Sometimes a Zoom call is exactly what we needed.
Say that again?
Yes. A Zoom call.
I say that, knowing that much of our business lives have been played out on our computer screens recently — extensively — really. So much so that nobody in my circle of colleagues, employees or friendships are thinking, “Hey, you know what I need today? Another video conference meeting.”
The evening of June 10 was a rare exception.
Here at Central Penn Business Journal, we have been changing and adjusting in light of COVID-19. Our live events model? It’s been turned on its head. It had to be. Meeting in large groups had been mostly halted, and even now as most of our counties move to “green” restrictions are still in play.
What hasn’t changed is the need for people to still connect, whether it’s for ideas, future collaborations or just words of encouragement, like when we hear a kudos for a job well done.
Some background first before I head into the June 10 meeting: Every spring for the last several years, CPBJ has hosted an in-person, invite-only happy hour for the honorees of CPBJ’s Women of Influence for that particular year. It’s a great way for the honorees to get to know each other. We have cocktails, snacks and conversation. It’s a fun networking event.
Enter 2020, the year that will be best known for “nothing is normal” anymore. We worked with our sponsor, Highmark, and moved the happy hour event to a virtual one.
Around 5 p.m. on June 10, we launched the virtual happy hour. It was fun watching the small squares of honoree faces and names fill our private Zoom meeting room. You could hear people shout out greetings, smile when they recognized someone and the random waves.
One honoree immediately showed her bandaged-finger, a casualty of slicing limes for her happy hour drink. She was joking about it — it was small cut — and then tipped her drink back for a long, well-deserved sip.
I knew from that moment it was going to be a good night.
We talked, we laughed and we got to know every nominee.
Some of us had wine, others beer, or just plain water. We sat back and took in the conversation. Some honoree’s children even made an appearance because, well, moms still need to be moms at all times, even if they are big-time community influencers.
Two hours later, 30-plus women had shared their back stories. From some of their biggest fears of starting their own business, to some of their wildest future dreams of lifting other women and young women voices in our community. We talked about surviving cancer, divorce, COVID life and many, many surprising talents and accomplishments. In our group we had past Jeopardy contestants, improv actors and women who jumped out of airplanes for fun.
The best part of the night were the reactions. I witnessed some of the older women leaders — icons really — listening intently to the rising stars in our community. Their facial expressions were focused, caring, understanding and encouraging. The best way to describe it was a virtual holding of hands.
That night and the next day I received a bunch of emails and texts from those who attended. They loved the experience — some said, hands down it was the best Zoom call they had been on recently — and hoped that we would continue this new-normal format next year.
I guarantee it will continue.
We haven’t been able to say this often, but there are some bright spots this year. Cheers to 2020.