Katie Webb-Brundige of ‘Become Intertwined’: ” Make sure to have a checklist of attendees”

To create an exciting, visually pleasing, and attention-grabbing event, especially a virtual one, I’d suggest a combination of Zoom, Canva, and Photoshop, as well as being sure to get a skilled videographer to help with creating your content. We’ve never partnered more with videographers than this year and their talents really have been a game […]

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To create an exciting, visually pleasing, and attention-grabbing event, especially a virtual one, I’d suggest a combination of Zoom, Canva, and Photoshop, as well as being sure to get a skilled videographer to help with creating your content. We’ve never partnered more with videographers than this year and their talents really have been a game changer for our events and online content!

As a part of our series about “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Katie Webb Brundige.

Katie Webb Brundige is the Co-Founder of Become Intertwined, Intertwined Events, and RAD, a nonprofit organization for adults and children with developmental disabilities.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you share with us the backstory on how you got involved in event planning?

I initially attended San Diego State University with plans to go into the field of business but after a few semesters I decided it wasn’t for me, so I opened the course catalog, flipped through it, and landed on Hospitality and Tourism. I looked into the major further, signed up for initial key courses, and after a few classes, I knew I had found my new career path. I was always the planner in my group of friends and family, but never knew it was a path I could take for my career until the day I opened that class catalogue. It was one of the best things to ever happen to me!

What led you to this career path/ start your company and organization?

During college, I had a number of internships in the event planning world which helped me to nail a job the day before I graduated. I was hired to work for American Express Corporate Meeting Solutions and was able to gain experience in planning corporate events. Throughout my four years with them, I was blessed to work as a planner for a number of Fortune 500 companies, travel internationally, and plan events for as many as 1,000 guests. After a few years, I decided to break out on my own with my business partner, Meghan Clem, in 2009 to start our own company.

Due to the face that Meghan and I had both served as camp counselors at a special needs camp together and both majored in the same subject, we kept in touch throughout college. Post-college, knowing we worked so well together, we decided to start a joint business venture — part social media agency, Become Intertwined, and part full-service event planning company, Intertwined Events. Once Intertwined really took off, we felt there was a great community need for a local overnight recreational service for people with special needs in Southern California — like the one that brought us together and along with our background in event planning, RAD (Rising Above Disabilities) was created. We always say, ‘Intertwined pays the bills and RAD pays our hearts.’ It’s been a major passion project for us over the years, which is why it has continued to grow and become such a successful organization.

Additionally, we’ve just started our newest program at RAD! Officially launched on 1/1/21, we are beyond thrilled to now offer RAD Club, an online monthly subscription service that includes exclusive digital access to accessible and adaptable recreational content for kids and adults with special needs. Our awesome, fun, and dynamic content includes live Zoom events like dance parties or music trivia, engaging videos with activities that include detailed visual instructions, one monthly RAD community activity to participate with other club members, and monthly emails that include resources for caregivers, a dynamic schedule, and two downloadable activities for the Club Member. We created this new platform after having to pivot from our normal in-person RAD Camp model to a virtual model due to COVID-19 last summer. With the success of our online/virtual camp model in 2020 called RAD Remote, we found a silver lining to the pandemic- a huge opportunity and need to continue to provide engaging, entertaining, and recreational online content all year round for kids and adults with special needs.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started Intertwined Events and RAD?

The most interesting aspect of running Intertwined and RAD would be all of the parallels and connections they’ve created. When we started to plan RAD events, I realized just how similar it was to the special event planning we did at Intertwined on a daily basis and began to ask the vendors we worked with for weddings and other events if they’d like to help with RAD…thankfully, most of them did! By utilizing professional event vendors, we were able to have more successful events rather than having something thrown together and could execute the events in a more creative and professional way. The same goes for the synergies between creating online events for Intertwined due to COVID-19 and forming our new online platform, RAD Club.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you?

I love “Everything is Figureoutable” by Marie Forleo. After reading her amazing book, my business partner and I took her online ‘B School’ (Business School) and it was a real game-changer for us both. It has become a daily mantra for me and always helps our team in executing nearly everything we do at Intertwined and RAD.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Once again, “Everything is Figureoutable” — Marie Forleo. This quote truly does fuel me every day!

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

To continue to grow what we’ve already started! RAD has become well-known within the special needs community and around Southern California, but I want to push the boundaries and let people everywhere know what being RAD is all about! For people near and far to understand the concept of Rising Above Disabilities and to create a life that’s inclusive to all people, for all their abilities, would be a dream!

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing events in general?

I received a degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management with an emphasis in Event Management from San Diego State University. After working at American Express for a few years planning corporate events, I decided to move on and co-founded Intertwined Events/Become Intertwined with my business partner, Meghan Clem, and have been doing full-service event planning ever since. We do everything from weddings, to baby showers, to galas and more — since 2009.

Can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing live virtual events? Can you share any interesting stories about them?

Before the pandemic, we didn’t have much experience with virtual events. As we all know, COVID-19 caused a huge chain reaction, but we knew there would still be a need for gathering and collaboration and began to quickly pivot to figure out how to organize great online events. Needless to say, we’re well-versed now!

I think the pandemic has really made everyone so much more relatable. Instead of seeing a camper at camp only, we saw them getting assistance/help in participating from parents, siblings, and/or other caretakers like never before. When we take meetings with a client, we might catch of glimpse of their style by seeing their homes in the background of a Zoom meeting, their dog, or their family. Quarantine made everyone more human and also exposed them in a new way and, in turn, has helped us to get more creative with our planning because we are seeing people for exactly who they are.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job of creating live virtual events? What can one do to replicate that?

I’ve actually done a lot of reaching out to my friends in the educational field for feedback and advice. Teachers have such a difficult job right now, especially, in trying to keep multiple kids engaged during class with the virtual class environment; and if they can get children to stay on task and engaged, I figured we could do something similar for our client’s audiences and the members of RAD Club and beyond. The biggest takeaway from those conversations is to make every aspect of the event or meeting as significant as possible to keep everyone engaged and focused.

What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to run a live virtual event? What can be done to avoid those errors?

We can either love technology or hate it. Sometimes it’s our best friend for planning and sometimes a major pain. I’d suggest multiple run-throughs and I can guarantee each time something different will happen. If you want to have a smooth turnout, shoot for at least three rehearsals to try to work out any kinks that pop up.

Which virtual platform have you found to be most effective to be able to bring everyone together virtually?

Personally, for both Intertwined and RAD, our team prefers to use Zoom. Of course, there are others out there that are great, too, but that is my team’s platform of choice.

Are there any essential tools or software that you think an event organizer needs to know about?

To create an exciting, visually pleasing, and attention-grabbing event, especially a virtual one, I’d suggest a combination of Zoom, Canva, and Photoshop, as well as being sure to get a skilled videographer to help with creating your content. We’ve never partnered more with videographers than this year and their talents really have been a game changer for our events and online content!

Ok. Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our discussion. An in-person event can have a certain electric energy. How do you create an engaging and memorable event when everyone is separated and in their own homes? What are the “Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

We always try to include some sort of “tool kit” or item that is delivered before the event so the audience/participants have something tangible in their hands (food, drink, swag, etc.) that makes them feel more connected and have learned that those elements can go a long way.

The Spotlight tool on Zoom is also great. If you can give someone a more personal connection or touchpoint during an event, they’ll be more involved and inclined to participate and pay attention!

What are the “Five Things You Need to Know to Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event”?

1. Have a well thought out and strict timeline.

2. Make sure to have a checklist of attendees.

3. Have a backup computer or a secondary tech device on hand in case there are any last-minute issues.

4. Have a backup internet connection, hot spot, and hardwire internet line in case you have any connection issues, too.

5. Use a high-quality camera!

Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a live virtual event that they would like to develop. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

It’s best to start by get your bearings with a small group of people first and then scale up from there. Test your equipment multiple times before the live event — without working equipment, there’s no event to be had! Lastly, be sure to have engaging and significant content — with virtual events, it’s so easy for people to lose interest or get distracted, so be sure to engage them from the get-go to ensure they don’t log off or get sidetracked.

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