It’s appropriate that our first major virtual live event of the pandemic was Stone Soup. I’m sure we’ve all read the folk tale about the town full of people whose cupboards were too bare to share what little they had, a carrot here, and onion there. When they put it all together, though, they found the sum of their meager parts amounted to something amazing and enough soup for the whole town to share. Necessity is the mother of invention!
Housing Hope had a big challenge.
Due to the pandemic, their major annual fundraising event had to be cancelled. Therefore, this made for a terrible impact on their ability to achieve their mission. We needed to find a new way to both reach and inspire their donors.
Pandemic Pivot: The only safe solution was to take the party virtual.
Thanks to modern technology and a well-stocked, contained studio space, all the tools were already at our disposal. We had a kickoff meeting over Zoom to make a plan of attack. Housing Hope had a new communications manager, someone with the right combination of healthy panic and a confident, ‘make-it-work’ attitude. The rest of the team was ready to roll up sleeves and do what needed to be done.
The live event had already been planned and scripted, so we just needed to translate that to the screen. Our in-studio players included an MC that would host the show based on the original plan. Then the CEO of Housing Hope who would drive the pledge requests. We socially distanced in the studio, which required a separate camera for each player. Author Stephanie Land, a subject matter expert, was brought in via webcam from out-of-state.
For instance, we prerecorded two slots to cut to for action and interest. One was an interview with Mel, a success story from Housing Hope, cutting in b-roll from a one-day. The other was a cooking segment from Housing Hope’s restaurant and training program, Kindred Kitchen.
Key to Virtual Live Event Success: Planning, planning, planning.
Filming was accomplished over two days, with minimal crew and adhering to every known safety precaution at the time. The in-studio piece was wrapped in two hours. Then, it was all pieced together to look like everything was happening at once, in a single live event…except without all the hiccups that would entail.
We posted the compilation as part of a live-event on YouTube. 233 people attended the premier and watched the video. Since then, the video has been added to the Housing Hope’s website, continuing to drive action and provide ongoing ROI.
What Challenges us, Changes us: Adapt and Thrive in the New Normal
At the start, a virtual live event: Stone Soup event sounded like a pretty big compromise. Although, it still beat throwing in the towel. By the end, I think we could all see the potential for virtual events to replace live events entirely. With creativity and strong planning, we can craft a rich, engaging virtual experience that pulls in a broader audience. It also, cost you less to produce. No location to rent, no catering, and none of the extra stress that comes with all of that. Afterwards, instead of clean-up, you’re left with a strong marketing video you can utilize in so many more ways.