Chesham Sub-Aqua Club enjoyed its first-ever virtual club night this week, complete with their standard beer/wine fines and crisps! Chair John O'Hanlon kindly shares the club's experiences, some tips for other clubs and explains why they'll be now going weekly.

Like most clubs, the COVID-19 event had a profound effect on club activities almost overnight. Diving planned for last weekend at Wraysbury was cancelled, as was in-flight training courses and club nights.

Chesham is a relatively small club of 30 members, but quite active. Everyone dives and we are a close-knit group of friends, but spread over a wide area of Buckinghamshire so club nights are especially important to us.

At our last physical meet-up, we agreed to do as much as we could to keep our dive community together in whatever way we could.

This week we started our first virtual club night, re-enacting the ambience of our local meet-up location, a community bar in Amersham by having a beer/fine wine/scotch/crisps with us.

A couple of us met-up online earlier in the week to plan the event, trial a number of platforms and discuss. We landed on Skype for our first event and it went very well. 

Some thoughts

skype

Some of us use Microsoft Teams, Slack, WhatsApp, Hipchat and Facebook, but we decided Skype was more likely to be used by our membership at some point in time. With Skype, you can also create a group and then email everyone the link, so they just need to click on the link to join either through a web browser or computer application.

While not the most up to date platform, it's free and doesn't require a phone or major IT skills to use it, which was an important decision point as some members don't have smartphones. It was great to connect and we plan to  continue using this for our club nights.

Some tips

  • Choose a platform that most members can access or download for free
  • Trial run it with a small group of users and test your own equipment
  • Pick a software where you can use mobile, tablet or desktop to join the call (maybe, not all your members have smartphones and similarly, not all may have computers)
  • Open the call a few minutes early to allow folks to test their equipment and quality of their internet connections
  • Advertise the virtual club night on your Facebook page, by email and the WhatsApp group (if you have one)
  • Have an agenda:
    -   How is everyone?
    -   Club update from the committee
    -   Training
    -   Membership Q&A
    -   AOB
  • Try to keep the cameras on, it's more personable to see your friends rather than just hearing but if you have a slow internet connection, switch to audio-only as they might not be able to see/hear you if the line gets overloaded

In summary, just try it! We had some dropouts from time to time but we adjusted, and it was really nice to get together and see that we were all okay.

John O'Hanlon
Chair, Chesham Sub Aqua Club

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