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.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Speaking: When Silence Works Better Than Words

One of the easiest ways to improve your public speaking is to become better at using pauses. Initially people are afraid to leave pauses, especially at the beginning of their speaking career when they are still nervous. Other people tend to speak without breaks because they are trying to recite a memorized text -- never a great idea. See How to Memorize a Speech Effectively for the correct way to do this.

But a speech without pauses is much more tiring to listen to and people can miss key phrases as their brain struggles to parse a continuous stream of sounds without a break. It is the audible equivalent of trying to read Sir Thomas Malory's La Morte D'Arthur in the original, unpunctuated edition or a sentenceallruntogetherintoonebiglumplikethis.

Adding pauses helps people to understand what you are saying, it helps to attract attention and it helps to emphasize the key points. You can use pauses in several ways:

The Pause at the Beginning. One of the most common mistakes I see when coaching people is that they often start to speak too soon. It takes time for the audience to stop their side conversations, put their phones away and fully turn their attention to the stage. If a speaker starts too quickly they miss the first sentence or even more. You can avoid this by leaving a short pause before you start. Surprisingly this silence attracts more attention than speaking, and it is much more elegant than "can I have you attention please" (never, ever say that.)  What often happens is that the speaker starts instantly when the moderator has finished the introduction, saying something like "Goodmorningeveryonetodayiwilltalkabout..." while everyone is still trying to process that there is a new speaker. Much better to say "Good morning". (Pause). "Today I will..."  Don't forget to look at the audience and smile during the pause or people will just think you lost your place in the notes.

The Pause to Mark Change. Pauses are also very effective to mark changes in the subject or the beginning of a new section.When you are looking at your own script or notes there is a handy white space between paragraphs. The audience doesn't see this white space so a pause can be an audible equivalent. After a break people can recognize more easily that there has been a shift in the story. A pause can also be useful when a new image is shown on the screen. In the first few instants this image competes for attention anyway so people might not hear what you say. One other way to reinforce the idea of "new paragraph" in a talk is to combine the pause with a change in the direction the speaker is looking. This adds to the feeling that we are moving on in the story.

The Pause for Effect. Finally, pauses are a very effective way to underline some key point. Stop suddenly and you have everyone's attention. Whatever follows that pause is much more likely to be noticed, heard and processed. There should also be a pause just after every rhetorical question. These pauses often make the difference between a dull recital and a compelling, persuasive speech. Watch any great speaker on YouTube and you will see that they make very good use of the Pause for Effect.

Next time you are preparing a talk, speech or lecture take special care to pause in all the right places and get used to the sound of silence. At the beginning it can feel uncomfortable, but what how others use pauses and you will see that a short pause is always welcomed by the audience. Try watching any important speech on YouTube and you will see that this technique is part of the essential toolbox of orators everywhere.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching, Writing

If you would like to be coached personally by Andrew Hennigan or discuss a speaking workshop you can contact him at and 0046 730 894 475.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Why Email Leaks Can Affect Everybody

In two recent posts, Best Practices for Writing Leak-Resistant Emails and The Enemy is Listening I explained how you can never stop all email leaks therefore it is prudent to write defensively. Discussing this with other people I realize that when most people think about email leaks they are thinking about the big stories, where malicious hackers extract email databases through security flaws in the network, or when a rogue human walks out the door with a copy of the files. But there are also countless minor leaks that can affect almost anyone, even if they are never careless.

Emails can leak in so many ways you would be very brave to rely entirely on your security processes to protect them. What's worse is that often a mail leaks and you have no idea that it has. Perhaps the leak wasn't even at your end, because an email sent to someone else can easily leak at the other end, too.

So how do emails leak exactly?

Misaddressing. One of the most common ways that messages can go astray is when you are filling in the email address. It is easy to mistype an address and if that address doesn't exist it will bounce and no harm is done. But very often the mistyped address does exist and someone else receives the message. Most of the time it will be deleted by the recipient but if your message is interesting in any way the person on the other end might leak the content.  Most email clients allow you to memorize previously used addresses and in this case there is a very real risk of selecting the wrong one, so your message doesn't go to a stranger but goes to the wrong person. Very often this happens when a message for one customer is sent by mistake to their competitor, with embarrassing results at the least.

Misforwarding. Equally common is the risk of forwarding a message inappropriately. There are several ways in which this can happen. First of all it is easy to forward a thread to the wrong person entirely. What is much more common perhaps is to forward a thread to the right person but without checking what is further down the thread. I have seen many people embarrassed by this kind of mistake. Never forward a message unless you are sure there is nothing sensitive at the bottom of the thread.

Phishing. Remember all of those messages telling you that you have won a billion dollars in some mythical lottery? Some of them are phishing for bank details but others are looking for your email credentials. Even if you are incredibly careful with phishing emails, all it takes is for one of your contacts to be compromised and the copies of your messages in their inbox are vulnerable. Scammers do not have your best interests at heart so they are much more likely to use any data they find than an accidental wrong recipient.

Weak passwords. Knowing your email address and a little about you someone might get access to your email simply by guessing your password. If you re-use passwords on multiple sites then they might find your credentials in one of those password file dumps that appear from time to time. Always be careful to choose a unique password for your email accounts.

Stolen files. Someone could access your emails simply by copying email data from an email server, your laptop or your phone if they are left unattended or are lost. This is how many major leaks occur.

Deliberate leaks. There are also, of course, deliberate leaks from whistleblowers, rivals, disgruntled employees and people you have just fired. They could easily forward sensitive messages to the media, to competitors or to the authorities.

Discarded paper copies. Finally, don't forget that a paper copy thrown away in an airport trash can can also be retrieved by an unauthorized person. That's why most organizations shred their waste and why you should be careful about emptying your bag in a public place.

There are probably more ways in which your emails can leak accidentally or on purpose even if you are not famous, powerful or rich. Be as careful as you want but you will never stop every leak, so learning to write emails that are less damaging is a useful skill to master.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

If you'd like Andrew Hennigan to do a lecture or workshop at your organization about how to write emails that are more leak resistant you can send a message to or call 0046 730 894 475.

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 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. 

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.