exactly right. Now, you make such a great point. I’m gonna give an example of something that I do that is just like that, but a little bit different. I actually often don’t carry business cards, but for a very different reason. I often don’t carry business cards specifically so that I don’t have to make them do the work. If they say, “Hey, I’d love to follow up with you, do you have a card?” I might say, “You know what? I don’t have one right here. Give me your card. I’ll send you an email on Monday by 2 o’clock.”
29:02 Thom Singer: Can I jump in because I believe in what you’re saying and I’ve met people who do that. And having known you for years, you used to do like a teleconference call like a decade ago and I used to attend it. I know that when you say you’re gonna do something, you do it because I’ve witnessed you. You have what I call follow-through DNA because I’ve… About you for a decade and I’ve never seen you not follow through. However, there are so many people out there that tell me, “Oh, I don’t carry cards because it gives me the chance to do the follow up.” I take their card and I say, “Oh, I’ll follow up with you.” And then I ask them and I get this a lot. I coach lawyers and I’ll say, “Do you do it 100% of the time?” And they go, “No, because some people I think later on, I don’t wanna follow up with them.” You tell them, “Give me your card, I’ll follow up,” and then you don’t, that kind of makes you insincere. That’s a great way because then you control the follow up, but you have to know that in your soul, you’re a person who does it every time because you don’t want to spend your life being a liar.
30:00 Michael Port: That’s exactly right.
30:00 Thom Singer: I think, for you, it’s great. But I think a lot of people out there just give the person the card if they wanna connect with you. I joke that I meet a lot of people and then people go, they’ll put me on their mailing list. Do you know how many mailing lists I get put on to? Not that many. And do you know what I do if I don’t wanna be there? I unsubscribe.
30:16 Michael Port: Yeah, exactly.
30:17 Thom Singer: This is not a hard thing. Give out your business card. Make it easy for other people to find you unless you’re gonna be super on top of it.
30:24 Michael Port: Yeah. 100%, that’s the key. And I do it in part as a point, do you know? Because one of the things that I have a big focus on in my work is commitment making and fulfilling. And this is a way to demonstrate it. And I think you’re 100% right. If you’re not doing it all the time, you’re not actually following through all the time, then you’re just saying, “Oh, let’s do lunch. Let’s do lunch.”
30:49 Thom Singer: And they don’t do it. And I came up with this term follow-through DNA and I think it’s a rare thing. I don’t think most people are like you. I think most people have great intention, but then they get busy. And I try to remind people that intention doesn’t equal action.
31:03 Michael Port: Yeah, that’s good. That’s good. You’re also booking speakers these days. Is that correct?
31:10 Thom Singer: No.
31:10 Michael Port: No. I don’t know where I got that. I don’t know where I got that one. I thought like that when you’re doing your conference catalyst stuff, you’re also sometimes bringing in the speakers as well as emceeing.
31:22 Thom Singer: Not as like a speakers bureau. One of the things that I do is I work really closely with my clients because finding a speaker is hard. I’m really good because I’m really active in the National Speakers Association. I have 25 really close friends who are speakers and I have access to hundreds and hundreds more. One of the things I offer all my clients is that if you’re looking for still filling your… Especially, if I’m the emcee, if you’re looking to fill with certain types of speakers, let me be a resource. I don’t do that as the speakers bureau although I thought about it. The other thing I do with every single client is I tell them at the end if I’m the keynoter, not so much as the emcee because I usually get invited back for about two or three years as the master of ceremonies.
32:04 Thom Singer: But usually, if I’m the keynoter, I know two things are true. And that is, and I take this from a guy named Ross Bernstein who’s out of Minnesota. And he taught me this, he said, “Two things are true when you finish a speech. When you finish that speech, that organization is going to have a conference next year and almost always they don’t want you back as the keynote speaker because people like to shake it up and have different speakers every year.” I tell every client, “Now that I know your organization, please for next year, let me make some referrals because I know some people who would wow your audience.” I’m very involved in sharing leads with my clients, but I haven’t actually turned that into being a speakers bureau, yet.
32:45 Michael Port: That’s exactly right. Speakers get speaker’s work, period, full stop, the end. Often, when people are coming into the business, they ask, “How do I get the speakers bureau or the speaker’s agent?” And I say, “It’s great, it’s a really great question to ask yourself and to learn about and to pursue if it’s something you wanna pursue. But first thing’s first and it’s a heck of a lot easier, make friends with speakers, because they’re the… “
33:12 Thom Singer: And the other thing is that if you make it a practice of always referring a couple of people to every client, that client will remember you two or three years later when they’re ready to rebook you more than if you don’t. And every now and then a speaker will say, “Well, I don’t want to give out names because maybe they want me next year.” In a 100 keynotes, I’ve probably been invited… My last 100 keynotes, I’ve probably been invited back two years in a row to two of them. I would rather give up those two by referring, referring, referring, because what happens is, those two who booked me, they looked at all my referrals and they were all great. And they said, “Yeah, we think we just want Thom back.”
33:45 Michael Port: Yeah. Last question. You do a podcast called Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do, and I was very fortunate to be on that podcast maybe a year ago?
33:56 Thom Singer: Something like that, yeah.
33:57 Michael Port: Yeah. What’s one of the coolest things that you do as an entrepreneur?
34:04 Thom Singer: I think the actual answer to that sort of loops back to the question in the fact that I think the coolest thing that I have done in the last year and a half is my podcast. I’ve been teaching sort of networking in connecting skills for a decade and I have never run across a better tool for me to meet whoever I want than my podcast. I’ve been able to interview the CEO of Ghirardelli Chocolate. I’ve been able to interview Michael Port. I’ve interviewed a lot of my friends.
34:33 Thom Singer: I’ve only had a couple of people say no to me. And one was an honest-to-goodness big time celebrity. I wanted to interview Barbara Corcoran and she said no to me. But that’s okay. Maybe someday she’ll say yes to me. And then the other person was a person who was in the quiet period because he was taking his company public and couldn’t talk. The only two people who’ve ever said no had legit reasons for not saying yes. And everybody else, I say, “Hey, I wanna have you on my podcast,” people are interested in doing it. I interview entrepreneurs, CEOs, business leaders, really, anybody who has an entrepreneurial spirit. It allows me to be able to open the door. And after you have a conversation with somebody for a half hour, now you sort of have a basis for a friendship. It’s led to me actually being hired as a speaker or as a master of ceremonies.
35:19 Thom Singer: And then also, I use my podcast with my clients because I’m gonna be at their conference. I’m like, “Do you have any VIPs you want me to interview? Do you have anybody in your industry who’s really entrepreneurial?” And then I get guests and the association is thrilled that I just interviewed one of their VIPs for my show. I would say the coolest thing that I’ve done is just really dived in or dove in to this podcast because it has opened up a lot of doors, it’s been a lot of fun. And the unexpected thing is, one of the things as master of ceremonies I’m asked to do a lot is after someone like you, Michael, gives a keynote, people will say, “We don’t ever have luck with Q&A.” I’ll advise my clients in advance, “Let me come back out. We’ll sit in a couple of HighBoys and I’ll interview your speaker.” And I always get feedback on how well I do interviewing the speaker after their speech. And the only reason is, is I’ve done 175 interviews on the podcast. I mean, the podcast taught me to be able to draw people out deeper answers.
36:19 Michael Port: That’s fantastic. There’s a couple things in there that are really key. One is, your podcast works in part because of your follow through. You’re not just doing it because, “Well, I’ll do some, I got the podcast, then I’ll be able to ask guests and I’ll network and then I’ll meet them and they’ll hire me.” You are consistent with it. You are committed to it. And there aren’t many blips on the road, that’s a terrible analogy, but you know what I’m talking about. You’re doing it. You’re getting it done.
36:47 Thom Singer: It comes out every Tuesday and Thursday and sometimes maybe late. I think only once did it roll to Friday morning, but I get it done because I made a commitment to the fact that I’m gonna do this and I don’t have a giant listenership, but the people who listen, if I’m late, I’ll get emails. No episode, it’s Tuesday at 5 o’clock. There’s no episode.
37:06 Michael Port: And that’s what makes it cool. I think that’s what makes it cool. And the other thing you mentioned was the Q&A after a keynote with a host. I generally suggest that people don’t do Q&A at the end of their speech for a number of reasons.
37:26 Thom Singer: I agree.
37:27 Michael Port: One of them is because you now are not in charge of the energy in the room in the same way. You’re not… Yeah.
37:36 Thom Singer: Give up your ending.
37:38 Michael Port: Exactly. You give up your ending. You’re giving it over to the room. Now, if you wanna do Q&A and you wanna put it in at the 35-minute mark for 10 minutes and then you close out after that, that’s fine. But I think I’m a huge fan of what you’re talking about which is you do your keynote, then they take a break, then you come back and you have someone great interviews you on the stage is the filter for the questions, and then you have a lot more control. But it’s an entirely different segment and it feels different to the audience and you have a lot more control over what’s going on.
38:11 Thom Singer: And that’s the reason that organizations need to hire professional master of ceremonies because it’s a skill unto itself and you just can’t throw your head of sales or your association president out there to do all of the emcee duties and then have them go out and try to interview somebody because there’s a reason that Larry King was such a great interviewer and that Howard Stern is so great, and part of that is they’ve done millions of interviews.
38:33 Michael Port: That’s right.
38:34 Thom Singer: And I can tell you, the more I do, the better I get. It’s like speaking. I think, in order to be a great speaker, you have to be on stage 300 times, and it just comes with experience and the same thing is true for interviewing people. You can’t just ask anybody to be that person sitting in the HighBoy next to the keynoter. But if you get someone with the ability to do it, you can make a whole… Like you said, a whole other experience that makes everybody go, “Wow.”
39:00 Michael Port: That’s fantastic. Listen, conferencecatalyst.com, conferencecatalyst.com is where you’ll find Thom.
39:07 Thom Singer: Or thomsinger.com also.
39:08 Michael Port: Or thomsinger.com. I had no intention of making a rhyme with conferencecatalyst.com and Thom, but thomsinger.com. Go check him out. There’s some things there that people can get their hands on to help them with their networking, social media, et cetera.
39:25 Thom Singer: Yeah, you’re gonna find my blog. I write a lot on my blog about sort of the networking and maximizing a conference so you can search through there. There’s my podcast, which has all kinds of things. And if you just poke around, there’s always something new. I’m always throwing up some back pages and linking them around. Yeah, there’s always something going on my website.