BLAINE – With several networking groups, and several boards that meet on a regular basis, the MetroNorth Chamber had to quickly figure out how to keep all of that going amid COVID-19 shutdowns.
“We were actually kind of fortunate that we looked into some virtual platforms last winter,” said MetroNorth Chamber of Commerce President Lori Higgins. “After some feedback from some of our volunteers, they wanted to be able to join board meetings or committee meetings virtually for whatever reason, so we looked at Zoom early in the year, and tried that out at some meetings back in February before the pandemic even started.”
With a leg up on the general population, the Chamber was able to help a lot of their members learn how to use these new tools.
“Most people, at the end of March, hadn’t even looked into Zoom. So it took for people to get comfortable and to ramp up, to know when they were on mute or not. Now it’s like second nature to check that right away,” said Higgins. “Now we feel like veterans. We are using the break-out rooms, we are using some of the bells and whistles.”
Of the chamber’s networking groups, the largest is Working with Women – a group that still sees large monthly numbers, even on Zoom. Those in the meeting still have a change to share about themselves and their business. Even though the ways of doing that are different, it is still a chance to get business spotlights in front of an audience.
“People like the opportunity to stay connected. Having that consistency in their schedule, I think people have appreciated as well. When everything is so chaotic, knowing that you can still get together on these designated days and have these opportunities.”
Now, they are looking at how to begin to get back to normal. While things are slowly re-opening, they know that not everyone will be immediately comfortable entering a room with 75 or more people.
“Outside of just transitioning back to the full in-person meetings, which we do intend to do, how can we still leverage the virtual platform? We don’t know the answer to that yet, we’re kind of learning as we go just like everyone else.”
And, with Zoom fatigue setting in, Higgins says chamber members are telling her they hope to get back to normal soon.
“They’re ready to close the computer for a little bit and see people in person. Maybe from a distance, but still in person.”
The Chamber of Commerce is hoping to resume in person meetings, in some form, in July.