How would you react if you were invited to a typical house warming party that has nothing unusual except that 95% of the attendees prefer to speak a language other than English? Normally, my answer would be, “No, I can’t attend. I am busy with something.” I guess I was abnormal during that time so I accepted the invite.
Networking is not really my forte nor is starting a conversation, unless I’m totally forced to do so. So a week before the event, I received an invite from Daniel about their housewarming. I think the intention of inviting me was to promote and validate our startupweekend’s (#SGWSW) startup idea “nghbrd“. It’s about linking people in your neighbourhood and linking communities. So when I saw the Facebook invite, I checked the guest list, hoping to see some “asian-sounding” names there or at least “non-french-sounding” names (no racial slur intended please!). What caught my attention was the number of guests in the list, there were more than 50 invited (and counting…). I got curious if they had a soccer field in their flat or a basketball court, or maybe a conference room that can hold 50 people. Or were they actually holding a secretive #startupFriday event?! So immediately, two things got me to turn away from the invite: the demography and the geography. I can’t speak French and I have innate shyness on big crowds — it’s like a mix of agoraphobia and anthropophobia.
I asked Daniel if there are other non-speaking French there just to make sure that I won’t be talking to my handphone throughout the night. He said there are a few, so it’s good enough for me. And on a very timely event (fate must have really wanted me to go there!) I read an article in Harvard Business Review blog entitled, Become Your Own Best Gatekeeper. A snippet of the article is,
Kathryn Minshew recently made a good case here on HBR.org that you should “Never Say No to Networking.” “Always say yes to invitations,” she wrote, “even if it’s not clear what you’ll get out of the meeting.
After reading that part, I immediately logged in facebook and clicked the “Going” button. I did it before my mind changes again.
“So how was the party?”
I arrived there an hour late hoping to see a number of people I can converse with in English. But fate must have loved me so much that I was the first non-french speaker to arrive (if only it was Amazing Race, I would have been more than happy!) . Then later on people started pouring in, ok maybe not literally pouring in. I should have watched the video below before I went to the party. The video was sent by Weng entitled, How to Fake French. It’s hilarious, watch the video! But only Kevin or Daniel can vouch for this. :))
So I was there for almost two hours talking to people (who I’d say were nice and pleasant), trying to test how far my “social nature” can be stretched. It was fun engaging to them. There was an instance when I almost gave up and wanted to leave early because I was talking to my phone and a cup of red wine. The experience was unique, you get free cheek-to-cheek greetings, which reminds me how foolish I had been when there’s one beautiful lady who wanted to do the French greeting but I extended my hand! Well, there’s always a first time!
the AFTER party
So I guess the final question is, what did I get from the event? Well aside from a couple of information about rock climbing (or was it wall climbing?), about Romania, Australia, crowdonomic, propertyguru; met people from Indonesia, Thailand, Romania, France (of course!), Mexico; and an almost third encounter with the police; I figured out, in this kind of events where you’re supposed to be outgoing and talkative, there’s always a place for people who prefers to listen or just to observe. Somehow and somewhere, there will always be something that would interest you to be engaged in without you knowing that you’ve started talking and being just yourself.
And yeah Merci Daniel pour l’invitation!