Monday, October 24, 2016

Why Activity-Based Networking Beats Mingling

Most of the visible networking happens at networking events and in one-to-one meetings organized with connection building in mind. This approach works for many people but for others – especially introverts – it is often an unpleasant experience. Much worse, it isn’t always the best way to network.

A one-to-one meeting, perhaps at lunch, offers enough time and focus to be effective, but it requires an investment in time. Because of this even the most determined networkers can only do so many lunches each month. I try to schedule one per week, but don’t always succeed -- one a month would be a good average.
But there is another approach to networking that is more effective than a conventional mingle yet more scaleable that a lunch – activity-based networking.

Activity-based networking is the name I give to all of the activities where networking is a useful side effect but not the primary goal. In this approach you find some opportunities to work with other people so that they can see how you work, gauge your dependability, observe your character and learn what you do well.

What makes activity-based networking so appealing is that the networking is a side effect, so people uncomfortable with mingles feel more at home. It’s also effective because people are not forced to judge you based on an elevator pitch – they can see what you do and how well you do it. And it scales well because you can be simultaneously getting to know many people at once – and they are getting to know you.

What kind of activity should it be? It shouldn't be paintball, karting or Elk hunting. These might be good for making friends but they don't let other people see you in some sort of work related context where they can observe how you work. So the ideal activity is one where you are doing something with other people that showcases work skills and keeps you in contact long enough to get to know the other people.

You can do this by volunteering in a professional organization, in some sort of project team or in some special cases where projects are created regularly. One very effective framework is the Startup Weekend program, where people meet for 54 hours to brainstorm, and develop ideas for startups. There are startup weekend groups all over the planet and all follow the same scheme. People meet on Friday evening and present ideas for startups. They then form teams and each team spends the weekend developing their idea. Finally on Sunday evening each team makes their pitch and the winners are chosen. 

Some people do this because they want to create a startup and they sometimes succeed. Other people participate more because it is fun, some as a learning experience and some because it is an ideal way to grow connections in the startup community. Everyone who attends makes useful new connections and builds a visible reputation in the community. Someone who has been a useful team member at Startup Weekend is more likely to be chosen by a founder than someone who has just sent in a CV. People who have impressed their team mates are also more likely to be recommended for jobs.

But in all networking opportunities every situation is different and you need to try different activities in your area to see which is most effective. What works in Paris might not work so well in Oslo and vice versa. Ask around in your area to see which activities might be the most interesting. Try a few yourself, too, because an activity that looks very interesting could turn out to be a dead end and vice-versa.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

If you would like to have Andrew Hennigan do lectures or workshops about professional networking for your organization get in touch on 0046 730 894 475 or email

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Secret of Networking in One Diagram

One thing that I have learned in ten years of doing networking workshops is that most people worry about minor details of their professional networking, like how to start conversations, or how often to update their LinkedIn profile. But at the same time they are not clear about the reason we network in the first place, why it works and how to point your efforts in the right direction.

Luckily there is a simple Venn diagram that helps understand these concepts in just a few minutes, or even seconds.

First of all let's assume that you are in the typical position of being able to do something and you would like other people to ask you to do that thing. One trivial way to approach this would be to get to know many people, but that will not help you very much. Knowing other people means that you could, in theory, keep calling them to ask if they need you. Most of the time the answer is no. It also means that you are not considered in the common case when someone asks one of your connections if they know someone like you.

What works much better is to make sure so that more people know who you are, that they trust you and that they know what you do. Then they will think of you when they have a need or they hear of someone else with that need. We can explain this logic with my simple Venn diagram.

Let's assume that I am trying to hire someone who does exactly what you do. Who do I consider? Well normally I consider only the People I Know in the yellow area who I have heard of or at least can discover by asking my network. There might be someone ideal on the mythical tropical island of South Papaya who would be perfect for the job but they are impossible for me to discover.  I am also going to be looking only in the set of People Who Can because I need someone who can do the job, not just someone I trust.

This means that if you want to have any chance at getting asked by me to do the work then you have to be in the intersection of the two sets, in the green "you should be here" space. You might be out in the blue area of the people who can but I don't know. In this case you need to move to the green area by making yourself known. Or you might even be known to me but not for that specialty, so you need to make sure I know what you do. There is also a possibility that you are not in either set, which means you need to both acquire the skill and then make yourself known.

All professional networking consists of is in trying to get into that intersection zone with as many people as you can. To do that all you need to do is to make sure that people know you, trust you and know what you do. You might do this by demonstrating your skills to the people around you or you might do it by artful use of social media, but whatever approach you choose this Venn diagram should always be in the back of your mind.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

Andrew Hennigan does lectures, workshops, one to one coaching and writing about professional networking, influencing and much more. You can contact him on or 0046 730 894 475.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Details are Everything: How Starlight Became Thriller

When I heard that songwriter Rod Temperton had died at the end of September I was reminded of "The Invisible Man", a documentary made by BBC Radio 2 in 2007. In this Templeton revealed that when he wrote his most important hit ever -- Michael Jackson's Thriller -- that producer Quincy Jones and Jackson himself were unhappy with the title.

In the original demo recording the song was called Starlight and the hook was "Give me some Starlight, starlight sun". Apart from that the song was already remarkably close to the final version with the distinctive bass line played on two synthesizers.

But Michael Jackson wanted a title that would appeal more to young people so producer Quincy Jones sent Temperton away to rework it and he wrote two to three hundred titles before coming up with Midnight Man. But then the next day he woke up and just said one word. "Thriller". He could see it at the top of the Billboard charts. He could see it on merchandising.

Nobody who has ever worked on any sort of creative project will be at all surprised by this. All great works, whether they are songs, books, movies, plays or just a simple speech are never perfect on the first draft. They may be good, they may be promising but it's usually true that the first draft of anything is just the starting point.But what is interesting about Starlight is that when the song was already well developed Temperton, Jones, Jackson and others were all still struggling to make it even better, one tiny detail at a time.

One critical quality of someone who is good at their art or craft is that they never consider the first draft the final work. I've surprised people by handing in a speech numbered "draft 27". You might not always need that many revisions but the secret of creating quality is to keep working on rough versions, polishing them and searching for that title, twist, hook or whatever that makes a difference. After listening to the early Starlight demo recording don't think anyone would disagree that Temperton greatly improved the title and the hook, changing:

Give me some starlight, starlight sun


Cause this is thriller, thriller night 

And every time I complete a draft of anything I look back at it, wondering which changes might make it dramatically better, because the job isn't done when you have the first draft -- that's where the real work starts for most people -- and it's not even done after the umpteenth draft, because you can still make a small but significant change. That's when the magic happens.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching, Writing

Andrew Hennigan is a lecturer, speaker coach and writer based in Stockholm, Sweden. If you need help with crafting and rehearsing a speech, or you need someone to guide you in a writing project give him a ping on or 0046 730 894 475.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Secret to Writing a Speech is Not to Write It

When I am coaching speakers one of the questions I am often asked is how to write a speech so that it sounds "natural" -- meaning that it doesn't sound like the recital of a written document.

Few people can, in fact, write a script that sounds like you are just having a conversation. There are people who can do this -- it's a routine job for professional speechwriters and screenwriters -- but the writing experience of most people is in creating written documents that were meant to be read, not heard.

Natural spoken conversations do not work as writing and generally writing doesn't work as spoken language. So how do you write a speech that sounds like the spoken word and not like an essay? Probably the easiest way is to avoid writing the speech in the first place. Instead of writing a speech and trying to read it -- which is hard and rarely effective -- it is simpler and more effective to speak the speech and then write what you spoke.

Concretely this method works like this. First you collect your ideas, research, facts, anecdotes and stories. Organize all this material into chunks of speech -- perhaps one story, one key point, one example or whatever. For each chunk read your notes then try to say what you would like to say about it. Maybe the first attempt is clunky so try again, and again, and again until you hear a version you like.

While that idea is fresh in your head write it down. If you find it difficult to remember what you said you can record the session and transcribe the good parts. When you have one usable version written down try a few more variations. Try telling the same idea in different ways and every time you find a good way to say it write it down. You might get several good ideas for one chunk. Sometimes you pick the best. Sometimes you merge pieces of two or three to make a better one.

Once you have all the chunks expressed in words try liking them together using the same process. Try different orders, different bridges, different emphasis until you have a sequence of chunks that works. Because it started as the spoken word it will not sound written. This is already very important, but you also benefit in other ways. A speak-first speech will be easier to remember, easier to listen to and usually resonate much more with the audience.

With time you will learn how to think of spoken words in your head while you are writing a script, making this process seem almost like normal writing, but it is still very different. Remember just this rule: don't say what you wrote; write what you say. It works.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching, Writing

If you'd like a lecture or workshop about speaking for your organization or if you would like me to coach you personally or you would like me to help you craft your speech send me a mail at or call 0046 730 894 475.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Why Relying on LinkedIn Messages Can Be Risky

From time to time I hear about misunderstandings and mishaps caused by poor communication through LinkedIn messages.

There might be cases where you turn to this channel because you are trying to reach someone and you don't have their contact information. Or perhaps you are using it because you commonly use LinkedIn messages among friends for routine communication.

But for many people this channel doesn't work very well and to rely on it for critical messages can be a risky practice. Your messages might not be seen or they might be seen and then lost.

First of all this happens because many LinkedIn users create a profile and update it from time to time but then rarely log in so they don't even see that there are any messages. Some light users might also log in but they are not familiar with the user interface and don't notice the pending messages. Others might see the messages, but visiting rarely they always have to wade through spammy recruitment messages and advertisements so genuine messages are rarely visible. Quite often people might see a message in notifications but not be able to find it after the first read.

Even if people are happy to receive messages through LinkedIn some of these messages might be missed for technical reasons. Messages sent with connection requests are notoriously hard to read on mobile apps and there are some odd behaviors which cause messages between connected people to be visible on the website but invisible on the app. People like me who are aware of these problems sometimes check the website to look for lost messages; most people do not.

You can usually tell if someone is likely to see your LinkedIn messages by noting how long it is since their last visible activity. When it was not even this year you can be reasonably sure that the inbox is very full. If it doesn't look like they spend much time on LinkedIn you might consider the alternatives. Even if they are heavy users they might miss a LinkedIn message.

To a certain extent you can predict which other messaging tools people might use based on the year in which they graduated, but this is a very crude method and fails with people like me, who prefer WhatsApp or WeChat to LinkedIn. But in general older people tend to prefer traditional email while younger people are more likely to use Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, Telegram and other messaging apps.

One way to find out how people prefer to receive important messages is to see if they ever wrote instructions. Many people who receive many contact requests post explicit instructions somewhere on their website. Try searching for "how to contact Firstname Lastname" or look on their website. Other people -- typically people who receive many pitches -- are deliberately hard to find.

But in the end there are some unusual means of communication that could turn out to be effective today just because nobody uses them. A traditional paper letter, for example, gets around the LinkedIn mailbox problem and the attempts of some people to keep their email addresses hidden. Most businesses have a well-known street address so anyone can mail a paper message. This is likely to be taken more seriously than a random cold email because of the higher cost of sending a letter. Any spammer could send a million emails but anyone who could afford to send a million paper letters could also send a servant to deliver a personal message on a silver tray.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

If you would like to book Andrew Hennigan for a lecture, workshop or training course about communication you can send an email to or call 0046 73 089 44 75.

Monday, September 19, 2016

How Writing Preserves Your Thoughts

In a post from January 2012 -- How to Have More Ideas: The Magic of Notebooks. -- I argued that most people have ideas all the time, but then they let these ideas flutter away, never to be seen again. Some other people are careful to write all their ideas in notebooks. Re-reading these notebooks later makes you realize how much you think of is quickly forgotten. That is why writers are inevitably people who have the habit of writing down ideas before they are gone.

Writing down all your ideas in notebooks or electronic equivalents does preserve the basic idea but sometimes this is just the germ of a concept, the starting point for further work. More recently I have realized that writing out your thoughts more fully preserves these thoughts very effectively. Looking back now over the posts I have written for this blog over the last nine years I find now many thoughts that I developed a few years ago and have simply forgotten.

Between posts for this blog, freelance articles, speeches & articles I ghost write for others and chapters for books like Payforward Networking, I write the equivalent of two or three novels per year, so it is not surprising that I don't remember all of the detailed thoughts I have written down.

Some of these ideas later inspired lectures and remain fresh in my mind years later -- like Here Be Dragons, an essay about how culture impacts our life in some strange and surprising ways that you probably have never thought of. Many others describe methods I routinely use in my speaker coaching practice and are unlikely to be forgotten, like What Speakers Can Learn from Rock Guitar Solos, from July 2014.

Others record random thoughts about any topic that interests me, but by developing the concept over about 700-1000 words I record not just the basic idea but the entire line of thinking plus all the examples that inspired it. Re-reading these posts many years later I rediscover ideas that I might only recall partially, and it is very satisfying to reload the idea into my consciousness -- like reloading a memory from a Pensieve.

This is the case with posts like If Fish Could Draw, from September 2009, a reflection on how the limitations of one media often spur creativity in others, or the 2010 sequel If Fish Could Draw II about my search for the world's first fisheye painting, For the record this was apparently Jan van Eyck's The Arnolfini Portrait of 1434. There are many others, like the 2011 posts How a Prophetic 1946 Story Anticipated Today's Web and How Brunel Built Bridges, Steamships and Railways Without Email. 

Finding all these thoughts preserved not just in my private notebooks but in a public archive like this is very convenient. Sometimes I might recall that once I had been thinking about some subject but not remember all the details. With a quick Google search I can locate the post, re-read it and reload the thoughts into my head again.

Most of the time people write for other people, and all of the posts here were originally written for this reason. But taking the trouble to write down your thoughts in some detail is also a very useful way to capture and preserve our thoughts. Most likely you will be pleasantly surprised that you had so many ideas and will be happy to rediscover them again. Whether you write for a public space like this or a private journal it doesn't matter; what counts is that you capture the ideas while they are still on the top of your mind.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching, Writing

Many of the topics I have covered in the posts on this blog have been inspired by my lectures or workshops. Occasionally it is the other way around. If you see a post you find interesting and you would like to hear more email me on or call 0046 730 894 475.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Facebook's Underrated Role in Professional Networking

Most of the people I meet when I speak about networking are aware that LinkedIn can play a role in your professional networking. Few understand how useful Facebook has also become over the last few years.

Just five years ago people would often say that LinkedIn is good for professional networking while Facebook is a waste of time. The stereotype of a Facebook feed is an endless flood of cat pictures, invitations to play games and tacky advertising. Some people keep a Facebook account just for friends and family business and others don't bother at all.

But Facebook has changed and in the last five years it has become increasingly important for professional networking. This shift probably started in 2011 when, spurred by the launch of Google+, Facebook added the option of "following" people rather than becoming their friend -- a much more practical solution for business leaders. At the same time people who had grown up on Facebook moved into the workforce, keeping their habit of using the platform.

Now Facebook can play an important part in your professional networking for a number of reasons:

Everyone Has an Account. For every person with a LinkedIn account there are ten who have a Facebook account. Plenty of people who would never dream of having an account on LinkedIn are on Facebook and that's where you can interact with them. This becomes important when you learn how networking works. If you are just connected to your business contacts you miss many opportunities; what you should be doing is looking beyond the immediate connections at your broader network. (I explain about this in my book Payforward Networking).  For example, if you share on Facebook that you are looking for an internship perhaps a relative or neighbor who isn't a business contact might interact with the post and they might know someone who could help.

People are There Anyway. You might have professional profiles on other sites but most people don't check their LinkedIn or Viadeo profiles daily -- many just use it as an online CV. Facebook is different. You are probably there every day. Other people are, too, so they are more likely to see your posts. It's because of this regular use that Facebook has become a preferred channel for consuming news and also why it has becomes so important for group interactions, which brings us to:

Many Organizations Use Facebook Groups. If you are a member of some organization you might use their intranet to communicate, but what many people have found is that it is much easier to use a Facebook group, because people are there anyway. I belong to many Facebook groups like the TEDxStockholm team, the Quora Top Writers community and others. In these groups I share ideas with fellow team mates even if we are not otherwise connected. Most of my Facebook activity is, in fact, in these private groups. Many other people are the same. That person who appears to never use Facebook might actually be very active but only in private spaces.

You Hear About Meetups through Facebook.  Unless you live in a small village there is probably some interesting real-world meetup in your area every day of the week. When I ask people if they are attending some events they often ask how I hear about so many of them. The answer is Facebook events. Every time a friend shows any interest in any event I am alerted by Facebook. These days I find that I find more events through Facebook than through Meetup, though that, too, is highly recommended.

Facebook is a powerful tool for professional networking but if you plan to use it in this way you really need to have an account with your real name. Some people actually keep two accounts, a real name one for serious use and a fake name one for fun. This works but it means switching between accounts. More people are now starting to move the private interactions to Snapchat, Whatsapp and other channels.


Lectures, Workshops, Coaching & Writing

Andrew Hennigan lectures and delivers workshops about professional networking that expand on the concepts described here. Email or call 0046 730 894 475 for more information.