Monday, October 31, 2016

Influencing: How Airbnb Organizes the Host Community

Airbnb has been wildly successful in creating a multi-billion dollar business out of short term room rentals. The company has long been opposed by various lobbies. Traditional hospitality companies fear that it might encroach on their business and demand a more level playing field where everyone abides by the same rules (Internet Marketplaces, Is it Time to Level the Playing Field).  Local authorities see the company as costing them tax revenue and flouting regulations. Other bodies are concerned about the impact on the housing market.

Around the world local authorities are creating new rules for this kind of home rental. Home rental contracts are also being rewritten to limit or ban outright short term subrentals. Airbnb responds to these moves with traditional lobbying efforts, but what is much more interesting is how the company is preparing to mobilize the massive army of airbnb hosts to advocate for the business, too.

What airbnb has done is to create a network of "Homesharing Clubs", local associations of people who rent property through airbnb. Some of these renters are people offering their spare room; others are people who run airbnb rentals as a business. There is a description of a typical Homesharing Club in Airbnb faces Worldwide Opposition...

When the project was launched last year airbnb made no secret of their goal to create an advocacy bloc for their business. But very cleverly this is not the only purpose of the clubs. Airbnb hosts can meet up and share ideas about optimizing revenues, they can meet up to discuss where to find the best plumbers, they can meet up to organize discounts at laundries. They can also meet to discuss political action, writing letters, organizing protests and campaigning on social media.

This approach means that the company can first build a vast network of advocates that are already in position, identified and easy to reach whenever they are needed. Between advocacy campaigns they can be discussing how to deal with people who rent a property just to have a wild party, but if there is any legislation coming up in the area they can be mobilized very quickly.

Airbnb's approach to organized advocacy is simple enough, but it is an interesting example for anyone else who might be in the same situation. The company has many opponents -- lawmakers, hotel owners, housing organizations among them -- but they also have many people on their own side. These are not just the people who benefit by getting a cheaper and sometimes better stay when they travel, they are also the people who actually have a financial stake in the success of the room sharing economy. These people are highly motivated to defend their income. With a relatively modest investment, this motivation can be channeled into action.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

Andrew Hennigan does lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about influencing skills, digital marketing and more. If you would like to discuss a project call 0046 730 894 475 or email

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.

2017 Edition of Payforward Networking.  There's more about this and other networking techniques in the 2017 edition of Payforward Networking, available in both paperback and Kindle editions. You can get it from Amazon here:

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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.

2017 Edition of Payforward Networking.  There's more about this and other networking techniques in the 2017 edition of Payforward Networking, available in both paperback and Kindle editions. You can get it from Amazon here:

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.

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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.

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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.