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Staying Connected by Steve Fletcher

Steve Fletcher Photo: Steve Fletcher

The pandemic has required a pivotal shift when it comes to networking and events.

Like many other sectors, COVID-19 has impacted the automotive recycling business. An obvious one is how we network and get together for events. Due to the pandemic, spiking case counts and ongoing uncertainty, as well as the continued closure of the border between Canada and the U.S., we made the decision to not host our traditional spring OARA Convention for 2021.

Past OARA Conventions have proved highly successful in terms of networking. Photo: Huw Evans

That said, communication and networking remain a very important part of the business and we will find ways for our members to connect, whether it’s through specific meetings or a virtual or perhaps hybrid convention.

Embracing technology

There are challenges however, in that some of our members readily embrace virtual meeting technologies such as video conferencing while others are very wary of it. The question then becomes, what is the most effective way to ensure you are able to get your message out to as wide an audience as possible?

The content itself is often the most straightforward part, the challenge is, how do you effectively deliver it? When we look at events like the recent Virtual CCIF Meeting and as I write, the upcoming Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) Convention in the U.S. (November 11-13)—these provide good yardsticks with which to measure the concept, navigation and accessibility of conventions in the virtual space and this will likely help us build a foundation for launching an event of our own next year.

The trick is, combining the best of what digital and virtual technology has to offer with the need for physical interaction of some kind, which certainly our members have been vocal about. There’s no question that the recycling industry is one that still thrives off in-person meetings and interactions, but we need to ensure we are able to facilitate it in a careful and safe manner.

Wider audience

One of the big benefits of the shift to virtual events and it will be very interesting to see how this plays out at the ARA convention, is the ability to attract a far wider audience than you normally would. For many, the shift to virtual events means that they are still able to attend without having to book five or six days out of their schedule, arrange flights, transport and accommodation, so the cost savings, as well as the convenience are in many ways immeasurable.

As for us, we’ve even had some of our own members here in Canada who have never before attended an ARA Convention in the U.S. excited at the fact that they can take part without having to leave their business.

An added convenience is that the content is often available for a period of time after the original sessions took place, meaning registered attendees are able to access it on their own time if they aren’t able to actually attend the original session at the allotted time due to the demands of their own operations.

Bringing people together from different regions and even different countries is something that COVID-19 has really allowed us to do.

One of my tasks at present is representing the international committee on behalf of ARA and trying to bring various discussions and virtual meetings from other associations and the International Round Table (IRT) together on behalf of the recycling community.

Greater need

Given the uncertainty that continues to surround COVID-19, there has arguably never been a greater need to connect with each other and share information and ideas.

Currently, from our perspective at both ARC and OARA, we are seeing lots of questions being raised and we have sent out requests, asking members to submit their own specific questions which we then share across the entire membership network.

Doing it this way allows us to ensure the right message and information gets distributed, so for example if some members are doing things particularly well, or are facing new issues, we are able to identify them and collectively respond both as an association and as an industry.

It also allows us to develop a better understanding of what the overall trends and expectations are and from that be able to deliver content and support, that is timely, relevant and ultimately, beneficial to both our members and the wider recycling sector.


Steve Fletcher is the Managing Director of the Automotive Recyclers of Canada and the Executive Director of the Ontario Automotive Recyclers Association. You can reach him at steve@autorecyclers.ca.

 

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