Writing in the early days of July 2020, without the benefit of hindsight, I can only speak to what we do now and take my best guess about the future. Many of us will choose to continue to work from home if we have the option, have groceries delivered and refrain from contact with other people by using our backyards exclusively. Many people decided to continue these practices even while communities began to return to work, stores reopened and we entered phase one and two in our return to public.
Here we sit in the middle of a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. Will life ever return to the way it used to be? Not likely. People who remember the polio epidemic, Hong Kong flu and the first SARS virus don’t remember such mass fear and such deep trauma. Will we ever meet in large groups at networking events again? At this point, I doubt that everyone will return to life as we knew it. We are too aware of the threat of airborne illness and disease transmitted by bodily fluids. Many of us have loved ones to consider even if we personally have no risk factors. The thought of risking harm to a loved one will keep many of us mostly isolated.
How do we continue to build our relationships and businesses through networking? By doing exactly what we do now. Zoom, Google Meet-Up, Free Conference Call.com and other platforms have exploded in usage as we have virtual meetings almost hourly. I believe we will be able to hold larger events in public like trade shows, conferences and summits. They will just look very different than before. Some of those differences will be much needed improvement.
Sanitizing spaces, washing your hands frequently and staying home when you are feverish or ill are practices that could have enabled us to avoid the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
Just as most of us are learning to wear masks as a courtesy to our neighbors, we will adjust to social distancing, learn not to touch our face in public, and mutually decide if we are going to shake hands when we meet. Then we can be comfortable meeting in smaller groups or larger groups as we regain our sense of safety and comfort. I believe that we can continue to hold larger networking meetings and conferences on a digital platform. We will innovate and learn how to make the experience more like an in-person experience.
The most important point to consider for networking in the future is what I believe to be one of the most important lessons of this coronavirus pandemic. We need to decide for ourselves what we are comfortable doing and honor the decisions of our neighbors — locally and globally. More compassion and patience with each other can be the best result of this traumatic time. I look forward to meeting you during a Chamber of Commerce meeting on Zoom, a small Morning Mix networking meeting at the Commerce Club or at the South Carolina Manufacturing Conference at the Greenville Convention Center in the fall.