With Covid-19 rapidly changing the world around us, it’s fantastic to hear stories of how people are finding creative ways to keep their businesses and community groups alive with the use of technology.
Sam Abrahams has been running the La La Choir across Devon for over twelve years. With four groups running in Plymouth, Exeter, Exmouth and Ottery St Mary, the La La Choir has amassed over 340 members from all backgrounds and ages between 18 – 84 years old.
This week Sam spoke to us about how she kept her business, La La Choir singing together amid the UK’s strict new social distancing measures through the use of Facebook Live and Zoom.
From the first day of the UK Covid-19 lockdown, Sam decided to continue running the choir groups every Monday to Thursday with the help of technology.
“At first it was just Facebook Live… That was the first obvious way to get people to understand the interactive video/ live scenario. You’ve got to identify the most common and easiest access point.”
Sam now runs her groups using Facebook Live and Zoom concurrently using her iPad and iPhone, and has up to 90 members joining her each evening.
“My choirs are acapella, but while we are singing I mute everybody. I now use a demo track of myself singing all the parts and I have this playing through my amplification system in my lounge so that the members can still hear and sing along to all the different parts”
Each session runs for 1 hour and 30 minutes, with the first and last 15 minutes of the session dedicated to what the La La Choir members call ‘Pub Time’; a space to catch up and socialise with each other.
“It’s nice that they get to talk to each other and catch up on their day. People who would normally hang out together can still hang out in Zoom.”
Now in her third week of moving the La La Choir online, Sam tells us how both she and her La La Choir members are learning lots about technology as they go along.
“I’m learning a new thing every day. This week I’m learning about using Zoom Breakout Rooms. People can go into smaller rooms with other participants. So the idea is, while I’m teaching the tenor and bass parts, the altos and sopranos can go into a Breakout Room and chat if they want to, and come back when we are ready.”
To support her members with getting acquainted with the new virtual format for the choir group, Sam has been running daily ‘how-to’ sessions this week with individuals and smaller groups. In the ‘how-to’ sessions, Sam supports her members with understanding how to use the virtual platforms; building up their skills and confidence with using the technology before joining the larger evening groups.
Following the success of the virtual La La Choir groups, Sam has now set up a weekly virtual La La Quiz Night every Friday, where all the members’ families are invited to join in and have some Friday night fun.
“I’m really proud of how people have embraced this. It’s allowed me to continue my business, as well as maintain my community.”
Since learning how to use Zoom/ Facebook Live to access their choir group, Sam says that some of the members have even started using the virtual platforms for other social events. “A group of ladies from the Plymouth Choir had a Great British Bake Off Zoom together the other night!”
Sam has had wonderful feedback from her choir members, who greatly appreciate the fact that they can still interact with their friends, maintain some routine in their lives and keep singing!
Key tips and tricks for moving your community group online:
- Consider using platforms that your members are already familiar with
- Consider giving people some 1-1 or small group support to build up their confidence to get involved
- Make use of all the helpful videos and resources on YouTube made by other people in the same boat sharing their experience
- Send your members some simple ‘how-to’ guidance covering key functionality such as mute/ un-mute, share screen, camera on/off
- Consider sending group rules (i.e. keeping your audio muted, not having background noise, etc.)
- If you are planning to record or take screenshots of your virtual community group sessions, make sure you ask members about whether they are happy with this
This story is brought to you by the Heart of the South West LEP Digital Skills Partnership which brings together the public, private and third sector to tackle the digital skills divide. The Partnership is responsible for coordinating and delivering a digital strategy that raises digital skills for our community, for learners and for business. During the Covid-19 pandemic the Partnership is sharing news on digital resources and tools to support connectivity and resillence.