Virtual and Hybrid Event Showcase at Skyrise

a hybrid event attendee listens to a sommelier from a distant tableA virtual and hybrid event attendee listens to a wine sommelier explain wine pairings at a small hybrid event. Additional attendees view remotely and are connected to the event on a big screen. Photo: Tom Cook Photo

 

Virtual and hybrid events have been on the upswing since the 2008 recession, but 2020 pushed them to the forefront. As EJP Events fielded many requests to move events online this year, we employed our existing knowledge and pulled in technical production teams, as well as software platforms like Whova, Eventsquid, and vFairs, in order to create compelling virtual and hybrid event offerings.

a table set for a virtual wine dinnerThis table is set for a virtual at home wine experience, complete with charcuterie box, bottles of wine, notebook, and the computer with which to participate in the event.

 

The challenge, however, was how to relay our vision to new clients. As much as we love to dial in every detail and think critically about the attendee experience (have you ever thought how many physical items an attendee will need to gather in order to be on camera at a virtual wine dinner? We have!), it’s hard to convey that to someone who has never done this before. And it’s not like we could go into our existing clients’ living rooms and take photos of them attending our events during a pandemic, let alone the privacy issues!

 

video camera recording a hybrid event
Livestreaming and video-recording of events has become de rigeur due to the pandemic-created virtual and hybrid event requirements starting in 2020. Photo: Tom Cook

So we put on our creative agency hats, and put together a content shoot (or styled shoot as it’s known in the weddings world). Emee and Katherine spent many hours in the fall brainstorming over Zoom, which best practices would make a virtual event shine; as well as what needs to be done to make your small hybrid event not only fun and memorable, but over-the-top in safety. We even experienced the now-common pandemic phenomenon of having everything scheduled and ready to go for our shoot event, only to have Multnomah County go into a four-week freeze and have to re-schedule the entire event and all its vendors.

We’re happy to note that because of this team and their experience and professionalism, it reinforced our faith in the event process and things went off without a hitch. (Unless you count that Emee forgot her on-camera outfit and had to send someone back for that.) And we now have this wonderful content to share with you, that I hope tells the story of how EJP Events would envision a safe, engaging, delightful, and productive virtual or hybrid event where everything is dialed in, from the food and drink, to the individual sanitized microphones on each attendee. Check it out in the gallery below. Our main ideas are:

  • Tell people what to do. Pre-COVID, people didn’t need a lot of instruction at a networking event or a happy hour. During COVID, however, structure and format is needed. Open networking leads to too-close gathering. Offer each attendee their own seat, table, or area and provide a program of activities. 
  • Speaking of program, make sure to explain the program to everyone through multiple channels: Pre-event communications, on-site signage and directionals, live staff offering directions and guidance, and audible instructions through the use of announcements.
  • If people are attending remotely as well as in-person (a “hybrid event”), ensure that the home viewer is not left out of the action by creating an online, digital broadcast that is just as interesting as the in-person experience. Make sure audio is good, not just of the speaker but of the in-person attendees, to give home viewers the feeling of “being there”. Offer opportunities for the home viewer to be “seen” at the in-person event and interact with the in-person guests. It’s a two-way street!

There are so many more details I could share, so I hope you’ll follow up with us if you have questions. For those of you who believe we’ll be back to normal and there’s no reason to keep perfecting virtual and hybrid events, here are a few headlines and quotes from news around the world:

Virtual Events, Other “COVID Trends” Likely to Continue to Mid-2021, Meetings and Events Director Says

Health expert predicts concerts, sporting events won’t return until ‘fall 2021 at the earliest“;

“Once my family and I are vaccinated, I would change behaviors, except I can’t imagine being in a crowd or attending any crowded events until at least 80 percent of the population is vaccinated.”Julie Bettinger, associate professor, University of British Columbia

David Nash, M.D., who serves as dean emeritus at Jefferson College of Population Health, anticipates that large in-person events could return with enhanced safety measures “deep into 2021 — the last quarter.”

Location: Skyrise / Remote.ly
Catering: Charcuterie Me
Photography: Tom Cook Photo
Planning: EJP Events
Florist: Mix Mod
Dessert: Missionary Chocolates
Rentals: The Party Place
Wine: Domaine Roy + fils
Signage: The Fresh Hues
Plates: Dtocs
Stylist: What’s On Kate’s Plate

Live Events in Oregon, What’s Allowed? September 2020 update

We are happily seeing an influx of new inquiries for live events in Oregon to happen as soon as December 2020. Still, COVID-19 is still with us and has not gone away, even though limited event activities are now permitted. As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on much longer than most live event professionals imagined it would, it’s helpful to review the current guidance in order to be updated on the latest of what is allowed at live events in Oregon.

Portland event planning photo of 3 women standing in a ballroom under a chandelier. A view of Lake Oswego Oregon is behind them.
EJP Events visits the Ironlight event venue in Lake Oswego, Oregon. This is an event space that can accommodate many of the new COVID-19 guidelines such as outdoor space, physical distancing, and increased ventilation and hygiene.

As of Friday, September 18, 2020, here is what is permitted in Phase 1 areas with live events in Oregon. This includes Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington Counties that have agreed to progress through phases together since their populations are geographically linked by the City of Portland.

  • Includes limited reopening of personal services like salons and barbers, gyms, and malls, and restaurants and bars open for in-person service until 10pm.
  • Indoor social get-togethers are capped at 10 people with physical distancing.
  • Cultural, civic, and faith gatherings are capped at 50 people with physical distancing for indoors or outdoors.

And here is what’s permitted in Phase 2 areas of Oregon: The vast majority of counties in Oregon are in Phase 2. No counties in Oregon have progressed to Phase 3 since either a reliable treatment or vaccine is required for that phase; and neither has yet been produced.

  • For phase 2 counties the maximum capacity for gatherings is:
    • 50 people indoors
    • 100 people outdoors
  • Statewide, no matter what phase a county is in, the maximum capacity for an indoor social get-together is 10 people indoors.

In addition, organizers of gatherings and live events in Oregon in any phase are required to follow specific General Hygiene, Distance, Occupancy, Cleaning, and Disinfection guidelines outlined here: https://sharedsystems.dhsoha.state.or.us/DHSForms/Served/le2351g.pdf . This includes correct and proper wearing of face masks covering both nose and mouth for all staff and for guests while not seated and eating or drinking; frequent hand washing and proper hand hygiene; frequent sanitation of surfaces with no shared service items such as food servingware; and maintaining distance of 6′ between parties from different households at an event.

Finally, DIFFERENT guidelines and guest count limits apply to gatherings that take place in what the state calls “Sector-Specific” locations. For example, if your event takes place in a restaurant or a bar, versus an event venue, different rules apply. Per OHA:

  • The maximum capacity limits described in this guidance do not apply to gatherings or indoor social get-togethers at a location covered by other sector-specific Oregon Health Authority (OHA) guidance, as those locations have their own maximum capacity limits and other restrictions. Sector-specific locations to which OHA guidance applies includes, but is not limited to venues, restaurants and bars, retail locations, indoor and outdoor entertainment facilities, fitness related organizations, higher education institutions, schools, and child care programs.
  • Updated September 30, 2020: Here we have added a helpful guide from Lewis & Clark Law School’s Small Business Legal Clinic on Guidelines for Opening for Restaurants and Bars. It contains many helpful specifics and a lot of the new details you may be seeing in food service, such as no pre-set tables. This has affected many events that were planning a decorative tabletop. One thing we have seen is to set a mock tabletop for photography only to capture the event vision and the desgin; and then the catering staff brings the same individual items out to each attendee at the time of service.

As you can see, it can be very confusing. A patient and experienced event planner will be your best asset, as they have been keeping up with all of the industry changes and updates since March; and will have you and your guests’ health and safety as their first priority. Please contact us if you are looking for event planning guidance.

Sources:

https://govstatus.egov.com/OR-OHA-Reopening-Framework

https://govstatus.egov.com/OR-OHA-COVID-19#collapseOHAGuidance

COVID-19 is an ongoing and changing situation for live events in Oregon and around the world. The Portland Event Planner blog is meant as commentary only. Please check with your local and state health authorities, as well as the World Health Organization, before making any decisions that would affect you and your guests.

How to Help Rural Oregon During the Wildfires of 2020

Wedding planning photo of a wedding couple in front of an A-frame structure in the forest
A couple celebrates at Eagle Fern Park, Clackamas County, in 2018. This area is under Level 3 evacuation as of September 13, 2020. Photo: Jenna Noelle Photography

We are heartbroken as our rural neighbors and community in Clackamas, Marion, Jackson and Klamath counties — and many more other counties in Oregon — battle wildfires and recover from destruction and tragedy. Lives have been lost and livelihoods impacted, and the fires are not out yet. Many are wondering what they can do to help rural Oregon.

As we mentioned in our previous post, taking a moment to give if you can, can be one way to stem the feeling of helplessness that many of us feel. The live events industry was already deeply affected by the COVID pandemic, and having to deal with wildfires on top of everything else can feel overwhelming.

On the giving side, we’ve put together a list of resources that we feel provide a good representation of how to help those affected by the wildfires in Oregon.

We’re grateful for the many people who have checked on us from afar. EJP Events’s home base in Portland, Oregon, while safe from wildfires currently, has been affected with power outages and hazardous air quality. Our staff continues to work from home offices in Multnomah and Clark County. If you need assistance with an event that has been affected by COVID-19 or the Oregon wildfires, please contact us – we’re happy to help.