IFAI Expo 2019 Keynote: ‘Choose people’ to make effective connections

Published On: October 2, 2019

Thom Singer, the keynote speaker at ATA’s annual meeting on Wed., Oct. 2, at IFAI Expo, is clear about one thing: People want to do business with people they know, like and trust. And that connection won’t happen through second-hand tools offered on social media or other electronic sites.

Singer, a consultant to executives and the author of 12 books, refers often to his father, born in 1914, who died just short of turning 100 years old. Singer’s father worked in sales his whole life and, until shortly before he died, often remarked that people haven’t changed over the years. Singer says his father would say, “Look at the Bible. The stories about lust, greed and politics are the same.” 

Singer’s father always recommended that he “choose people”: That meant closing the newspaper and turning away from the distractions of media when a family member entered the room. The distractions of modern devices—mobile phones, tablets and computers—may seem like necessities; but the truth is, these conveniences often block authentic, direct human interactions.

Building personal connections

Singer discussed the human traits that he most admires, all of which help people connect with each other: being enthusiastic, master of one’s career, authentic, open to learning, part of solutions, tenacious, respectful of others, and active in building and serving relationships within one’s community.

“People are drawn to people like themselves, but I’m a huge fan of diversity, even political diversity,” he says, adding: “You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. If you to want to make friends, go out and be a friend to others. You have to take the time to look up from your phone.”

Singer acknowledges that social media is a business necessity, but each of us must remember, “We’re ambassadors of human engagement. If you don’t choose people there won’t be a baseline of people who reach out to you when you need others.”

Making a difference

Eventually, we all have life problems that require the care and concern of others. Singer shared the example of his baby daughter who was born with bones fused in her head, preventing normal growth. When he and his wife were making the stressful decision of choosing a surgeon, a colleague who wasn’t even a close friend contacted him at one in the morning with the name of an experienced doctor. Singer was surprised to hear from this somewhat distant contact, who ended up presenting a viable option. That experience was one excellent example of never knowing what benefits may come of good human connections.

Singer’s daughter, now 17, had the surgery and has done well in school. Singer and his wife have since set up the foundation that contributes funding to research in facial cranial disorders: The Kate Singer Endowment For Craniofacial Research.