Kristi Maier, director of member relations with the Langley Chamber of Commerce, works from home. (Special to Langley Advance Times)

CHAMBER TURNS 90

Networking while staying apart

Kristi Maier of the Langley Chamber talks about connecting while stay apart during COVID-19

How do you continue to network when social gatherings are cancelled and everyone is required to keep their distance?

This is a question that the Langley Chamber of Commerce had to field from day one of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With in-person events such as their “Lunch and Learn” sessions deemed an exposure risk, Kristi Maier, director of member relations, said the Chamber team had to get creative.

“It was really interesting in the beginning because we were having networking dinners three times each week,” Maier said. “It hasn’t been negative or positive – it’s simply a change.”

Described as the action of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional contacts, the very definition of networking had to change – particularly for those who provide platforms and education on the subject.

The first major change to the interaction was the installation of Zoom.

“There was lots of Zoom at first,” Maier said. “I think it changed people’s outlook on virtual networking – they got used to it after a while.”

Other programs used such as Teams, BlueJeans, or FaceTime have also since been utilized.

Because of the swift shift in technology, Maier said almost everyone has access to networking opportunities.

“Everyone can network from where they are now, which is a positive. You don’t spend so much time in commute,” Maier noted.

She did acknowledge, however, that a drawback to the digital world is that the face-to-face interaction is lost.

“Not getting to shake someone’s hand is a negative or I’ve seen a lot of people who don’t know when to speak on Zoom,” she acknowledged.

But with many businesses stalled and employees hunkered down in their homes, Maier feels networking more important than ever right now.

“COVID has changed the way we do business,” Maier said, explaining that this shift in communication is here to stay. “Many businesses are going to remote work only, so the way they communicate has changed as well.”

Maier said it will be interesting to see how virtual networking will progress and change how others communicate in the years ahead.

READ MORE: Shortlist of Langley chamber award winners revealed

Another major change was the chamber’s annual golf tournament at the Redwoods, an annual networking extravaganza which saw reduced opportunities for meeting and conversing with others.

“We were successful in 2020,” Maier said. “It was the middle of COVID, but we pulled off a wonderful event. Not everyone was able to do what they normally do as we kept people separated.”

She confirmed a tournament in 2021 will happen, but is not quite sure what that will look like right now.

Until then, any new member who wants to join the chamber and ask questions, or learn how to promote business can turn to the internet for help.

“We had great success with webinars because even if someone couldn’t join in, they could watch the program at a later date,” Maier assured.

She said a December webinar on networking was well attended the Chamber plans to hold more.

“Come check it out and see how it goes – there’s no pressure. You can sit back, see how others networkor dive right in. It’s a positive environment and there is no judgment.”

From 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 24, guests will be provided an opportunity to meet business professionals virtually, establishing or renewing valuable business relationships.

“We challenge you to order an appetizer from one of the many amazing local restaurants, pour a glass of your favorite local beer and/or wine and join the virtual community for a great chat,” Mair added.

People can visit www.langleychamber.com/events/details/virtual-networking-social-6977 to find out more and secure their spot.

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Is there more to this story?

Email: ryan.uytdewilligen@aldergrovestar.com

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