Monday, April 20, 2020
Keeping in Touch—Virtually
We're still in quarantine but it's time for another genealogical society meeting, you say? No problem! We can still keep in touch. It just takes some extra work, behind the scenes, but there is a way to keep meeting.
Our local genealogy group just made history—at least for them—this past week when we held our very first virtual society meeting. We held the meeting via the online videoconferencing service, Zoom, and had the opportunity to reconnect with our members. Well, with the most technologically intrepid of our members, that is—and for nearly three hours.
This digital connection required some advanced planning, not only for our board of directors, but for all our members, as well—and of a kind that many might shy away from, too: the minutiae of operating a computer. The preparations included some background research, and discussions about costs (we opted not to use the free version available from this same company). Then, too, every plan comes with a downside, requiring us to evaluate how to escape security and privacy risks and the unpleasantness of "zoombombing."
Finally, the moment of truth arrived: our society's monthly membership meeting. Coaxing everyone through the process, we thought, was either going to be a monumental nightmare or an exhilarating success. Talk about stage fright: just before launching the meeting, my board's program director and I exchanged a few nervous words, wondering whether anyone would actually show up for the event.
How gratified we were to see a decent number of our regular members appear on our screens—as well as some of our members from other locations, who normally cannot attend our local meetings due to distance. And the feedback from everyone afterwards—via emails as well as our social media channels—was so encouraging.
It's been a few days since the meeting, now, but I still am digesting the feedback from the event—as well as imagining all sorts of other applications the technology can provide us as an organization. The potential is impressive.
Since ours is not the only society impacted by the unfortunate turn of events worldwide concerning the spread of this novel coronavirus, this week I'll be discussing how we used the videoconferencing system for our local society meeting, what we did to prepare for our first all-member session, and how else we can put this service to good use, not only while we remain apart and under quarantine, but even after we are once again free to assemble as a group.
I know many other genealogical societies are also pondering how to handle moving forward as an organization during the restrictions of this time period, and I hope these few posts will serve as a springboard for further conversation. Perhaps your society has opted, rather than cancelling meetings, to try their hand at these new digital systems, as well. If so, I hope you will share your experiences, either here in comments, or on a blog post of your own. We learn and grow best when we support and encourage each other. We are all in this thing together.