When we first tossed around the idea of rebranding Encore Decor in the Summer of 2019, visions of a chic launch party at a hip DC venue danced around in our heads.

I remember a site visit last October, when we joked about renting the entire Anthem so we could host all our closest friends and family (HA!). We knew developing thematic decor, photo activations, and curated hors devours menu would be such a treat… in the future. We figured it would be the perfect strategy to market ourselves anew in 2021, marking our 20th anniversary and celebrating a younger, brighter future of live event production. (Plus, dropping the name that had spurred so many playful debates in sales meetings…!) Little did we know how urgent the undertaking of rebranding would become in March of 2020, when the pandemic took our vision of slowly developing a new identity and turned everything upside down.

You all probably have an idea of how that transpired. We nervously read all the news stories as our calendar abruptly wiped itself clean. For the first 2 months, we figured our clients would simply move their events to the summer— summer would become the new spring, and all would be right in the world! We quickly realized that simply wasn’t the case, so we had to adapt. The more we studied the emerging world of virtual event tech, the more demos we did, the more clarity we gained on just how to maneuver through our landmark pivot and inspire our clients to move their events to the digital space. 

Once the new name was settled, it became clear that seeing is believing, and in order to re-introduce ourselves— as opposed to just vanishing into the abyss— we had to make a splash! So we endeavored on planning our official launch party, sans crudités, but with every other bit of magic that can be reimagined online. For you, a simple guide on exactly how we planned it from start to finish. Essentially, 2 planners + 2 months. 

CREATIVE – STRATEGY – CONCEPT
For us, starting with a creative strategy session just seems natural. In our first meetings, we discussed our goals, brainstormed the look & feel of the event, what types of content would work best, and how to best incorporate our new brand. This helped guide each component to align with our reimagined identity, and also determine which technology would help achieve our goals. 

We knew immediately that the night should be inspiring, informative, and lighthearted but also connected with our new brand. The following components were very important to us:

  • Significant time to actually network 
  • A chance to play (and win!)
  • “WOW Factor” entertainment 
  • Segments to introduce our brand and toast to our 20 year history
  • Time to thank our industry for being a part of our success story

MARKETING
Every planner knows that without sufficient attendance, great content is produced in vein! Early on, we began marketing the party through social media, video, direct email and word of mouth. Clever video teasers helped differentiate our launch party from the myriad of the other virtual networking events that land in our own Inboxes every other day. We promoted the party on LinkedIn advertising which resulted in several registrations that we wouldn’t have reached otherwise. We didn’t have much of a Subscribe list to market to, so we also asked our speakers and professional organizations like MPI to help us spread the word beyond our own connections on social media. Our clients, of course, received personal invitations since we knew they would want to celebrate with us. Ultimately, we knew that REMO, the interactive platform we used, would be like candy to event professionals! So we made sure to slowly introduce that in bits and pieces to capture the attention of our target audience.

REGISTRATION
We explored a few modes of registration but ended up going with EventBrite, since it’s free to use, simple, and familiar to our industry. It also made it easy to share our link and collect shipping addresses for our promotional shot glasses and allowed us to keep track of attendee emails in one place to send the log-in instructions 24 hours prior to the event.

We also made a banner link using our invitational graphics to embed in each of our email signatures. 

PLATFORM
Thankfully, we had done so many demos by this time that we had an idea of which platforms we were considering. We knew Zoom would not be sufficient for the authentic networking we wanted to promote, so we narrowed it down to Remo and Airmeet.  Both of these platforms center around virtual “tables”, allowing guests to move freely around the space and video chat with their peers until the presentation commences. Both platforms were compatible with both pre-recorded and live content, remote speakers, and the presentation tools we needed.

After a few demos with our audiovisual partners at Keynote Event Services, we decided on Remo since it’s highly customizable and has a Whiteboard feature for the activity we wanted to offer.

CONTENT DEVELOPMENT
Our research included watching hours and hours of virtual launch parties. We found that many luxury launch events lacked an interactive networking feature, yet had a seemingly endless budget for promotional gifting and entertainment. The smaller events we watched seemed to take place on Youtube Live, or another relatively one-sided platform, and encouraged attendees to use the live chat for Q&As and simple door prize questions. Many others consisted of an entire hour of a single representative speaking about the company’s history and mission. We knew we wanted attendees to see/ speak to one another, but also to feature short segments of content to keep guests engaged and excited for the entire hour. While we developed content, we asked Geoff Woliner, industry veteran and Founder/CEO of Winning Wit to be our delightful host.  

We developed our tentative Run of Show which turned out like this:

  • Platformed open, guests seated at tables for video networking
  • Promotional launch video
  • Introduction by Geoff Woliner, entertainment teaser
  • Ken’s discussion on evolution of Encore Decor
  • Video Tribute from Clients
  • Hilary’s discussion of future of events
  • Open networking & Bingo game!
  • Industry Roast
  • Entertainment by James Iglehart
  • Closing Speech by Hilary
  • 15 minutes of networking!

ENTERTAINMENT
Cameo’s stock value has surely increased ten fold since the pandemic began. We initially considered using the service to hire a celebrity to toast the launch of MOONSHOT, but honestly weren’t compelled towards one particular personality. It was important to us that the individual had some type of connection to the industry, and really, to provide a true entertainment element beyond just, well, a 30 second cameo. So how did we end up with James Iglehart!?! He’s a long-time friend and former costume design student of Hilary’s wife, Celestine. He’s also a member of hip hop improv group, Freestyle Love Supreme. He offered to help us out with a performance.. and came through in a big way! Here’s a 30 second clip of his improv.

ACTIVATION
Remo’s whiteboard feature allows an event organizer to pre-set a graphic, video, or text, making it a perfect place for an in-event activation specific to each table. We opted for Twisted 2020 Bingo and randomized the cards on Canva. When prompted, each table opened up their white boards and virtually marked each square according to the announcements. Some answers got a little wild, but, to be honest, so did 2020!

STUDIO + TECHNICAL PRODUCTION
For over a decade, Keynote Event Services has been our partner for audiovisual & lighting equipment. We give them a vision for the stage and sound and their amazing technicians make it happen! Their studio in Woodbridge, Virginia was the perfect spot to set up our Payette drape and livestream Hilary and Ken’s remarks. We integrated pre-recorded footage, Geoff’s live, remote stream and all in-studio recordings to the presentation for a seamless program. In fact, we “hacked” Remo’s normal method of hosting videos on YouTube and Speakers from their laptop cameras to have the live, prerecorded and remote feed all switched by our studio boards for smooth transitions of all the content in the presentation mode of Remo. These emerging platforms are always improving but this is why it’s so important to recruit the expertise of virtual event production professionals!

So that’s how we made it happen! It turned out better than we could have imagined. If two planners can do all of this in under two months, imagine how we can help your organization transform your next event.

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