A few weeks into the new virtual groups - time to pause and reflect a bit.
That's how I'm feeling at the moment! What a crazy whirlwind of a time the last few weeks have been for Slimming World members and consultants. Like most employees or small business owners the lockdown we are experiencing was like a grenade going off in our lives. I have so much more grey hair after the last 3 weeks that I might have to join the rush to the salons after the lockdown is over :D
When this all started it began with some members starting to feel uncomfortable with group gatherings as the first signs of the virus arrived. Then the schools were closed and we lost our access to most of our physical venues. A few days were spent desperately trying to come up with a way to maintain our groups along with soul searching and lots of tears about if it was the right thing to do at all. Alternative venues were sourced, an amended physical group experience was designed - and then those venues closed shortly followed by the lockdown we are now experiencing. And that was the grenade exploding.
As a business owner myself I was of course worried about my business but I was a lot more worried about my members. My what I consider to be friends and family in our groups. The groups that support and celebrate and motivate and pick each other up after difficult weeks. The sudden removal of that at the most difficult of times was a double whammy that truly worried me.
But I'm so happy and dare I say it PROUD! of how Slimming World reacted and adapted to enable me and more importantly US to continue. It's a brand new virtual world now where our family can continue to be together and welcome many more members from all across Ireland.
That Slimming World have enabled this to happen at such a greatly reduced cost to members is an amazing gesture on their part. The running costs to provide the overall members services like the website, app, stock delivery (free post to virtual members) and the management / consultant support infrastructure are still present and are likely not to be fully covered by the reduced fees but they were determined to be still able to support each member and each consultant to keep going.
It's not been without it's challenges! An entire new system had to be created on the fly - both by Slimming World themselves and then by each consultant to adapt how they operated to be able to bring this service to life in groups. For me personally, many hours were spent making up this particular website and designing how I would be able to best support my members in the virtual world. How to collate the information each week is a bit of a mammoth task - it's not quite as simple as the old physical group where a member came in with their card and everything was transacted and stored in one go. It's a bit of a challenge to get it all together in time for each weeks virtual Zoom groups but I think at SlimwithPat we've got it nailed now.
Our virtual Zoom groups - I'm not going to lie to you - I was BRICKING it. It was like being back at my first group in 2016 fresh out of Slimming World academy and nervously standing up in front of my very first group. Not having any experience of it. New technology to master - and WORSE - having to be on camera. The palpitations of this! I'm not too fond of cameras at all - I'm convinced they add many many stones ;) and always make you look like you fell out the back of a hedge that morning. :D But I've gotten over it! Bought myself a nice green screen so I can do interactive backgrounds displays and chats with the members in groups. Most members have gotten over it too I'm glad to say - but there's always a compromise of leaving your video off if you wish (and indeed it's not compulsory at all to attend a Zoom session)
Has every group gone as smoothly as I would have liked? NO! Lol - we've had some learning curves along the way but we had a laugh and these days the Zoom groups are no less disorganised than my real life ones :D
But what they have done is kept us together. We've celebrated loads of awards. We've had some fun and some laughs, we've helped and supported each other back on track. - The first few weeks of the lockdown with no groups were like 3 Christmasses back to back! People were really struggling and the ability to get back in a structured routine, with a weekly weigh in and support around it has made such a difference.
We've welcomed new members from all over Ireland - some brand new to Slimming World who may never have joined without a virtual group option being available. And as the weeks have gone on more and more of our previously existing members are joining back up with their groups.
I genuinely think our groups are stronger than ever now. I feel that we appreciate each other that bit more, that there is an even stronger sense of being in something together.
It's been a crazy tough few weeks but it's the foundation for some great weeks and months ahead.