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

Destination: Tacoma

Tacoma skyline, Tacoma Dome in background. Photo: Shawn Granton

Recently we found ourselves in Tacoma, Washington, a city about 2 1/2 hours north of Portland and just south of Seattle. Tacoma has had a reputation in the past of being a place that you skip over on your way to Seattle or Portland. But that perception has been changing over the last decade or so. We spent a day here to check out what’s going on, thoroughly enjoying ourselves while keeping an eye out for meeting spaces.

We decided to spend the night at Hotel Murano, conveniently located in the heart of downtown and adjacent to the Tacoma Link Light Rail which connects downtown to the Tacoma Dome. (Alas, we didn’t have a chance to ride the streetcar on this trip. Next time!) The Murano is a boutique hotel with an impressive view of the city. It’s named after Murano Island off the coast from Venice, Italy, an island considered to be the center of Old World glass art. That name is significant, as Tacoma is now a New World center of glass art, with the nearby Museum of Glass just a few blocks from the hotel. The Hotel Murano features glass art throughout, with a different featured artist on each of its floors.

tacoma-museum-of-glass-events
photo via https://www.museumofglass.org/private-events

Hotel Murano is not just a great place to stay, but it’s a great space to have an event! Their 30,000 square foot flexible use space can host corporate events, executive retreats, association meetings and leadership seminars.

Continue reading “Destination: Tacoma”

Thoughts on creating community within a large, international alumni association

I had the opportunity last fall to attend the Association of Yale Alumni’s annual Assembly* in New Haven, CT.

As an alumna and an AYA volunteer, and especially as a meeting planner and association manager (I do event planning and contract association management for a couple of regional associations in the Pacific Northwest); it was an exciting opportunity to see the inner workings of a large, international, global association encompassing more than 160,000 members around the world.

The theme for the event was “Creating Community at Yale” and attendees came from all eras, from The Silent Generation to the newest “Gen Z”ers from Yale’s graduating class of 2017.

The entire 3-day conference was packed so full of activities, I hardly had any time to document, but I did put together this short slideshow to give you a glimpse of what attending the AYA Assembly is like:

AYA Assembly 2017
Click for Flickr Slideshow


And how do you create community in such a massive organization, spanning so many age groups, interest groups, and regions? Certainly the answer can’t be contained in a short blog post, but I’ll try to cover a few points that I saw being discussed at Assembly:

  • Recognize Shared Interest Groups (SIGs) and give them a voice at the Assembly
  • Survey the membership for their preferences in what the AYA should be delivering to them; report on the results of the survey, and allow it to inform decisions moving forward
  • Acknowledge the need for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and create a Task Force to study the issues and challenges of D/E/I at Yale and in the AYA

It was a great experience for a first timer to see the massive operation that is the AYA. I’m hoping I can take a lot of what I learned that week back to the other associations that I help to manage and coordinate conferences for, and see if any of these ideas about creating community also apply to other organizations.

*(For the Yalies out there, I was officially an alternate delegate from the class of 1995, and unofficially representing the Yale Club of Oregon and SW Washington in order to accept the “Outstanding Mid-Size Cities Award“.)