“In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.”
Rewind to late February 2020, I was aware of COVID-19 and its rapid march through Italy and other continents. I knew early on this would greatly impact many of the professional organizations we manage, though I had grossly underestimated the impact on the PMG business model, our members, and their work. I have participated in many calls as companies have lamented on the impact, how much things have changed and all the negativity that has come with this pandemic. Of course, the list of negatives from the pandemic is long. I have chosen to focus on the positivity created by the crisis both professionally and personally.
Professionally: “Your present pause is not punishment! It is preparation! -Bishop Gary Oliver
A Quick Virtual Pivot – When COVID-19 presented us all with a pause, many of my colleagues in the association world sat still and wrung hands about how this would impact them, their staff, and associations. They focused on holding money tight and finding more. While I must admit, I spent a day or two in that mindset, my staff and I quickly reversed direction. We knew that we could not stay in pause mode and survive or serve our PMG clients well. In the last week of March and first week of April, we had four national and international meetings scheduled. We had been watching COVID-19 spread across the globe and enter the US by this time. The PMG team jumped quickly into action. In one week, we cancelled all four meetings and shifted two of those conference to fully virtual and one to a hybrid-virtual meeting. Our team had two weeks to find the right technology, communicate with speakers and attendees, and produce two meetings. One of the meetings was the Midwest Nursing Research Society (MNRS) Annual Meeting for 1000 attendees which had 2 plenary speakers, 28 exhibitors, 500 posters presenters, and more than 40 scientific sessions running 6 concurrently at any given time. The staff worked with our technology partners to integrate a Zoom webinar platform into our itinerary planner and meeting app. As one of the ‘forced’ leaders in the association virtual meeting space, we have learned from our experience and share those in an e-book that we have published and can be found here. The MNRS conference was a great success. Staff learned so much from this experience and has since scheduled 7 more virtual or hybrid-virtual meetings. We are actively working with our technology developers to have an enhanced platform available in a few months that will keep PMG and its clients at the forefront of meeting technology. I look forward to sharing more soon.
The Value of Exceptional, Well-Trained Staff – I have long known that PMG has exceptional staff, so it did not take a pandemic to prove that. However, I underestimated the sheer determination of our staff to show exceptional care for our clients and their mission even with personal strife and the chaos created by the pandemic. While shifting to a work-from-home model and many staff becoming home schoolteachers to their children, our team was able to shift two meetings to virtual platforms in just two weeks and another in three weeks. This saved each of these organizations from significant financial loss and enabled them to connect with their members at a time when this connection was desperately needed. Our team rolled up their sleeves and worked countless hours to ensure the meetings were successful while building a platform for virtual meetings on the fly. To say that I was impressed is the understatement of the year! Word is out regarding our ability to quickly innovate in the face of a possible disaster and the team is now guiding other organizations.
Personally: “There is no heaven in this world. There is just home.” -Unknown
I must admit for many during this forced time at home, the word “heaven” in the quote above could easily be replaced with the word “hell.” The pandemic brought many challenges my way that I had not considered when working from home. The primary one was trying to run a business, become a teacher to a 6th grader and entertainer to a 2-year-old. Talk about a need for Mary Poppins! Luckily, I have an amazing husband and was not alone. There were many days of tag teaming and my 12-year-old and I arguing over the way to work her math problems (#thenewmath)! As many struggles as there were, I would not trade the extra time I have been able to spend with my family all contained inside. I can say, thanks to the pandemic, we are a stronger family unit. I have been able to take a much-needed pause from traveling to meetings to be truly present with my family; with a 12-year-old and 2-year-old this was so needed. For as much challenge as the pandemic has brought to all, I can say for me I have been able to grow more professionally and personally in the last 3 months than I have in years. I hope each of you can find your positive in the pandemic.