It takes a scanner to appreciate a non-scanner

Uncategorized 2 Comments

It takes a scanner to appreciate a non-scanner (or, “Why I went looking for the best water-skier in Luxembourg”)

A guest blog post by sociologist and writer, Keith Kahn-Harris

Best water skier in LuxembourgAs soon as I came across the term Scanner I felt enormous relief. Here at last was a way of describing who I was: curious about everything, always exploring new projects and new ideas, never settling permanently for one life direction. Over the last few years in particular I’ve felt buoyed aloft by the incredible range of creative possibilities inherent in our ever-more networked world.

Despite being a scanner, the focus of what I do has often been on people who aren’t scanners. As a sociologist I am interested in communities, scenes and subcultures. I am fascinated by the incredible single-minded dedication that their members show to their cause or passion. In my work on extreme heavy metal music scenes and on the British Jewish community , I have examined what it means to be a member of something, what it is to join in. And I have joined in myself – as both a Jew and a metalhead, these scenes and communities are part of my world.

Not everyone in the communities and scenes I’ve researched and written about are non-scanners. There are plenty of Jews who flit in and out of Jewish communal involvement; there are plenty of metallers who are also something else. But the non-scanners (or ‘Divers’ as Barbara Sher terms them) are essential to the mix. Jewish communities would be nothing without those who attend synagogue week after week. Metal music scenes would be nothing without underground bands who toil in obscurity for years.

My latest project is a tribute to such unsung heroes. The book I am working on, The Best Water Skier in Luxembourg: Tales of Big Fish in Small Ponds, may sound like a joke, but it has a serious purpose. I set myself the challenge of choosing some small worlds, semi-randomly, and going to meet the key people in them. Last December I travelled to Luxembourg and met the best water skiers in the country. On a small strip of the Moselle river bordering Germany, the 7 Luxembourgoise water ski clubs attract a small but fanatical following.

In the coming months I hope to meet other big fish in small ponds: the most powerful politician on Alderney, Malta’s favourite soft drink, the  Icelandic special forces, the top novelist in Suriname and the best heavy metal band in Botswana.

The project came about in a very scannerish way: I used to joke that while I was a top sociologist of Anglo-Jewry and of heavy metal, there was little ‘competition’, so I was like the best water skier in Luxembourg. In spring 2011 the idea leapt into my head – let’s go and meet the best water skier in Luxembourg! I quickly realised that the Luxembourg water ski scene could be part of a book about big fish in small ponds.

To my surprise, I managed to convince the lovely people at Unbound, the recently launched crowd-funded publishing company for books, to take on the project. Within a few months I’d funded the Luxembourg chapter and now I am raising funds for the rest of the book. Apologies for the plug but I need your support!

Perhaps the wider lesson of the book, from the research I have done so far, is that you can find heroic, committed individuals almost anywhere – pick a small world at random (as I have done) and you will find them. Their mulish stubbornness and their loyalty to a single cause is what gives solidity to the overlapping worlds that constitutes the bigger world.

But you also need scanners too. Those of us who can never quite settle for one small world, one activity, are able to translate non-scanners experiences outside the communities and scenes of which they are a part. I suppose my life’s work – if you can call the disparate projects I’ve worked on a life’s work – is to be this kind of translator.

And maybe there’s a hint of envy in this work. The life of a scanner is exciting, but it’s also bewildering, lonely and insecure sometimes. Part of me wants to have the security that comes with monomaniacal commitment. I guess then, there’s always going to be a certain amount of yearning in my work for those who dedicate their lives to one small world.

Keith Kahn HarrisKeith Kahn-Harris is a sociologist and writer. His website is
You can support The Best Water Skier in Luxembourg at Unbound

So you want to run an event? 5 classic pitfalls to avoid

Making money, Scanner resources 2 Comments

I know that lots of scanners have ideas for live events – whether it’s a themed party or a speaking event like Scanners Night. So I invited our resident expert and my co-organisor of Scanners Night, Sarada Chaudhuri of Event Detective to give her most essential tips for beginners:

Many, many years ago, when the world entered a new millennium, Britney had just “Done It Again”, and Facebook and Twitter were yet to take the world by storm, I was learning the ropes on how to organise events, with no idea that I’d love doing it so much, it’d turn into a full-time career. But my journey to becoming confident in working with suppliers, fixing an AV disaster at the last minute, and calming down a nervous speaker was paved with its fair share of mishaps and embarrassments…

These days, when I’m not planning an event, I love to show people how to do them. In particular, I can guide you in how to avoid the most common problems that can happen, especially if you’re organising an event for the first time.

Here, I’ve put together a list of the 5 most common pitfalls – yes, they’ve all happened to me too. But more importantly, I’ll show you how to avoid them, so your first event can go smoothly.

Number 5 – Plan? What plan?

Yes, it’s that old cliché – fail to plan and you plan to fail. Yes, it is possible to ‘wing it’, especially with small events, but the problem is that 99% of the time, something will happen that you didn’t quite expect…

So if you’re putting off getting an event plan together because you think it’s complicated, think again. Even something basic will do e.g. date and time of the event, roughly how many people you expect, whether or not you’re providing catering, whether or not you need any technical equipment etc. The beauty of this is that as long as you have a basic outline, you can add to it as you go along.

This is how many event plans and schedules evolve, even for massive live events involving thousands – the more you do them, the more you see the common things you need to include each time, and less chance of things going wrong!

Number 4 – Help! I’m being attacked by a swarm of suppliers!

The common mistake is that you ‘stick a pin in the Internet’ and Google spews hundreds of caterers, AV technicians, venues etc. and you get so overwhelmed, you just pick the first one you come across for an easy life. The trouble is, though, that you rarely get what you want, and can end up seriously out of pocket.

So, before you reach for the computer, take a moment to think about people you/friends/family may already know who can provide you with a venue, food, PA system for a low cost, and who will listen to what you want. Try Twitter, Facebook and Linked In too – you’ll be surprised how many people are willing to help.

Number 3 – Do I really have to visit all those venues?

Yes, I’m afraid you do.

When planning an event, the venue is generally your biggest expense, so you want to spend a bit of time making sure it’s the right one. Yes, I know that many venues have lovely websites with dazzling photos, but there really is no substitute for visiting the venue, and getting a feel for it yourself. A photo won’t tell you if the AC works, or if the toilets are nearby, or how far the nearest Tube is (trust me).

Again, if you follow the tips in point 4, you won’t be spending time visiting hundreds of venues for weeks – just start by picking your favourite, and go from there.

The added bonus of visiting a venue? You get to sweet talk the manager into giving you a good deal!

Number 2 – People would be crazy to miss this event! So why is no one signing up?

Do people actually know your event’s happening? You know, it’s so easy to get wrapped in the awesomeness of your event, the magic of your sound-and-light show that your technical friend put together, and the wonderful home-made cookies people will get as they walk through the door, that sometimes we (yes, that has included me) forget the very basic things of actually promoting our event.

And now that we’re in the age of social media, there’s no need to spend a lot, or even any, money on this. Set up a Facebook Event and invite all your friends. Or, if you want to be fancy about it, set up a special Facebook Page. Maybe use a free blogging platform like WordPress or Blogger to put together a basic webpage that tells people the key details like when, where, what, how much etc. And, don’t forget Twitter!

And the cherry on top? Make sure to tell people why they should literally drop everything and rush down. If you’re really proud of some aspect of the event (the cookies, the technical extravaganza) then please let people know! This is no time to be shy…

Number 1 – Well, I’ve been super-organised and booked all the suppliers etc. well in advance. That should be it, right?


Sadly, I’ve been on the receiving end of misunderstandings with suppliers as to exactly how high that balloon sculpture should be, or where the loading bay is. I tell you, the no.1 enemy of successful events is miscommunication.

So, once you’ve had your initial meeting/booking with your supplier, check in regularly as the event draws closer, so you both know what’s going on. It’s also the best way to nip any problems in the bud.

So there you have it. Just keep these things in mind, and you’ll be able to handle most of the things that will crop up in your event.

But hang on. What if there’s more problems that freak you out? Well, don’t worry – you can get more help from me below.

– Sarada

Get more of Sarada’s event tips

Go to and signup for regular free tips on how to avoid event nightmares.

Or ‘Like’ the Event Detective Facebook Page and ask Sarada a question.

And of course, say ‘Hi’ when you next come to Scanners Night!

Finding it difficult to get your stuff done?

Creativity, Productivity, Scanner Nights, Uncategorized 7 Comments

This little video about procrastination (brought to my attention by Jenny Jameson of Zero Gravity Life) made me laugh.

See if it rings a bell with you.

Do you recognise similar experiences of finding your day has disappeared before you’ve got started on what really matters?

Then join us at July Scanners Night when we’ll be discovering from Mark Walsh how to go Beyond Time Management and get the right things done, not just lots of ‘stuff’.


Welcome To The New Scanners Night

Scanner Nights, Scanner resources, ScannerCentral news 3 Comments

John Williams at Scanners Night - photo by Jim Friedman

This week we ran our new look Scanners Night at a new venue with our biggest crowd yet. (See pic above – that’s me, John Williams, in the foreground)

The focus in our new format is on you and helping make your ideas happen – with the help of 60 other creative people who are writing books, building blogs, launching businesses, starting their own event, using social media to promote their art, or making their escape from the 9 to 5.

And instead of long talks, we lead you through an exercise to get help on your ideas so that you leave with new insights and new contacts to make things happen over the next month.

Plus we share the real-life stories of people who have launched some brilliant projects onto the world and even turned them into a lucrative business.

Rave reviews

Here are some great unsolicited comments we got on twitter after this very first “Scanners Night 2.0”:

Fantastic scanners night with @johnsw and @FreeRangeHumans yesterday – lots of inspiring people and ideas, lots of energy, whoop!

I found it really helpful tonight. I have some very clear actions to take this week. Thanks.

Scanners night was really good tonight, really enjoyed it.

Newly discovered play project starts tomorrow thanks to a great scanners night!

We want your opinion

If you were there, let us know what you think: What did you get out of it? What was most helpful? What would you change? We’d love to know – so please leave a comment. If it helped you to pursue an idea or project, let us know that too!

If you haven’t experienced the new look Scanners Night yet, but you’ve been to our other events, leave a comment to tell us what you’d like from the night – and make a date to join us in February.

The next Scanners Night is 9 February. (Scanners Night is on the 2nd Wednesday of the month so put it in your diary as a repeating appointment if you’re a fan.)

Read more and book your tickets here (before it sells out!)

How to have a satisfying & rewarding life as a scanner

Uncategorized 7 Comments

Nick Williams is best-selling author of The Work We Were Born To Do and co-founder of The Inspired Entrepreneur Community.

Recently Nick and I have been having a series of conversations about work, entrepreneurship and creating a fulfilling life which Nick has made available as short videos.

Join Nick and I on my sofa as I explain what a scanner is, how we work best, how we find success and fulfilment, and what types of careers and businesses suit us best.

If what I’m talking about sounds familiar to you, you don’t have to be alone anymore!

Come along to Scanners Night in London tonight and meet 40-50 people just like you – network, get new ideas, and learn how to conquer the email overwhelm so many of us Scanners suffer from:


Cool evening event seeking attractive venue

Scanner Nights, ScannerCentral news 6 Comments

DatingIt’s dating time for Scanners Night.

We’re looking to pair our lovely, fun, creative event with a delightful and deserving venue. Can you help us match-make?

Here’s our check list for the venue that will be a perfect partner – note that attributes are listed in descending order of importance.

  1. Fits 65 people, ideally up to 75, all seated with room to move around
  2. We can have the space exclusively to ourselves – not shared with random strangers (what kind of event do you take us for?). Ideal is a gallery, a cool meeting space, or a separate room above or below a nice bar or restaurant where our fascinating speakers won’t be interrupted by noise or people making their way somewhere else.
  3. A space with a cool, casual feel – ideally not a traditional lecture theatre. Think scattered, ad-hoc seating, or cabaret style. Funky interiors are welcome! Scanners love the new, the innovative, the unusual and will rave about you to everyone they know.
  4. Central London location – Zone 1: the West End is ideal, Shoreditch at a stretch. Recently we have been just off Regent Street and then Great Portland Street.
  5. A PA with a mic. Ideally input for a second mic too.
  6. Occasionally, a projector and screen in situ would be very helpful. Ditto Internet access to call up websites
  7. Ideally a bar for people to buy their own drinks in the break and possibly before and after (that don’t require pre-ordering).
  8. Budget: some of our previous venues have been free but we are willing to pay a fee for the right spot

And in return, we bring you:

  • 50-70 people every month on a night when you might otherwise have only a small number of people for your extra space. It’s a social/networking event with a speaker talking for the first half of the evening.
  • Friendly people who get their own drinks before the event, at the break and sometimes after. Some will also buy snacks such as bar food.
  • Publicity to over 1000 well connected people on an email list every month
  • We are happy to do combined marketing such as offering a promotional voucher of some kind

If you point us to a venue we end up using, you are welcome to be our guest at all Scanners Night events for the rest of this year – and you will have our eternal gratitude to boot!

We are also interested in engaging experienced event organisors.

Please email john @ scanner central. co. uk [please type it in without the spaces – sorry it’s a pain but it’s the only way to avoid automated spam]

Scanners Night

How to be a Super Successful Scanner

Creativity, Making money, Productivity 3 Comments

Watch this video of Suzy Greaves, named as “One of the top 10 gurus to turn your life around” by the Daily Mail as she interviews me, John Williams, about the challenges of being a successful Scanner and the secrets to conquering them.

It’s time Scanners knew how to become that very rare thing – The Super Successful Scanner.

Learn the secrets of the Super Successful Scanner

I’ve spent all my working life searching for the solution to the challenges of being a scanner.

And I reckon I’ve cracked it.

SWLP BookLast year I won an international book deal (without all the usual slog that entails), wrote 70,000 words, and hit my deadline. Screw Work, Let’s Play: How to do what you love & get paid for it is published next month by Pearson.

Screw Work Let’s Play has been selected as a “Buzz Book” in Sunday Times Style Magazine this Sunday and described as:

“A compelling 10-step escape from corporate life that could spell a rash of resignation letters”
Fleur Britten, Sunday Times Style Magazine

Aside from this, I’ve been fortunate to achieve some remarkable things for someone so unfocussed and naturally lazy:

  • I quit my job as Deloitte Consultant to consult independently to blue chip organisations like the BBC, often at a rate of over £1000/day (meaning I only needed to work for 3 months a year)
  • I turned a full-time job offer into a 3-day a week freelance gig that paid me the same income – so I could do whatever I wanted 2 days a week
  • Cold-called the Guardian newspaper to win my first piece of paid writing with no prior experience and had some of my experimental music played on radio stations around the world,
  • I grew a meeting of a handful of people in a bar into the successful Scanners Night event with up to 70 paid attendees
  • I’ve built and managed over a dozen websites and blogs, and used internet marketing to build an audience of 1000s of email subscribers, blog readers, and twitter followers

Now I want to share what I’ve learned in all these adventures to help you become that very rare thing – the Super Successful Scanner.

So you too can enjoy the creativity, variety, and idea generation you love andhave the shear buzz of real world results: seeing your creations out there in the world, reading your words in print, sharing your ideas and expertise on TV, or building a successful business – and finally making great money from it all.

Welcome to Scanner School

For the very first time I am running a Scanner School to show you how to achieve serious success as a Scanner.

It’s a 3 week evening course at a very special price and it starts soon.

Here’s what you’ll learn:


How to choose the right creative or business project to do next – one that you’ll love doing and will actually make some money! How to choose projects that don’t make you feel trapped but instead feed your need for creativity, ideas and self-expression.


How to follow through to get stuff done without making yourself miserable. How to complete important stuff even if you have the attention span and self-discipline of a 2 year old on coca cola.


How to be successful (and even get rich & famous) for something despite the crazy random diversity of your interests and projects. How to attract new opportunities and income without the usual hard slog of relentlessly selling yourself.

Sound good?

Download Scanner School Now

For a limited time, you can download the entire Scanner School lesson series for just £9.97.
Click the button below to find out more.

Book Now

10 keys to getting yourself on TV

Scanner Nights 1 Comment

Claire RichmondGetting yourself on TV to talk about your passion & knowledge can transform your fortunes: raising your profile, selling massive numbers of your books, products, workshops or consulting hours, and giving you the chance to help and inspire a huge number of people.

At April Scanners Night, Claire Richmond shared her 10 keys to getting yourself on TV.

Claire was series producer of some of TV’s most popular shows including the BBC’s Changing RoomsReady Steady Cook, and Don’t Get Done Get Dom. She is founder of, the online database of experts for members of the media on the hunt for new talent.

Listen to her fascinating talk below.

If you can’t see the player above, here is the link to the MP3.

If you want to give yourself the best chance of getting onto TV, check out Claire’s site

If you decide to join, quote “SCANNERS” to get 50% of the joining fee –  if you register before the end of April 2010.

Ten tricks to make any idea happen

Scanner Nights 2 Comments

Shed Simove Ideas ManShed Simove is a TV producer, comedian, entrepreneur, and author of new book, Ideas Man. And he’s expert on making ideas happen.

After a successful career in TV (including Commissioning Editor of ‘Big Brother’) Shed has gone on to create a wide range of novelty gifts, executive toys, greetings cards, and books – with sales now approaching one million.

Shed has a rebellious sense of humour and loves to play with society’s taboos – whether it’s changing his name to God, or creating a confectionary product called “Clitoris Allsorts” that sold over 5000 packets.

At March Scanners Night, Shed shared his 10 tricks to make any idea happen successfully – whether it’s a toy, a sweet, a greeting card range, a TV programme, or a book.

Listen to his talk below.

If you can’t see the player above, here is the link to the MP3.

If you want to learn more about how Shed came up with such original ideas and turned them into a business, I highly recommend his book Ideas Man.

Read more about Shed’s entire range of products

The Big Love Experiment

Uncategorized Comments Off on The Big Love Experiment

One of my mentors, Suzy Greaves, has today launched her Big Love Experiment. As she explains it,

I’m Suzy Greaves and at 41, after 16 years of marriage, I’ve split up with my husband. With new figures showing that one in every two marriages fails – I’m not alone.

I’m part of a new army of people looking for love. The Big Love Experiment is a journey – over a 52 week period – to find it.

The Big Love Experiment is for anyone who believes that love is the answer, that all you need is love, that love is all around us, if only we could find it.

Over the next 52 weeks, I will be interviewing love gurus and experts, scientists and people who have loving long-term relationships – and with their help designing weekly exercises for us to embark on a journey together via my online community to help us discover –  is love really the answer? And if it is – how and where do we find it?

I’m a big fan of time-limited experiments because they’re ideal for scanners. Suzy will be immersed in this experiment for a year, learning from top gurus for herself and sharing what she discovers with the participants. And she might well produce a book out of it as she did for her Big Peace project. Once she’s finished she can reap the rewards of having something to show for it that furthers her business – and she is free move on to the next experiment.

Read about Suzy’s Big Love Experiment here

« Previous Entries