Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Using a Mobile Device for Skype Interviews

Job interviews through Skype, Facetime and other Internet-based video call services have become very common for first meetings so that people can be screened quickly without the inconvenience of travel. This means that anyone who knows how to look better in a Skype call has an advantage over the candidates who don't realize that this is even possible or do not take the trouble to prepare.

In an earlier post I described Ten Ways to Impress People in a Skype Interview, covering all the basic techniques. Today people are increasingly using smartphones and tablets for these interviews, so in these cases which tips are the most useful? Here are five that will make a visible difference.

HAVE THE CAMERA FIXED AT EYE LEVEL. Probably the single most useful tip when using any device is to place the camera at eye level and fix it in some way. Don't lean over the device and don't try to hold it in your hand, like a video selfie. You will look much more professional when the camera lens is at eye level so you are looking horizontally into the camera -- just like video professionals do it. You might have a selfie clamp, tripod or other device that can hold the phone still. Some people just use duct tape to fix it to a vertical surface and sometimes I make a pile of boxes and place a phone on top of the pile, using a cork that has been cut with a slot to hold the phone steady. Whatever you do, make this effort to position the camera correctly.

USE LANDSCAPE FORMAT. It's tempting when you use a smartphone to hold it upright in vertical format, but the result always looks more professional when you place the phone horizontally, in the standard TV/movie orientation. Probably just one in a 100 recruiters would ever notice consciously what you are doing, but the other 99 are more impressed, even if they don't know why.

USE THE HEADSET MICROPHONE. You will always get better sound quality with less background noise and echo if you have the microphone closer to your mouth. Without special hardware the only way to do that is to use the microphone in your phone's headset. I use the standard Apple headset and just have the earpiece with the microphone in one ear. Just be careful when you move not to pull the phone down onto the floor. That will not impress anyone.

CHECK LIGHTING AND BACKGROUND. Before you start the call check the lighting and background using the selfie camera mode. One of the neat things about using a mobile is that you can hold the phone up at eye level and turn slowly around, looking for the best combination of lighting and background. Avoid anything distracting and watch out for reflections on glasses.

CALL A FRIEND FIRST. This is the one tip that is the same for any device. Before you call a recruiter always call a friend first to check that everything works. Don't have to start the call by asking if the other person can hear you. Just start talking, confident that it works because you tested it. This is absurdly simple but will make you look smarter, more thoughtful and more confident. Never let the recruiter be the one to discover that you have muted the microphone, forgot to plug it in or set the microphone level wrong.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about this and other communication topics you can contact Andrew Hennigan at speaker@andrewhennigan.com and by phone on 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Building Confidence as a Speaker

As a speaker coach one of the questions people ask most frequently is how to overcome shyness, nerves and fear to become a confident speaker. This is one of the first things to address because until you are confident speaking it will be difficult to speak effectively. 
There are many techniques for overcoming speaking nerves, but there are three that I have tested personally both on myself and also on people who I have coached. By applying these methods you can not only overcome your fear of speaking, you will also grow to like it so much that you look forward to speaking in front of a large audience.
Find some kind of space where you have to talk to people. There are many jobs, sports and hobbies that you can do entirely alone, and these do not help in any way to build confidence. You are more likely to become comfortable talking to strangers if you have a job or some other space where you speak regularly and often with other people. There are many customer-facing or employee-facing jobs like this and if your regular work doesn't offer any opportunities consider finding some voluntary work where you can have this opportunity. When you talk to strangers just once a week it will always be terrifying; when you talk to people every hour it becomes natural and relaxing. Any interaction will help, even if it is just telling people about the benefits of joining or supporting some non profit-
Look for public speaking opportunities. You could join organizations like Toastmasters which exist primarily to help people acquire speaking skills, but if you already have some experience and just need more practice you could find work or volunteer opportunities where you can or have to speak to groups of people. You will find that you get better results with spaces where you can speak often to smaller groups rather than once a year for a large audience. Pitching a non-profit to potential members, campaigning for some environmental association or presenting local startup events can all be useful ways to get this practice. Repeating the same presentation again and again might sound dull but it gives you both the opportunity to become confident and also to polish the content.
Learn to speak in another language. This is certainly the least intuitive advice, but if you try to speak to individuals and groups of people in a language that you do not know very well this will also boost your confidence when speaking in your own language. When you have been struggling to explain something using a limited vocabulary you will find that speaking a language you know very well suddenly feels very easy. I discovered this first when I learned to speak Italian and that have me more confidence speaking in English. Later the same happened when I learned to speak French and my Italian speaking became more confident. Language learning has this interesting side effect of boosting confidence.
Whatever approach you use, remember that there is no magical cure for shyness or lack of confidence. Ultimately you build confidence simply by building experience. In much the same way that student pilots need to build up hundreds of flying hours before they become confident, a speaker should speak hundreds of hours to acquire a basic level of confidence. The sooner you start the sooner you will build up these hours. If you can remember every time you have spoken you are not speaking enough. Don't wait for opportunities to come to you, reach out proactively to find them.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, interactive workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about public speaking and other communication topics you can contact Andrew Hennigan by email at speaker@andrewhennigan.com or by phone at 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Networking and the Asparagus Farmer

In some ways networking is like asparagus farming, where the instruction book begins "dig a trench, two years ago". Occasionally you can go to a networking event, meet someone and the next day you benefit in some way from the connection. This is the exception rather than the rule. Most networking efforts pay back months or even years after you have done them -- another reason why I always teach people in networking workshops to start early and take a long-term view.

Taking a long-term view sounds reasonable enough to most people, but the devil as always is in the details; how exactly do you build a long-term networking strategy? The short answer is to follow three general principles that will ensure that the tactical activities you are doing now will support your long term goals.

1. Meet a more diverse population. In many situations you are likely to meet mostly people who are all from similar backgrounds. If you are a doctor you probably know many other people in the business, if you are a footballer you probably meet many footballers and if you are a quality engineer you probably meet many quality engineers. The downside of this is that you tend to build a lop-sided network with huge gaps. Since you don't know where you will be in a few years and can't predict what will be important this lack of diversity is a problem. For this reason any long term networking plan has to include some opportunities for meeting people from different backgrounds. If you are an accountant don't just hang out with fellow accountants but try to participate in activities where there are people from very different fields -- perhaps in a theater group, a motorcycle club or a veteran car club.

2. Build a solid networking capital. You will get more from your network if you are widely known as a generous contributor to your network. Help people when they ask, help people proactively, accept help and be generous with your time. At the same time build a reputation for being dependable. If you promise to do something write down that promise and make sure that you deliver. Most people actually don't deliver all the things they promise so this is a great way to stand out, building social capital that will one day be useful when you need help.

3. Create a real-life reputation platform. Since the invention of social media the focus of reputation management shifted towards creating an online footprint based on user-created profiles on social sites. Anyone can do this so a reputation based on independent sources has much more value. That is why today to build a strong reputation you need to build a solid platform that gives you credibility. It could be that you have some achievement like founding a startup, or perhaps you play a leadership role in some non-profit organization, perhaps you have written a book or perhaps you teach in a prestigious school. All of these will help you to build a "platform", a reputation that will open doors and make networking easier. Anybody can attempt to connect with an influential person, but the chance of success is much higher when you have a platform.

Some of these methods will not yield any measurable benefits this month, but a year or more into the future one day you will meet people thanks to these efforts and you will be very glad that you made the effort.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching, Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about networking and other topics you can contact Andrew Hennigan by email at speaker@andrewhennigan.com, by phone on 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How Speaking Boosts Your Networking

After attending any event who is it that you remember? Is it Gary Greysuit who stood at the back silently, looking for someone they knew? Is it Brian Boredrone who recited his entire CV plus a list of every baked potato he had ever eaten? Or was it Suzy Speaker who delivered a short but memorable speech?

It's always the speakers who get the most mileage from any event. They are the most visible people in the room, everyone knows who they are, many people want to talk to them,  most know what they are knowledgeable about. They are people who are in the program and promotion for the event and they are mentioned in any post-event posts and articles. If anyone is going to be remembered it is the speakers.

Just attending an event is useful for networking, and with some preparation anyone can make meaningful connections, but by taking opportunities to speak you make it much more likely that the event will lead to interesting results.

Any kind of talk will get you some attention, but if you want the attention to be positive there are some basic rules that everyone has to follow:

1. DON'T SELL FROM THE STAGE. If you have been invited to speak take a content marketing approach and speak about an interesting topic related to your expertise. Don't use the stage for selling yourself, your product or your company. If you are selling insurance, for example, you might tell some curious story from the history of insurance rather than listing the selling points of your products. Your goal in a talk is to build reputation, not pitch a product, except for specific pitching events where this is the goal.

2. BE INTERESTING. Avoid too much unnecessary detail, don't repeat old stories you have read everywhere and test your content on smaller audiences and friends to identify the parts that you think are great but everyone else hates. Create a first draft that is too long then prune it to remove the least interesting parts and the rest will be stronger. Be careful also to not oversell an idea by making too many arguments for it. Three reasons for doing something will always be stronger and more exciting than 13 reasons.

3. BE BRIEF. Most speaking slots are likely to be brief, but aim to be brief anyway. To keep people's attention for more than 20 minutes is extremely difficult and you can share many ideas in just a few minutes. TED and TEDx talks are never more than 18 minutes yet manage to be very rich in content. This is especially important if the talk is being recorded for a video. People might sit in a conference room for an hour listening to you talk -- though they are probably checking their social media -- but convincing someone to watch a 60 minute video is a challenge.

There are also some practical considerations. First of all, make sure that you are going to stay after you have spoken. Speak-and-run is a very poor tactic because there are always people who would like to talk to speakers but you have to give them an opportunity to do so. And consider wearing something distinctive, because at some events everyone looks the same, so I sometimes find in my notes comments like "lumberjack shirt" which I make to ensure I can identify the speaker in the melée during the break. For the same reason you should also make sure that the picture you provide for the program actually looks like you.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about public speaking and other communication topics you can contact Andrew Hennigan at speaker@andrewhennigan.com or by phone on 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81. There's also more information on http://andrewhennigan.com.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

How to Network Effectively at Face-to-Face Meetups

Face-to-face meetups are much more effective than online activity for discovering and creating a bond with other people. But it's not enough just to attend and hope for the best. To get the best results takes some effort and a little planning.

There are many different ways you can make every meeting fruitful and even fun, but to get you started here are five secrets that are going to make a difference:

1. GET INVOLVED SOMEHOW. Just attending an event is better than staying at home, but the people who get the best results are the people who are actively involved in the event, helping the organizers or participating in some way. This gives you much more visibility and more opportunities for interacting with other people. It's also much easier for shy people. Be an active part of the event and more people will remember you, especially if you have a role in the organization or presentation of the event. And the people who benefit the most? The people who speak.
2. LISTEN, REMEMBER. When you meet new people they are likely to tell you who they are and what they do. The most common networking mistake is to ignore this and think instead about what you are going to say. What works much better is to listen carefully to what other people have said and remember the key parts. This information is essential so that you will be able to help them in future -- a key principal of effective networking. 
3. BE GENEROUS WITH HELP.  Help the people you know and the people you meet when they ask for it and when you can offer help proactively. This will give you a reputation for being a great person to know and when you need anything other people are more likely to help. This is not "tit for tat" reciprocation, but rather building credit in your network equity account, a balance you can draw on later. Sometimes Alice helps Bob and Carol, then Derek helps Alice just because she has a good reputation and he knows she is the kind of person who is generous with others. Just help people. It will all come back one day.
4. FOCUS ON A FEW PEOPLE. Don't try to meet a hundred people you will forget immediately. Instead have a more realistic goal to get to know one or two new people. Spend enough time listening to them so that you know them well enough to be helpful in future. If you connect properly with just one new person the event was a success. Anything more than one is excellent.
5. BE CLEAR ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT. Nobody can help you if they don't know how. Make sure that if you are looking for an internship, a job, an investor, speaking gigs or anything else then make sure that people know about this. Another common mistake in life is to assume that people know what we want. They don't. Make sure people know what you want then they are more likely to let you know if they find it.
At the next meetup you go to try at least one of these ideas and see where it takes you. If you can do all five that is even better but you should grow your networking skills one step at a time. And don't worry if you don't do it perfectly. There will always be more chances. Just make sure you attend events regularly.

More about professional networking

There's much more about professional networking in my book Payforward Networking, available in paperback and Kindle editions.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about networking and other communication topics you can contact Andrew Hennigan by phone on 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81 and by email at conseil@andrewhennigan.com.