Embracing our online connections in a virtual world offers great potential for growth

January 21, 2021

by Margo Ellis, Associate Editor

With almost a full year under our belts of living through a pandemic and altering the many ways we go about doing the business of SME, the start of 2021 is a good time to reflect on the lessons learned in a new virtual world. Looking back at the start of COVID-19 in March and April of 2020, the learning curve was steep but as Rachel Grimes, SME sections and membership coordinator, recalls, “At first we were thrown into it and we’ve had to learn and fix things as we go along.” Responsible for online engagement with new members and local sections, Grimes quickly came to realize the need to not only accept the changes but to actually embrace them. “We needed to be positive, emphasize the new possibilities and see this opportunity come full circle,” she said.

And in so doing, SME has succeeded in refreshing ways where the new normal has actually improved members’ engagement. Through division coffee breaks and online new member orientations, people are logging on and gradually casting aside their reluctance to realize that true connections can be made via Zoom and Teams meetings.

Even more promising is the idea that we can carry forward with the best parts of virtual meetings — many division members have really enjoyed regular virtual gatherings and want to implement them even after COVID is under control. This is in contrast with the old mode of only connecting in person once or twice a year at the SME Annual Conference and other regional conferences. Face-to-face online meetings can be dynamic, meaningful and productive. Grimes explained that the feedback has been almost universally positive with members telling her how much they enjoy these chances to connect with friends and colleagues — and meet new members.

Another great tool to connect is through the SME Community, an online forum available through your membership. Find SME Local Sections to join, discussion groups based on technical interest, SME Student Chapters, mentoring resources and more.

Finally, don’t miss this year’s virtual MINEXCHANGE 2021 SME Annual Conference & Expo where members connect to a vibrant exchange of information on topics such as COVID recovery, critical minerals, water issues and tailings management. The program will be a dynamic blend of live and on-demand sessions and opportunities to expand professional networks.


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