The Keep America Beautiful Vision for America has been a long-standing annual gala that celebrates leaders in the community, the vision of the organization, and serves as a primary fund-raising effort. Traditionally this highly visible event was held at an elegant venue, sponsored by big corporations, and funded through ticket and table sales.
However, despite the fact, the venue needed to be virtual, Keep America Beautiful felt it essential to host the event as it was essential for the organization to announce its vision and strategic plan that represents renewed focus for the organization on purpose-driven communities, which was also the theme of the event.
Fathom’s involvement came as a result of a relationship with Noah Ullman, KAB’s Chief Marketing Officer who became familiar with Brent’s passion for creating high-performance, purpose-driven communities and businesses while working for a large firm Brent and his team were engaged in transforming. He knew calling Brent in would be a perfect fit when he heard a podcast featuring Brent’s creation of “Purpose Practiced” and the transformative community experiences happening at “Sip Sessions.”
The first design challenge was how to carry the theme of “the power of purpose in communities” throughout the program. The second was how to create a program that offered an experience that would not only attract key audiences but keep their attention and provoke their engagement throughout the two-hour program. To solve for these challenges, it was clear the event needed to be live, which of course introduced all of the uncertainties and potential surprises that invites.
“We had a bold vision of what we wanted to do but weren’t sure we could make it happen with limited resources in a limited timeframe. Executing a live, interactive, DIGITAL event was new to KAB. Brent assured us that the reward of powerful live interactions would outweigh the risks involved and we were all in – with just 8 weeks before our most important annual event. We worked together as a team seamlessly, even with the loss of one of our most critical people and delivered a new experience the staff was really proud of, and the audience couldn’t get enough!”-Noah Ullman, Chief Marketing Officer, Keep America Beautiful
The run-of-show the Fathom created centered on a Margaret Wheatly quote, “There is nothing more powerful than a community that discovers what matters to it” and continued the theme of the power of purpose and community throughout the show’s three distinct acts.
The first act, led by Brent Robertson and Dr. Helen Lowman, the organization’s CEO, set the tenor and theme for the event and introduced the organization’s vision and strategic plan. A powerful video highlighting renowned personality taking purposeful action, and a message from Chris Ferzli, Director of Global Corporate Affairs Ocean Spray poured enthusiastic energy into the event.
“As our emcee, Brent brought such great passion which set the energy and theme that each of us were able to carry through and amplify as the event went on” Dr. Helen Lowman, CEO at KAB
The second act was all about audience interaction and included a live interview with Tata Consultancy Services, Corporate Social Responsibility Officer, Balaji Ganapathy moderated by Brent, who also invited questions from attendees. Audiences were then directed to join small breakout sessions to discuss their own vision for their communities, the highlights of which were shared by Helen Lowman as the audience came back together.
The final act was focused on grounding the vision into the realities of taking action in the frontlines of communities across the country. Kanika Greenlee, Executive Director of Keep Atlanta Beautiful lead a conversation about how the city of Atlanta has engaged the community in the beautification efforts of the organization and concluded with a powerful call-to-action lead by Steve Russel, Chairperson, Keep America Beautiful
“Brent’s significant event design experience and whatever-it-takes adaptability really helped the team feel confident pulling off an event of this magnitude” Laura Peterson, Special Events Manager at KAB
Be ready for anything
As with any live event, expect surprises. The production team that included Laura Peterson, Tim Shephard, Noah Ullman, and many others worked diligently to master a new-to-the-organization digital event platform, and as a result, the first dry-run could be described as a bit bumpy. Despite this, the tenacious ingenuity of the team, and additional practice sessions had everyone involved feeling increasingly comfortable with the flow and the technicalities of a complex interaction-based design of the event. As a result, the day of the show ran as planned, until the very last speaker, who as a result of some technical issues, wasn’t able to enter the virtual stage on cue. However, via some fancy footwork by emcee Brent Robertson, the audience was none the wiser that anything was amiss, and eventually Steve was able to get on stage and bring the event to a powerful close.
“Beyond the fact that the theme for the event spoke deeply to my life’s work, for me, it was like working with a dream team, everyone working together to use their extraordinary talents to make sure the event ran as smoothly as possible. All involved had nothing less than excellence as their ambition, and it inspired me to deliver my absolute best at every step” Brent Robertson, Co-founder of Fathom
Results that overshot the mark
The hard work of the team and the live, interactive based design of the show paid off – big time. The event raised ~10% more money than was expected and attendance was not only strong, there was little to no falloff over the course of the event. The feedback from the sponsors, attendees, and KAB leadership has been outstanding. In fact, the experience was rated a 9.6 out of 10, over 80% would attend another KAB virtual event (and this is a world of all-day Zoom meetings) and most respondents were “highly likely” to recommend Keep America Beautiful to a friend or colleague.
“The overall experience as both an attendee and a speaker was great –and the results speak for themselves. Guests were engaged, our storytelling shined through, we raised money beyond our goal, and the staff was rightfully proud of the results of their heroic efforts. I was very pleased to be a part of the event, and the overall performance of the team.” Steve Russel, Board Chair at KAB