When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, conferences were suspended and many meetings moved online. For local fleet associations, that often also meant suspending in-person meetings and conferences. For the Colorado chapter of FleetPros, a public fleet association spanning five states, not being able to meet quarterly in person became a problem.
“We didn’t schedule anything because we kept thinking it would pass,” explained Chris Dempsey, CAFS, fleet manager for the Town of Windsor and Colorado chapter chair. But after months of inactivity, the board knew it had to do something.
“People were paying dues, but we weren’t offering anything!” Dempsey said.
Discussing Hot Topics
The board launched its first weekly virtual Shop Talk, conducted via Zoom, in November 2020. The hour-long meeting, taking place Thursdays at 9 a.m., sometimes includes presenters on specific topics and other times, it’s free-flow discussion. Vendors can provide product updates, and fleet professionals can vent or ask questions. Discussion may stem from updates provided by members.
The hottest topics have been on the state bidding process, when a state procurement professional came to talk to the group about how state bids are conducted and awarded; operating with COVID-19 protocols, before people grew tired of the topic; benchmarks and key performance indicators; and how production delays are affecting operations.
Dempsey said about 20-25 people show up per meeting, although sometimes as many as 40 attend. It’s not a large group considering the chapter’s 200-strong membership base, but the informal format allows people to attend when they can and skip when they can’t, meaning different sets of people attend each time. And 20 people can generate thoughtful discussion.
Virtual Meetings Aren’t Going Away
Although the chapter resumed in-person quarterly meetings in October 2021, the weekly Shop Talks are still going strong, which surprised the board.
Dempsey said the meetings will continue until interest dwindles.
The FleetPros board of directors is thinking of bringing virtual meetings to other state chapters.
5 Tips for Starting Your Own Virtual Fleet Meetings
Dempsey provided these tips for associations looking to start their own virtual meetings:
- Schedule it for the same day and time every week (or preferred interval), so people don’t lose track of when it's being held.
- Don’t require commitments or sign-ups. Allow people to attend when they want and as their schedules allow.
- Encourage group discussion by starting with introductions. There are always new faces in the group who don’t know everyone in attendance. The board was nervous about allowing vendors to speak about products, but they’ve been very respectful of the opportunity. Product updates often spark discussion about the topic.
- Be flexible with discussion topics. If the session that day has more vendor attendees than usual, a detailed discussion on KPIs, for example, could be pushed to another day.
- Commit to a couple of months. The Colorado chapter board didn’t know how these would go at first. Dempsey said they half expected only the six board members to show up. That didn’t turn out to be the case, but it might start slowly for other groups.