I think, at this point, we can all admit that the presence of COVID-19, the around the clock pandemic news cycle, and the long term effects of remote work with social distancing recommendations are now starting to be felt throughout society, not just the economy, but the life of the entire workforce as well. As “remote work” time has extended, the United States workforce has learned to meet and interact virtually, effectively work remotely and have the same productivity as in the office – sometimes even more so with no “water cooler” conversations!
Within all these new experiences, however, there has been a secondary conversation that has come about: what about professional engagement, networking conferences and how will a membership society evolve?
TXCPA Houston is first and foremost a society for our members! Our goal is to be “here” through providing members and non-members opportunities for continuing education, unique learning resources, networking events, and career/life advocacy. Clearly, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 85-90% of all these learning and continuing education resources, as well as all networking events were in-person “live” events. As the effects of the pandemic has expanded throughout the US and world economy, this “live event” model has had to change, evolve and grow to include a “new” virtual world model.
As the US and world economy, and eventually public spaces, re-open, it is likely that some effects of the pandemic, including social distancing, will remain in place for some time. This is likely to be an effect of both law and society. As the US re-opens, it is doing so in different phases. Hard hit areas, like the Northeast and New York are going to be much more reticent to re-open, have free travel, and lift of quarantine restrictions. Whereas, proportionately lesser effected areas such as rural states, and here in Texas, are reopening at a greater pace. This will have a direct effect on the rate of reopening live events, travel to and from networking conferences, and bringing speakers from around the country and world to speak at conventions.
In similar manner, we need to consider the societal effect of the pandemic itself. For a certain demographic, regardless of age or health, the effect of the pandemic will be “caution.” Therefore, those members of society will remain concerned, and socially distant, avoiding large crowds long after “lockdown” restrictions are lifted. The members of this demographic will not return to live networking events, or conferences and convention with larger attendance. Therefore, it is likely that the solutions to the effects created by pandemic will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
So how will we engage as a member society in this new future?
First, it is important to point out that continuity is an important factor. TXCPA Houston is and will continue to be here for our members now and throughout whatever the future brings! We will continue to expand and modify our live and virtual offerings, content, resources for CPE and networking to ensure we meet the needs of our members. We have 92 years of innovation, engagement and history behind us, and plan to have many more years to come. This being said, it is incumbent on the member to continue to engage with TXCPA Houston. Let us become your professional refuge in the storm of life change.
Facing a life and career change due to furlough or downsizing?
Networking events will continue. Will they be live? Virtual? Hybrid? Probably yes to all. Join a virtual happy hour, virtual networking events, or virtual hiring fairs. Come to a socially distanced live event and utilize all the tools and resources we have. Engage with our website, upcoming events, and cohosted virtual events. The strength of any professional networking event is found more within the members who attend, not the host. While we will provide the opportunity to bring you together, you must seize it. Due to the hybrid and virtual agency of the internet, we have been able to expand our networking beyond our normal geographical confines. Wouldn’t it be interesting if this new virtual world actually expanded our interactions with each other?
Need continuing education?
We will maintain a rigorous schedule of continuing education opportunities. Some of these have changed from live events to fully virtual, and as social distancing continues, we will likely engage in hybrid events. Want to come and join us live? Great! Can’t get to us live? Also, great! We will bring CPE to you! We are working to create unique professional learning experiences that will be as effective live as in virtual reality, simultaneously. The takeaway is that we will bring you the opportunities you need, with excellent presenters, topics and panels both in person and virtual. Due to this new technology, we will be able to bring different speakers and a wider range of attendees to the events without the restriction and expenditure of travel.
In short, engagement with TXCPA Houston will become more important than ever. As social animals, people can only work in individual settings without direct professional interaction without increasing personal stress for so long. Additionally, with so many facing furlough, layoff, and job dissolution, the ability to network with professionals within your field will only further help those in need of assistance finding or retaining employment, or those needing ideas for the next step in the evolution of their professional development. We, your member society for CPAs, are the best resource to help you connect, adapt and overcome the challenges facing us all today!
Originally published in the TXCPA Houston's Online Magazine called the Forum. Read the full magazine here.