Just like that its all over, nearly a year of planning and working with 14 other amazing women as part of the Fastforward 15 programme we finally hosted our charity event last night, and we did it virtually.
I am completely blown away by the feedback and messages we have received from friends, family and industry professionals. Our aim was always to pull together an event to inspire, connect and just have fun together with others from our industry. Transforming this into a digital event we didn't want to lose the networking and engaging element you get during a live event & without everyone being on video. Last night it felt like we bought that to life, the chat function didnt' stop and seeing everyones social media posts and photos come through made it feel like we were in the room with you all.
Being part of Fastforward15 means you are matched with a mentor for the year to develop yourself, improve your confidence and help climb that career ladder. As part of the programme you also have to work together with all the other mentees to create an event to raise money for your chosen charity, but you have no budget. That’s right everything we need to pull together to put on an event needs to be done without any money to do it. That’s where we relied on our contacts within the industry and one of the most amazing parts of the experience was realising the generosity of individuals and companies in our industry. For the original event we had planned we had organised a Twenties themed soiree at Two Temple Place in central London and everything was in place ready to go. Entertainment from Girls Rock London and Lips Choir, Catering from Jimmy Garcia, Production from Sparq, Cvent providing the registration platform, inspirational talks, drinks, a cocktail gin bar, live auction, we had the lot. Then Coronavirus kicked off, one by one we saw events start to cancel as the virus spread before the whole industry came to a standstill.
We were all gutted, we had held onto the hope by the end of April the event might be ok at the start but the reality of lockdown made us realise we needed to re-evaluate. Could we postpone until late summer and take the chance we will be back up and running then? Or should we adapt to the ‘new normal’ and try our hand at a digital event. Well we are event managers, what’s a last-minute change of plan even if the change of plan is the entire event delivery concept.
Due to the short time frame we had to turn the event around, a few of us mentees that had more available time due to furlough or less work responsibilities took the lead on the digital switch. Reaching out to our contacts all over again to see who could still offer their services when work has dried up and all event companies are struggling to survive. Yet again the generosity and support within the industry was clear. Imex group & You Search and Select both agreed to sponsor the event, providing us with additional funds & Sparq were able to still offer their services in the form of their platform and delivery. The Cocktail service agreed to create a bespoke cocktail for our charity called Girls Rock, we found some inspirational speakers in Keneisha Williams, Holly Moore & Jennifer Davidson. Of course, our charity Girls Rock London still wanted to perform and so did Lips Choir. Which they did virtually, honestly I could not be more impressed with how they managed to put together performances of that standard all done from their own homes.
Creating this event has been a highlight of lockdown for me, events are my passion and not having any to work on for so long has been disheartening at times. Working alongside Diana, Eleanor & Megan made the whole process a breeze, we took on our own responsibilities and helped each other out whenever needed as putting on the best event was all of our priorities. Pulling together the content, approaching and managing speakers, organising recordings of performances, creating the marketing strategy and social media content, press releases, Cvent platform and guestlist management, we did it all together. I could not be prouder of what we managed to produce. Despite being worried we wouldn’t be able to raise much money with a virtual event or it wouldn’t have the same feel, we have raised over £5000 so far with donations still open (link). We had over 300 people register to attend and up to 250 people watching at any one time as well as amazing feedback in the chat and on social media that we gave attendees that live event feeling & made them feel like they were back at a real industry networking event. It still makes me emotional reading the comments now.
The event seemed to be over in the blink of an eye, Jennifer Davidson shared her journey creating Sleek events and her time on Fastforward15 in a wonderful masterclass on leadership. Keneisha Williams went down a storm in her inspiration masterclass on personal development with tips on how to maintain your mindset. The lovely Holly Moore gave us a lesson in personal branding instilling in the audience the importance of living your brand and its value to be truly authentic.
Notes from the rest of the team
Diana - "The charity event was the perfect ending to a perfect year - i was originally excited because it would give me an insight into the everyday of my clients (as they are planners and I am a supplier), but it ended up being such a great event that uplifted me in ways I didn’t think were possible! The event group was such a force of energy and ambition and I loved working with everyone, honestly. Not because We had to but because we all wanted to be there!"
Megan - "The FF15 charity event has been a true passion project, made all the more rewarding in it’s results considering all the bumps in the road. Working with my fellow mentees has been a really special experience. I’m so grateful to everyone who supported the event and, in turn, supported FF15 and Girls Rock London."
Eleanor - "When we first had to make the decision about whether we should pivot to digital because of Corona, I nearly voted that we shouldn't. At that point I had never been involved in a digital event so I didn't even know where to start and didn't know what we'd end up creating.
However, some of the other mentees were really positive and were sure that we could do something, so rather than seeing this as something I couldn't do (so wouldn't), I started to see it as an opportunity to learn!
I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of putting this together and all of the meetings we have had with events professionals, our team and Fay. I've learnt how to use new software, new platforms and have had to apply the processes I was used to using when planning live events to a virtual context- it's been about adapting and just trying to take in as much information as possible!
Working with the other mentees has been so great because we have all been learning together.
I feel so lucky to have had this opportunity because I have acquired new skills and the platform that Sparq created has shown a completely new style of virtual events to me and it's really exciting to see how that can be used in the future.
The amount of money we raised is absolutely incredible- everyone has been so so generous!
It's really cheesy to say but in a time that has been uncertain and scary, it's been great to have something that has showcased the industry's generosity, support and resilience!"
Here is a sneak peak at our final performance of the night from Lips Choir who created this for us during lockdown.