Where We Have Been
Back in February 2020, we at SKCGS were proud of ourselves because we had moved our newsletter from a quarterly print publication mailed to our members and friends, to a weekly blog posted on our website and emailed to members and friends. We had taken the unprecedented step of accepting credit card payments online!
Where We Are
On March 1, news that the novel Corona virus, which up until then was something we had read about or seen a news story about on TV in Wuhan, China, suddenly was here, in our country, in King County, in Kirkland, for heaven’s sake. Just to be safe, the March Board and General Meetings were canceled. Surely this would be under control in just a short time! At about this time, our wise members, Valorie Zimmerman and MaryLynn Strickland realized that our members were not comfortable attending in-person meetings and began investigating online meeting options.
An online platform was selected, and with some trepidation, the DNA Special Interest Group scheduled and launched our first online meeting. Despite a few technical hiccups, it was a great success. The participants loved it! The Technical Users Group meeting, April Board Meeting, and April General Membership meeting followed.
What We Have Learned
Virtual meetings are convenient. It is not necessary to drive through nasty traffic or bad weather to attend a meeting. Participants arrive relaxed and ready to contribute. The time saved in not getting ready and commuting is time we can spend doing genealogy.
Virtual meetings are “green”. Air pollution has declined significantly worldwide since the pandemic began. We are doing our part to reduce the use of fossil fuels and clear the air. That will benefit the health of all of us.
Audiences are comfortable and more participatory in the digital space. Members we have not seen at in-person meetings for some time because their situation made it impossible or inconvenient, are attending and participating in virtual meetings. People who have never attended an SKCGS in-person meeting are attending and participating. We anticipate that when we can resume meeting in-person, some or many of these people will attend and engage with us because a relationship has already been established. We are already friends.
We are engaging, sharing, and learning more about genealogy in this more relaxed environment. When we are not lined up in straight rows where we can only talk with those on either side of us, or under time pressure to clear the room so that the next group can get in, more meaningful conversations can take place. We see this in the Genealogy Chat Group that has met several times.
Membership may increase. Already, several of the people we first met in an online meeting have joined our society.
No longer are we restricted to speakers within a reasonable commuting distance of our meeting location. This will expand the number and variety of programs we can offer to our membership.
What Is The Downside
A virtual meeting does not provide the fellowship of in-person interaction. Some of our members are isolated and lack the warmth of face-to-face interaction. For that reason, if nothing else, I look forward to the day when we can gather together again.
Not everyone has the technical ability or the availability of equipment to participate in virtual meetings. Hopefully, when it is safe to do so, we can provide technical support to those who want it.
Where Are We Going
As MaryLynn says, “We have stumbled into the future”.
I believe we need to add the capability to record meetings and presentations to make them available to a wider audience. We are restricting ourselves to those who can attend daytime meetings by having Special Interest Groups only during weekday hours. Many younger people cannot participate during those hours due to family or career responsibilities.
We need your input. What can we do to make the Society more valuable to you?
We also need your help. Please consider stepping up to help with publicity and communications, coordination of education and programming, help with the website and coordination of educational outreach opportunities.
Image courtesy of Pixabay