It’s pretty rare that we work on a private event. Our usual clients are planning corporate events. But when one of our favourite corporate event clients approached us to help her host a surprise virtual celebration for her husband’s 60th birthday, we couldn’t help but say yes!
We thought this would be simple…until we learned that there would be guests joining from countries all over the world; India, Japan, Singapore, United States, Canada, to name a few. Trying to find a time where everyone could come and not be half-asleep was a challenge in itself. We decided on 7:30am MST so that by the time the event finished, it would be just after midnight in Japan. And remember – this was a surprise party! We scheduled our planning meetings at times that he had staff meetings as both he and our client were working from home. Even with our best efforts of scheduling meetings when he should have been busy, there were still times that our client had to talk in code if he passed through her home workspace to grab a coffee. Ninja-style secret event planning at its finest!
The guest of honour is passionate about music and reading, so we used his eclectic taste in music and his love of books for inspiration. I found 3 incredibly different artists who all agreed to make a 15-minute personalized pre-recorded video.
Wanda Baloyi, a jazz/r&b/neo-soul singer from South Africa, Autorickshaw, an Indian/pop/jazz fusion band from Toronto, and Kate Blechinger, a folk singer from Edmonton. It was great to see people dancing along in their little Zoom box. To celebrate his passion for reading, we asked guests to recommend their favourite book for him to read as part of the RSVP process. This list was shared with him and, as a tribute to his passion for reading, a donation of textbooks was made in his name to a school in India.
We had a fun “How well do you know the birthday boy” quiz and used Mentimeter so everyone could see the results live.
Guest speakers from across the world shared touching messages of appreciation and stories of how he impacted their lives. One of the honoured guests from Japan led everyone in a customary sanbon-jime, consisting of a series of three handclaps to celebrate the end of an event. The guest of honour was very touched that his dear friend and ex-colleague stayed up so late to celebrate and teach everyone this tradition.
Amazing stories, speeches, pictures, laughter, and tears of joy – all parts of a successful international virtual surprise celebration!