Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bridging the military deployment gap (and other separations from your children)

A few years ago I was scheduled to deploy to Iraq. Before I left, I wanted to create an archive of videos for my daughter. What I really wanted was a way to read a children's book and actually show the book while I read it, not just hold it up to the camera now and then. Since nothing like that existed, I decided to create it. That is how Ties That Bind Us was started:

When a small child is separated from a parent, it's confusing and even traumatic for them. It doesn't matter if it's because of military service or traveling on business; they just know that mom or dad is not there. Ties That Bind Us has come up with a great new way for a child to still feel a connection while their parent is away. It combines a children’s book with a webcam recording of the parent reading the book. Not just a parent holding the book while they read (which many military parents already did), but actually having the book displayed on-screen while they read. You can see a preview Tie of the book Smokejumpers ONE to TEN here:

The recording and displayed book is called a "Tie", and it can be watched from the website at any time. It started as a way for military parents to create something for their children before going on deployments but business travelers, grandparents, and others began making these Ties also. The child can make them too (grandparents love watching a Tie from their grandchild!).

The early reader books use some wonderful drawings and illustrations which really appeal to young readers. Many have little educational facts to spark inquisitive minds. One thing I really like about the service is that it is NOT "YouTube" for the world to watch; You set up a family account to create or watch a Tie so it is private between your family members. You can link accounts to share with another family (like grandparents) if you like though. Another really great feature of the Ties service is called "Kudos". It lets you know by E-mail or text message when someone watched a Tie you created. Grandparents (again!) really like this feature!

And right now, there is a limited time special where you can try it out for free. Go to to check it out. And don't forget to stop by the Contact page to let us know what you think!


Ties That Bind Us<br/>Keeping Family Ties Strong!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Our first Ties promo on Youtube:

Take a look at it and give a quick comment!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It's all about the members

The members of St. Petersburg Toastmasters club #2284 jokingly refer to our club as "The Best Toastmasters Club in the Known Universe". The fact is that there are very few places where you can receive the real-world benefits which this club provides for such a small amount ($88 annually). Members have the tools and opportunity to connect better with a variety of other people, while gaining understanding of their motivations, hopes, fears, dreams, as well as perceptions of the world. The number one reason people come into Toastmasters is so that they can take what they hope they will learn into the outside world and apply it:

  • To get that job
  • To sway those investors
  • To persuade followers
  • To slam-dunk an upcoming presentation
  • To handle your employees better
  • To get a date with someone
  • To have confidence that they will succeed!

We give members tools which are immediately applicable in countless daily situations. The Toastmasters program is designed for breeding success in people but by a wide margin, club #2284 is the best club I have seen, simply because of its members. They enjoy the learning about others, encouraging them, and growing as group. A common sentiment I’ve heard from new members, who may not exactly be fresh out of school, is that they wish they had done this years ago. The bottom line is that the members of St. Petersburg Toastmasters have taken the outstanding program, and turned it into an outstanding club! As with any input I might give, don’t take my word for it, check it out yourself:
   Tuesday night at 6:15
   Piccadilly Cafeteria
   1900 34th St. North
   St. Petersburg, FL
See for yourself.

Now go out and do great things!
Mike Snyder


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

You don't really want to buy that drill

So you go to Home Depot to buy that sweet new Dewalt 18v cordless hammer-drill:

It'll help you finish your deck in no time!

You need it to drill holes in the wood and screw the boards together. But is the drill what you really want? 

Well, no... Ultimately you want holes in the wood. But you can't just go buy a hole to put anywhere you want, or buy the boards screwed together just the way you want. So, you get a tool to help you accomplish your goal.

In the same way, why would people want to learn public speaking? It's great to  feel confident, speak clearly, and convey your ideas but like the drill, those are tools. And tools are meant to be used to accomplish tasks and goals. So what goals would the "tool" of public speaking help you accomplish?

How about being able to calmly and confidently handle an impromptu speaking situation like when your boss calls you in and blind-sides you with some situation? Being able to think quickly and respond appropriately could save more than your sanity then.

And unless you are a lawyer and find yourself in court, it might be a big advantage for you to be able to address the judge in a coherent manner. And let's not forget the opposite sex. Are you so nervous that you might just forget your own name, or will you be able to sweep someone off their feet?

It's all about connecting with others, be it one-on-one or a large crowd. Public speaking is a tool you can use but honestly, with the right group, it's really a lot of fun. I've had a blast since I joined Toastmasters though when I first spoke, I was so nervous that the room spun. It was not a good time! But through the support of my Toastmasters club, I've grown to have my wits about me so that if I do have to speak in front of anyone else, I'll be able to rise to the occasion with confidence.

"Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel. It is to bring another out of his bad sense into your good sense."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
There are over 14,000 Toastmasters clubs worldwide. No cost or obligation to visit. What have you got to loose? Except maybe a little fear. Watch and see:

Now go out and do great things!

Mike Snyder


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Winners Never Cheat

Just inspiring. After wanting to read Winners Never Cheat for several years, I finally got around to it. I highly recommend it to anyone in business (or life for that matter). A truly inspiring person, Jon Huntsman Sr., built an enterprise on honesty and ethics. His actions mirror his words throughout his business and personal life. He has been extensively involved in charity throughout his life, giving millions upon millions away. His goal is to die broke and with the amount of money he gives to charitable organizations, he’s well on his way.

From an interview in 2007, Jon indicated:
"...we have cancer institutes... centers for abused women and children... scholarships... programs for the homeless."
Back in 2001, his company was on very rocky ground. Mr. Huntsman showed an amazing sense of integrity during this adversity. Others might have gone back on their word, because some promises were just for charities:
"If all of a sudden we withdrew our money, our commitments, and these commitments are made over three, four, five, six, seven years, if we withdrew those commitments, thousands of people, millions of people would either go homeless, would not have scholarships. So those become vital parts of our link to integrity and honesty and keeping our word."
He went to Morgan Chase and Citibank to take out a loan, putting his home and what’s left of the business up for collateral. And they said:
"Well, Jon, your business, it looks like it might make it. It looks like it might make it." He said, "No, it isn`t for the business; this is for charity."
How many business owners, executives or anyone else do you know who would display such integrity? He found out at one point, that in order to continue doing business in Singapore, he would have to pay kick-backs. When Mr. Huntsman refused, he found out that another company had been paying Jon’s share of the bribes. At this point, Mr. Huntsman sold their interest in the dealings and extricated himself from the situation. THAT’S integrity.

This is a great interview with Jon from back in 2008:

Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People said of Jon Huntsman:
“Primary greatness is character and contribution. Secondary greatness is how most people define success—wealth, fame, position, etc. Few have both. Jon’s one of them."
I encourage you to go check out the other reviews on Amazon and get Winners Never Cheat for yourself.

Now go out and do great things!
Mike Snyder


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Your presentation is ready for Prime-Time. Great! Is your projector?

Optoma PK301 Pocket Projector, A quick review:
Great for on-the-spot presentations but barely adequate for a room of 20 – 30 and that's if the lighting is right.
I tried out the Optoma PK301 pocket projector last night for a Toastmasters speech I gave. I chose it because a) I needed a projector for part of my speech and b) a pocket projector is really cool! Actually it would be very helpful to have this for business.  My company is developing a unique service called “Ties” and it does not come across NEARLY as well by merely describing it or even printed media. Using a pocket projector, I would always be ready to show prospective investors a short video presentation of the service. So aside from being very cool, it’s just plain smart!

Here are a few clips recorded from the presentation. The video recording was set up on very short notice (about 10 seconds) so it’s not too great but you can see the PK301 in action.

Here are the conditions:
  • Piccadilly Cafeteria at night
  • Unit plugged into a/c power rather than on battery (giving an additional 30 lumens).
  • The wall it is being show on is a darker mustard color
  • The ceiling has an overhang causing the wall to be slightly darker
The image displayed was barely adequate for someone sitting 20 – 25 feet away which is where the camera was positioned. If not for the overhang, it would not have worked.

Here are the actual clips which the PK301 is showing:


  • 20 lumens on battery is pretty good for a pocket projector right now
  • 50 lumens on a/c power is much better
  • USB to PC
  • 2000:1 ratio
  • VGA, HDMI, Video, Component
  • Takes a USB stick using adapter cable (not incl)
  • Remote control capability (not incl)
  • Takes SD micro directly
  • Plays Power-Point but only if you use the conversion software included but it which eliminates some of the PPT effects (like swipes) you might have in the presentation
  • Does play MP4 but the converter included converts video files to AVI creating a huge file
  • Does not take an SD mini or SD card
  • Does not take a USB stick directly
  • $400 considering limitations
If it didn’t have the PPT conversion issue (or better yet, could play them directly), converted videos to MP4 instead of AVI and had a little more light when plugged in, the $400 wouldn't be too bad. It’s a great portable projector and sub-par presentation projector. For me, it's still not two projectors in one and it’s still not ready for prime-time.

Now go out and do great things.
Mike Snyder

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Colin Powell: Inspiring

There were some great speakers at the Get Motivated seminar yesterday. Of course some were promoting their latest book or training:

“Normally $10 Million dollars but today for YOU, it’s only $49.95!”

Still, I had a good time.

Colin Powell is always a great and inspiring speaker. He stressed the importance of leading when you are a leader and supporting those under you. I really like his 13 Rules of Life:

  1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
  2. Get mad, and then get over it.
  3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
  4. It can be done!
  5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
  6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
  7. You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn't let someone else make yours.
  8. Check small things.
  9. Share credit.
  10. Remain calm. Be kind.
  11. Have a vision. Be demanding.
  12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
  13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.
A leader has to make the hard calls and take the arrows when they come.
A few years back, I made a decision which cost my company a lot of money and time. I was the subject matter expert for test and repair on a certain product for Eaton Corporation. I pushed to change component vendors from the new cheaper one, back to the old more expensive one. This push was based on problems we were having with the product after the change:

After researching the old and new vendor’s components, our testing equipment, testing processes, and repair process, I believed the problem lay with the new vendor’s component. So I fought to get the old vendor back. After we switched back, I found out that I had received incorrect data from an engineer who wrote one of the testing software systems. It cost the company money and time to switch back again and I had egg on my face since I had pushed for the change.

Ok, the outcome was bad, but the decision was right! Why? I had performed due-diligence and proper research. My decision was based on the data I gathered, though some of that data turned out to be incorrect. Maybe next time I’ll grab the engineer by the collar and say

Are you SURE that your testing software hasn’t changed?

And then make my recommendation. But, when it’s all said and done, I’d still have to make a decision. For better or worse, I like the way that Dr. Robert Schuller puts it:

"I'd rather attempt to do something great and fail than to attempt to do nothing and succeed"

Now go out and do great things.
Mike Snyder

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