During the early months of 2021, while the country was still in full lockdown, a new client approached us for help with a virtual social event for their whole company – around 250 staff and directors based in the UK across several offices – and wanted a fun wine tasting to kick off the event in style, combined with an awards ceremony.

Sunflower’s event management brain kicked in and we asked lots of technical questions about how they were planning on managing the awards (we’d just been watching the virtual Oscars and were intrigued!) and before we knew it, we were on board helping to plan and manage the whole event!

Working closely with the event lead and The Tasting Quarter who managed the wine tasting, we created the agenda and timings, rehearsed, liaised with speakers, rehearsed, tweaked the slide deck and rehearsed again.

We knew in advance that most of the attendees would be viewing the event in the web application of Zoom, as company policy blocked the application from being downloaded. This limited the number of people on screen to five at any time in gallery or speaker view, so we had to work out ways of spotlighting hosts, speakers and award nominees that made it as interactive and relevant as possible for everyone watching.

With such a large number of attendees, we had three members of Team Sunflower on board for the awards evening, checking in arrivals (and any latecomers) from the waiting room, highlighting award nominees, lining up speakers and running the slideshow with trumpets, fanfare and canned applause all built in, thanks to Nicola’s technical expertise. Award winners were all able to give speeches, which involved swift action on the ‘unmute’ button.

The whole event went off without a hitch from start to finish; the wine tasting ran smoothly and handed over to Sunflower for the awards, which were a mix of serious and fun categories. We particularly loved the “best feral lockdown hair” category, although were disappointed that the nominees had been to the hairdressers since.

The retirement presentations went well, too – the clever event lead at the company had arranged for people to be waiting outside the retiree’s homes with gifts and flowers at the exact time of their presentation – definitely a top tip for future virtual retirements, although maybe not when it’s below zero degrees outside!

Running a virtual awards ceremony was a first for Sunflower, and we learned lots during the process, honing our knowledge of running a slide deck with embedded animation and sound, and transferring our in-person onsite knowledge to the virtual world. The client was very happy, and plans to keep the awards as a regular event in the company calendar, whether virtual or in-person.