Robert Serna, Experiential Marketing Advisor at AnyRoad and professional Sommelier, offers insights from his first virtual wine tasting experience.
While working as a sommelier at 3-Star Michelin rated Saison Restaurant, I developed an appreciation for curated experiences that went beyond dining at a restaurant. It was through that appreciation that I discovered AnyRoad and learned about how they enable the world’s leading brands to create powerful experiences and connections with consumers.
After joining the AnyRoad team, I was eager to leverage my background with wine and as an experiential company, we wanted to dive deeper into the 200+ virtual event ideas we had put together to engage customers online with interactive experiences. We decided to host our very first virtual wine tasting.
We started the event with quick introductions around the ‘room’ to break the ice, and to give us a bit of a time buffer that allowed for almost everyone to join before officially kicking off the tasting. After everyone had introduced themselves, and I offered some high-level tasting notes on the three wines selected for the evening, we moved into the first tasting, then went into breakout rooms.
When we concluded the first breakout session, attendees had questions which led to engaging discussions. Afterwards, I introduced the second wine but everyone seemed to be engaged as a group, offering their own tasting notes–one attendee even offered some insights into the specific winemaking process incorporated.
There was so much great conversation and engagement that we decided not to move into breakout rooms for the other two tastings. The event had most everyone asking questions and engaged. The event ended with some last-minute questions on the wine and some words from our team.
Here are some of the challenges and questions I encountered and more importantly, the insights that went into solving/answering them:
- Selecting the right video communications platform – Use a platform that you’re familiar with and practice, practice, practice. It wasn’t until a couple practice sessions that we realized I should not be the person sharing my screen AND trying to manage breakout rooms. We decided to use Zoom because of our familiarity and ease of use.
- Finding a wine provider – Find a provider that genuinely cares about their wines and is flexible as your first event may be more dynamic than you expect. We went with Argaux which has some excellent pre-packaged blind tasting kits but also offers personalized selections.
- Choosing the best event size – If you want an intimate, personal experience, keep the event size relatively small for better engagement. We capped the event at 15 attendees (+ 6 AnyRoad attendees) because we wanted to keep the event personal.
- Staying fluid and embracing the unexpected – Have a dynamic approach and let the attendees dictate some of what happens during the event. We planned for 3 breakout sessions to explore the wines on a more personal level but only completed the first breakout session because of the great engagement we received from the group as a whole.
I truly enjoyed hosting our virtual wine tasting and I’m a firm believer that just because it’s virtual, doesn’t mean it’s impersonal.