For the first week of the Covid-19 quarantine in Barcelona, I tried to go about my days as best as I usually would. Except that I couldn’t go for my daily run down at the beach. And my kids were home eating all of the snacks and food we had just purchased. And I was still somehow backed up on the laundry. And my Jack Russell terrier and his tennis ball were bouncing off of the walls. And my husband was walking around the house practicing the art of ventriloquism (I wish I was joking.)
Despite all of the balcony dance parties and other ways people have managed to stay connected, as someone who needs to socialize frequently, I found myself struggling with social distancing. So when I received an invitation to a Virtual Dinner Party for Saturday night, I about wept tears of joy, especially because of the “dress fabulous” instruction in the invitation.
Virtual Dinner Party
As with any group activity, the party hosts created a WhatsApp group to provide the official details, give invitees a chance to ask questions, and, of course, lots of chatting opportunities for some pre-party buzz. Despite it being a virtual dinner party, though, we still treated it like a regular party. People shared what dish or wine they planned to bring. Some people asked if anyone had allergies; if anyone needed avocados; and I asked if it was okay to bring my dog to the party. The energetic party planning gave me something to look forward to.
Truth be told, I am not the most talented person in the kitchen, so I knew I would probably just happily participate by drinking and eating random snacks during the party. Besides, my outfit concerned me more. I did not take lightly the invitation’s “fabulous” dress code. I had spent the entire week wearing my favorite baggy, ripped boyfriend jeans, which might be perfectly on-trend for quarantine, but not so much for a dress code fabulous dinner party, virtual or not. I looked forward to getting a little bit more dressed up Saturday night, heels included.
Why a Virtual Dinner Party
Our lovely host Chelsea Anthon who recently moved to Barcelona last April from Andalucia is no stranger to online conferencing or Zoom; she has been working from home for the past seven years. However, she had never hosted a virtual meeting with more than 20 people at one time. She spent all of Saturday afternoon doing a crash course with online videos on how to use Zoom for groups so she could understand more of its capabilities. Chelsea sent everyone in the WhatsApp group a helpful document with instructions and some best practices for attending the party.
The Virtual Dinner party came to me because on Friday morning I woke up and felt a little blue, I just literally wanted something to look forward to – a reason to cook something special, a reason to make an effort and put a dress on.
The dinner had no set agenda or topic; it was more about going around the dinner table, introducing ourselves and sharing a bit about our lives and how we were dealing with the Covid-19 quarantine. Any social gathering, real or virtual, benefits from a good moderator and, fortunately for us, Chelsea rose to the occasion, giving everyone time to share and kept the conversation flowing.
The Covid-19 Quarantine’s Effect on Barcelona Small Businesses
Our particular virtual dinner party had a lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners participating. While the tone was mostly positive, people also shared the very real consequences of the Covid-19 quarantine on their respective businesses. Barcelona relies heavily on the tourist industry, which begins around late March. Many of these business owners were just ramping up for the Spring season when their restaurant, hotels, and tours would be filled. Overnight, they have had to close their doors and let their entire staff go. Many do not know if their business will survive this.
Everyone is scrambling to figure out a way to survive. While many businesses are adapting and going online, it is not that easy for a hotel or a fine dining restaurant to just set up their menu for delivery on a week’s notice. For creative freelancers, it is also tricky to know if the projects they’ve been contracted for are no longer needed.
The Entrepreneur’s Attitude
I can easily empathize with their pain, as someone who also just started a business. Things are dramatically different now and in ways nobody could have anticipated. There is so much uncertainty. But it was evident at the dinner party that, although people are nervous, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well.
Businesses are being creative and figuring things out along the way, adapting, and rethinking strategy for this new landscape. That is what an entrepreneur does. I am not sure what will happen, but I do know that we all left that party feeling better than when we arrived. Twenty eight strangers showed up for each other. And we will continue to show up for each other. I hope we figure out how to survive this together because we certainly can’t do it alone.
Chelsea’s take away from the Virtual Dinner Party
That by being brave to innovate even just a little you can inspire optimism and hope in not only yourself but in others. Now is the time to innovate. Everything we know is not what we’ve been taught it should be. There are no rules, no templates to follow, no room for failure. No idea is a bad idea. Don’t overthink it; just go for it.
Attend a Virtual Dinner Party Like a Pro
Create a Zoom account, if you haven’t yet. The entire world has already joined in, so you may as well. Your host will either send you an invitation or share a meeting link with everyone. When the party starts you simply join with the meeting link or the meeting code.
You may be asked which microphone you want to use. Generally, it is best to use your “devices built-in microphone”. Clicking the microphone icon at the bottom of the screen will switch you from mute to unmute. Do everyone a favor and mute yourself if you have dogs or children or other out of control flatmates running around.
The Gallery View is how you can see up to 49 people on the same screen. You can click this option in the top right corner of the video screen. Camera shy? You can still join a Zoom meeting and select Audio only, your name with just appear in a black box and you will still be heard. Remember though, the point of these calls is to have some social interaction and you’re beautiful just the way you are (provided you brushed your teeth and put on some pants).
Raise your hand to be heard. At the bottom of your screen, you will see “participants”, clicking this you will see all the participants and an option to raise your hand. Use this, especially in large gatherings.
Use chat text to send individual or party-wide messages. At the bottom, you will see “Chat” click this and the chat window will open. Drop-in a message for everyone to see or select a certain individual to message. This is especially useful if your audio is not working and you need to troubleshoot.
Good to Know: Sit in a location where you have a blank wall or other neutral background behind you. It can be distracting otherwise to the other viewers, especially if you have people, animals, etc. moving around in the background.