Peachtree Section Adapts

Peachtree Section Adapts

Saturday, May 2, 2020 -
1:00pm to 3:00pm

Peachtree Section Adapts

By Peachtree Vice-President, Gary Edwards

Peachtree section had a problem – a busy schedule of 2020 events starting in March, and a Georgia statewide stay-at-home order.  All Peachtree scheduled events through mid-June were ultimately cancelled or postponed.  The section also cancelled the in-person April Board of Directors meeting in favor of a Zoom video teleconference (VTC).  This sparked an idea - Peachtree Vice President and Technical Director Gary Edwards emailed Past President, retired IT professional and webmaster Diana Quinn, “Can I have a VTC tech session?”  Diana responded “Of course! I’ve been thinking about what we could offer the club during this social isolation and I think it’s a great idea!”.  This started Peachtree Section down the path to a sequence of successful virtual events by VTC, eventually bringing them to a national audience.

Gary led a VTC session on March 28th on the M117 engine with 24 Peachtree section members online. He covered the two and a half months of work he had done on his 1973 450SL, emphasizing actions need to prevent severe engine damage, covering cam oiler tubes, and upper guide and timing chain replacement with plenty of time for questions and answers.  The post event survey showed a strong desire for more technical sessions.  It also disclosed a desire for a recording of the event – an “ah-ha” moment for Diana Quinn and Scott Martin – Scott committed to recording future events and Diana immediately put together Peachtree’s own YouTube channel “MBCA PeachTube”.

The section had postponed an R107/R129 gathering which had been scheduled on April 18th.  Knowing that date would be open on everyone’s schedule, and still in the throes of social distancing, Peachtree Section scheduled a two-hour R107/R129 discussion VTC, recruiting presenters from Board of Directors members and event planners.  Peachtree President Joe Martin’s vision was to open this event up well beyond Peachtree Section, and with the help of Eastern Regional Director Doug Geganto, National President Julie Bruggner and Business Manager Cindy Tumbleson to publicize the event, over 140 people registered.  Topics as diverse as buyer’s guides, safety innovations, lessons learned from ownership and others were covered.  The feedback again showed a big appetite for technical information.

To feed this appetite, Peachtree Section then recruited National Technical Advisor George Murphy for a VTC session on May 2nd.  The topic of “Care of Your Electronic Mercedes-Benz” was chosen since we had just talked about some of the older cars.  The session was advertised nationally on Monday, and by Friday over 300 had signed up.  George did a great job discussing care of the electronics on the modern cars, with a lot of discussion on batteries and never jump starting if you could avoid it.  One of the participants chatted, “Does George get a charge talking about batteries?”.

Peachtree President Martin then asked, “Why can’t we have a virtual component to every event?”  He also asked Rally Master Jim Fekete if he could accelerate his Time Speed Distance (TSD) rally training, scheduled for October, into a VTC event in May.  Jim responded enthusiastically and put together a two-session rally training event with a no-contact training rally between the two sessions.  Jim planned this using a smartphone app for scoring of the rally (Competitor Richta Checkpoint) and he arranged for the writer of this app, Rich Bireta, to attend the first session to field app specific questions.  Jim’s initiative to use this app for Peachtree Section TSD rallies (a first for Peachtree and for many in MBCA) will allow running of rallies with no checkpoint workers, greatly simplifying management of the event.  The first session had 45 people registered from as far away as Massachusetts and went very well.

As of this writing, Peachtree is in communications with National Concours Chair Peter Lesler on how to add a VTC presence to our late June concours judging school and future on-line tech sessions are in the works.  A virtual aspect is also planned for a late June car show at the Halcyon development in Forsyth County Georgia as well.

The stay at home virus response has fundamentally changed the way the section looks at events.  With a large geographic area but a concentration of members around Atlanta, most events are held around the Atlanta area, forcing those in other areas to drive long distances to attend events.  Peachtree Vice President Edwards comments, “At first, we were doing events by VTC because it was our only option.  Then we realized that some events are better by VTC; for example, tech sessions – nobody is in the back of the room out of earshot and everyone has an equal opportunity to see what the presenter is pointing out.  For tech sessions with large audiences when you don’t have the ultimate technical authority as your presenter, you can “crowd source” answers to tech questions using the “chat to everyone” feature of ZOOM in parallel with the presentation.  Additionally, you can cover shorter topics – if I’m going to drive two and a half hours each way to Atlanta for an event, I want it to last more than an hour – but you have the freedom to run shorter events via VTC.”

Peachtree President Martin sees the benefit of a virtual presence in making it easier for members to “attend” events without long transits to get there and it also allows those in vulnerable groups to avoid contact. He adds, “We are evaluating all of our scheduled events to see whether a virtual presence is appropriate.  I recognize that the in-person interactions are important, but if we can reach more people by including them via VTC, then we do both them and the club a great service, especially in a time when membership is a concern.”  

Peachtree Section uses their website and their Facebook Group to update followers on their quite dynamic schedule.  Recordings of events are posted on their YouTube channel “MBCA PeachTube”.  All are encouraged to “like” and “follow” them on their YouTube channel “MBCA PeachTube””, their Facebook page “Mercedes Benz Club of America-Peachtree Section” and/or Group “MBCAPeachtree”, bookmark the website events page, or follow them on Instagram #mbcapeachtree and join in on the fun!