I’m back! Did you miss me?
After a 5 week holiday with my husband @TigerTex1 we are now back home, over the jet lag and begrudgingly settled into our routine of work and home.
We did a Trafalgar guided tour of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland. We saw beautiful countryside and rugged coastlines. We were in awe of the cathedrals and castles. We ate delicious food (yes, even black pudding and haggis), drank many English beers and met many people. (For those who are interested, I blogged about it in my personal blog Anchorgirls).
However one of the most memorable highlights of our time in the UK was not actually on tour, it was meeting my Personal Learning Network (PLN) in London.
Lesley Price (@LesleyPrice) from the Learning Performance Institute was kind enough to organise a tweetup (#LPITweetUp) when she found out I was going to the UK. She asked me who I wanted to meet. Many names popped into my mind and I listed them down but when I revisited their Twitter profiles, I saw that they didn’t actually live in London. Many lived outside of the city but others were from Ireland, Canada and the US! I realised how widespread my PLN was around the world at that moment…and those places could be potential new holiday destinations in the future.
So my long “Would Like to Meet” list for Lesley became a handful of those who lived and worked in or near London.
But all was not lost. Lesley came to the rescue. Through her networks, she sent out an email, booked a venue for lunch and after work drinks and made it all happen.
The Twittersphere was abuzz. People were looking forward to the event!
On the day of the tweetup, I was excited but slightly anxious. During breakfast, I pondered whether my ‘real self’ would live up to the expectations of others who had only experienced my ‘digital self’. My online persona (I believe) is someone who has a quirky sense of humour, hates cricket, whinges about the public transport system (#metrowhinge is my hashtag) and may come across as an extrovert. I hoped that people didn’t have a mental picture of me and then were disappointed with the ‘real me’.
So we looked at our London map and figured out where we had to go in Covent Gardens and made our way to the Porterhouse Brewery. We were a bit early so we decided to walk around the block to kill some time. I glanced up and saw someone who was talking on his phone. There was a glimmer of recognition. I thought, “Is that who I think it is?” Well, he must have had the same question because I then heard, “Helen, is that you Helen?” and sure enough it was Colin Steed. (@ColinSteed)
We made our introductions like old friends and had our first drink before others arrived. It was lovely to chat to Colin in person as we had tweeted and Skyped previously.
Slowly people arrived and introductions made. To many people, this was the first time they had met each other in person. It was instant recognition with many references back to our Twitter profiles or handles.
“You look exactly like your Twitter photo!”
“So do you!”
“Nice to meet you in person!”
“Feels like I already know you!”
“Let me get you a drink!”
“No, let me get this!”
“OMG. Is that who I think it is?”
“Yes it is! You’re @… Your look like your Twitter Profile!”
and so it goes on.
To avoid confusion, my husband @TigerTex1 soon became known as Mr ActivateLearn (thanks to Lesley who coined that term).
One of the highlights of the tweetup was meeting Jane Hart (@c4lpt). For the last year, I had completed the online workshops on her Social Learning Centre site. These workshops (and the many resources on the C4LPT site) were integral in changing my thinking around social learning, applying new techniques to my work and connecting me with other professionals in my industry. I was happy to tell her how much of her work and her courses inspired me to make changes in my own workplace.
Over lunch the introductions and discussions continued. We found out more about each other, our work, our lives and hobbies. We played ‘musical chairs’ so that we could get to know everyone on the table. Some people only had time to stay for lunch but I am thankful that I got even this short time with them.
After lunch (by this time it was getting on 4pm) and Lesley sent out another tweet for those who were going to meet up with us after work.
In good spirits, we walked over to Leicester Square, found the bar, ordered our drinks and waited for the rest of the PLN who were finishing up work to join us.
Over the course of the day and evening of the tweet up, people got to know each other. There was lots of discussion on all sorts of topics. We talked about our organisations and our L&D work. We shared what learning projects we were working on – what had worked and what didn’t and why; what successes we had and where we had difficulty. People were interested to hear each other’s stories because we understood where each other was coming from. I overhead people organising future meetings at their workplace to show and discuss their projects further.
But it wasn’t all about work. We compared our respective countries similarities and differences. Our laws, public transport and weather. We talked about our holidays, our friends, families, work and lives. We talked about our hobbies and passions, food and beer. And yes, even the football and cricket. (I had been needlessly worrying that Mr ActivateLearn would feel left out in the Learning and Development crowd but I was wrong. Despite complaining about the lack of good English beer at this place, he held his own with talk of the abysmal state of Australian cricket or some such…).
Regardless of where we came from, we found out that doing similar roles or sharing similar problems in L&D was not our only common connection.
Over the last couple of years, Twitter has put me into contact with many people around the world many of whom I would never have otherwise met. I have met many people who are part of my PLN and the first face-to-face interaction with them has always been one like you are meeting a long lost friend. You can pick up a conversation easily because the connection has already been made online. I consider every meeting with members of my Twitter PLN special because I know that I have someone that I can call upon, ask a question, support or assist.
Reflecting on the LPITweetUp, the gathering made me realise that the relationship with our PLN is strengthened when we include a face-to-face connection – and you only need one of those to transform what was a digital online relationship to a whole new different level to one which has impact, meaningful and memorable.
I know I’ll never forget this LPITweetUp in a hurry. Neither will the others!
So how did it end up? Well, the conversation continued late into the night and we finished up after 11pm, hugged and said our good byes. It was like leaving good friends but knowing that even though we were leaving the country physically, we weren’t really leaving – we still had our digital selves around. If anything, our online connections would be that more meaningful in the future.
A BIG thank you to Lesley and the Learning and Performance Institute for making this such a successful and unforgettable tweet up! I know that she had to travel far to get here so her effort is greatly appreciated.
Now, are any of you planning a trip to Melbourne anytime?