Many guilds, shops and Quilt Buddy Groups are looking forward to planning virtual quilt retreats –even though many of us will have received vaccinations and are more comfortable in groups.
Even so, there are many great reasons to hold a virtual retreat in the coming year or two. And here are some tips for making a virtual retreat fabulous and fun!
Why Hold A Virtual Quilt Retreat?
You may ask why stay on Zoom when we can get together in person? For Guilds, a virtual reatreat is still a great idea. Guilds can hold virtual retreats once a year as an ADDITIONAL event, even if they are holding an inperson retreat. For example, my guild is holding a retreat in April in person. But, we could also hold a 2nd retreat in the summer and include our snowbirds and members who have moved away if we wanted to.
My personal virtual retreats attract quilters from the US, Canada and the UK. They would not be able to come to a retreat with me if it wasn’t virtual.
Here are some great reasons to plan a virtual quilt retreat:
- Your Stash is with you!! Attendees can work on different projects at any time. No lugging heavy suitcases or machines.
- Lower Cost! Zoom is a very low cost way to hold a retreat. No facility and meal costs. In fact, a Zoom retreat can be very low cost to members if the group already has a paid Zoom account.
- Include out of town friends. My guild has members who have moved away from the area. Virtual retreats allow them to join in. Some informal groups are international–wouldn’t that be fun!!
- Pair up with another guild in or out of the area and hold a joint virtual retreat.
- Invite a national teacher to run a half-day workshop. NO travel costs involved! You can set this up as an optional or add-on in case everyone is not interested.
- ZOOM/TECH SUPPORT — Appoint one or two individuals cohosts/hosts each day. They can help people having any difficulty with their devices.
- FRIENDLY HOSTS/EMCEES. It’s important to have two people share this role and be welcoming and warm and relaxed. Sharing the role means that no one gets fatigued. Even for a small group (25 or less), it still helps to have two hosts.
Make it Fun!
The main concern about virtual events is lack of interaction. That can be FIXED with a bit of planning.
- GETTING STARTED& GETTING ACQUAINTED : Make sure you have a way for everyone to say HI! Even if you think evryone knows everyone….it’s always a good idea to have a check in. BUT KEEP IT VERY SHORT! 30 seconds per person is plenty of time. Ask attendees for name, and one other question such as is this their first retreat or waht will they be working on.
- ACTIVITIES: Have one or two planned activities each day such as an optional project to work on; a tutorial; a give away game, etc.
- QUILT YOGA/STRETCHES: Invite a member or professional instructor to conduct some yoga stretches (seated and standing). 2 or 3 days sewing is a REALLY LONG TIME!
- LEAVE LOTS OF TIME FOR SEW ON YOUR OWN: Attendees like to bring their own projects to work on so be sure to leave plenty of time for that.
Virtual Events need a schedule! Be prepared to change the schedule as needed. The schedule should be printed and announced and include:
- Start and end time for each day. Also, some members may want to know if the Zoom link will be open after the official closing time.
- Start and end times for lectures, tutorials, workshops or other special events
- Sew on Your Own Project time. Don’t assume that people will understand the timing. Be specific.
- LUNCH AND DINNER BREAKS: Yes, announce these as well. Encourage people to take periodic walking and stretching breaks in addition to food breaks. And a CHOCOLATE break is always welcome….by me!
Zoom allows you to set up Breakout rooms. Here’s how you can use them to make the retreat smoother.
- Set up separate breakout rooms for tutorials or workshops if they are separately paid OR optional or both. If most of the members want to attend, but some want to go into another room, you can set up a breakout room just for them to sew on their own.
- Set up small group (5-7 people) in separate break out rooms during the Sew On Your Time. It’s much easier to chat in a small group instead of having 25 or 100 people on the screen at the same time. You can shuffle the breakouts so that people get to meet and sew with new folks each time.
There are two platforms that I recommend. (not an affiliate link–just sharing my experience).
- Zoom: MY preference!! It’s simple, inexpensive and familiar to everyone. It works well for up to 100 attendees (or more) in the MEETING format because you can break the large group into small groups for conversations and sewing time. Most guilds and shops have been using Zoom for the past few months and most quilters are pretty familiar with it. I’ve used it for different sized groups. It helps to have two or three people act as hosts/cohosts and tech support for anyone having trouble with the site. For a multiday event, you can use the SAME log in for each day which is really convenient!
- HopIN.to I have attended events on this platform. It’s suited for more complex events where there are large numbers of attendees and multiple workshops. It requires a lot more tech support by the event coordinator. It is still in a development phase so a fairly tech savvy administrator will be important for a successful event.
If your group is planning an inperson retreat, here’s a link to an earlier blog post. The main addition that I would add is that each venue will have its own COVID related regulations.
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