Portfolio: DCEF - Virtual Standing Ovation Awards | LAI Video

Virtual Standing Ovation Awards

LAI Video recently partnered with DC Education Fund in our fourth collaboration to help celebrate the accomplishments of DC educators nominated by their peers to receive a coveted Standing Ovation award. Only this time, DC Ed Fund planned to pull it off for a completely remote audience. In a year where distance-everything was a fact of life, we pitched a completely pre-produced experience crafted to deliver the excitement and emotion that attendees have come to expect in an entirely new format. The final 50-minute program elevates the standard award show experience into something as multifaceted and dynamic as the school community at the center of this annual celebration.

Doing Distance Right

Melinda led the team in adapting our usual video contributions into an entirely pre-produced format — essentially making the event one, big video experience to stream live on the night of the awards. This gave us creative control over all facets of the program’s content, starting with a celebrity host. With the help of our talent-booking pros at Leading Authorities, we found a fantastic celebrity emcee in actress and comedian Yvonne Orji. And we peppered the program with other virtual shoutouts to keep audiences guessing who'd show up next. But the heart of the show is always the educators themselves, and we were excited to spotlight those members through a variety of in-person segments, expertly blending the virtual and made-for-tv worlds.

Because it Takes a Village

The program itself is comprised of several panel discussions that featured this year’s honorees. Filmed on-site, we created a physically and emotionally safe place for teachers, principals, and staff to reflect on the challenges of the pandemic. After a year of remote learning, there was a power to bring together these winners from across the district into one room — a symbolic nod to a return to some type of normalcy. To honor this year’s schools, we filmed standing interviews with the parents of students from winning campuses. Their testimonies provided an inspiring look at the strong bond between educators and families.

Graphics and Continuity

Going all-in for a virtual event experience places a greater importance on show design and graphic continuity. Our art director, Rob, created a look that builds upon the refined, high contrast elegance so typical of after-hours awards galas, adding vibrant pops of warm color and a playful but confident text treatment. Brought to life and expanded upon in Anthony’s opening sequence or played for subtlety with Mike’s transitions, this importance of this graphics “packaging” cannot be overstated — these visuals, accompanied by professionally-filmed segments, made this less like a typical “Zoom gala” and closer to the exclusive, in-person experience at DC’s hip venue, The Anthem (the location of previous Standing Ovations).

The Element of Surprise

Absent the built-in spontaneity of a live production, producer Alexandria and team sought out every opportunity to incorporate the off-the-cuff and unexpected moments that make awards programs memorable. Over the years, Standing Ovation has earned a reputation for attracting big-name celebrities and donors at its in-person event, so we turned to Cameo and good old fashioned favors to keep that tradition alive virtually. From basketball legend Magic Johnson to local news personalities and a DC Restauranteur – not to mention a few choice words from DC's own Mayor Muriel Bowser – we strategically placed high-profile appearances throughout the show to keep attendees watching and wondering who'd show up next. But the biggest surprise appearance came from DCPS' chancellor, Dr. Lewis Ferebee, who delivered the good news to one group of winners in the form of a Zoom bomb. As DC Ed Fund's first major celebration since the start of the pandemic, the context alone ensured it would be a memorable event. LAI Video made sure every moment of the show worked to deliver an experience that the DCPS community wouldn't soon forget.

Watch Party: Celebrating in Style

An ultimately hybrid experience, watch parties were in session while the virtual program was broadcast – featuring winners accepting their awards at home with their families, past and present DCPS Principals of the Year celebrating together, and smaller groups of people having a good time together as the show progressed in its new format. Even as we return to largely in-person experiences, creating a virtual viewing component to your program allows for remote participants to watch along and enjoy in the festivities as well!

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