A fervent debate has broken out on social media about how soon peer-to-peer networking in a physical location can start again.
Presently, it is permitted for gatherings of no more than 30 people to take place in a public outdoors space. But only when planned by an an organisation in compliance with COVID-19 Secure guidance. The head of one networking group recently made an announcement. Having visited and spoken to their venues, they could meet the secure guidance and therefore recommence face-to-face network meetings from September.
The head of another local networking group posted on their Facebook page that the decision was “irresponsible”. We don’t envy any networking group leader the decision of when the ‘right time’ is. We do know that opening up networking groups will take a lot of preparation and planning. It seems sensible to begin that process now with a target date in mind for meeting together once again. The Premier League began its consultation about football returning when the crisis had just passed its peak. At the time it seemed crazy that football could return. Yet, when the time came it felt acceptable to many.
There is agreement amongst all that networking in a room again is what people want to get back to, when it is safe to do so. Zoom has cemented its place at the table, but virtual networking fatigue is setting in. As with so much in the pandemic, timing is everything.
My belief is that the disagreement stems from a desire for first-mover advantage. Each Networking group wants to be the first to return to ‘near normal’. But no group wants to be called out for returning too soon or too late. Added to this, there is a lot of uncertainty about the whole networking model going forwards:
- Will businesses be prepared or be able to pay the one off ‘lockout membership’ subscription each year that some groups demand?
- How do group owners and venues maintain levels of revenue if members opt for a hybrid networking model where face-to-face and virtual meetings interchange each week or fortnight?
- What’s the incentive for group owners to plan and invest for the future when the rollout for public gatherings is so uncertain and the administration a significant burdon?
Anyway, back the matter at hand. The debate between network owners is inevitable. And so is our next point. Each group owner has within their community a voluntary membership. A membership of business owners who have now had over four months of running their businesses in the most challenging of circumstances. Those who have successfully navigated their way thus far, we sincerely hope will the last the course.
When it comes to decisions in the autumn about their choice whether to go networking face-to-face (assuming COVID compliance) or not, we’re sure each person will be knowledgeable enough to make the right choice for them based on the facts and their circumstances. If that means changing groups, then what’s the problem with that?
It seems from the social media narrative that decisions about future meetings will be made in consultation with each group’s membership. This is sensible of course. As is the assumption that business owners will make their own choices whatever the exchange of views that takes place at the top.
Until we meet in person again…