Networking During Times of COVID and Beyond!


Guest Shelly Irwin from WGVU Public Media joins us in this episode of Money, I’m Home to talk about the “power” of networking even during a pandemic.



00:06 Lynne Jarman-Johnson: Money, I’m Home. Welcome in. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson with Consumers Credit Union. From finance to fitness, we have it all. And today we have a guest who is going to just tell us a little bit about all of that, especially fitness, because we have with us a very talented individual, Shelley Irwin. She is a host and producer of WGVU Public Media. What does that mean? That means she does it all. She’s on television, she’s on radio, she does podcasting, she writes, she’s everywhere. Shelley, thank you so much for being with us today.

00:39 Shelley Irwin: You’re quite welcome. It is an honor to be with you, Lynne Jarman-Johnson.

00:42 LJJ: You know something? I have known you for many, many years. I can remember a day, and what we’re going to talk about today is something that I think will be very helpful for everyone, especially in COVID times, and that is networking and communication. You and I first met years and years ago when I would volunteer for WGVU, but then, also, when I had my own radio show. And we did a lot in the community with the Lions Club and other organizations. You have so many hats, but the one I want to talk about today that I think can help everyone is what I call “The Connector”. I think you are the most brilliant connector I’ve ever met, and one of the ways that you do this is something called power breakfast, power lunches, power happy hours. And I want to start with that. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you started being “The Connector.”

01:39 SI: Oh, that’s nice. Well, thank you, and my goal is obviously to inspire others to connect with our conversation. But cutting right to the chase with the answer to your question. I would often call, say, my friend Marcy and say, “Marcy, let’s go out for a power lunch. John, let’s go out for a power breakfast.” That was just my lingo as far as, you know, it’s probably only going to be an hour. We’re probably going to get a lot of things done, whether it’s just a conversation at all. One time, my friend, Marcy, said, “Why don’t you get all these people you do power lunches and breakfasts with and get us all together to meet each other.” So, I’ve got to give Marcy a little bit of the credit of, “You know what? Okay, I think I will.”

02:22 LJJ: Go Marcy.


02:25 SI: Go Marcy. So, it did start probably two and a half, almost three years ago, with a… And I’m very Facebook heavy, and I think I use it appropriately, as they say. You’re my friends on a Saturday night. How is that? Hey, a big social life.


02:43 SI: I literally put out, “Who is in for a power breakfast?” And then, it did start with a power breakfast. And if you answered, “I’m in. I’m in.” I would literally write your name down and get back to you. And I would schedule a power breakfast. Let me get back to that. Because if you just liked it, that didn’t count.

03:06 LJJ: You had to say, “I’m in.”

03:07 SI: You had to say, “I’m in.” So, the first time I did that, I think with power breakfast, I had about 50 responses of, “I’m in.”

03:12 LJJ: 50? 5-O?

03:13 SI: 5-O.

03:14 LJJ: Wow.

03:14 SI: That was for the first time. So, I literally then got back to each of you and said, I’m going to choose three power breakfast mornings from 7:30 to 8:30, you’re going to say… I’m going to give you the choices, and then you show up, and all I ask is that you pay your own breakfast. So, we did that, and we basically started with meeting at either a Sundance or a Panera, and then we moved on to power lunch. And that basically exploded because the next year after, I had 90 responses. So, I did that again in January. So, here we are now, basically, with just power lunches. What’s the goal? Yes, those of… The only thing you have in common is you are a Facebook friend of Shelley.


04:09 SI: And we basically start with an icebreaker. Who motivates you? Toot your horn—something you want us all to know about you. Something that’s always positive. And then we’ve added recently a quickie like do you like salt or pepper? Oil or vinegar?

04:32 LJJ: Your surprise questions are always the best.

04:35 SI: I know. So, basically, that’s how you’re introduced, then, “I’m Shelley Irwin, WGVU Public Media. I love what I do, and here’s what I do.” And go on to the next. It has spawned from a small gathering of six to a big gathering of 20. It’s morphed now with COVID-19 into a whole different animal.

04:53 LJJ: Now, Shelley, let’s talk about that. Because I think one of the things that people are so sad about with the pandemic, and I say sad not lightly. Depression, as we know, has become just skyrocketed because people don’t have that connection and yet, you said, “Nope. We’re going to continue with these.” Now, they’re going to be different; they’re going to feel different. Tell us about those experiences.

05:20 SI: Yes. Well, of course, whether Zoom fatigue exists or not, we have had the opportunity, I think the first couple of months, to be all in Zoom, which obviously meant as many could gather and that still worked as far as bringing together 20, probably a minimum of eight up to 18 of us that would still answer the question, see ourselves on camera and “get to know each other”, and of course, you always have the responses to put down in the chat room, as well. Now, with things loosening a bit, our next step was to eat out, to have smaller groups in smaller places. So, we found a favorite restaurant to seat six to eight of us outside. We morphed into power happy hours on a back porch of someone’s home. We are going to Robinette’s tomorrow, outside. Everybody understands that there’s no pressure. You’re still going to meet someone new, and yet, we still have a Zoom opportunity for you. So we’ve just expanded. There’ll be, hopefully, next month, a park to all observe. So we still have to connect, and we’re just going to do it safely and then actually, some unique manners.

06:41 LJJ: Shelley, tell me, if you close your eyes and you think back to some of the surprising things that had happened because of just meeting and connecting and not being afraid to meet new people, I think that’s the really, the key of this. You don’t know who’s going to come. You might see it on Facebook, a list, but you might not know half of the individuals there. And I think that’s the beauty of this.

07:06 SI: What I attribute to as success thus far is I don’t check up on you to see for a reminder that you’re coming. You come because you want to come, and that’s the first step to anything in life, often. And I have seen some… I don’t know if I’ve seen any relationships get together and it’s not the…


07:25 LJJ: Okay, I wasn’t going there, but that’s okay.

07:27 SI: Okay. That’s not the purpose, but I’ve seen some tips for hiring, because we all have a reason, not only to make new friends, but to network. This has been a tough time for those who have lost jobs, so they’ve taken advantage of letting us know that they’re in transition, and if anybody needs a skilled person, then that is certainly… I try to stay away from this, being a salesy, hand out your business card issue, I don’t want that to happen. You all communicate on your own. But it is such that you’ve come to the table and I see relationships happen.

08:11 LJJ: So when you first started this, I actually remember having breakfast with you before this started, and you and I were brainstorming a lot of different fun things like we like to do and when we get together, they’ll be breakfast…

08:25 SI: Yes. [chuckle] Oh, no.

08:25 LJJ: They go on. But I remember you actually talking about starting something like this. Has it just surpassed what you ever thought? Because to me, I smile every time invitations come out, and then I see so many different people that are getting a part of it.

08:46 SI: Yeah. And again, these are… Let’s be honest, there are some Facebook friends that I don’t know and I was like, “Oh, Jill. I don’t know Jill. Oh, hi, Jill.” Not that I want to go there, but it really has surprised. And I’ve learned to delegate just a little bit because now we’re up to five events in one month. And selfishly, I still have control of… Shelley still has to be there. I’m not ready to let…

09:13 LJJ: To give that up quite yet.

09:14 SI: But I will… Lynne, if you have an idea that you want everyone to meet at your work downtown and host us and come up with a question and lead, I’ll sit back. And I think that allows others to step out of their comfort zones. Think of something new, like we are meeting this month at the zoo. One of our power lunch-ers will host that. But there’s only available for six of us there. And I want to say it’s first come, first serve, but yet, you can’t come to everything, so there is a little way that we have to work this out. But it really is interesting now. I’ll get to the seats and Randy doesn’t know Jill, and I’m like, “Oh, my God! You guys need to connect.” And there, it’s going to happen.

10:03 LJJ: And there it goes. So when March hit and all of a sudden, the world changed, and you’re on radio, you’re on television. And as they say, “The show must go on.” What happened with you and WGVU? And now, is it different today as things are opening up, Shelley?

10:22 SI: Sure. Well, I feel like a little pilot in the studio. Once I go off the runway up and I’m flying. Basically, at this point, with a couple of exceptions, we are doing all of our interviews, and I should say I’m doing all my interviews by phone. And that includes the television side, we’re using Zoom. Is it different? The show still goes on. We still inspire, educate and entertain you with the conversations. Now, my attention level, if I don’t have you face-to-face, is a little shorter. So the interviews themselves on the phone are probably shorter, between eight to 10, which means in a two-hour frame, I can have eight different topics.

11:05 LJJ: Wow! That’s great.

11:07 SI: If you can handle that and… So I can move on from Breast Cancer Awareness Month to the local comedian that lost their house.

11:18 LJJ: Right, right.

11:19 SI: Again, the Zoom side for, say Family Health Matters or Community Connection, we normally have two to three guests, and I’ve been doing those in series… Community Connection in programming formats. We did a program on seniors, we did a program on programming for boys, programming for girls. So it’s been fun to use those themes as far as just interviewing one non-profit then the next. Family Health Matters airs once a month. I’m usually, it’s recommended, like this month, we’ll probably do, I think mental health. So I’ll get three guests. Is it the same seeing three faces versus three bodies? Probably as a viewer, you’ll still receive the information, but again, there’s nothing like you walking in the door to be interviewed for a live face-to-face.

12:12 LJJ: Absolutely. Hey, quickly, if anybody is listening and they are thinking about starting a type of a group like a Power Lunch or Power Breakfast, Power Happy Hour, what is it that you would… Are there two or three things that you would say, “Hey, listen, this is what you really need to do.”

12:33 SI: Yes. Well, you need to be, I guess, be flexible and being careful what you wish for. I think that serves as a unique way to connect. I would always keep your ice breaker positive, just because that’s kind of a… Versus what would you change about the mayor? Or who’s your enemy? And how would you… So always keep it light and positive and have time for conversation, maybe 10 minutes before you close. I would also keep it as close as you can to an hour, maybe an hour 05, the latest. If and when we go to restaurants, it has to run somewhat as a tight ship. In other words, let’s get our orders taken right away.

13:26 LJJ: Immediately.

13:27 SI: Immediately, so that we don’t dilly dangle. And … and basically let your lunch-ers or your breakfast-ers or do their thing as far as connect with each other. And it should work out and be unique. That’s what I’m learning.

13:43 LJJ: Well, you are “The Connector.” I would say that’s the other component of it, Shelley, is follow through. It’s not only about inviting people, but you may not say, “Hey, are you going to come again?” But you do make sure that that follow through of them knowing that they are on the list is there and that’s a public thing. [laughter] Which is a good thing.

14:07 SI: I know a few don’t show. We have a closed Facebook group, and there are 500 people in that group and a hundred are coming to the table. So what I will do probably in January, is I will put another call out who’s in for a Power Lunch. But I also will look at those who may never have come and not that I’m going to…

14:32 LJJ: Give others a chance.

14:33 SI: Just give others a chance instead of, those who know they have something, come on. That’s cool. But perhaps someone else needs to know that this is a non-threatening environment, how’s that? Always make sure …

14:49 LJJ: And don’t be shy. If you’re invited to a Shelley Power Lunch, you can accept and go and don’t be shy. [laughter]

14:56 SI: Yeah, don’t be shy, ’cause you’re gonna … It’s like anything. The first step is the hardest step, and that’s showing up and being committed. And we all know how that feels.

15:06 LJJ: Well, thank you, Shelley, for showing up and being committed every single day. If you don’t follow Shelley on Facebook, please do so. Because you will find just really beneficial information that’s number one. Well, and I’m also going to say, and also really great information about motivating yourself to do things that might not be in your comfort zone, whether that be fitness or, you really do you just help people stay motivated.

15:34 SI: Well, there’s a reason I do almost a selfie a day in my bike helmets, or my running shoes, it’s not only accountable to me, but I do get some feedback that, “Oh my gosh, you made me get off my couch.” [laughter] But basically, it comes back to me and revisiting, this was a very active summer and I smile when I say that, but it also needs to keep going as the weather turns.

15:55 LJJ: Right, right. Well, and it also says, “Hey, you can get outside.” You might want to make sure, wear a mask, but you can get outside, and you can be with other people. Just be safe and smart.

16:08 SI: All right, it’s time for you to come back to power lunch.

16:11 LJJ: I’m coming back, Shel. Thank you so much. Hey, thank you, Shelley, for joining us today. And if anybody would like to join up on any of the power lunches, get ready in January. Follow Shelley and you can join, but you can also create your own, and that’s what this podcast is all about—not being afraid, getting out of your comfort zone and starting something that you’d like to do. It’s time. Today is the day. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson. Thanks again, Shelley, for joining us today.

16:36 SI: You’re welcome.

16:37 LJJ: Hey, if you have a subject you’d like us to talk about, send it our way and I don’t… We’re going to see you next week. It is Money, I’m Home, from finance to fitness with Consumers Credit Union.



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