Face to Face: Life After Pandemic
We have all had to pivot and adapt throughout the pandemic. My job as a consultant has always had a significant touchpoint with the communities that we serve. I used to be on the road three to four days a week, traveling with a colleague, visiting cities across the country, auditing programs, riding along with parking enforcement officers and hosting community stakeholder meetings. And then, COVID happened.
Very quickly, we all learned how to use Zoom, Teams and GoToMeeting. Agencies figured out how to conduct municipal business online, including city council meetings. It hasn’t been perfect, but most of us have grown accustomed to hearing ‘you’re on mute’ at least a few times a day. And though we have tried to maintain that connection, I am ready to get back to whatever normal will be. I miss the camaraderie of our peer group and the ability to compare notes when we cross paths and learn from each other. Don’t get me wrong, we all try to make it work. It’s tough to simply chat with each other when our calendars are overrun with all the meeting webinars and video conference needed to ensure our programs survive these uncertain times.
Today, I had a teleconference with a client, and he was refreshed to learn that it was simply a phone call. He said he was surprised we weren’t on camera. And while I appreciate a good face-to-face, I told him that I was kind of burnt out on video that day and he laughed and acknowledged that it was a relief to revert to a normal phone call.
My travel schedule did change in 2020, but I did have the opportunity to travel to a few client sites throughout the year (maintaining social distance and wearing my mask at all times.) While few and far between, it really made me appreciate the ability to meet in person and I could see the impact for those involved, especially when it is derived from community feedback. It’s much easier to listen and understand when you are meeting face-to-face, to recognize someone’s body language and desire to participate. I thrive on identifying those that want to be involved, but who might be reluctant to speak up. This is how we develop comprehensive solutions, to ensure that we are not just hearing from the loudest or the squeakiest wheel. The online forums have met the need and even provided a more flexible outlet for some to participate, but getting back in the room with others is something that cannot happen fast enough.
I realize that there will be safety restrictions for the near future and likely beyond, but I will comply because I want to get to whatever the new normal will be. I know that we have heard this from others, but I look forward to the first parking conference I can attend this year. I want to visit… I want to see… I want to hear… I want to learn… I miss my parking peers, I miss my clients, I miss being on the road (and I never thought that I would say that).
Julie Dixon is the CEO of Dixon Resources Unlimited. She can be reached at Julie@dixonresourcesunlimited.com