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How the Pandemic led to Creating New Communities and Newfound Connectedness 

Back in March, which feels like a lifetime ago now, the extrovert in me was shell shocked by the move to working exclusively from home. Training sessions were postponed, classes at the university where I teach went online. While I experienced a dip in business volume, I certainly recognize how blessed I was and still am to be able to continue to work remotely. While adjusting to that new reality for my work, there’s also the underlying pain that persists in knowing so many of our fellow humans the world over are hurting because of this horrific pandemic. It’s a lot for everyone. I really started to miss seeing people, socializing, attending business networking events. 

Then I saw that there were some stellar individuals and companies who took note of this tectonic shift affecting every aspect of our daily lives and sprang into action. Some initiated community zoom calls with a theme or purpose and others served as opportunities to just check-in and connect. 

I believe in the creative, kind, and generous nature of people and I want to tell you about four such wonderful examples!  


The Good Wine Gal – Virtual Happy Hour and Social/Educational Wine Sessions   

Barb Wild aka the Good Wine Gal, is a lively and passionate scholar of wine and her purpose is to connect people with good wine (because life’s too short to drink bad wine, as the saying goes!). 

She has been running her educational sessions for quite some time now and has definitely refined the art of balancing entertainment with education and socialization all bound together by a large portion of FUN and community connection! 

You don’t have to be a “wine person” to participate. Barb’s philosophy is completely welcoming to anyone and everyone who would like to experience wine with some new friends – regardless of whether you can spout tasting notes like a master sommelier or whether you’ve just started to get familiar with this vast and delicious world of wine. 

I attended her recent Syrah-themed Zoom event and I was so impressed with how much amazingness she packed into 1.5 hours! 

Here’s how it worked – participants are encouraged to procure a bottle of wine in the theme of the session. This is completely optional but it was fun to see some of the people who breathlessly joined the call because they had just literally run home from the store with their Syrah for the call! I was impressed by their commitment and dedication! 

Like the wonderful hostess she is, Barb went around the room greeting everyone and asking what wine they brought and each person had the option of describing their wine. It was fun to hear the different descriptions. It took me back to my own Italian sommelier studies and those deeply stirring sensory experiences and those artful, poetic descriptors that so intensely inspired and moved me, producing emotions unique to wine and love – which in the end, are one and the same. 

Anyway, back to our session… we took a screenshot with everyone holding up their bottles as though they were proudly presenting a new baby to the extended family overseas! 

Then it was time to dig into the theme of the evening. For this session, Barb had invited one of Vancouver’s most renowned wine educators, Mark Shipway, who delighted our group with a fabulous range of information and details about this specific grape: where it grows, its characteristics, even the etymology of its name! In our Syrah/Shiraz-focused voyage around the world, Mark showed us stunning photos and regaled us with entertaining stories. He engaged the group with quizzes and polls and also presented specific wines from each region, also letting us know where we can purchase them and how much they cost. He let us in on his personal hotlist of great value wines and also included his food pairing recommendations (and more stunning food photos!). Barb is a first-rate moderator and kept the chatbox monitored and flowing, engaging all of us. At the end, there was an opportunity for questions and group discussion and suddenly an hour and a half had passed! 

What I think is so special about these events is the combination of vicarious and aspirational travel and exploration, combined with the fellowship element of food and wine. Food and wine are meant to be shared – just like life. These sessions provide that warm sense of community and conviviality that I associate with gathering around a long table with dear people, passing serving platters, chattering, laughing, topping up each other’s glasses, swooning over the delicious meal we’re enjoying, and talking about other delicious meals of the past and future! 

Check out Good Wine Gal – there are plenty more of these social/education sessions on the calendar and also drop-in happy hours, an ebook, and lots more to feed your wine-loving soul! 


Jostle – Conversations at Work 

Jostle creates cloud-based, customized intranet platforms to help companies keep their teams connected and build a powerful, energizing culture. Creating a bi-weekly community call also seemed to line up with the ethos of an inspired company like Jostle and what better ambassador to host their Conversations at Work than the also powerful and energizing Bev Attfield, Principle of Workplace Science! 

Bev Attfield is an enthusiastic, inclusive, and welcoming host of this bi-weekly calls and she also has a truly interesting global network of top experts and professionals whom she invites to be featured guests on the calls. The Jostle calls address urgent and sometimes difficult topics we’re grappling with today. Recent topics we’ve explored have included: how to talk about racism at work, how conversation can create inclusion, belonging, and engagement at work, Horrible Bosses be gone! What we need in Leaders today, Beyond Zoom: have online conversations with impact – and more! See their site for a record of past conversations. The next one coming up is on October 29 and will focus on “What Decency has to do with dialogue” 

You’re guaranteed to come away from these calls with new perspectives, new ideas, and maybe even new friends! 


IOVIA – Community Call 

Iovia is an innovative global company that leverages the power of community to help build brands. It seemed natural that a company like IOVIA would engage in community building through a weekly Zoom call in urgent response to the spread of the global pandemic. 

The idea initially was to simply connect, to check-in with each other – even as perfect strangers. Strangers though that shared the deeply unifying bond of the covid experience we were all living through. 

Iovia has team members on or from most continents and what I loved most about these calls was that you never knew who you’d find in the Zoom room! You were guaranteed to interact with someone with different perspectives, experiences, ideas – all of this was incredibly stimulating, deeply interesting and a most welcome break from thinking about the lockdown and such. 

The team took the calls to another level when they introduced featured guest speakers for these calls. It was absolutely wonderful to learn about Women in Innovation, The Earth Group and so many more people living their passions with purpose. 

I was delighted to be invited to be the featured guest on one of the calls. We talked about wine and community and about what going Beyond the Wine means for wineries and how we can take that concept – of transcending the obvious to achieve more – regardless of what field you operate in.  

Unfortunately, these calls are not longer happening but it’s certainly worthwhile to check out IOVIA and their team to see what interesting new ideas they’re bringing to branding and marketing through community building! 


The ReFrame Group – Coolest Community Social Event Ev-er! 

The ReFrame Group may be better known for their incredible knack for bringing people together at their fun and fabulously well-produced networking events than for being Canada’s top benefits provider and boutique insurance broker. 

Their CEO, Antonio Zivanovic has a natural altruistic streak when it comes to connecting people! This group has been producing first-rate speaker events (see the impressive roster on their website!), networking events, holiday socials that sell out right away. The ReFrame Group brings together great people, all with the spirit of sharing, connecting, and contributing to building community! 

Perhaps not surprisingly, it was The Reframe Group to take the online networking experience over the top with their recent Fall Social! It was the closest I’ve seen an online event come to replicating the experience of the in-person networking event! Here’s a link to the promo video for the session that demonstrates the features of the incredible platform they used. If you bring people together as part of your business activities – you will want to be an early adopter of this platform. Your community will love you! 

These experiences were nourishment for my extroverted, people-loving soul! Simply the act of registering for one of them heightened my happiness! Whether you love wine, inclusive language in the workplace, creative marketing or all of those or something totally different, I’d bet there is a community call that’s perfect for you. 

Even if we can’t physically gather at this time, there are wonderful and creative people that are providing opportunities for us to still enjoy community connection. Maybe you will create one too! If you’re feeling the effects of covid-driven isolation, check out these or other community calls or events – they’re guaranteed to lift your spirits and leave you feeling “virtually” embraced! 

If you have an event to share, please leave a link in the comments!