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Master of Technology: Tips for taking your club virtual

The Sacramento Home Winemakers (SHW) club had been humming along for nearly 50 years. We present monthly educational programs with winemaking experts invited to evaluate members’ wines, host the club’s annual wine competition and Winemaking 101 workshop, and enjoy holiday and harvest celebrations. All that seemingly came to a screeching halt in March 2020 with the growing threat of COVID-19. We could no longer gather in large groups.

After the Club’s leadership went through the predictable stages of grief, denial, anger, etc., we set a game plan. We would use the web to go virtual with our meetings using the Zoom platform. Not only did we hold monthly virtual educational meetings, we were able to solicit once elusive winemaking experts from far and wide. We even held a Christmas party with a wine trivia contest and a viewing of clips from favorite wine-themed movies. Inspired by a sister club in the Sierra Foothills, we pulled off a white wine and rosé evaluation, making available kits of 2 oz. (60 mL) samples of wine to be evaluated by members along with copies of the winemaker notes.

Here are some tips if your home winemaking club is planning a virtual presentation or event.

Before the Virtual Meeting:

  1. The first and most obvious is to obtain a group-meet account (like Zoom).
  2. Secure your speaker, design your program, and set the date. Decide if you will be presenting the program as a Webinar (traditional classroom style) or a presentation where members can interact and be seen to one another. Publicize the program on your website and social media. Have members register for the access code so that only club members have access to this club benefit.
  3. Decide if you will have breakout rooms; these are separate “rooms” within the larger room of the meeting — handy if there are several topics of interest.
  4. Schedule a time to do a quick dry run with your presenter(s) to work out logistical issues, such as making sure the internet bandwidth is sufficient based on the location of the host. Decide if you will be using the “shared screen” feature so that members can view handouts and illustrations.

During the Virtual Meeting:

  1. During the meeting, three team members are essential: One to admit registered members, one to handle the chat room questions and deal with technical problems, and one to facilitate the program.
  2. Ask members to “mute” themselves to keep distracting background noise at a minimum. They can always unmute themselves to ask questions.
  3. Record the session, making sure that the speaker agrees and that participants know that they will be recorded.

After the Virtual Meeting:

  1. With the permission of the speaker, store the video of the program, along with any speaker handouts or other resources, on the winemaking resources section of your website.
  2. Troubleshoot and reflect on what can provide a better experience for members and speakers next time.
  3. Rejoice that in a time when the joy and fellowship of home winemaking seemed most elusive, your home winemaking club has flourished!