COVID-19 has changed the way we connect. For public health reasons, networking events are no longer taking place in person. Since February 2020, people around the world have been recasting their connections. What used to be in person is now done remotely if possible.
What are we noticing?
I have been attending meetings with my local Chamber of Commerce, which has done quite a few things:
- They switched their weekly live event (usually over 50 attendees every Friday) to a Zoom session every week.
- They set up three trainings a week, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, for Chamber members to learn how to switch their business models to survive the new circumstances.
- They moved as many networking meetings as possible to Zoom sessions, with the same schedule they had before.
- They invited the Mayor for a Town Hall in English and another one in Spanish.
- They are keeping members abreast of all developments, and set up tip jars, resources for starting up, and an amazing support service.
What have I learned through these sessions over the last three months?
- Be there. Show up and be involved with your community, no matter how your group meets. Yes, we are anxious to have coffee together, but can have at least this connection with some precautions.
- Go through your old, discarded list of contacts. As you look at it, you will remember some of the conversations you didn’t have the time to follow up on. Now is the time. Those people remember you too. Just send a couple of emails a week and see how it goes. Personally, I took all the cards I had collected and dropped them into an Access database. I am contacting a few of the people in that database a week.
- Take a few online trainings. Personally, I need at least 30 minutes between one online session and the next because meeting online is more intense than meeting face to face. I take those 30 minutes to take a couple of notes, maybe send a quick email, even stretch or have a cup of coffee. I like to start each session somewhat fresh.
How to participate in online events:
- Focus on the content.
- Participate in the chat. Then, select all the text in the chat (control-a), and copy it into a Word document so you can follow up on whatever you want to keep track on.
- Keep in mind that in the chat you can send private messages. It is like passing secret notes in class and it is a lot of fun!
- You are on candid camera, so pay attention to how you look. You are now part of the gallery show. You can, of course, turn your camera off or choose speaker view. Keep in mind that if you choose speaker view, the rest of the world can still see you so picking your nose is still a no-no! By the way, artificial backgrounds make your head look strange when you move at all.
- In the chat, at least in the case of the Chamber of Commerce, the first thing we all do is write our name and email address so folks can get in touch with us later. Every online session is a networking session. That is how we collect cards today. Go for it! Add your phone and a short blurb about yourself. For example: Peter Pan, firstname.lastname@example.org, keeping the world happy. Now we know who Peter Pan is, how to reach him, and what he does! Just remember, nobody likes an essay in that section…
There is a dizzying amount of online conferences, online networking sessions… Take advantage of a few of them. However, don’t forget to pick up the phone and call a friend, send a card to a client, call someone to ask how they are doing, write an email to your contacts and tell them how you are coping. Today, being human is expected. All calls start with “How are you doing?” and people actually want to know.
What do I want to keep from this era?
- The flexibility in extending deadlines when my internet crashed, and everything took longer because of COVID. Nobody broke a sweat.
- How nice everyone is, since everyone starts phone calls by asking how we are doing. I like being treated as a human being.
- FaceTime stories with my two-year-old grandson every day! That lightens up my day.
- The sense that we are in this together. The whole community is acting that way in so many ways. When one person is successful, the whole Chamber rejoices. When one interpreter gets quarantined because they were with someone who got COVID-19, everyone is sad. There is a huge sense of community.
- The respect for people who are ill. “No, stay home, please.” It used to be, “Well, can’t you go interpret anyway?” (and probably catch whatever bug is floating around with a weakened immune system if you are not well, to add insult to injury.) Now, if only some interpreters didn’t have to pay a penalty for missing appointments… I would be even happier.
So, stay well. Take care of business every day. Remember, taking care of business includes:
- Taking care of yourself. You are your most important asset. Never skip this.
- Doing paid work, if that is on your schedule for the day.
- Contacting sources of work. Always save some time for this!
- Doing other things that will set you up to be a stronger professional. This should always be on your weekly schedule.
By the way, some say we will be interpreting remotely for the long haul and that remote meetings are the norm for the rest of our lives. As I interact with my neighbors at the Chamber, I am not so sure. We are tired of Zoom. We want to connect in person. We celebrate every meeting that moves from Zoom to in-person!
How we stay in touch might change based on the circumstances. We are still people and work with people we know, like and trust.
Stay connected. Be human.