Is it really a centennial gala if someone doesn’t talk too long onstage, and there isn’t a line for the ladies’ room?
Intuitive Conferences + Events (ICE) answered that question affirmatively by producing a virtual 100th-anniversary fete for Equitable Life of Canada for 1,000 registered attendees. The celebration combined recognition for the company’s charitable work, a message from the president, a keynote speaker and an exclusive concert. The goal: to provide positive, uplifting energy to staff and partners, says Lynne Coyne, CMP, CITP, manager of event services for ICE. She recounted the event’s creation and the challenges of switching gears amid a pandemic.
From the onset, the primary mission was to celebrate the historic milestone of the company’s centennial by bringing staff and partners together in a spirit of achievement, camaraderie and festivity—with the additional imperative of keeping the mission on track when it became clear an in-person event would be inadvisable.
Equitable Life of Canada had been planning a big anniversary for two years. Several internal and external programs were planned as part of the celebration. Two of the most pivotal were an exclusive concert with a Canadian band and an incentive conference with keynote speakers for the external group.
When Coyne realized these events could not go on as planned, she started thinking about alternatives. “I looked at what we had already contracted and wondered how we could keep those commitments and use them to create something special in our new environment. It was important to the company to connect with everyone and celebrate. We contemplated hybrid or smaller events, but in the end we decided a fully virtual event was the safest—and it allowed us to include the most people.”
Coyne presented the idea of going virtual, keeping original elements such as the band and keynote speakers, while also looking to do something exclusive for attendees. She got the management of her company and client on board with a plan to bring the band (fronted by Canadian actor and musician Alan Doyle) and keynote speaker Chris Hadfield into the virtual fold. The surprise element: the two would collaborate on a song especially for the event.
ICE acted as the overall event producer, managing the program, speakers and hosts. It enlisted the assistance of one of its audiovisual partners, CCR Solution, which provided the tech and set up the broadcast. One of the hosts and singers performed from his own studio in Toronto.
To ramp up excitement and extend the influence of the celebration, the event team orchestrated interaction from pre- to post-event, focusing on ways to keep people engaged with the screen.
Gift baskets with logoed products and treats for during the event were sent to attendees, who were asked for song requests during registration. A live Q & A session was added to the program.
During the broadcast, the cameras kept roving, replicating an actual TV show. The director switched between presenters and interspersed videos and other images during the keynote. A mix of live and prerecorded video and imagery varied the content. Presenters posed for virtual selfies at the end of their session, so viewers could snap a picture for posting to social media. A company trivia contest got people into the centennial spirit and created friendly competition.
Post-event, the company sent autographed copies of the presenters’ book and CD.
Overall, Coyne says, there was great appreciation for an experience despite the chaotic times. Feedback was highly positive from employees, those involved in the broadcast and partners. Attendee favorites were the virtual selfie and exclusive musical collaboration between Doyle and Hadfield.
Success was measured by the production going off without a hitch, plus positive feedback from attendees, and by the number of viewers and their length of stay on the platform the night of the event.
Even virtually, people can still come together and have a great time. By taking the ingredients for the original event, combined with a the-show-must-go-on attitude, collaboration between the client, event team and presenters culminated in a sense of import and togetherness, despite, and because of, what was going on in the world—the perfect way to highlight a centennial.