Now just in case you haven’t a clue what we’re talking about, the Tuttle Club is a loose group of people who come together to talk and work around social media. The first group meets in London on Friday morning’s (currently at the ICA in the Mall) there are other, allied and similar groups in Brighton, Birmingham, Cardiff, Newcastle and Manchester. Some are comfortable with the Tuttle name, some are not. I don’t think that matters much. The name Tuttle comes from my admiration for the character Harry Tuttle in Terry Gilliam’s 1985 film Brazil.
Some people say (usually before they’ve attended) “Isn’t it just a networking event?” or “Isn’t it like Blech or F’tang or Dooberry?” Yes it probably is, we don’t claim to have invented anything all that radically different, however when people come for the first time, they do remark that it is radically different to other things they’ve been to. If you want to know more about what we actually do, take a look at the blog, the wiki, the photos and videos that have turned up over the months. And if you’re in London, or Brighton, Birmingham etc do come along.
Now for those who want to set something up in another place (currently there are rumblings in Boston and Los Angeles…) what can I tell you? Well, first I want to be clear that whatever you choose to do, whether you call it Tuttle or something else, whether you follow exactly what we’ve done or not, that you may do with the idea whatever you will. I ask that you consider some of the things that I built into the original group and learned from the process and then decide whether they are appropriate to you and the people around you where you are.
These are the things that I think have made what we’ve done special. When I started writing and thinking about it 18 months ago, the motivation was to create for myself a place in London, where I knew I could go regularly, rely on it being there and know that I would find interesting people with whom I had something in common and who would be happy to sit and chat. So I would say that a regular slot, a regular location and some regular, but more importantly, interesting people are the core ingredients. How regular a slot you go for is up to you. London seems able to sustain a weekly session. Birmingham is no less successful because it only meets monthly. Again my motivation was selfish, I didn’t want to have to think too hard about whether it was Tuttle day (in the way I struggle with things that are the first wednesday, last thursday, third monday etc or every other week – “eeek is it a week or a fortnight since the last one?”). I was also determined to make it non-exclusive. Everybody’s welcome. Yes, everybody. People still ask (often PR’s it has to be said) whether it’s really OK for them to come. Yep, even the slickest flack can be temporarily forgiven for a couple of hours on a Friday morning. I also think it really helps, especially at the beginning if there are one or two people who will make the committment to being there every time, at least for the first few, to get things going, welcome new people and keep the conversation alive about what you’re all doing there and whether it’s worth continuing or changing in any way. This is probably you, if you’ve read this far. I treat the whole thing as an exercise in service – when I do that and focus on what I can give, I find that I get an awful lot more back.
If you have interesting people and they are into social media at all, then it’s highly likely that they will talk, blog and tweet about what you’re doing. This has been the primary means of spreading the word for us. On Friday morning (GMT) there’s a lot of tuttle-related tweeting and invariably, someone new will say “What’s a Tuttle?” and then someone from the community will pop in and explain for them. Often, a week, or maybe two, later they’ll be turning up in the flesh. I joke that the only barrier to entry is that you need to know to come in through the back door. When we met at the Coach & Horses in Soho, you had to ask to walk behind the bar to get to the room. These aren’t big secrets, but they add to the fun of being in the in-crowd, however non-exclusive we are. I also think it’s useful to have a blog for the group and some mechanism for sign-ups. We still use a wiki page for sign-ups which I clear out every week – but I don’t insist on
Now the things I’ve had to resist or avoid. We’ve avoided taking too much cash. You really don’t need anything, though it’s amazing how easy it is to think that you do. We have a simple sponsorship package which includes paying the bar bill and being announced on the wiki, via twitter and on the day. I say “Brand Ecch has paid for the coffee today, Tallulah and Eugene are here so please go and say hello, thank them for the coffee.” I’ve also steered clear of any format. You come, you meet new people, you chat. There are plenty of places you can go if you want something more focused or directive – I will suggest that you talk to someone new, but I won’t tell you what to do, when to do it, who to listen to or what to talk about. And finally you must must must stick to Tuttle Rule #47 – “Why so serious?” It’s not the most important thing in anybody’s life. Nobody gets hurt. Nothing happens that people can’t recover from. Missing Tuttle is not the end of anyone’s world.
Having said that, I don’t believe that you can fail. Whenever two or more are gathered together in the name of Harry, there the spirit of Tuttle will be in their midst. I have low expectations. I’ve run events where no-one turned up. Really. No-one. I was billy no-mates for the night. It didn’t kill me. Some of the best Tuttles have been the one’s with less than 20 people. One of my favourites was the New Year one where there were five people there – but oh! what people!
It should be fun. If it isn’t fun, or in anyway you feel like you’re having to work too hard at it, you are doing it wrong.