​​By: Sarah Farlee, CCC, Marketing and Public Relations Specialist, FreeState Electric Cooperative

Two things have been consistent for me during the pandemic. Online shopping and hanging out with some of my favorite professionals every Wednesday afternoon.

As everything was getting canceled this spring, I had been thinking about how much I would miss my peers. In my five years with the cooperative the Kansas statewide meetings have become highlights of my year. And, it's all about the people. Just like Connect. It's being around like-minded people and sharing that make us all better and it's inspiring!

While working from home in April I started to crave outside professionals. I adore my coworkers, but I needed some interaction on the other side of the fence. I needed a little pick me up after changing COVID-19 communications for the sixth time in one day. I needed to know I wasn't alone.

What started as a way for us all to talk through challenges due to the pandemic, turned into a support group. We've talked through some of the most challenging times of our careers, listened and learned, laughed, and most importantly built relationships.

So, what makes these meetings so special?

We just go with it.

We have had to adapt in more ways than we could have ever planned. As the hub in our cooperative we're often looked to for the plan of action, people lean on us for organization and sometimes problem solving. And, let's be honest, sometimes that is exhausting. And, if we're a little honest with ourselves we know we're just like those linemen we've come to love and admire. We just prefer to get our shot of adrenaline through a mug of coffee and a deadline.

It's hard to do, but we have to realize that sometimes you don't need a plan and that not every meeting needs and agenda. And, that's OK!

We share the good, the bad, and the ugly

We all wear many hats and it's not all creativity and fun. You can't be afraid to share, and not just the good things. We share failures and mistakes, too, because this job doesn't have a 100% success rate. Sharing and being vulnerable makes everyone better. And, the best part is that somebody on that call is going to pick you up, dust you off, turn you around, and point you in the right direction. Likely with a little shove.

We come as we are.

Nobody is perfect and don't we know it! A judgement free zone makes sharing and vulnerability possible. As the weeks have plugged on trust and understanding have become a staple in our calls. We're getting to the six-month mark of change. Burnout is a real thing. And, knowing that some weeks are going to be tough and not as lively doesn't mean the cycle has run its course. It's not personal. It's a pandemic.

Not all meetings have an underlying social tone. We sometimes have to facilitate meetings virtually that require efficiency, and productivity to get the job done. Here are some tips for hosting a not so casual virtual meeting.

Look into the camera, not just at it. You may be by yourself in a room but make a conscious effort to speak into the camera because it's so much more engaging. Arrange your windows on your screen with your script near the top (or the camera) and that will help you look that way without a lot of thought.

Present in a quiet place. Put yourself somewhere quiet to facilitate meetings. There is nothing that livens up a meeting like a stray pet or wild child, but constant distractions can be tough to overcome. Just go somewhere with a door, pop in some earbuds and make it work.

Consider the visual behind you. Make certain the area is clean and work appropriate. A solid wall is best, windows can cause a glare or be difficult to navigate. If you don't have a solid clean wall, choose one that is minimal. If you want to check out what others think about meeting backdrops, I would suggest checking out the Twitter account of Room Rater @ratemyskyperoom.

Polling and chats are a great way to keep attendees on their toes. Don't always go the serious route, throw in some fun polling questions as well. You can either ask a question and have them answer in the chat box or build in a Zoom poll. They can be fun, and it will help keep everyone engaged and focused.

Technology glitches happen. Have a backup. For example, make sure the dial in audio number is displayed or given out regularly. If something happens with the video feed, attendees can hop on a telephone and still participate.

As we continue to move meetings and education to a more virtual environment, here are some opportunities to continue to learn no matter where you are.

Adobe Max Conference for Adobe Users with a Cloud Account

Programs and Education From NRECA

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