February 22, 2021

Enter 2021 and Virtual Meeting Spaces

Melissa Bourbon

For most of us, 2020 was a year filled with things we’d rather leave in the past. There weren’t many positives that came from those 365 days. If you’re like me, you were happy to say adios to 2020, and bienvenidos to 2021.

Figuring out how to stay connected with friends and loved ones was a particular challenge as we all isolated and quarantined. No longer could we go visit neighbors or family, to say nothing of town events, festivals, and conferences.

Enter virtual meeting spaces. Zoom. Google Meetup. Microsoft Teams. FaceTime. BeLive. StreamYard. They all have provided us with a way to stay connected within our workspaces, but better than that, they gave us the opportunity to create new connections through virtual events.

My son and his girlfriend got engaged last month. They’re in California, my future daughter-in-law’s family is in Texas, and my husband and I are North Carolina. Pre-2020, we would have had a phone call during which we wished them congratulations and that would have been that. What were the other options?

Not so in the early days of 2021. We used Zoom and had a Happy Engagement party to celebrate. Friends and family came from all over the country. We played a Kahoot (an online game where we created questions and possible answers all about the couple) and shared a video montage that made us all teary. The two families had a chance to “meet” each other, and we were all there with the happy couple.

Prior to the pandemic, it never would have occurred to us to host such an event. We weren’t in a ‘virtual’ headspace. Now that we are, though, can we ever leave it behind? Do we want to?

I think virtual events are here to stay, and I’m glad for it.

The virtual opportunities have extended beyond being able to have family chats with our 5 kids at the same time, thanks to Face Time. During 2020, and already in 2021, I have been part of the blooming virtual event trend, both as a guest and as a creator.

For authors, the single most important thing we can do is to reach and connect with our readers. But how do we do that given in person events came to a standstill in 2020? Social media is one way, of course, but so are virtual events and streaming. As Plato said, “Our need will be the real creator”, which spawned the American proverb, “Necessity is the mother of invention”.

Since authors and readers could not meet up at reader events across the country, virtual events were planned, created, and embraced. Suddenly authors and readers could connect with one another via the comfort of their own homes.

It’s actually been really fabulous! A definite silver lining.

I’ve had the pleasure of participating in quite a few virtual events hosted by libraries, bookstores, and festivals. I’ve also created streaming content like One Minute Writing Tips, author interviews, Behind the Book segments, and even a fun happy hour shared on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. These virtual opportunities have all been an amazing way to stay connected with readers during a time when travel is limited.

Even as our world returns to some place of normalcy, I plan to continue creating my own digital content. Now that I’ve started, why stop? It’s fun and a great way to connect with people I never would have been able to reach otherwise. I also sincerely hope the trend of author panels hosted by bookstores continues. Now that we all know how it works and how to make them successful, there is every reason to keep going with them. Virtual events allow us to reach a broader audience, wider even than we did during normal times. We needed a new way of doing things during the pandemic, we forged ahead and created opportunities, and now, I believe, these new means of staying connected are here to stay.

If you haven’t yet attended or viewed a virtual event, I hope you give it a try. In my opinion, they are truly the best thing to come from a difficult situation. The opportunities are limitless. Whatever your interests, there are bound to be virtual events you can attend.

Here’s to a 2021 in which we stay connected with each other.

Below are a few of the virtual events I’ve been part of, and a taste of some of the streaming content I’ve created.

• Virtual library events (20 Writing Tips: link ).

• Behind the Book short videos (Behind the Book, Dough or Die: link).

• On the Book Warriors Facebook page, an online book club I run with fellow mystery writer, Diane Kelly, I’ve hosted author interviews that are then cross posted to our YouTube channel (a chat with Tonya Kappes: link).

• Virtual author panels, including one hosted by Murder by the Book, an amazing mystery bookshop in Houston, Texas, which I had the pleasure of moderating (Texas Cozy Mystery Panel link).

• The upcoming virtual Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival (link).

Melissa Bourbon is the national bestselling author of more than twenty mystery books, including the brand-new collaborative Book Magic mysteries, the Lola Cruz Mysteries, A Magical Dressmaking Mystery series, and the Bread Shop Mysteries, written as Winnie Archer. She is a former middle school English teacher who gave up the classroom in order to live in her imagination full time. Melissa lives in North Carolina with her educator husband, Carlos, and the youngest of their five children. She is beyond fortunate to be living the life of her dreams.

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  1. Thank you, Melissa for the links. I agree the virtual space is here to stay.

  2. Great links! And great ideas for meeting with people.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing these links. Can't wait to dive in.

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