Surviving a Networking Event – Adventures of a Social Caterpillar

I didn’t have second thoughts about attending Chris Guillebeau’s London book tour. Given how reluctant I am about all things social, then traversing all the way to Shoreditch for his event says something.

Haven’t read his first book “The Art of Non-Conformity.” In fact until yesterday I had no plans to add his latest “$100 Startup” book to an already overdue reading list either.

social caterpillar

Still, I wanted to meet the guy. If nothing else, he is a true embodiment of the potential of the online platform: from publishing all the way to starting a global movement.

I wanted to try and socialize with similar-minded people too. Oh, and I had nothing planned for Friday evening either.

The event was hosted downstairs at Pizza East, in the same square block as Mother agency, where Tony Hsieh (Zappos.com) held his talk a couple of weeks back (and what am I doing still living in Notting Hill? Subject for another navel-staring post).

His talk was down to earth and inspiring. It kind of made me wanna get out and *do* something, like launch a start-up or something.

Networking was never quite my forte. I cannot mingle. I’m nervous. Dunno what to say, I always wanna look for ways to escape. Okay, so now that we’ve established just how anti-social I am, let’s go to what I learned last night.

You don’t need to be a social butterfly (in the traditional physical sense) to succeed as an entrepreneur anymore.

Two weeks ago Tony Hsieh wrapped up his talk, and then disappeared. No socialising, nothing. And given his long tenure as an entrepreneur he even seemed somewhat shy during the talk. So here is an example of a introvert millionaire who seems to do most of his socializing online. That’s the impression I got anyway.

Chris answered a question about this very topic yesterday. He admitted to being a bit of an introvert himself, but countered that you need people before you do anything worthwhile. His time is apparently equally divided between creating and connecting. Connection can largely be online these days, with not much physical interaction: as long as it is of service to people.

You don’t need to invent the iPhone, he said. Just be useful, be of service. If you have ten followers on your blog, then those are the most important people in the world for you.

The talk was soon over, and I had to mingle. Business cards were burning a hole in my pocket.

The person I found most approachable was Chris himself. After talking to him, things went downhill. My voice could hardly come out in any coherent or audible way. I stood there watching the crowd talk as if they knew each other already. How does one squeeze in?

After a few awkward advances, some lame one liners and a few walk-outs, I managed to speak to a few people. I met a global activist, a vegan chef, a videographer, and a group of photographers. All were exceptionally entrepreneurial. I met a lady who owns a biotech start-up and supplements her income with career coaching, for example.

When business cards ran out and when my voice was totally off, I figured I should take the hint and make a gracious exit.

This was Chris’s only tour-stop outside US and Canada. I left the event feeling much better about London.

PS: If you plan to buy his book, I’d suggest you avoid the UK version. See, the UK publisher decided that the book illustrations were not serious enough for the British ‘business’ audience. Now, considering the illustrator is Mike Rohde, the guy who illustrated Rework, their decision was ill advised. Head to Amazon.com for the real deal.