Who needs shame, when you’ve got game.

Stepping out of the real world and into a virtual book launch.

Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought to yourself, You know what? I think I should host a live virtual book launch from my home and invite every person on social media that I do and do not know, even though I have absolutely no experience in planning or executing any such thing?

Hmm? Ever thought that before?

Well I hadn’t either. I was more pushed into the idea by the universe when it opened up a can of pandemic and said, Hey, no more fun social events for you, and you know that book you are about to release, you’ll be launching and celebrating that in isolation. (The pandemic is a bit of a dick).

My plans to celebrate the launch of my debut book SHE: A collection of you, me, her, which was released on the 22nd April, was to hold a “Ladies Night” event at the local art gallery. The women in my tiny mining town absolutely love a ladies night and when it comes to supporting the female community, they are all in.

Available worldwide from here.

I had not pre-planned to be sitting in a corner of my children’s playroom with a sequined dress on, and the deafening silence of an event being hosted in isolation. No. That was not the dream.

The general consensus however, when the gallery closed its doors and in turn we were told to stay behind our own, was that the show must go on.

And go on, it did.

My goal was to try and make the virtual version as close to a real event as possible.

But when I clicked that ‘GO LIVE” button, the difference between a virtual event and a real one became threateningly obvious. I feel like I froze in that moment. There was no noise, no perfectly balanced music to set the tone of the evening or to give me back up. There was just me and within minutes up to forty faces staring at me from the other side of my computer screen.

Party box of treats (cake), wine and Zoom…ladies night done right.

I shifted the entire children’s play room to one side and created a one metre by one metre space that would become the set and scene for the launch. (Remembering that the space had to be big enough to fit me, but small enough to fit on the computer screen for the world to see.)

I was sat on a mustard chair borrowed from a friend with far better styling choices than myself. My husband had strung up fairy lights behind me and I had a side table with a bottle of bubbles on ice and my book strategically placed against it. In front of me was a kitchen chair with an emptied toy box on top and then my computer on top of that (had to have the right height and still be in reach). 

In my peripherals was just a sea of children’s toys and furniture pushed to the other side of the room. I had to push the room out of my mind. My husband sat in the lounge room and watched the launch via FB on his phone (so I had to ignore that weird nervousness and pretend I wasn’t embarrassed about the man I love watching me trying to embody some sort of talk show host). My children were asleep in their rooms and my biggest concern was that I would talk to loud and they would wake up. All of these things would not have been a concern, if I weren’t hosting the event from my home (pre-pandemic style).

I learned a lot from this experience. There are some real perks of hosting an event in isolation via Zoom. These included:

  • Not having to shave my legs or be concerned that I accidentally forgot to put on deodorant.
  • Not having to use or share public toilets.
  • I could kick my heels off whenever I wanted. I didn’t actually wear any shoes, but if I had of, then I would have been able to kick them off whenever I wanted.
  • Free wine. (Obviously I bought the wine), but it felt free when I could just reach for the bottle whenever I wanted.
  • I didn’t need to wait outside in the freezing cold desert Autumn air for a taxi to get home.

There are of course some downfalls to having a launch in isolation. These include:

  • Not being able to have more meaningful conversations with my guests; the women that have supported my journey. It would have been nice to “work the room” and catch up with everyone.
  • Effort – It would have been far less effort to pay the gallery to prepare the event. To organise food and beverages and just be able to show up on the night. A virtual launch felt like far more work.
  • I didn’t laugh anywhere near as much as I would have if I’d been at an event with everyone.
  • No dancing
  • The silence
  • Stepping outside myself and doing something I had never done before (it’s not a downfall, but it felt like it at the time).

Would I do it all again? Absolutely. And for anyone who is considering a virtual book launch, or virtual launch of any kind, here are my top five tips. Some I learned a long the way, some I found out after the event through hindsight (damn it).

The virtual invitation courtesy (not made by me).

1. Advertise at least one month out – This isn’t just to build your audience/guest list. If you are able to advertise and send out an invitation one month in advance, then that means you have a month to plan how the event will go and focus on other areas. I sent out my invitations with one weeks notice because I just wasn’t ready. I had to have a friend help to prepare the invitations because my life just wasn’t allowing me the space I needed. I was working from home with two small children, and trying to convince myself that I wasn’t a complete wanker for doing this (that’s very time consuming).

2. Have a run sheet – Similar to how a real event would run, so too should your virtual launch. I had written a very loose list of things I wanted to include throughout the zoom: Competitions, giveaways, live music, Q and A, a speech and fireworks (I’ll get to that). But what I didn’t do is spend time writing down the specifics of how each of those things would happen and at what time throughout the night. This was my biggest regret (or should I say learning), because when I looked at my scrap piece of paper the next morning, I realised there were so many things I had forgotten to do and say, which I was very disappointed in.

3. Find your platform – and practice it. I was originally just going to do a FB live because that’s all I really knew and I had done a live a couple of times before (just rambling). I then changed my mind to a webinar, and then a week out from the event I decided on a Zoom event that would live stream to my FB page, Fly In My Wine. The majority of my week was then spent subscribing, learning the functions and practicing one on one zooms with my mum and husband.

4. Check your tech – From lighting to charging computer and phone batteries. Check all of your equipment days and then hours before the event. My husband purchased special fairy lights for the backdrop but we didn’t open the box until the morning of the launch. When we opened the box we realised they were solar powered and we only had a few hours of an overcast day to charge them and hope they worked.

5. Prepare a mantra – My mantra for the day of my launch was, ‘No shame in my game’. I was going into this launch with what felt like absolutely no idea what I was doing. I kept asking myself, ‘who do you think you are even doing this? Why would anyone tune in or dress up just to hear you yap on about yourself for 2 hours? I woke up that morning and just stepped into full fame mode and told myself there is no shame in my game. I’m doing this.

And I did it.

Would you believe I took zero photos of myself and have to rely on screen shots from friends?

Women – Friends, friends of friends and family all joined me to celebrate the launch of my first book.

Some dressed right up, some dressed from the waist up, some dressed spectacularly down. But they were there, wine in hand and indulging in a ladies night via Zoom. I provided live music by strumming quite badly on my son’s toy guitar (I could literally feel the room inhale when they saw me pull out the guitar like ‘oh geezus, is T going to sing?’). The fireworks, well in these crazy times one must compromise, so at the end of the event I turned off all the lights in the room and lit some sparklers. It worked a treat.

When all was said and done and the party was over, there are always the stragglers. Those not ready for the party to end. So about five or six of us stayed online and kept chatting away. Just like a real event.

I woke up with a hangover, just like I would after a real event.

I allowed myself one hour of post launch event anxiety (insert shame in my game), and then I snapped out of it and got on with my life.

Every achievement is worth celebrating, and stepping outside your comfort zone is an achievement all on its own. I had an entourage of women help organise this launch, but their confidence in me being able to pull it off, was unwavering.

That was what held me together and took the shame out of my game.

Who needs shame, when you’ve got game.

T x

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