A friend of mine recently signed up to Twitter (hi Kim!). We had this email conversation about what it means to be on Twitter, and about blogging. This got me reflecting on what a difference these web tools have made to my business and to my facilitation practice.
Contactable in many ways
Less than two years ago the only way to contact me was by phone, email (one account) or mail. Now I have at least four email accounts, twitter, facebook, 3 web sites, skype – well, you get the picture. And they only need to be as intrusive as I want them to be. On a 10-day vacation recently in Africa I had no technology at all, not even a cell phone. The world didn’t end. Emails waited patiently wherever they’re stored until I returned.
Connecting with people – known
So I’d meet someone at a conference – and let’s face it, I AM prone to attending conferences. I like the interaction and the challenges and the ideas that emerge (which mean I only attend certain types of conferences – if there’s too many presentations, or too much control, I scarper). I’ve met lots of really interesting people at conferences and the only thing I have to show for it, years later, is their card (if I can find it). Since blogging, skyping etc I’ve been able to stay in touch with people I meet and even become friends with some. We don’t talk every day – and may go for months without any interaction. But I might read their blogs (and they might read mine), or I might simply see on my skype contacts that they are on-line. It’s enough to remind me of them. For example, the other day I ran a workshop around status behaviours for facilitators. It went really well and I was enthused to do some more around this topic. So I skyped my improv buddy in Finland, Simo, who just happened to be on-line to ask if his book about status had been translated into English yet (the answer was ‘no’). I really value the connections, and particularly the friendships, developed this way. It’s always great when they come and visit too – and I suppose it helps living in a tourist destination.
Oh, and it works just as well staying connected with people around the corner as across the globe.
Connecting with people – unknown
Following links from a trusted source to somewhere else on the web can lead to all sorts of possibilities: unexpected collaborations, book reviews, invitations to present at conferences, work opportunities – all of these have happened for me, not from people I personally know, but from people I’ve ‘met’ on the web.
Connecting with ideas & staying current
I have to make a conscious effort to stay in touch with people, AND ideas – especially as I work alone. I’ve always been a media junkie – I put that down to doing media studies in the 80s – so reading newspapers is a start, a few mags are good, and then I find things out via the web and especially links that I would never have known about any other way. As a facilitator, I think I need to have a good sense of what’s happening in the world – globally, nationally and locally. This enables me to put the topic of the workshop into a context, so I may not understand the detail, but I do have a sense of why the topic is important for this client and how I can contribute as a facilitator.
Today I had a two-hour skype video chat with my friend Andrea who lives in San Antonio, Texas (and I’m in Australia) – so despite the time difference, we were able to plan two workshops that we’re co-delivering at this year’s Applied Improv Conference in Chicago. And then my friend Geoff demonstrated dimdim as another meeting tool – especially when you both want to co-create something on the whiteboard.
It’s fun – mostly
I enjoy it – if I didn’t I’d stop. Which is exactly what happened recently on a listserv that I’d been on since its inception 12 years ago. The discussions turned a bit nasty, with too much one-upmanship for my liking. I stuck it out for a while, and finally decided I was not enjoying it at all, so unsubscribed.
And what blogger doesn’t like seeing their words in print? There is an ego element to all of this – the trick is keeping it in check, realising that it’s not the number of friends you have, or the number of people following you on Twitter, or the number of hits on your blog, but the quality of the relationships and the value that you can receive, and give. Karma.