Sunday, December 10, 2023

Changes on the horizon with Covid resurgence

by Rebekah King
| August 25, 2021 12:00 AM

In March of 2020, I wrote a column on the importance of networking. It promoted the value of marketing yourself at in-person events by making a lasting impression - be that a sincere handshake, or smile, or pat on the back. It was a pretty good column if I do say so myself. And, it has yet to be submitted because, as we all know, Covid happened, bringing in-person events to a screeching halt.

While many of us have returned to in-person events, we have done so with cautious optimism. At our first networking event of the year, I was anxious at the number of attendees crammed inside the room. I was grateful for the slightly smaller crowds at the Fourth of July Parade and appreciative of the wide-aisle layout that allowed more elbow room at the Festival of the Arts — a carryover from the 2020 event.

Mostly, in the last few months, I have been relieved that daily agendas have not required backup plans or in case of cancellation clauses. And now, with the delta variant rearing its head, that is changing.

The Chamber office does a lot in the day. We answer questions from visitors that are both in the area and planning future trips. We talk with business owners and share knowledge sourced from a multitude of emails and meetings. We also communicate with community members and organizations, gathering and sharing information in the same conversation. I do not believe I will remember August 17, 2021, as pointedly as March 15, 2020 but, I will share that is when conversations started changing — again.

During a recent phone call, an organization asked for input on their upcoming event that historically draws hundreds of people to a relatively small venue. Should they postpone? Should they cancel? Should they move to a larger event space? Attempt an online event? I did not have any answers. Instead, I shared this analogy: Covid is like smoking a cigarette.

Once upon a time, smoking was OK — even recommended by medical professionals. Then in 1964, the surgeon general said it could kill you. And today, people who choose to smoke do so knowing the risks. I am sure there were people in the 60s who did not believe the surgeon general, and perhaps some that still do not, but as a society, we have the information to make our own decision. And much like the realization of the dangers of secondhand smoke in the mid-80s, we must do so aware of our impact on others.

In the next few days and weeks, we will begin seeing masks and social distancing become more prevalent again. Businesses may choose to require facial coverings. Some events will be postponed or canceled. And the debates around Covid, which had quieted to a low hum, will become louder. All of these actions are people taking the knowledge available to them and making the best decision they can.

Back to the column on the importance of networking, the art of small talk is invaluable. Asking open-ended questions and having a cache of conversation starters prepared makes it flow more naturally. A great one is “What superpower would you choose?” My answer right now is the ability to see the future.

I wish I knew what the next several months will hold. What I do know is, we got through this once before by supporting our businesses, frontline workers and each other. I know we can do it again.

Rebekah King is director of the Bigfork Chamber of Commerce.