Speaker | Entrepreneur | Author

Sam Davidson's blog

Every Tuesday, I write.

I share an idea I’ve come up with, a struggle I’m wrestling with, a puzzle I’m turning over in my head, or a story that I think the world needs to hear. You can sign up to get these emailed to you each Tuesday morning by clicking here

On Thursdays, I write at Batch about a business idea or concept, usually through the lens of my day-to-day work as co-founder and CEO or from the viewpoint and lessons learned of our purveyors. Follow along here

On LinkedIn and Twitter I often toss out quick thoughts and ideas that aren’t ready for longer posts just yet or something that I’m seeking feedback on. 

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Posts in Speaking
Meet Me at the 2013 Toastmasters International Convention

I'm very excited to be heading to Cincinnati this August to speak once again at the Toastmasters International Convention. I'm honored to be asked to speak to this audience of change-makers, fellow speakers, and leaders.

I'll be presenting a new session all about leadership, designed to help anyone lead with impact. Check it out:

The entire event is packed with great speakers and educational sessions, including the honoring of Susan Cain as this year's Golden Gavel recipient.

Make plans to join me in Cincinnati in August with this great organization that has been creating meaningful leaders for decades.

Investing in Yourself

Investment can be a great - but risky - way to create wealth. Whether you want to speculate in commodities, put some money in mutual funds, or write a check to a start-up, investing via ownership can make you lots of money (or cause you to lose it).

Of course, doing nothing creates nothing. While stockpiling cash under a mattress means you probably won't lose it if a company goes under, that money won't be making more money, either.

It's up to you whether or not to invest, but there's one entity that not investing in will make things worse - yourself.

Each of us has ample chances to invest in ourselves. A college degree, continuing education, conference attendance, reading books, sharing ideas, networking - these are all chances to invest in ourselves.

Each opportunity costs money, but if they cause your asset - you - to appreciate, it's money well spent.

Every year, I invest in myself and spend money and time meeting people, traveling, producing videos, and buying advertising so that I can get more speaking gigs, build my network, and grow the depth and breadth of my business. I consider it all an investment and so far, the returns are great.

I also love to see when companies invest in themselves, especially companies I'm a part of. That's why I want to turn your attention now to this job posting from CAMPUSPEAK, the agency that represents me when I speak to college students.

CAMPUSPEAK has posted an entry-level sales job, working in a fun environment with people and a business that makes a difference. You get to live in Colorado. You'll learn a lot. And best of all, you're working with a company that will invest in you. You can know this because it's willing to invest in itself by spending money on a position like this, growing its team so it can keep doing what it's doing well.

Learn more about the job and if it's right for you, apply.

And let this be a lesson that the companies worth working for are those willing to do what it takes to grow, get better, and be around for a very long time. Any company - or person - not willing to invest in itself is one you should be cautious of because its best days are behind it.

I Tend to Get a Bit Animated When I Tell Stories

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to speak at Phi Gamma Delta's Leadership Academy in St. Louis. It was an awesome time to speak with well over 600 men interested in and committed to impacting their world while leaders of their fraternity.

Someone also took pictures. Most pictures of me speaking come out blurry. So, I was super excited to find these on Facebook. In scrolling through them, you may be able to tell that I tend to get animated when I speak.

Click on any picture to expand it.

Thanks again, Fijis! Best of luck to each of you this year!

A Programming Shift, a New Focus, and a Happy New Year

For those who have been loyal readers for a long time (I've been blogging for 10 years now), thanks. I appreciate your reading, your commenting, and your sharing.

I write today to announce a content focus for this blog, as well as my professional life.

I will now start writing exclusively about cats.


Because of the success I'm having speaking to college students and helping student leaders have an impact on their campus and the rest of the world, you'll notice a content shift taking place over the next few weeks. Very soon, my posts, podcasts, and videos will help students navigate their leadership journeys in order to have a deeper and better impact on their communities.

So if you're looking for social media tips, ideas to shake up the nonprofit sector, or how to better hack your email, I'm happy to recommend a replacement source.

I will, of course, still write about family and parenting and community.

Over the last year (and looking forward into this one), the opportunity before me to help students become better leaders is one I take very seriously (even when I don't take myself seriously). I hope to use the chances I have to speak on a stage and combine them with posts and podcasts here to enable students and those who work with them a chance to help others.

My hunch is that you'll find a lot of what I write about - leadership and service - relevant to your world, no matter how old you are. I'll bet that leadership stories, advice, and information is valuable to you, whether you lead a fraternity or you lead a farm (the similarities between the two are actually quite numerous).

Thanks for coming along with me this far. If you'll stick with me, I think we'll have fun while having an impact. And if you're new here, I'm glad to have you. Buckle up.

Three speaking tips for your very next speech

Later today I'll be keynoting the lunch portion of the Connecting for Children's Justice Conference. I'll be talking about the idea of story and how as advocates, volunteers, nonprofit leaders, and world-savers, we've got to captivate people with a story to entice them to join our efforts. 

Of course, story can take many forms: video, conversation, text, music, sidewalk chalk. At the core is a compelling message told in a relevant way.

Each time I step on stage, whether to address a room full of college freshman or a conference full of professional leaders, I want to make sure I connect in a relevant way so that the audience doesn't leave merely motivated, but compelled to take something I've said and apply it to their immediate context. To do that, over the years, I've honed my speaking skills, presentation skills, and storytelling skills.

And it's something I keep working on. In fact, I came across three great articles recently (some of them were brought to my attention by fellow speaker Nancy VanReece). I've linked each below and included (what I think is) the best piece of advice. Enjoy!

Scott Stratten's Tips For Becoming A Presentation Sensation

I really like Stratten's advice on connecting with audience members and organizers before your presentation via social media. As I prepare each talk, part of my routine is to ask if a social media account or a specific hashtag will be used. If so, I'll begin using it weeks before the event and then encourage attendees to use that keyword during my presentation. This is a great way to let more and more people "hear" the valuable things you're saying.

5 Things Every Presenter Should Know About People, Animated

Never assume your audience will know exactly what to do as a result of your talk. People like action steps - something practical they can go and do once you're done speaking. This is the main thing that all great sermons have in common - something listeners can do to improve the world. Don't just share your ideas; tell people the specific steps needed to put those ideas into action in their world.

Hijacking Emotion Is The Key To Engaging Your Audience

Don't underestimate the idea of grouping ideas in threes. It works. You may think you'll be a presentation renegade by deviating, but you do so at your own peril. For speeches that work well, have three clear points or ideas that can be remembered and shared. Yes - you can break this rule as you need to, especially if your content is top-notch throughout.

What about you?

Have you found any great posts or ideas about speaking? If so, drop a link in the comments.

SpeakingSam DavidsonComment
The Power of No

I'm beginning to learn more and more the power that comes with saying "No." I detail how (and why) to say "no" in Simplify Your Life, but I'll admit - turning down opportunities and offers is a constant struggle of mine. But, the feeling of saying "no" at the right time is powerful. Doing so can free you to focus on what matters and focus your energy on the tasks and events you're most exited about.

I wasn't sure whether to detail the following scenario here or in my Speak UP newsletter, but after much thought I concluded that the lessons I learned by saying "no" recently could benefit all my readers.

Last week, I turned down an all-expenses-paid trip to India. To speak. With entrepreneurs. Thousands of them.

I know what it looks like. I still can't help but cringe a bit as I type. I said "no" to a free trip to India to do what I love.

When the offer appeared in my inbox and I followed up (which was then followed by a bit of online research and poking around in my network), I was excited. But then the details began to shake out.

The event was at a time when I really need to be home with family. The travel - while paid for - would be long and not so glamorous. The time I'd actually have in India would be very limited. I wouldn't be compensated for speaking. The media opportunities promised might not work out in the best way. All in all, to have said yes would have been a significant cost in terms of money, time, and relationships.

After digging, it became easy to politely say "no" to this opportunity.

As soon as I hit send on the email declining the host organization's offer, I waited for the onslaught of regret to wash over me. But it never came. I thought I'd soon kick myself for wasting a chance to speak in India, but I never felt it.

I didn't feel regret because saying "no" was the right decision. My mind and body and heart and soul were at peace. I said "no" and moved on.

And here's the power of saying "no" to the opportunities that don't fit. There is no regret when you make the right decision. If the opportunity doesn't fit, doesn't help you, doesn't play to a strength of yours, or isn't all it seems to be, then declining it is okay. In fact, saying "yes" to it could be detrimental to your career, your sanity, or your family.

Best of all, saying "no" reinforces your values, both to others and yourself. When you say "no" to something, you're making a claim about what's important. In my case, saying "no" reinforced my commitment to my family and the time I'm spending to grow my speaking career. Many times, saying "no" conveys what we believe as much as saying "yes" does.

The main trick when we say "no", however, is to move on. Not all decisions will be as easy as mine. Some decisions will be much tougher and we could feel some pangs of remorse after turning someone or something down. In order to fight through that, we have to put the instance out of our minds. We said "no" and the case is closed. We can't look back and wonder.

If we do, we might inadvertently ignore that perfect "yes" that's coming our way.

When have you said "no"? Any stories about saying no and it being the perfectly right decision?

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Speaking Event: Orientation at Christopher Newport University

In just a few short weeks, I'll be visiting Newport News, Virginia for the first time in order to speak to the incoming freshman class at Christopher Newport University. This is my first event booked in conjunction with CAMPUSPEAK. We'll be talking about how to pack as much as possible into the next four years in order to finish college and find who we are in the process. I firmly believe that the point of college isn't to find a job as much as it is to find an identity. It's also a great time to find a cause or a passion that stirs us and motivates us through the next phase of life.

One cool thing I've learned about CNU is that each freshman is given a penny. When they graduate, a tradition is to toss that same penny into a fountain on campus, bookending one's journey as a Captain.

See you soon, #CNU16!

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Great Speakers Commit

Note: I'm excited to announce today that I've created a new weekly email for those who are professional or aspiring speakers. Each week, I'll send you fresh tips, ideas, and resources to help you elevate your speaking game. This content won't be anywhere else online, so sign up for Speak UP today! I think that one of the fine lines between a good speaker and a great speaker is commitment. Great speakers commit to their topic, their delivery, and their audience. Here's what I mean:

Commit to your topic

As I'll be sharing at the International Toastmasters Convention in a few weeks, the best (paid) speakers have a core story, often shaped by who they are. This story then lets them find a niche to market to in order to land paid speaking gigs. While stories and topics can change over time, you can tell when a speaker is committed to a topic. She can recite facts and examples with ease, as if lost in a deep personal conversation. She has a treasure trove of resources and anecdotes at her fingertips because she knows her topic so well. She's up on the latest findings and even has her own opinion of them. She's read all the books on the subject and may be working on one of her own. It's part of her. You know when you've seen this kind of knowledge in a speaker and no doubt it's someone who is truly great.

Commit to your delivery

Michael Grinder, who taught me a lot about public speaking, did a bit in one of his sessions. He was extolling us to watch great politicians or televangelists speak (or preach) in order to observe their delivery skills. He then immediately launched into his most saccharine and charismatic impression of a TV preacher. In no time, the audience was laughing, clapping, and nodding along and his suggestion was burned into our memories. He could have said one line in that voice or with those gestures, but he carried on for a solid minute. It was a risk (we might not have been humored), but he committed to the bit and it paid off in teaching a solid lesson.

When you tell a story on stage, commit to it. Retell it as if you were there all over again. Share with the audience the smells, sounds, and sights going on around you. Use the appropriate facial expressions. Pause when things get hectic to add suspense. Yell when intensity calls for it. Commit to telling a good story and you'll stand out and teach your audience a thing or two.

Commit to your audience

Every time I speak, I make sure to have a detailed conversation with my contact person about the audience. Whether it's a college orientation or a nonprofit conference, I treat each gig as unique. I want to know who specifically (if the contact knows) will be in the room. What has gone on in their collective lives or industry the previous six months? Budget cuts? Transition? Confusion? Success? How old are they? Do they have to be at this event or are the freely choosing to attend? Knowing who's in the room makes my talk more relevant, with better key takeaways for those who listen. Speakers with a one-size-fits-all approach rarely move from good to great.

What do you think makes a great speaker?

What qualities do you admire in a speaker who is outstanding on stage? Let me know in the comments below.

And, if you likes the ideas and suggestions in this post, consider signing up for Speak UP, my free weekly newsletter for professional or aspiring speakers.

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Speaking Event: Daxko's Reach Conference

I'm excited to be returning to speak at Daxko's annual conference. The Reach Conference is a chance for those working with membership-based associations to learn best practices, new technologies, and big ideas in order to grow well. I'll be opening the event as the keynote speaker, helping those in attendance understand Millennials a bit better. We'll specifically be talking about how organizations can market to Generation Y and tell a compelling story to get their attention and consider membership.

I spoke at this same conference in 2010; this will be a fresh look at the next generation with updates stats and stories.

See you soon, Birmingham!

Click here to register for the Reach Conference.

Speaking Event: Connecting for Children's Justice Conference

I'm excited to be keynoting the Connecting for Children's Justice Conference in Nashville this November. Tennessee Children’s Advocacy Centers hosts this major conference each fall, drawing some 700 people from across the state of Tennessee for two days of training, collaborating, networking, and learning. Filling two full days with workshops, the event has a diverse audience, including nonprofit employees, case managers, law enforcement, and legal professionals. This is the largest and most important event of its kind for this audience each year.

I'll be keynoting the opening lunch event, discussing how all of those involved in helping children can better work together. I'll also be leading a brand new workshop on the power of story. How can organizations find their core story - something that supporters can share in order to further grow donors or volunteers?

See you in November!


Speaking Event: American Bus Association

This January, I'll be addressing the attendees at the American Bus Association Marketplace. This is a chance for people in and around the bus industry to get together for learning, networking, and dreaming. I'll have the chance to present three workshops over two days:

  • Why Gen Y? Reaching Out to Millennials in the Right Way
  • Get Smart, Get Strategic: Why You Need a Social Media Strategy Now
  • BRB, TTYL, LOL: Managing Millennials in the Workplace

I'm looking forward to meeting everyone at the event and to having deep discussions about how those in the bus world can leverage the power and possibility of technology and the next generation.

And if you're in Charlotte, drop me a line so we can grab coffee!