Little joined Meetup only a few months ago, but since then he has played mandolin at folk music jam sessions, eaten out with Asian food aficionados and toured haunted corners of the city.
‘London isn’t a friendly town,’ he says, but adds Meetup has transformed his social life. ‘Even if you turn up at a place for the first time, you’ve turned up to meet somebody,’ he says. ‘It’s not like walking into a strange room as a complete stranger.’
Interview: Chris, Organizer of Shy London
Meeting in real life
Meeting new people can make just about anyone a little nervous, but what happens when you’re trying to meet people who are incredibly shy? I had the opportunity to ask Organizer Chris of the Shy London Meetup Group about his group and how he handles social anxiety.
How did you decide to start up your Meetup Group? Did you have a certain goal?
I didn’t actually create Shy London, but I have been its Organiser since January 2010. The group had been created the previous spring, but the Organiser stepped down at the start of 2010. So my immediate goal was to keep the group alive. I hadn’t heard of the term social anxiety; I hadn’t gotten to hang out with other people who also had issues with socializing. Having just found the group, I wasn’t about to let it die.
The purpose of Shy London is:
- to provide and promote free Meetups which enable shy and socially anxious Londoners to get together in a safe environment.
- To support and encourage the growth of individual members, for example by allowing known members to host their own Meetups.
- To ensure that as many shy or socially anxious Londoners as possible know about the group and join it.
- To take steps to ensure that the group survives and thrives in the long term, for future years.
- To make Meetups available to people who are on low or no income.
What were the first few Meetups like?
Memories of sitting in a cafe off Leicester Square with a couple of printouts of our logo on display for a cinema Meetup. Shuffling chairs to try and get one where others could sit close to me in a group when they became available. Very overpriced frozen yoghurt.
No idea if anybody would actually come. Nervous about nobody turning up, nervous about fact I was about to Meetup with a group of people who were strangers (apart from their group profile) and be responsible for them having a good experience.
There were eight of us in the end which I was happy with. Meetup went fine and people enjoyed it…despite the film.
Since then I’ve attended and/or hosted 171 Meetups on the group. My favourites to host now are probably:
- The Introductory Coffee Meetup - Designed to be the most relaxed introduction to the group possible. Often for people who have a extremely limited social life, or perhaps just smaller than they wish for. It’s great for me, too, I get to meet one or two people at a time and spend a couple of hours chatting.
- The Workshop - The least common Meetup. Usually held in a church hall, a series of exercises to help people overcome social anxiety.
What have you learned about getting members to feel comfortable?
Trying to be relaxed and put out relaxed body language myself... to be very open and honest about my own experiences when asked, and taking responsibility for making sure everyone is included in the conversation, unless they really just want to sit quietly.
What is your favorite Meetup moment?
I met my wife on a Jack the Ripper walk, in a Meetup Group called Celebrate London. We just started chatting at the start of the Meetup and didn’t stop talking throughout it. July 30 last year we got married and it was a fantastic day. A number of guests at the wedding were members of the group who have become good friends.
Are you an Organizer with amazing tips to get people out of the house? Feel free to submit your tip!
Lisa is on Meetup’s Community team.