With the pandemic growing smaller in our rearview, there is much we would love to leave behind (Zoom meetings, we’re looking at you). Though, we wouldn’t be optimists if we didn’t find one silver lining. We found the challenge of revising events to suit ever-moving health and safety targets often led to creating brand-new experiences altogether, benefitting guests and hosts alike.
Now, before we continue, allow us to break the fourth wall and admit that here we are, talking about Christmas in February. If you’ll forgive the faux pas, allow this to serve as your reminder to book your Santa for the coming holiday season while you still can. After all, there are only 325 days to go, and a good (jolly, bearded) man is hard to find.
One event that came out of lockdown reimagined for the better was the Shaw Communications Kids Holiday Event. For over two decades, this annual holiday party hosted upward of 3,000 kids and their families in person, before you know what forced it to go virtual. When Daniel Wojtowicz, Corporate Events Manager at Shaw, was faced with bringing the event online, he knew it was worth every effort to keep the spirit of the holidays alive; even if that meant reinventing each aspect of the event from the ground up.
We put our heads together and imagined how families could interact with the event from home while keeping each moment as magical as ever. Enter: our new hybrid event.
Where we once saw families gathering in a venue to ice skate, take photos with Santa, open gifts and get into the holiday spirit together, we now brought the party home – pj’s allowed and recommended. Shaw outposts became festive pickup zones for families to take home their special gift packages from cheery volunteers. The big stage became your small screen, where a custom app and 30-minute video special packed with nostalgia and incredible talent brought new holiday memories into your living room. The beloved local Santa Claus? Even he was still in attendance using a clever photo filter, allowing children to continue their annual photo with the big guy, uninterrupted by the world shutting down.
It was the work of incredible partnerships that made our tall order possible. We enlisted experts in film production, lighting and equipment in order to unite sword-swallowers, video crews and spectacular design elements under the big top. If you, like us, are fascinated with the behind-the-scenes wizardry in the cinematic world, you can see how we pulled it off here.
As feedback and family stories rolled in, we saw the event was an instant hit. In pivoting, we collectively brought each guest an experience that was so exciting and heartwarming that they looked forward to it again the next year, bundling everyone up into their vehicles to pick up their gifts before hunkering down together on the sofa to soak in the on-screen holiday magic. Something delightful had been created from necessity, and this past December we watched the third year of this event solidify its transformation from a temporary lockdown solution to a beloved annual tradition.
To Shaw, the benefit of bringing everything online showed itself as we created virtual assets for the event: the shareability of it all. In the past, each city across Canada hosted their own holiday event. Now, we could easily ship the gift packages for each family and share the video with households across Canada with a click. Shaw families could unite in the same festivities country-wide for the first time.
“Adaptation can lead to innovation, as we learned from the Shaw Communications Kids Holiday Event. The challenges of revising the event for virtual platforms resulted in a new, beloved tradition that brought families together in new ways and allowed for nationwide participation.” Dustin Westling, our Managing Partner, reflects.
Using only our kindest words, we’ll say the pandemic welcomed us to bring events and people together in new ways. While the scramble to endlessly adapt, cancel, and un-cancel events as the guidelines change will happily be left behind, there is no understating that it was an opportunity to look at things in a new light and allow ourselves to be surprised.