Making the Most of Your Virtual Match

Communicating virtually has become the norm in our world today. While we offer many different types of mentoring programs at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee, each program has had to adjust to some form of virtual mentoring in the past year. We spoke with Big Brother Anthony and Little Brother Arron, who began their community-based match virtually during the pandemic, to hear about their experience so far and advice for making the most of a virtual match.
Getting Started

During the first virtual meeting, getting the conversation going might not come easy for every match, but with the help of your match support specialist and preliminary trainings, you will have everything you need to get the ball rolling.

Arron admitted that he was a little nervous going into their first virtual meeting, but within just a few weeks, he and Anthony talked with ease. Arron’s mom, Belisha, even said, “They talk more than anyone I know.” She added, “The first month, Anthony had to carry the conversation, but now Arron will carry it for him, and it’s just so cool to see.”

Communication is Key

When asked what advice he would give to others doing virtual mentoring, Arron said, “Communication is key. If you don’t communicate, it’s not going to work at all.” And he’s right. Building trust to have open and honest communication is key to forming a strong mentoring relationship.

Anthony echoed the importance of communication. He said that when you don’t have in-person activities to fall back on, you have to rely more on talking because you’re not physically going out and doing something to fill the time. But that creates more space to really get to know one another.

Structuring Time

A big advantage that virtual mentoring offers is flexibility. When you don’t have to fight the Nashville traffic to meet up at a specific location, it leaves more time to talk with your Little and do virtual activities. To make the most of that time, it helps to stick to a weekly schedule and keep conversation topics in mind.

Anthony and Arron talk for at least one hour every Monday. Anthony keeps a mental list of Arron’s interests to keep conversations engaging for him, the main topic for them being cars. He starts off talking about the topic broadly until he discovers something unique and specific within that topic that piques Arron’s interest and curiosity, and the conversations flow from there.

Overcoming Challenges

There are pros and cons to everything, and virtual mentoring is no exception. Technical difficulties, background noise and the separation that comes with virtual communication can create challenges, but working through it is worth it.

Try to designate a space where you will have the least interruptions. If you can, set up your laptop where a window or lamp is facing you to give you good lighting. If you or your Little are experiencing technical difficulties, have patience and reschedule if you need to.

Anthony recognizes that communicating virtually lacks the full context and body language that comes with in-person meetings, but he says video calls are still much better than phone calls because you can read the other person’s facial expressions.

From the Screen to the Real World

As we continue navigating the ongoing pandemic, all matches begin virtually for at least three months, but after that period of time, matches have the opportunity to meet in person for safe, socially distant activities. Anthony and Arron have met in person to get ice cream, go rollerblading and play basketball, and they both expressed that getting to know each other virtually first made the in-person activities less intimidating because they were already familiar with each other.

Arron and Anthony encourage people to give mentoring a try, even if you’re hesitant about virtual mentoring at first. They say that their lives have been positively impacted by the experience.

“It’s a friendship, pretty much. You go into it and the idea is hopefully you make a good friend along the way.”

Interested in becoming a mentor to a young person? Fill out the volunteer inquiry form to get started.

Big Brother Anthony & Little Brother Arron