By Steve Reynolds

In this Covid-19 era where technology has influenced so much of our lives, you may well have read that headline and started thinking about bandwidth and internet connection.

But pause for a second… what about human connection?

Much like a stable broadband, we probably have not typically thought much about it – we just expect it to be there. However, over lockdown, human connection has changed.

Five months ago, 120 breakfast-eaters met up for the Torbay Business Forum monthly Business Breakfast at the RICC, to hear from Martin Rogers on behalf of the Fragrance Group, talking about its major investment in new hotels for Torbay.

One month later and suddenly we were all based at home, huddled around our webcams, fighting with home-schooling kids and home-working partners for internet bandwidth, and trying to work out what was going on in the world.

‘Zoom’ shifted from being the title of an 1980s pop record to a daily routine for liaising with associates, clients and colleagues.

Everyone soon started calling this the ‘new normal’, saying how it was ‘surprisingly good’ not having to travel to meetings and remarking at the time efficiency. We patted ourselves on the back for adapting so quickly.

But did we really adapt? Or did we simply respond to the crisis…

Have we started to get bored looking at bookshelves and faux-backdrops in those Zoom meetings?

In your next virtual meeting, check the focus of your attendees – including yours. Is multi-tasking going on? Has it all become too staged, too transactional? Where is the warmth in the virtual room?

Beyond that, are you making new business or social connections, or are you finding, like many, that your sphere of interaction has shrunk?

We humans are social beings; we love to meet up, to interact, to celebrate, congregate, compare notes and perhaps quite importantly, not miss out.

We have not yet evolved to see each other only through the square of a screen. Maybe lockdown has shown us the value of connection.

Torbay Business Forum (TBF) is built on, and for, connection. If you Google ‘Forum’ you will find the definition includes ‘place of assembly” and ‘a place for public discussion’.

TBF is designed exactly to do that, to bring businesses together, both professionally and socially, to encourage active involvement in the strengthening of the local economy.

It brings people together who care about Torbay and who want to see our great towns grow in economic prosperity, growing employment and enjoyment in equal measure.

TBF has grown significantly in membership over the last five years and is continually seeking ways to keep the momentum going by enabling businesses to inspire each other for individual and collective benefit.

Business focused events and social functions are hosted by TBF, all aligned with our objectives to help promote and protect the business interests of members and their associates. With a diverse audience of c.1,000 business contacts, TBF truly recognises the value of connection, both virtual and, when we’re able to, in person.

TBF aims to support business in Torbay by acting as a strategic voice to help tackle key issues affecting the Torbay economy. We’ve been pleased to write letters of support to Torbay Council for the ‘New High Streets Fund’ for Paignton and for the new ‘Torquay Town Investment Plan’. These bids are designed to attract further investment into Torbay and to make our Town Centres more attractive to people and businesses.

Meanwhile, business life has carried on across the Bay, despite Covid-19, showing real resilience by so many. The Fragrance Group has already had an impact on the skyline. The Torwood Street development and the Claylands Business Park are also both well underway.

Business, like us humans, works better with connection. By working together with one voice we can all help to reinvent the Torbay economy and grab the opportunities that are now presenting themselves.