The Unexpected Intimacy of Digital Events — When Rectangles = Results
Updated: Jun 8, 2020
Last week, an event for an organization I volunteer my time for (as a Skillanthropist, more about that later), finally came to fruition and it was fabulous! And, I’m not saying that because both the attendance and fundraising goals were crushed.
The event was a celebration of outstanding individuals forging paths for women to advance as leaders, entrepreneurs and change-makers and organized by Bpeace. Bpeace (the Business Council for Peace) is an international coalition of courageous, committed, optimistic business leaders who believe that the best hope for long-term peace in conflict and crisis-affected communities is more jobs and the economic empowerment of women.
This was an event previously held in person and doubled as both a recognition event of winners and a fundraising and message-amplification platform for the organization. When I was asked to join the team (exceptional group of people) for my expertise, I enthusiastically endorsed a move to a digital event and was convinced we could achieve success and quite possibly exceed reach of the message due to this geo-breaking format.
General details and learnings:
We requested all participants make a donation to secure their seat and put together packages for guests to purchase multiple tickets (Yes, we charged to attend).
We set a time limit for the event to be under 80 minutes and made that clear on our invite (We went over a bit).
The link was provided to participants approximately 24 hours prior to the event and it was held at 3pm EST. We determined it to be the most global-friendly time to hold it. That way guests and the winners from Africa, Europe and the west coast of the United States could attend (85% of “ticket-holders” attended the event live)!
A tight ROS was developed and included an MC for continuity, live message from the CEO, live Q&A with Gold Winners and 8-10 pre-recorded, well produced videos, inclusive of some celebrity congratulatory messages.
Full chat functionality was turned on. We wanted all of the guests to be able to interact with each other.
Day-of production team Dahlia + Agency was hired to pay close attention to the technology platform and run the show (needed role on any team)!
Zoom was used and allowed us to deliver moments throughout when you got to “see” all of the other guests and fit within the budget.
We had tech challenges at times… and, that was just fine!
What was the most unexpected moment of the event came on the heels of a technology issue and ended up being the foil for what was, the moment for me, where the event went from lovely and nice, to connection, warmth and success.
One of the videos (pre-recorded Q&A with the Mentors of Distinction recipients) encountered gremlins and went totally glitchy. The production team had to advance the video and guests weren’t able to watch the first award recipient, Florence Njai-Sesay, founder of Media Matters for Women, based in Sierra Leone.
The chat room exploded with requests to replay the video and at the conclusion of the live Q&A with the top winners for that category, our MC told everyone that we would watch Florence’s video again and her camera was activated (the result of off-screen, speed-texting between the executive and production teams).
The video ran juxtaposed on the same screen that Florence was live. Her family and friends, including small children were in her “rectangle” alongside her. When unmuted, their pride, cheering and celebrating were heard by all.
Well, instant happy tears for this guest (and many others). The “Aha” moment was that a digital meeting allows family members to celebrate business successes in an entirely different way. The pure intimacy of that moment ...of getting special access into her loving community and home was powerful.
We also heard from other guests that they felt more empowered to donate money when they saw our rising goals thermometer because they were watching from the intimacy of their homes and felt more responsible and connected to the cause.
It also made me take pause and remember that event organizers (ok, me) sometimes get so caught up in the stress and details, we forget how important recognition events are for the recipients, especially in challenging communities and times. Now is definitely the time for organizations to recognize the outstanding persons in their ecosystems.
For those afraid to move to digital or those who believe that they can’t achieve goals in a digital format, I say not true. With proper planning (including identification of desired outcomes), execution and engagement tactics to include all participants, they might just end up being the most intimate experience we get to participate in all year! I am happy to talk to anyone about upcoming events and strategizing with them to get there.
Btw, Bpeace’s 400+ business volunteers are called “Skillanthropists.” They generously donate their skills and knowledge, both on-site and remotely, to help businesses in crisis and conflict-affected countries grow, create jobs, become more profitable and secure a future for their workers and communities.
To learn more about Bpeace and the most recent award recipients, click here. I was honored to work alongside the most incredible women to help produce this event and I look forward to sharing my skills again on additional projects.