A couple of months ago, I shared a post about setting concrete virtual travel goals. With no physical travel on the books for the rest of 2020, I decided to set up a series of virtual, online trips. Monthly, I would travel virtually to see people I would have otherwise seen face to face. I have learnt quite a bit about making these trips more successful.

Less intense virtual visits

I had planned on booking full “travel days”. My goals were to mentally focus on being somewhere else, immersing myself in the local culture and participating in video conference meetings. In reality, though, sitting at my desk I wasn’t able to make that mental shift and needed a plan change. I decided to make key cities my focus each month and invest time over the entire month connecting with people. That made a big difference. I managed to have conversations with people in Toronto, Ottawa, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and St. Louis. I found that my virtual travel time was less intense but still rewarding and impactful.

Organizing events

Over the last few months, Plank has hosted or appeared as a guest on five different Webinars. While the audiences’ size has been humble — under 100 attendees — they have been excellent opportunities to forge new relationships.

Our next goal is to improve the overall quality and production value of the events we organize. By making some simple upgrades, we can do much better than be yet another looming head in a tiny Zoom window.

Online events and conferences

Plank usually attends quite a few events during the year. They have been one of the most successful ways of meeting people. In addition to hosting our own events online, I attended several hosted by others. It’s been remarkable how fast people have shifted to a virtual platform. 

What became clear is that an all-day series of Zoom video conference calls are draining and not a proper replacement for an in-person event. What has been helpful is that organizations are quickly figuring this out. Online events need to be short, multi-day events, with opportunities to break out into smaller groups and do different things at different paces. The events I attended that began making these changes stood out above the rest.

Over the next few months the events that I’m looking forward to the most are Capacity Interactive’s Bootcamp for the Arts and MCN Virtual 2020. While solid communities drive both, I know they have been thinking hard about an online experience that will  shape their events in new and exciting ways.

Join communities

In addition to social media, there are so many different and diverse communities to join, contribute and explore. Taking time to explore the hidden corridors of Linkedin, Facebook, Reddit and Slack, I know I would be able to develop new relationships with like-minded people.

If you have any online events, Slack channels or meetups you suggest, please send them my way.

Staying committed

As the summer comes to an end, fall brings uncertainty. Work is ramping back up and multiple crises are still looming large over the rest of 2020. With our new commitment to travel less and travel smarter, building relationships virtually is even more critical. As a team, we need to learn the value of developing relationships at a distance. 

It has been tough to shake the travel habits of the past ten years and work virtual meetings, conferences and events into my schedule. Nothing will replace the experience of going somewhere new, but if the past few months have proven anything, it’s that we can continue to be successful, meet with new opportunities, develop partnerships and deepen our existing relationships. Distance is no longer the barrier it used to be.