Monday, August 22, 2016

Few, Simple Messages are the Key to Effective Speeches, Presentations

In my role as speaker coach I have noticed that increasingly often people are confident and competent presenters but they are let down by the material. To be successful in speaking you need to get two things right: you need to be able to deliver your content effectively and you need to have content that is worth delivering.

All of the people I coach one-to-one know their topic and they have interesting things to say. The only problem lies in selecting and organizing this material.

My experience is that the best way to address this task is to start with the result. Rather than collecting information then trying to organize it, what usually works better is to start with the end result and work backwards. There are three steps in this process.

Choosing the Key Messages. First of all you have to define exactly what you want the audience to think at the end of the presentation. Remember that if this is not clear in your head then it will be difficult to plant a clear idea in other people's heads. You should choose one, two or three key messages at this stage. In theory you could try to communicate more, but in practice the extra messages will not only be lost, the noise will also cover the other messages. It is unrealistic to expect an audience to retain more than three messages, even if they are all PhD candidates.

Select points that support these messages. Once the messages are defined for each of them choose the points, data and anecdotes that will support these messages. Exactly how you do this is a matter of personal choice. Some people do it in their head, others prefer a whiteboard and a few like to use Post It notes. Techniques like Mind Maps can also help in this stage. You might also start to choose some illustrations that support your messages at this point.

Structure the material logically. Take all the messages, points, examples, jokes, stories and so on that you have collected and organize them into a logical flow. This logical structure will make it easier for people to follow your reasoning. It also makes the speech easier to remember and deliver. Make sure that the structure is driven by the messages and the points rather than the illustrations. One very common problem in speaking and presenting is to start with the illustrations and talk around them. This tends to make the messages less clear and the presentation less logical.

Once you have reached this stage there is still one more very important thing to do:  test and revise. Always test a speech or a presentation and revise the content until you are confident that it runs smoothly and resonates with the audience. Find a test audience to test it before you ever try it on a real audience, and for the most important occasions try to find an audience that is similar to your target audience.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

Contact Andrew Hennigan at or 0033 6 79 61 42 81 or 0046 730 894 475 if you would like lectures, workshops or one-to-one coaching for speaking, presenting, influencing and more.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Best Practices for Writing Leak Resistant Emails

In a recent post I wrote that anyone using email should remember that the enemy is listening, and that you should assume that everything you write might be leaked and write accordingly. Since then many people have asked for more practical guidelines about exactly how you should do this, so here are five essential best practices. You cannot stop emails being leaked but at least you can minimize the fallout.

Don't write more than you have to. Most people write a lot more than they have to. This extra information slows down readers and makes misunderstandings more likely anyway, so re-read every message before you send it and delete anything that isn't needed. This is good practice anyway, but also limits the damage when a message is leaked. That extra, unnecessary content could be the part that embarrasses you or could add context that makes an otherwise oblique message much clearer.

Maintain a polite, respectful and calm tone. Sometimes it's not so much the content but the tone that makes a message embarrassing. In the 2001 Cerner Corporation email leak the angry tone and overuse of capitals probably led to the leak in the first place and in the 2014 Sony Pictures email leak the generous use of expletives contributed to giving a poor impression of the senders that made the leaks even more damaging.

Use code names rather than actual descriptions. Sometimes using a code name for an operation, a person or a place can be a handy shorthand that makes typing easier. It also makes leaked content much less useful to a rival. They might suspect that a certain code word refers to something but they cannot easily prove it. This technique has long been used by the military precisely for these reasons. Take care, though, to choose genuine random names for code words to avoid creating even more embarrassment.

Separate different parts of the thread. In a normal email thread you might leave all the messages and replies together for convenience. Very often people forward chains of messages to new recipients without checking the entire thread so this is a hazardous practice. Keep each message self contained and don't rely on forwarded content for the context. A complete thread is much more damaging when it leaks because it provides the context for each individual message and makes it much easier for someone else to reconstruct what happened.

Never put really sensitive information in an email. No matter how careful you are with both your writing practices and your information security there are some things that just should never be written in an email, even when it is encrypted. For the most sensitive information use encrypted message apps, use the phone or deliver messages in person. You might also use Skype, Google Hangouts or FaceTime for sensitive messages because anyone overhearing the audio is missing valuable information that is conveyed by body language and facial expressions.

And in any case always remember that the enemy might be listening. When you look back over an email for a final check ask yourself how it will look in the New York Times or ask yourself how a rival might enjoy reading it. No amount of security can stop someone simply copying an email and walking out the door with it, so never rely entirely on firewalls, passwords and encryption.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

If you would like a lecture, workshop, one to one coaching or writing about email or any other communication topic you can contact the author Andrew Hennigan at or 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Networking in the Workplace: Collecting the Low-Hanging Fruit

Effective networking usually takes a certain amount of effort, but there are some situations where there are plenty of opportunities and it would be a pity to waste them. One is when you are studying -- former classmates form a solid core of your network if you handle it correctly -- and the other is your workplace.
Unless you work alone you are potentially in contact regularly with tens, hundreds or even thousands of people. How many of these people do you know well enough to ask for help? How many of them even know who you are?
Working with other people is an outstanding opportunity to get to know people. Don't just connect to everyone you hear about on LinkedIn because this has very little value. Focus instead of building a reputation for being helpful and trustworthy. This is actually much simpler than it sounds and consists of three basic activities.
Networking in your workplace is not just about collecting contact information. This has essentially zero value. What you should be doing is convincing people that you are a good person to work with, so that one day in the future they might think of you, or at least when you contact them they will have a positive memory of you.
Meet people. One of the most common mistakes is to spend nearly all of your time with the same people. You can just walk right up to people and introduce yourself but the easiest way to get to know more people is organically through opportunities like volunteering for activities which involve working with new people. Make good use of other opportunities that come up by themselves, like using public transport or signing up for training with people from other departments. 
Build trust. Meeting people isn't enough by itself. You also have to build a relationship of trust. This is much easier than it sounds because all you have to do is keep your promises and be helpful to other people. Keep your eyes and ears open. When someone asks for help or obviously needs help try to at least point them towards the answer. Maybe you can't help them directly but even suggesting who might know is still help and will be appreciated. Accept offers of help, too, because that also builds trust.
Build a platform. Once people know you and trust you, there is still one other thing that you have to do. They will never think of coming to you in future unless they know what you can do, what you do well and what you would like to do. This means that you have to develop a real-world reputation or platform that is solid and memorable. What do other people know about you? What are you doing to correct that? Reflect on what you want people to think and then on what you are doing now. Make sure that the two are aligned and if they are not it is time for some corrective action.
Ideally you should have a network that extends well beyond your existing workplace, but as you move through your career the relationships you built in previous workplaces will form a solid backbone to your network -- and probably the easiest to acquire.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing
For lectures, workshops, coaching and writing about professional networking, influencing, speaking and more you can contact Andrew Hennigan at or by phone on 0046 730 894 475 pr 0033 6 79 61 42 81.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Influence: Dealing with the Unexpected

Back in the days when GPS navigators were almost unknown in vehicles I had to produce a video showing how they were used. With an employee of the vendor at the wheel and a video camera operator in the front passenger seat we drove around for a while, following the spoken route instructions.

"Turn left", the navigator would say, and we turned left.                          
"Turn right", the navigator said, and we turned right.

But then I asked. "What happens if we disobey the instructions?". Apparently nobody had asked that question before. The driver had no idea. "Let's try!".

So the next time the voice said "Turn left" he completely ignored it, driving straight ahead. I half expected an angry voice to tell us we had missed the turn, but no. There was just a moment of silence then it just said calmly "Turn right".  Unfazed, it had recalculated a new route starting from the new position.

With hindsight this seems like a sensible way to handle the problem, but it made me realize that humans could learn from this machine. When things don't go as planned people often get angry, try to blame people and focus on the mistake rather than how to solve it. These are very human responses but not the best way to solve problems.

This is useful in any leadership situation and is one of the techniques I have often taught in leadership workshops, but it is also a useful way for dealing with the unexpected in any influencing effort. If you have ever attended one of my influencing workshops you would know already that you should be planning your influencing in advance. But even with the best plans and even with some planned alternates, there can still be times when there is a completely unexpected twist. When that happens remember the voice of the navigator.

Your starting point has changed or perhaps the destination has changed, but what you need to do quickly is to work out a new influencing strategy starting from the new conditions and start executing on that. Don't waste time getting angry, throwing blame or doing a post mortem -- that can wait until later, if ever. And most of all stay calm, take a deep breath and just keep going, like the satellite navigator that has a brain the size of a fingernail but never gets angry.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about influencing and other topics you can reach me at or by phone on 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81.                                                                                                                          

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Enemy is Listening: Minimizing the PR Fallout of Poor Email Security

Back in the second world war German radio transmitters sometimes had a plaque saying "Feind hört mit!", or "The enemy is listening!", a constant reminder that radio traffic is easy to intercept.

Today you might write the same message on your email client, because email messages are notoriously insecure, often ending up in the hands of people who should not have them. Sometimes they are simply copied to a memory stick and removed from the building by an insider. Other times they are extracted remotely by hackers. Less commonly they are obtained from a lost device and occasionally by intercepting wifi traffic. Whatever method is used the result is usually the same: embarrassment.

There might be people who steal emails simply to read them, but the greatest hazard for most organizations is that the contents are posted on public websites and discussed in media. High-profile hacks have revealed internal emails of Sony Pictures, the US Government and many others. At the very least these leaks are a PR disaster, but sometimes they can cause actual financial damage.

Guarding against email leaks is extremely difficult. Good information security can protect against external attacks, procedures can minimize internal leaks and encryption can protect content in many cases. But any message that can be read can be leaked. The best way to minimize the risk of embarrassment is therefore to avoid writing embarrassing details in emails. Even if the facts of some business you intended to be confidential are leaked, the cost to your organization is much greater if the language is also disrespectful, flippant or offensive. Many of the emails from the Sony leak were made much worse by the tone and choice of words.

That's why you might want to add a "Fiend hört mit!" sticker on your laptop or your smartphone, and every time you write an email ask yourself how it will look in the New York Times and on Twitter when it leaks. Sometimes just a little tweak to the wording can make a major PR catastrophe into a minor embarrassment. Never write an angry email (I wrote about this two years ago in Three reasons for not writing angry emails), never write more than you have to and stick to the essential facts. And if your business is especially sensitive turn instead to encrypted messaging or face to face meetings.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

You can contact Andrew Hennigan to discuss lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing on email and other topics through email at and by phone on 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Making the Most of PR Opportunities for Your Startup

Reaching out to media, building relationships with journalists and creating a credible platform for the founders are all important for a startup hoping to get positive media coverage. They are important but they take time. But there are also some simple actions that anyone can take to ensure that they are not missing any opportunities that come by.

Everyday there are people writing about new trends, new technologies and new ideas. Very often they reach out to a number of startups in the field, hoping to find a founder who can give them a useful insight or a valuable quote. Responding to these inquiries is simply routine for companies big enough to have a PR department or a PR agency. For many lean startups it's the founders who have to take care of this role. So how can they do it better?

Be Easy to Contact. One interesting test you might want to try one day is to ask a person unfamiliar with your business to find your media contact information. This should be very easy to find on your website and it should include at least an email address and a phone number. Web forms are a very bad idea because you never know if anything will happen. Usually when the only option is a web form I just ask another company that is easier to contact. If you have provided an email address and a phone number then make sure that they are monitored. Never post an email address if the mails just pile up unanswered.

Respond Quickly. Once you receive an email from a journalist always respond immediately to say that you saw it and that you intend to respond. At this point you could also clarify what they want and the deadline. This fast confirmation is important. Often someone will contact several companies and simply use the ones that respond first. Wait too long and you miss the opportunity.

Give Usable Quotes. When media asks for a comment they are usually looking for something that they can quote. Quotes should be original so don't ever use a line from your website or brochure for a quote. People can and do check. Try to keep the tone conversational. Imagine that you are simply talking to someone. Don't use the peculiar, stilted language of the cheap brochure; try to sound human.

Don't Just Talk About Your Product. And don't just pitch your product. Sometimes general comments about a class of product, an industry or a trend can be the most valuable part of an article. This establishes you as a thought leader and makes it more likely you get asked to comment in future.

Deliver on Time. But most important of all, if you promised to deliver a comment by Tuesday you have to deliver it on time. Be just one day late and you might miss the window for that article. Much more seriously, you also ensure that you are not going to be asked next time someone needs a comment for an important article where you could have been quoted as an expert.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about startup PR and other communication topics you can contact Andrew Hennigan at, on 0033 6 79 61 42 81 or 0046 730 894 475.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Speaking: When a Content Marketing Strategy Beats Hard Pitching

Many conferences and events are undermined by speakers who insist on trying to sell from the stage. Very often this is banned or discouraged. even when it is allowed it is still a very bad idea.

What works much better is to take a content marketing approach. Instead of simply trying to sell your product or service try instead to give a useful talk on a topic related to your business -- something that is useful for the listeners without a direct commercial message.

This works because most people do not want to hear your sales pitch -- if they had wanted that they would invite you to pitch at your company -- but they will listen to an interesting talk. Say something relevant and people will listen, they will remember you and they will have a more favorable opinion of you, your company and your products.

You are also much more likely to be asked to speak again. Perhaps the original speaking slot came as part of a sponsorship deal and the organizers had no power to veto weak ideas. But by delivering a product pitch you just guarantee that you will always have to pay to speak. Speakers who are interesting are invited back, they are invited to new events, they get asked for comments by journalists.

If you are not sure what to speak about ask a few friends what they would like to know more about your business, look at the trending stories in the news and perhaps ask the organizers if they have any inputs. Maybe there is an overall theme that you can connect with, or maybe in their research for the event they actually polled the attendees to find out what they want. Delivering an interesting talk that is closely aligned with the theme of the event is the surest way to get a reputation as a desirable speaker.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about public speaking and other communication topics contact Andrew Hennigan on 0033 6 79 61 42 81 or 0046 730 894 475 or