Event planning in the era of COVID is not easy. Even though that may seem obvious, it’s also incredibly frustrating for many non-profits, community organizations and chambers of commerce. In the summer it’s not as much of a problem, as most activities can be adapted for outdoor use, but as we head into the winter, this does become a bigger issue for many local organizations.

Our chamber dealt with this last year by transitioning many meetings to online, leaning into more video programs, running an online leadership course and making the word “Zoom” both a proper noun and a verb in our daily lexicon. As we head into the uncertainty of another COVID winter (though recent case numbers do give some reason for hope) we are working on solutions to still provide quality events and programming for our regional business leaders.

Here are four events you can look forward to this month:

Chamber After Hours, Thursday November 4, 4-6 p.m. at Topsham Public Library
Chamber members, and other business leaders interested in meeting chamber members, are invited to our Chamber After Hours at Topsham Public Library (25 Foreside Road, Topsham) this Thursday. As many of you know, Topsham Public Library has an incredible community meeting space, which just so happens to have a large set of double doors that opens onto their patio. This unique feature allows us to hold this networking event as an indoor/outdoor event using both the patio and the indoor space.

Another great feature of the community room is that it’s large, with plenty of room for spacing out, and with doors on each end there will be great airflow in the room. Masks are not required, but as we said for our last After Hours, some people will feel more comfortable wearing them, so don’t be surprised to see some attendees choosing to wear them. From a chamber perspective, we like to say, people wear masks for their own reasons, and we don’t expect anyone to have to tell us why they are choosing to do so.

If you have never attended a Chamber After Hours before, tomorrow is a great time to start. These are networking events where we mostly mingle and we pause the networking at one point so the hosting business can welcome everyone, so some members can give updates on their business, and so the chamber can give some updates too- then it’s back to mingling. Typically, these events begin at 5 p.m., but we have a special start time this month of 4 p.m. because of the indoor/outdoor nature, and the sun going down earlier.

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To register to attend you can find it on the scrolling community calendar on the Chamber’s website at midcoastmaine.com or call us at (207) 725-8797. Simply Susie’s Catering will provide some great appetizers and some delicious mock-tails. For those that can’t get out of work until 5 p.m., no worries, we won’t start the host/chamber announcements until 5:30, so please pop over and see us!

12 @ 12 is back (online), Nov. 10
One of the networking events we have really missed is coming back as an online event next month, and is called 12 @ 12: The Free Lunch Networking Series. Essentially this is 12 business leaders getting together for lunch at noon, so 12 (people) at 12 noon- 12 @ 12. The event is typically hosted by a local business, with the only hosting fee being lunch for twelve people. With COVID in mind, we have decided that both the November and December 12 @ 12s will be online- thus lunch on your own at your desk.

The format is simple- everyone in attendance gets 5 minutes to talk about their business and what they do. This change to online does make it really accessible for many business people, where you can register with the chamber and we will send you a Zoom link. This November and December meeting will be 60 minutes, so done by 1 p.m. If you want to “have lunch” with 11 business leaders and make some connections register with Claire at the SMMC office [email protected] or (207) 725-8797. Note: 12 @ 12s are for businesses and non-profits, and not for retired or individual citizens.

Trail Walk with the Chamber, Nov. 19
Here is a brand-new way to network while being outdoors and being healthy- join us for a trail walk with the chamber! We know this isn’t for everybody, but those who like to be outdoors, bundle up and join our Chamber Coordinator, Claire Papell on a hike to both enjoy the outdoors and meet fellow chamber members who enjoy being active.

The trail will change monthly, but this month will be at Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick on Friday afternoon, November 19 at 2 p.m. Join Claire and others at the parking lot at 277 Pleasant Hill Road in Brunswick. The rain date is Wednesday, Nov. 24. Register with Claire at [email protected] or call (207) 725-8797.

Midcoast Tree Festival opens in 17 days, Nov. 19-28
I’ll share more about this incredible event next week, but know how excited our chamber is to partner with All Saints Parish and Spectrum Generations’ Meals on Wheels for the third year of this event. We will have indoor, outdoor and online ticketing options to keep it COVID safe but we fully expect to have people in-person throughout the two-weekend event (and we will work on spacing out the trees a bit more for safety).

Businesses: now is the time to register for your tree space. If you are too busy you can hire the Tree Squad and we will build your tree for you with a theme of your choice. If you can’t do a whole tree, think about donating some items and we will build chamber trees from donations received. There are so many ways to participate.

Finally, next week we should be releasing: the volunteer sign-ups, new website, sponsor announcements and more!

Cory King is the executive director of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber. 

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