After months of preparation, days of training, and film editing, we ended up with half an hour of video. The Divante Winter Summit 2020: Remote Edition was much different than a year ago, but some things didn’t change. 

The first Divante Winter Summit was organized in December 2019, a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic. Right from the initial concept, the event was supposed to be something more than just a company event summing up the year. The main idea of the Divante Winter Summit 2019 was to present various ideas from company employees. It promoted our “can do” attitude and showed what can be done by showing how people took their vision from the seed of an idea into an actual product. Each of the speakers talked about their projects. 

The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t allow us to organize the Divante Winter Summit 2020 in the same way as a year ago because we can’t meet in groups. The event took place online. Despite many changes, the main idea behind the event didn’t change. 

“Even though the whole event took place online, the main aim remained the same as a year ago. Our goal was to give the employees a voice and show their successful projects. We also wanted to emphasize that, regardless of whether we work in the office or remotely, we can do great things together. Moreover, we used this opportunity to sum up all that happened in the year 2020, present the main goals for 2021, introduce our new benefits platform for our employees, and to thank everyone for their effort and hard work.” – Alicja Wójtowicz, Employer Branding Specialist at Divante and host at the Divante Winter Summit 2020.

Following the path from a year ago, the organizers didn’t reveal too much information about the event in advance. The employees didn’t even know that the Divante Winter Summit 2020: Remote Edition would be held. Also, the announcement of the event itself aroused interest. Many people asked how it would be organized and what form it would take. The course of the event, its exact form, was a mystery most of the time. 

“From time to time, we announced more news concerning speakers or the format. We provided information about an integration, in the form of an online escape room, a few days before the event. I was often hooked by other people who wished me good luck during my live performance. I thanked everyone politely and smiled, but I didn’t reveal that we recorded the whole event long before. The participants learned that at the beginning of the Divante Winter Summit 2020.” – Alicja Wójtowicz. 

Apart from that, the project also had ambassadors who promoted the Divante Winter Summit 2020 in their teams. The organizers were able to make the hours of employees participating in the event count as regular working hours. It’s an entirely natural approach for Divante. The event was part of the whole company’s integration, and it was supposed to build the vibe, atmosphere, and unity at Divante. This has always been, and is still, very important for Divante. 

All these activities were building a unique environment of mystery, uniqueness, and interest. Especially since last year’s event, and since it was unknown how it would be organized this year. Because of that, it was possible to gather most of the employees together.

Online doesn’t mean easier

Some may think that organizing a remote event is much easier than one that takes place at a physical location with everybody attending in person.. The organizers of the Divante Winter Summit 2020 felt the same, but they soon realized that wasn’t the case. 

“In the very beginning, we thought that since the event was going to take place remotely, the preparations would take less time. In practice, it soon turned out to be quite the opposite. The organization of the event took us much more time. There were many more processes. Some of them, like creative ones, were more difficult. Another issue to solve was how to encourage our audience to join the video and stick with us till the end. As we know, all of us are tired of long videoconferences. We had to think about alternative ways to avoid announcing it as another boring presentation when for the first 15 minutes people would be asking, “Do you hear me?” We had to present this event in a dynamic way to make everyone want to join.” – Alicja Wójtowicz.

The team started preparations for the event in September 2020. First, they brainstormed together to determine what was possible to do since there were so many things that were impossible due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first idea was to prepare the whole event live and send an online stream to employees. 

“These types of broadcasts require a lot of professional equipment and a lot of time to prepare and determine if we can even see each other at the event. The online stream is just something extra. The situation gets more complicated if the audience is only online. Then, there are problems with the fact that we have to switch between participants. People often ask if everyone can hear them. It all takes a lot of time. To avoid these problems and focus on delivering the highest quality message, we concluded that the best solution would be to record the whole performance, edit it, and release it online.  We wrote down the main idea, created a budget, and presented it to the board. We got the green light, and I think that shows how much they trust us.” – Bartłomiej Rąkowski, Video Content Creator at Divante and Divante Winter Summit 2020 producer.

The decision was made. The detailed planning, budgeting, and searching for the right place would now begin. 

“We started looking for a suitable place for a movie set. At first, I had the idea to rent a stage at one of the theaters in Wroclaw. They have professional lighting, good acoustics, enough space, and a bit of a dramatic atmosphere. It turned out, however, that these institutions were not willing to negotiate prices. They offered us prices that were from the peak of the season, even though they had been empty or almost empty for many weeks. Eventually, we rented a concert hall at the School of Music at Świebodzki Square in Wrocław that fully met our needs and budget.” – Bartłomiej Rąkowski.

The event was carried out by a team of several people including an external sound engineer and three operators. One of the operators was Divante employee Krzysztof Hendzel. There was also lighting and a professional projector. 

The recording plan was simple. First, the participant went on stage and presented their performance. As the speeches were recorded, the organizers asked speakers to repeat the speeches until they were perfect. Sometimes, even just one sentence was repeated several times, but the result was outstanding. 

When the speaker had started, felt natural and free, and seemed to be at the end, they were asked to record the intro. The recording included transitions through the stage, posing, specific movements, and glances. Some shots were recorded in slow motion and others at close range in order to have a variety of shots to adapt them to the person’s character and performance. This resulted in material that was exciting and often funny that could be useful in the future.  In the end, Bartek prepared a mini photo shoot for the poster. The idea for the photos was inspired by different jazz album covers that had dark backgrounds, one source of lighting, and a clean message. 

The wide frame format was recorded with a professional Sony FS5. The second camera operator had a mirrorless Sony A6300. Bartek was shooting with a Sony A7S II and a A7 II with a gimbal during the inserts for the intros of the speakers.

Online also doesn’t mean less stressful 

The remote edition of the Divante Winter Summit was more stressful for the event hosts, Alicja Wójtowicz and Wojciech Gajewski. Why? Because slightly different laws govern live performances in front of an audience. There is a little more acceptance for mistakes, such as those resulting from speaking in a foreign language. 

“We now recorded the entire event, so the final film was supposed to be perfect. People watching the recording on their displays saw exactly every gesture and uncertainty, and could theoretically catch the language errors. I have to admit that it stressed me out more than a year ago even though some of the issues were the same.” – Wojciech Gajewski, Delivery Director at Divante and host at the Divante Winter Summit.

Like a year ago, the presenters and speakers had the opportunity to prepare themselves with professional public speaking coaches. The script from 2019 was used as a base sketch for the final scenario. 

“It was a big challenge to preserve the natural and relaxed, but at the same time, profound character. A year ago, I went out on stage after the speakers knowing exactly what they said. Thanks to that, I could refer to their speeches, creating a coherent and funny whole. Now, I did not have that opportunity because their performances were recorded at a different time than ours. We did not know what their speeches would be, and we could not laugh or comment on them. The context was missing. Nevertheless, we still tried to do that as much as possible. We had a dry run, the speakers knew our announcements, and we knew their stories. So we tried to relate to it gently.” – Wojciech Gajewski. 

Give me more wine, please! And find the necklace!

It’s easier to be a little more relaxed with… wine. However, this doesn’t mean that the event leaders drank before their speeches. Three of the participants are wine lovers. Alicja and Wojciech referred to wine because one person plays in a band called “More Wine Please.” When Alicja talked about it, one person from the realization team came on stage and gave Alicja a glass of wine. Thanks to this, the whole thing was a bit looser and without the corporate feel. 

The speeches were one thing, but in the end, the integration part was also planned. In the original version, the organizers planned to go to a restaurant together after the event. Still, there was also a plan B because the situation was dynamic and meeting in a restaurant might not be possible. This year, the integration took place online. The participants were invited to take part in a virtual escape room organized on Zoom. 

“We planned a dynamic spy game where you can’t get bored. It is about a necklace that was stolen, and our task was to find out who stole it, under what circumstances, and what tool did they use. The whole thing took place in a hotel. We had to go through the files, testimonies, and interviews with witnesses. Sometimes, we had to call somewhere or check our Facebook profile. In the end, it was determined which team guessed the mystery the fastest.” – Weronika Reniszyn, Employer Branding Specialist at Divante.

The organizers also adjusted the catering idea. On the day of the event, employees received a package with sweets, coffee, tea, wine, and a short letter of thanks for their work during this challenging year. The employees knew they would receive a surprise, but they didn’t know precisely what it would be. 

It’s all about the people  

2020 was a challenging year for everybody and every company, no matter what field. The Divante Winter Summit 2020: Remote Edition was also much different, but in some ways, very similar, too. It’s all about people. 

“I believe that the Divante Winter Summit is an attempt to renew the working atmosphere for which Divante has been known for years. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic and forced remote working environment have changed the situation significantly. We cannot see each other in the corridors, in the Divante Cafe, or at meetings. The ties have loosened. We usually talk when someone wants something from someone instead of just having a conversation. This event lets us remember everyone. I appreciate the initiative and the fact that people are still busy with their work, despite the new conditions.” – Wojciech Gajewski.

Below you can find our Divante Winter Summit 2020: Remote Edition aftermovie: