Vol. 46, No. 1

Despite pandemic, bar celebrations and events roll on

If your bar has not yet conducted a gavel pass to a new president, annual awards ceremony, or other celebration via Zoom or another platform, chances are, it will soon. Though the pandemic goes on, so does the life of the bar—and the need to mark special occasions. Recently, Bar Leader spoke with marketing and communications staff members from three bars. How did they conduct their virtual celebrations this spring and summer, how did the events go—and what lessons did they learn for the future?

Celebrate with the Stars attracts attendees from across the country

By Corrine King, marketing lead at the Connecticut Bar Association

Since 2014, the Connecticut Bar Association has been hosting an annual award ceremony, and this year was the first time we had to go virtual.

Historically, our program has included pre-recorded videos; because of this, we were able to easily transition to streaming the videos during the virtual event. Unfortunately, we had 2/3 of the videos recorded before the pandemic, so we had to record some by Zoom.

Approximately 200 people attended the virtual event, which is half of what we historically have in person. Of the 200 who attended, we had people from all over the country who would not have been able to participate had the event been in person. Those who did attend were excited to be a part of the event and congratulated award winners in the chat feature.

A challenge we experienced was recognizing our 50-year honorees. Generally, we announce their name individually and they stand and are awarded their 50-year pin. We are interested to learn how other bars virtually recognize their 50-year honorees as a part of their larger program.

Annual Assembly and Installation of New Officers: Virtual gavel pass adds a personal touch

By Mary-Kathryn Craft, communications director at the South Carolina Bar

We held our annual assembly and installed new officers on May 14 via a virtual meeting. Our state Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Beatty swore South Carolina Bar President Roy Laney in at our conference center in person (more than six feet away, of course), but it was broadcast out to more than 120 members attending online.

Traditionally, following the swearing-in of a new president, the past presidents line up and pass the gavel down to the new president. This year, we knew that would not be possible, but our immediate past President Beverly Carroll did not want Roy to miss out on the tradition. She and our Membership Services team worked to get as many past presidents as possible to send Roy a video message and pass the gavel virtually. Following the swearing-in, Bev surprised Roy with this compilation video, which was played in the conference center and broadcast to all attendees.

Roy truly appreciated the personal messages, and many of our leadership members have said this is a strategy our bar may use in the future even once we are able to gather again in person, as it offered past presidents the chance to each say something directly to the new president and was an engaging part of the ceremony. 

DBA Annual Awards go virtual: Recap and recommendations

By Charles McGarvey, marketing & communications manager at the Denver Bar Association and the Colorado Bar Association

We proposed three approaches for the Denver Bar Association’s Annual Awards: 1) a live broadcast via a video conferencing platform with all participants (leadership, presenters, and award recipients) present at our office and waiting in separate rooms until their part of the program, 2) a pre-recorded video of all participants filmed separately and edited together into one piece, which we would market and distribute to membership and the public, and 3) a hybrid of the two with participants choosing to either be present at the office for the live broadcast or be pre-recorded, whichever they were comfortable with. Our president ultimately decided to go with option 3.

All award recipients and presenters were offered the option to either record themselves and submit their recording to us for editing or to be recorded by one of our staff, either at our office or a location of their choosing. All award recipients and one of the four presenters opted to record themselves. Once the videos of presenters and recipients for each award were completed and submitted, we edited them together. Here is the award for Judicial Excellence as an example.

To ensure that the live feed looked polished and there were no internet issues, we ran the virtual event from our office. This entailed patching the Zoom feed through a professional camera to ensure a stable, high-quality broadcast. The camera was trained on a professionally lit set that included a podium and a branded DBA backdrop. We could do this pretty easily in our large classroom since there is already a dais and podium. To ensure the mics of all those in attendance on Zoom would be muted, we used the Zoom webcast feature. This worked out well, as attendees tuning in could comment on the action via Zoom’s chat function. These chats were all very positive and proved to be an encouraging asset to use for marketing as well as internal communication. Throughout the event, we cut from the live feed to the pre-recorded videos.

We only needed a minimal number of people at our office to run the production. Three members of leadership—our president, president elect, and chair of the awards committee—were present and acted as emcees, keeping the program moving by introducing the award and the award recipient. When a participant was not on camera, they, and all others present, wore masks and kept a safe distance from each other.

The entire event was recorded via Zoom for posterity and all those who weren’t able to attend the live Zoom feed. You can watch the event here.

Though the small audience who tuned in for the live broadcast (54 people) had the enjoyable experience of being able to add to the chat, I do not think this was worth the stress and hassle of the live aspect. Producing a tight, quality live broadcast requires an exceptional amount of coordination. Those appearing on the live feed have to be well prepared to fill any dead air that may result from videos not beginning immediately or any of the myriad other pitfalls that accompany being live.

I would recommend doing the whole event as a pre-recorded video. The videos that were recorded by us were a much better quality than those recorded by the participants, but I think the combination of professional and amateur videos added to the feeling of an approachable, casual experience. The pre-recorded video could still be broadcast via a live Zoom feed and the chat function could still be engaged, but without the risk of something going wrong in the coordination of the event.

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