How do we meet people? Making an event out of connecting.
How I got into coworking
My friend Debbie has been in the copywriting business since before we had computers. She sat down one day to work out how she knew everyone in her business world.
It all led back to a handful people, and it is the same with me.
It is fascinating because no matter how much you plan the events you attend. The courses you take or which way you swipe on a dating app. You never know who is going to impact your life in the long run.
Many of the people who have shaped my career come down to Julius and Carmen. These introductions were never transactional, they were about ‘being on the same page’ or ‘in the same head space.’
In 2008 I joined their ‘LinkedIn London’ Meetup which eventually rebranded to Spicy Networking. It is about this time they started The Event Manager Blog and Event Manager Group on LinkedIn.
“You never know what might happen” part happens when two people meet who have at least some kind of life for themselves.
Like me, Julius and Carmen were keen to run events where good people connect well and people who like networking and asks for a list of attendees to spam later felt unstuck.
I’ve had many conversations with people at points where the most significant decision that day was what to have for lunch because I had nothing else going for me.
They have to have goals and be thinking about things.
But it is ok to be working it out.
One of the reasons I’m writing this now is because of listening to this podcast back in 2011 with Mitch Joel and Marcus.
Which five years later led to me joining Chris Marrs CMA and the 90 Day Challenge.
At CMA I met the MYMO gang who took over the 90 Day Challenge.
I also met Kenda here, who told me about the StoryBrand book. Which, then led me to fly to Nashville, to do the StoryBrand guide training.
Now I’m part of the leadership team at a Fintech startup. And this ten-person comms team are following the BIG FIVE and StoryBrand method.
And that company came out of coworking in 2020. However, for me it started to happen back in 2008 when I signed up for twitter and meetup.
My Coworking Story Began
He had a meet up in New York where freelancers, consultants and creatives shared office space. https://youtu.be/btKPMPBoo_Q
I was running a few networking groups and trying to get a grip on building a career as a freelancer in London.
While I love these networking groups – many of us are still friends and work with other today. It was already getting exhausting running a traditional breakfast networking group.
I enjoy being with others, supporting and caring. What I didn’t like was sleazy selling, self-promotion, and asking people what they should be doing. That was what was going on in the networking world.
All the best networking groups I’ve been part of have not had the word networking anywhere near them.
I know that will upset some of you, but when you organise a group of peers to meet up, you take the time set the scene and curate the event magic happens.
When you put the word networking on it, an angel dies in a nasty accident with a food blender in a galaxy far away.
My first coworking events
The best parts of networking groups were when we all sat around the table after breakfast and chatted and whipped out our laptops.
When the formal meeting ended we’d do work together.
People would share problems, ask questions about software. We talk about books and events or bitch about an email that had just arrived and ask for help.
It was around this time I was starting to do ‘coworking things’. I did not know anything about coworking, but I’d already got into the spirit.
It was also this time in 2009 where I start to take part in. And I begin running Unconferences and Bar Camps like Tweet Camp. And that expands to how we use twitter and Be2Camp which was about construction, the built environment and collaboration.
These unconference events were informal, geeky and full of real people doing real things.
I thrived in these environments, I felt at home, met active and interesting people and learnt new and useful things.
At these Unconferances we’d sit around tables with our Samsung N110 Netbook’s
At the beginning of September, Julius invited me to an invite-only event at Sun Systems run by a larger-than-life character called Jeff.
I rocked up and, to be honest, had a minimal idea what it was all about.
Nearly 200 people squeezed into a conference room on the city side of London Bridge.
Twitter was blowing up.
The room was full of exciting people from tech and software from aching cool little startups to Adobe, Salesforce and @Jobsworth from BT.
I was genuinely excited and when Jeff shouted about buying a ticket I got one.
I wondered if I’d just gone to one of those events where they sell you a £20k life coaching program at the next event, but I trusted Julius and Carmen 1000%, and I was dizzy.
In between this and the actual event I got a call from an old mentor Geoff, you see everyone was called Geoff in my life at this time.
Jeff had his ear in grown-up startup tech, telecommunications, satellites and engineering. When he was mentoring me, I felt like I asked for advice about making salads from Oliver Reed.
He’d ask me questions about cash flow forecasts and scalability that made my eyes bleed.
There were long awkward silences at the mentoring sessions. These sessions were over lunch that I brought.
Jeff was there to help an injured animal (me) out of a bear trap and not the free lunch.
So Jeff barks down the phone something like ‘Mitchell. You know many people, how to get them to show up places and we need something like that for this new incubator we’re opening, come in and meet the team.’
He hung up. Now I had to go.
I’m sure he’d be tracking me from a satellite somewhere if I didn’t.
We camped out in an office until the primary space available in Smithfield Market that was to become the Innovation Warehouse in May 2011.
I walked around like I owned the place and Ami gave me funny looks all day because he did own it.
Then the 140conf came to London.
I was blown away by the format and people there. Stephen Fry was the first person on stage – yes THE Stephen Fry – as a result of that day I’m one of the 48K people he followed on
Twitter, he has 12 million people following so clearly I’m in the same league.
It is not much about coworking at this conference, but there is a lot about working and communicating as communities.
Something huge was happening in town, and big business was just about understanding the internet and working out social media. Everyone on stage was talking about the Cluetrain Manifesto, and some even had iPhones capable of 3G.
At this conference, I met the Creative Stores, a tech agency in Brussels that I would end up being a freelancer for in London, and where I found out about this new app called Instagram – I mean who would want a social network that only held photos?
I would – it gave rebirth my love of photography that I’d left in a letter asking the London College of Printing to put my place on hold for a year in 1992.