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

The 2021 EJP Events Corporate, Event, and Weddings Gifting Guide

corporate hybrid and virtual eventsTom Cook Photo – Katherine O’Brien of EJP Events demonstrates the physically-distanced method of passing out conference swag at a small hybrid event with 4 people in attendance at Skyrise. Signage and props by The Fresh Hues; Floral MixMod; Rentals The Party Place

While the Christmas personal shopping rush is winding down, the winter/spring 2021 conference and gala season is just heating up. Hundreds of fundraisers, seminars, symposiums, annual conferences, and board meetings are held between January and June every year. Most of these in 2021 will still be virtual due to COVID-19 still rampant in our communities. A conference or business gift brings tactile experience into the virtual and hybrid event world, making it interactive, engaging, and more likely to be remembered.

We love to give and get gifts – who doesn’t? This year is markedly different as many of us have been isolated from colleagues and friends; and we haven’t been attending meetings and events to keep us connected in our business relationships. Even though we’re heartened by news of a vaccine, it will be months before it’s widely available enough to change what’s happening with hybrid and virtual events.

I produced this corporate event gifting guide to make it easier for you to find the local Portland businesses creating unique gifts for corporate and social events. I hope it helps you support small businesses (especially those that are BIPOC-owned), and helps you reach out to your friends, clients, and colleagues with a little something to spread cheer and let them know you’ve been thinking about them. Whether it’s conference swag, a personal touch for a nonprofit gala, or a wedding party favor, there are so many reasons to celebrate in 2021 with a token of appreciation and affection.

Download the 2021 Gifting Guide here, or view it as a website.

corporate event gifting guide

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.

What to do if your event is affected by COVID-19 regulations

what to do if covid-19 affects your event

What to do if your event is affected by COVID-19 is on all our minds. This is a rapidly developing situation. For the most up-to-date information, check resources like the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) regularly. This post will be updated as new information becomes available.

It has never been easy to plan an event, but to do so during the pandemic era of COVID-19 comes with unprecedented difficulty. As of today, April 14th 2020, all 50 states of the U.S. and many parts of the world are under some form of Stay at Home order. Here in EJP Events’s home base of Portland, Oregon, we’re beginning Week 5 of social distancing and “Stay Home/Save Lives“. Travel, both locally and internationally, is severely curtailed if not outright banned. Our hearts go out to the many people affected: whether due to COVID-19-related illness, or to business and financial effects.

Most events for April, May, and June have already been rescheduled or cancelled. Event planners are taking cues from major world and regional gatherings and festivals such as the Olympics, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Coachella, etc. which have all cancelled or postponed.

What does this mean for a couple planning a wedding, or an association planning a conference in late summer through end of 2020? First things first: please take care of yourself and your family, friends and coworkers. Do what is safe and healthy. The science tells us: COVID-19 is extremely contagious, can possibly be carried while asymptomatic for up to 14 days, and is potentially life-threatening for many. So follow your local health authority guidelines and right now: stay home and stay safe. Take care of your mental health too. The emotions around planning an event can be overwhelming enough without a global pandemic. It’s important to acknowledge the many feelings that can arise and be kind to yourself and others involved in this situation. Check out these resources from the CDC on coping.

OK, so thankfully you’re safe and healthy at home, but you have an event on the future horizon. Now what? While no one has a crystal ball, here are some thought processes we recommend as you plan what to do if your event is affected by COVID-19 and your event date approaches:

We agree with, and really love this chart made by the folks over at Filosophi Events in Vancouver BC. In general, you should have a Plan B for any event occurring in 2020; and you should set a “go/no-go” date on which you decide whether or not to invoke your Plan B. For most people, this “go/no-go” date will be about 60 days or 2 months before the event.

In order to create your Plan B, you’ll need to communicate with your venue and vendors about what options you have, find alternate dates, and find out if everyone is available on the possible alternate date. This is also a good time to review your contracts, especially any clauses about Impossibility or Force Majeure. Ideally, your contract should cover you in the event it becomes “illegal or impossible” to hold your event. There should be a way to seek relief from this impossibility (such as a reschedule) through this clause in your contract. Please contact your legal advisor or attorney for further advice on this.

Canceling outright (termination of contract) should be a last resort, as typically it will incur the most financial loss. A recent survey showed that 96% of couples are not canceling their weddings. It’s better to postpone than cancel. Should any of your event partners, whether vendor or venue, not be available for your Plan B, you’ll need to work out how to release them from their contract with you, and what, if any, financial repercussions there will be.

If your event is not a wedding, but a corporate event or conference, however, you may need to set your go/no-go date earlier than 60 days, since it’s not just the actual event itself that is affected, but your business partners’ ability to plan for and market the event as well. For example, if you aren’t able to sell trade show booths or registrations because your business partners aren’t sure if your event will even be allowed, it becomes impossible and commercially impracticable to hold your event, which may trigger a need to postpone.

Ultimately, the most important things are for you and your attendees to be safe; and for the purpose and spirit of your event to be upheld. Love is not canceled. Education is not canceled. With these things in mind, and with the positivity and teamwork of your vendor team, a solution will be found.

If you are looking for assistance with this process of what to do if your event is affected by COVID-19, please contact us. We’re currently offering complimentary phone and online consultations to assist any new and existing clients with COVID-19 questions. We are here to help. 

Hotel Zags Relaunch – Corporate Event Planning with EJP Events

Corporate event planning in Portland, Oregon.

Weddings and special events get a lot of attention, but corporate event planning can be fun, engaging and creative too! The Hotel Zags changed its name and branding from Hotel Modera, and EJP Events was hired to produce all the entertainment celebrating the big launch. They needed an event that would send-off the new brand into the future of hospitality in Portland, featuring the hotel’s position at the center of Art, Adventure, and Play.

Not just another hotel opening, the Hotel Zags relaunch featured local celebrity Carlos the Rollerblader as MC, with their trusty DJ – ‘DJ No.Bi.Es’ – (Bianca Estrella) spinning tunes. Contortion artists from The Orchidea greeted guests and wowed them with feats of agility and physical artistry. 3-piece power-pop combo The Zags came straight out of SE Portland and brought some very Beatles “Get Back” vibes as they rocked the crowd from the courtyard’s living roof.

Evrim Icoz staged a paparazzi style photobooth in the hotel’s Gear Shed, where guests could check out, library-style, anything from longboards to mountain bikes for their enjoyment. Additional treats awaited guests in the Colosseum, the hotel’s game room, as well as henna artistry from local favorite Salon Amrapali.

Urban sketcher Rita Sabler.

Instead of boring room tours, EJP Events organized “room vignettes” where guests were invited to take a sneak peek into the lives of two travelers: “Ms. Business”, played by urban sketcher Rita Sabler; and “The Diva”, played by mezzosoprano Sophie Gregg. Guests were treated to impromptu operatic warmups and the friendly hospitality of tiny Coco, the weiner dog (Rooms at Zags are pet-friendly!), as well a live sketching of the urban scene surrounding the Zags courtyard.

Over 200 of Portland’s travel and hospitality elite were entertained, as well as corporate reps from The Hotel Zags parent, Sage Hospitality. Food and drink were hosted by the killer team from Chef David Machado’s Nel Centro and guests gathered around the courtyard’s centerpiece – a five-foot fire globe.

It was an unforgettable night right at the beginning of Rose Festival, Pride, Pedalpalooza, and the summer event season in Portland. A great way to use corporate event planning services to launch the new endeavor. Congratulations Hotel Zags on your relaunch!

All photos here courtesy Evrim Icoz Photography. You can also view the official event photographer’s photos by KLiK Concepts, on Instagram below, or here at this link.

The Zags performing on the rooftop. Photo: Evrim Icoz

Anatomy of a Business Event – Through the Eyes of A Guest

photo: MaxPixel

I’m an event planner, but often I’m also an event guest. I wanted to share a recent experience I had with you, as a sort of case study, and would love to get your feedback.

I received an invitation to come to a sales event for a brand of event software. This event promised lunch and networking. It seemed like a great idea: Check out a possibly helpful software tool, have lunch, and meet other event and meeting planners. To top it off, the event was being held in a popular downtown venue. Sounds great! I signed up online for both myself and my event manager, and put the event in my calendar.

Continue reading “Anatomy of a Business Event – Through the Eyes of A Guest”