Zooming Into a Future with Virtual Team Meetings

Dan Kempner
Contributing Writer

A few months ago, when my wife and I decided to leave the United States and have our second daughter at her home in Viet Nam, I placed a frantic call to the then-head of MDI’s Special Ops team. Special Ops was a sort of MDI Search and Rescue operation: find men in places where MDI had no presence but a lonely voice was crying in the wilderness,

Hey, hey! A li’l help? Then again it had a sort of Star Trek ethos of going where no MDI team had gone before and bringing a new one into the Federation. The Prime Directive, in this case, was to connect unconnected men and, hopefully, bring them into MDI. There was a sort of out-of-the-box, by-any-means-necessary quality to the operation.

Somewhere in there the concept of a Special Ops Call arose, wherein these far-flung men could jump on, connect, perhaps be mentored to excellence – or at least listened to – once a week. Shortly after arriving in Saigon I joined this conference call, and what a huge relief it was to connect with men, any men. Yet the drop-in-like nature of the call was disconcerting. I wanted a team, a collection of committed men like those I’d just left in Boston. Others on the call said the same. While the Special Ops call gave me some relief, it was not yet a true team.

Enter President Geoff Tomlinson and changes to the Special Ops structure. Enter me and the others who were regulars on the call lobbying for structure and support. And so, after a few obligatory MDI clusterfucks, a few weeks ago Tomlinson waved his fairy wand and declared the Tuesday call an MDI Team. Just like that. Et Voila! Schip-schnap Zoom Team 1 was born.

Now consider: the vast majority of MDI meetings have taken place around a fire, in some man’s yard or in a living room or public park. In Massachusetts, in Abominable Snowman weather, we might have a phone call by voice conference.

Now for years there have been phone conference calls available. Anyone who’s been on one knows what that’s like. They were clumsy things where men talked over one another or ranted for minutes with the mute button on, and in general the technology more or less sucked.

Enter Zoom and the face-to-face conference call. The MDI Board and some Regional Core Teams have been using this for some time for their deliberations and it’s been terrific. But that’s business. How would it work for a team meeting, where intimacy is the currency and physical presence the means? We didn’t know. No one knew. Until last Tuesday, our first official Team call using Zoom.

Now, we know.

Here is what MDI President Tomlinson had to say. (I should note that Tomlinson stepped out of his own team meeting in Toronto, a thousand miles from anyone else on the call, to help form the team by answering questions for ten minutes. Yet he stayed for the duration. Here was his impression.)

“I was shocked by how well the technology worked. There were eight team members on the call along with me, [Executive Director] Snow and [Find-A-Team Manager] Miller as observers. There were men from three countries and five times zones on the call and yet … in about twenty minutes, they were a men’s team.”

Yep. That’s how it happened. This with a mix of MDI veterans and men who had never attended a meeting before. Tomlinson added, “It was one of the better team meetings I’ve attended in the twenty one years I’ve been here.”

What?! Beam me up, Scotty!

Yet it’s true. A man broke down during a brief check-in exercise and the space was held for him. Later the meeting was held open late to make sure he was taken care of and men he’d never met before – and by God, still hadn’t met in the flesh – committed to check in with him during the week. This rag-tag bunch solidified as fast as a man went deep. Boom! Just like my team back home.

Others went deep as well. The hunger of the men for camaraderie, and for all that other men can offer, so far away from what has been our only real method of delivering our finest creation, a Men’s Team, was palpable. It turns out the intimacy of the firepit is available online. If the men bring it. Face to face and a world away. it’s there. And now it can be tapped.

And so, beyond these eight men, and riding on this experiment, is the concept of more teams that can truly be successful even though the men are literally all over the map. Consider: A team captain in Asia, men in Western Canada and rural Pennsylvania and other locations that couldn’t possibly have met before can now be what men in the greater Boston or Calgary areas have been: true MDI Men’s Teams. Says Tomlinson, “I’m hoping to create a Zoom region. There might be 100 men out there who could be interested in this. It could also work for areas that are cold and meet exclusively outside (Calgary and New England) where older men quit because they can’t be outside anymore.”

I think Tomlinson may be off by an order of magnitude. There may be thousands of men who could benefit from this arrangement. So the success of our new team – still to be named and standards to be set and all the other trappings we all know so well soon to be in place – has the added responsibility of being the test flight for Zoom Team 2, and 3 and perhaps the Zoom Region envisioned by Tomlinson and beyond.

In fact, with this team in place, MDI is now truly International and why not more countries where men hunger for what we do? Warp 6? Warp 8? Whatever, we’re on our way.


If you are a man without a team and want to join us, here is the information you need.

MDI – Zoom Team Meeting – MDI Global

Tuesdays 9pm, EST

For Contact Information, e-mail Dan at daniel.kempner@gmail.com.

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