Friday 4 January 2013

I'm sorry, I didn't know who you were

True story time.

Last year, I was honoured to be asked to present and run two workshops at the LGcomms Academy, their newly revamped AGM meeting of minds. For those who don't know, LGcomms stands for Local Government Communications and is national body representing UK Local Authorities in their efforts to better their communication efforts.

It was a brilliant day. But something which was said to me on that day is still resonating over 6 months later and it just wont go away.

I sat, after my 8am presentation, among the other delegates and settled myself to do some learning. I listened to Cormack Smith from Basildon give a very different perspective on the Dale Farm situation to the one I had seen on the news - a behind the scenes view, if you like. I sat between two people who I felt would rather have sat next to each other, a chap to my left who I think was another one of the workshop facilitators and a very well turned out lady to my right.

The gentleman made polite efforts to chat to me. The lady did not. This is normal, some people feel comfortable enough in these situations to strike up a conversation, and some do not.

The time came for the workshops to be run and I noticed the lady who I'd been sat next to stayed in her seat. I rose, went to the front, set up my laptop and gave a very quick abbreviated version of my earlier presentation on the process we went through to write the social media guidelines for the UK government and then I took the mic, sat on the edge of the stage and chatted to people.  I asked questions. I pitched a few grenades. I tried to get people thinking...I wanted people to go away and still be thinking about the things we had talked about after the Academy had ended. I wanted to plant seeds. I didn't want to broadcast at people because that is not what social media is about and it would have seemed hypocritical and wrong to do so.

It went well. There were fears shared and discussions had and we didn't agree on solutions but we did hone in on some pretty prickly problems.

After the workshop it was time for another presentation and so I went back to my seat, to sit next to the lady I'd been to the left of before.

She leaned over and said "that was a quite brilliant workshop, thank you. I'm terribly sorry for before, I didn't know who you were".

And I had to bite severely down on my tongue to not reply by asking her quite why it would have mattered.

Months later, of course, I've worked it out. It's about networking. Everything these days is. But it's also about resilience building and knowledge sharing too. It's about pulling people in who know some stuff you don't know so that should you need them in the future they are there. It's about reciprocal sharing, reciprocal curiosities and reciprocal questioning.

And she'd missed an opportunity.

What I still can't quite work out is how she hadn't noticed something quite crucial. So had I.

I have held off blogging this post for a long time to protect the identities of those involved. I don't know their names, I am not deliberately withholding them. However I would like to thank the lady who sat to my right for teaching me one of the most important lessons. Open your mouth and say hello. You'll gain far more than you'll ever lose from doing so.

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