A friend of mine sewed face masks for her family so they could get used to masks at home. She did this to normalize the odd accessory for her kids, which I think is smart because face masks are weird when people are not used to them.
I experienced how weird face masks are first hand, this Saturday when I went grocery shopping for the first time since the CDC suggested covering your face in public. About half of my fellow shoppers had masks—just a few donned official medical-like facemasks. The rest were wearing bandanas, Buffs, or a DIY version. Many people had on gloves; some had goggles, a few even had their hoodies pulled up over their heads. The effect was like seeing dozens of bank robbers deciding which pasta to purchase.
While each masked person was engaging in an incredibly generous act, the scene was unsettling, especially because of the unnatural silence. The store was packed, but no one was talking. Usually, there is a hum as people say, “hi,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” “sorry,” and “go ahead.” Now that we are wearing masks, people are not talking, and they are not smiling, or if they are, it is hard to see.
Is today’s crisis making people less friendly? No, probably not, there are many examples of neighbors, everyday heroes, and professionals helping others. But our current environment may make it hard to perceive friendliness.
This same phenomenon is happening in some associations. Members are not witnessing your organization’s generous culture at the Spring conference first hand. No one is shaking hands with new members at their first chapter meeting. There is no idle chit chat at the local study for the certification exam meeting. Here are some quick ways to continue to show how friendly your association is even online:
- Add your photo to your email signature line.
- Post a screenshot of your staff’s last Zoom meeting.
- Instead of a letter from the executive director, try a short video address instead.
- Check the tone, how friendly is the messaging coming from the association right now?
- Use Zoom to connect with members, and if you think they are all Zoomed out, give them a choice between a phone call and Zoom.
Members want to know there are real people behind the mask of the association.