Tracey Shappro of VISION Production Group: “Production Value”

Production Value Perhaps in the beginning of the shift from live events to exclusively virtual events, audiences were able to look past poor production quality. However, just as events themselves have evolved, so too have the audiences. Audiences will no longer accept virtual events that feel adjacent to a zoom call, but rather expect the […]

Thrive invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

Production Value

Perhaps in the beginning of the shift from live events to exclusively virtual events, audiences were able to look past poor production quality. However, just as events themselves have evolved, so too have the audiences. Audiences will no longer accept virtual events that feel adjacent to a zoom call, but rather expect the caliber to match that of a television broadcast. Partnering with a professional production company can create an experience that combines brand elements and clear language with captivating video presentation that results in attendees feeling like they are tuning into an experience at the caliber of a celebrity awards show.

As part of our series about “5 Things You Need to Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tracey Shappro.

Tracey Shappro is President and CEO of VISION Production Group (, a video, interactive and events production company headquartered in Houston, Texas. VISION is known for using VISIONary thinking and creative content to produce engaging immersive experiences designed to connect brands to target audiences with lasting impact.

A two-time Emmy-Award winner and twice honored as “One of the Top 100 Producers in America” by AV Producer Magazine, Tracey has produced hundreds of live and virtual events, videos and interactive experiences for some of the world leading brands, corporations, professional sports teams and associations. Her clients include Toyota, CBS Sports, Space Center Houston, Equinor, Baker Hughes, UNICEF, the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council, ESPN, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, World Petroleum Congress, the Super Bowl Host Committee and the National Football League to name just a few.

A champion of ‘VISIONary thinking,’ Tracey pushes the boundaries of what is possible to connect brands to their target audiences. She is a trusted partner that works alongside organizations to achieve marketing and experiential solutions that maximize impact as well as engagement. For 15 years, Tracey served as the Official Production Partner for the Greater Houston Partnership and Producer of their renowned Signature Events. She is a member of the Executive Women’s Partnership, the American Marketing Association and is a Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses selected CEO. She has served as Marketing Chair on Holocaust Museum Houston’s Board of Trustees, as Membership Chair on the Board of Meeting Professionals International and as Communications Chair on the Board of the American Advertising Federation.

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 tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I was actually inspired to pursue a career in television production by the Mary Tyler Moore Show. The lead character, Mary Richards was one of the first women representations in broadcast journalism and I found her job very intriguing. While I ultimately didn’t go the news route, it did lead me to explore different types of production from which I found my calling in more creative applications like video, live events, and immersive experiences. I started out in video production and as I advanced in my career, my responsibilities and skills as a producer grew to include producing hundreds of live events and video productions for some of the world’s leading brands, professional sports teams, and associations. Now, with my own company VISION Production Group, we handle not only video, live and virtual event productions, but also augmented reality, interactive and 3D projection mapping as well.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

All mistakes are opportunities for growth, so when I make them, I try very hard to learn the lesson from it. In my early career, I was more comfortable watching and observing as a way of learning instead of speaking up. As I got more experience under my belt, I quickly discovered that clients really want my expertise and advice to help them create effective and engaging content so I learned quickly to speak up and share ideas as well as suggestions to better each and every project. I think that has helped me to become a trusted partner with so many clients to this day.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

There are a few books that have made an impact on me and my business. However, “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek, has really helped shape my thinking process for both client projects and with my own company. This is the basic principle of why we start every project with identifying the vision. The vision, or reason, we are even doing what we’re doing for our clients lays the foundation to make the best decisions moving forward for the project. I apply this same principle within my own company. At VISION, we regularly take time for “VISIONary Thinking” which is time we allocate to do some big picture thinking to set big goals for ourselves as well as for the company. I think it’s so important to set aside some time to step away from the day-to-day and set those reach-for-the-stars type of goals.

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

I don’t believe in a company culture where work feels so separate from your actual “life.” This is why you’ll often hear me say “there is no work-life balance, there’s just your life”, meaning you have to find a way to make it all work in a way that works for you. To me, a great company culture is one where employees feel appreciated and respected, and where the creative level and positive energy of our whole team is conducive to creativity which takes freedom of thought, flexibility in approach and innovation. It has always been my priority to establish a company culture that is relaxing and full of positive, uplifting energy where no one is micro-managing, instead, we’re allowing everyone to be who they are and work however they want knowing that the end results will be spectacular.

For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing events in general?

As an event, video and interactive production company, events are a big part of our service offerings at VISION. VISION specializes in what we call ‘Experience Design’. From 360 degrees, we look at all stakeholders in an experience and shape an event for maximum engagement and connection with target audiences. We understand the power of visual storytelling and we use strategy with creative content to share brand stories. We work with clients to craft effective communication strategies and assess the right presentation technologies for the intended experience. Our goal is to create events that live on…and on and on, in the hearts and minds of attendees long after the event, the season, or the marketing campaign is over.

Our live event production and virtual event experience includes corporate meetings, national product launches, town halls, conferences, opening general sessions, capital campaigns, and fund-raising events as well as annual meetings and a wide variety of virtual experiences.

We have planned and executed live as well as virtual events for a long list of clients including Gulf States Toyota, Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, Kinder Institute, Holocaust Museum Houston, United Way, Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council, Japan-America Society of Houston, KIPP Public Schools, Super Bowl 51 Host Committee and the Greater Houston Partnership.

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

This is a time of extraordinary change. The whole world is upside down due to the pandemic but that spells tremendous opportunity for organizations and non-profits in the meeting and events space to lead the next evolution of audience engagement and experience design. This generally includes the utilization of technologies that create more value, as well as solutions that work for our ever-changing world to keep us all connected while achieving organizational goals and objectives. It’s exciting to see how the meeting and events industry continues to evolve and leverage the many advantages a digital platform provides including increasing audience and brand awareness, showcasing organizational impact, the production of quality programming, enhancing sponsor value, saving attendees money and delivering added value to them in this digital economy.

Since the pandemic first hit, VISION has been actively helping our clients to shift their thinking to take advantage of digital media to help them continue to reach their target audiences, raise funds/sponsorship dollars, increase awareness of organizational impact and grow their audiences. We are using our vast live event production experience, digital marketing savvy and video production expertise along with our strategic and creative services to not only create effective, engaging and profitable virtual events, but also to drive organizational and business success for our clients. We are forging the path for companies and organizations to shift their thinking and reshape their in-person experiences into visual and sensory experiences that connect and resonate with their audiences through the power of visual media, similar to producing a broadcast television show production. I call it producing ‘business theatre’, which is really entertainment designed to achieve an organization’s goals and objectives using the strengths and advantages of a digital platform. Virtual events can give brands much larger audiences, certainly larger than what can fit in a ballroom or convention center, as the reach potential of virtual audiences is phenomenal. That in itself is going to increase a brand’s ability to grow brand awareness, engage new customers, garner additional organizations’ support as well as increase visibility for sponsors.

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

Our team at VISION Production Group has done an excellent job creating successful virtual events for our clients. As a business that has always operated in the live event and public space, we have been leaders in helping our clients shift their thinking and re-invent how they engage with their audiences during this pandemic. We use our storytelling capabilities and our vast production expertise to create virtual experiences with lasting impact that keep an audience tuned in and watching. Every project is unique, so it’s hard to say that any single tactic is right for a specific goal. That’s why, each of our projects start off with understanding the vision and what success looks like. We then utilize creative and effective audience engagement strategies to reach these goals with presentation technology that helps get us there through quality content and by building an authentic human connection. We start with the vision and evaluate the best method to achieve that vision. So, how can one replicate that? Well, I’d start with asking yourself what the goal is (what does success look like?) as well as “why’ you are doing the event, then develop strong creative content with engagement design to create impactful content that resonates with your target audience. It’s important that your brand voice is represented and that the quality of content you create matches the caliber of your organization.

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?

A mistake I see often in the virtual events space are clients that want to literally take their live event exactly the way it was done as a live attended event and just stream it out, instead of using the virtual medium in the way it was designed for — to entertain, educate and engage through the power of effective storytelling, creative content and visual/sensory engagement.

There are no more ‘live events’ in the virtual world — now they are online experiences. Unlike that of a ballroom, virtual events also have the increased challenge of maintaining viewers’ attention as distractions are everywhere when your viewing audience is watching from home. This means that event elements need to be captivating enough to compete with distractions and keep people’s attention. To combat this, VISION creates opening video sequences that emphasize the subject matter as well as maintain visual interest from the moment the event starts to the closing credits. The goal is to produce an online event your audience will actually watch and stay engaged throughout.

The fact that organizations do NOT have ‘events’ anymore is a big paradigm shift for most organizations. They are instead now in the business of creating visual and sensory rich entertainment designed to showcase organizational goals and objectives through a virtual experience via digital media. And most of that communication is now done to reach ONE person directly instead of a large group in a ballroom. Viewers may watch the event at the same time as others in some type of shared viewing experience, but they are still typically watching it alone at home. To reach them, and resonate with them, takes marketing and communications savvy. It also means that organizations need to really look at the skills and talents of their live event staff to leverage those that have video production and digital marketing experience. And if they don’t have live event staff that understands digital media, then it is smart to supplement your live events team with digital marketing professionals and/or external resources who understand content creation, video production, motion graphics/animation, content management and analytics. The ‘new’ events team works in tandem with those on your staff who assist with fund-raising so that all aspects of the virtual experience are designed with sponsorship acquisition goals in mind as well.

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

We are finding that the YouTube backend platform works best for our virtual events. YouTube understands large scale video hosting and on demand content very well, having been one of the original pioneers of large-scale on-line video platforms. Though we have used other platforms, when given a choice, our team uses YouTube as the host for our client’s virtual events.

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

Fundraising is a huge aspect of events and there are a variety of ways organizations can integrate online fundraising platforms into their virtual waiting room, pre-event promotions and throughout the main program including customizable sponsorship campaigns, text-to-give, virtual waiting rooms, landing pages and many other fundraising opportunities. Some of the online fundraising services our clients are having success with are Mobile Cause, Better Unite and Event Grove.

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.)

1. Quality Content is Key.

With distractions vying for our attention everywhere, it’s incredibly important that virtual content is produced and designed in a manner that keeps your audience watching and engaged. Quality content is key. Organizations need to make sure that their virtual content matches their brand voice, and that the quality of the programming they put out, matches the caliber of their organization. In the virtual world, people look to authoritative resources to provide the best information and content. Organizations that are succeeding in the digital space are those that are able to build trust THROUGH their digital content and audience engagement creative design. A mistake we are seeing with some clients is that they want to take their original live attended event and produce it exactly how it was “going to be”, instead of using the digital medium in the manner it was designed for — which is to influence behavior, to educate and entertain. It’s not about ‘how do we replicate our physical live attended event” and stream it out, but rather ‘how do we provide increased value and member/sponsor engagement in the digital space”? This also includes the need for increased use of motion graphics, animation and video footage to make the show visually appealing to keep viewers watching and engaged. In addition, all digital content needs to be optimized for mobile. Events have moved out of the ballroom and onto their audiences’ phones. It’s a much smaller screen with a HUGE opportunity.

2. Production Value

Perhaps in the beginning of the shift from live events to exclusively virtual events, audiences were able to look past poor production quality. However, just as events themselves have evolved, so too have the audiences. Audiences will no longer accept virtual events that feel adjacent to a zoom call, but rather expect the caliber to match that of a television broadcast. Partnering with a professional production company can create an experience that combines brand elements and clear language with captivating video presentation that results in attendees feeling like they are tuning into an experience at the caliber of a celebrity awards show.

But not just from a visual standpoint, production value from a technical standpoint is also important. At VISION, part of our strategic approach involves thinking through the minor details of an event so the client can focus on the big picture. Each virtual event has it’s own technical considerations including whether the event has an interactive aspect, which calls for different programming. Therefore it is very important to partner with a company that has experience in producing virtual events, as the considerations are very different from that of live events.

For instance, Tahirih Justice Center wanted to go with a hybrid model to their “Journey to Justice” virtual event combining both pre-recorded aspects along with live interactive elements. Through careful coordination, the virtual event featured real-time stats on fundraising progress as well as social media callouts and donor recognition throughout the event.

3. Authentic Human Connection

Make sure your speakers are trained to connect emotionally with the audience. A few tricks of the trade include keeping eye contact with the camera, using hand gestures, not reading directly from a script, using proper inflection, and showing real, human emotion as appropriate.

One of the virtual events VISION produced right after the start of the pandemic was the Kinder Institute for Urban Research’s Lunch-Out where Dr. Stephen L. Klineberg presented the results of the annual Houston Survey. Using these best practices along with his passionate way of presenting the results of the fascinating subject matter made for a truly captivating event.

4. Capitalize on Added Sponsorship Opportunities

For most non-profit organizations, an indispensable aspect of virtual events is sponsorship and profitability. Digital events offer many ways to effectively monetize an online event and to continue working with sponsors in new and innovative ways. Some of these include traditional sponsorship opportunities and others require a bit more creativity and innovation. Digital events can be very profitable. The virtual landscape can offer your sponsors MORE value, increased visibility for brand awareness and innovative ways to reach their target audiences.

Wider reach: Since virtual events can be easily attended by anyone, anywhere in the world, they allow organizations to engage far more attendees than can fit in a ballroom. That in itself is going to help sponsors and organizations to grow brand awareness, reach new customers and increase their visibility. Virtual events offer sponsors the opportunity to connect with new audiences and make a splash in a market or sector they have been wanting to. As stated earlier, of the huge benefits of this digital economy is that brands are now able to reach more people than ever before. This gives organizations an incredible opportunity to garner new relationships and turn those relationships into new members and future sponsors. It’s also an opportunity for organizations to introduce their important work to more people.

Target Audience: One of the biggest benefits of virtual events is the ability to easily put sponsors in front of their target audience to drive leads and sales. This is achieved through live stream and on-demand content, as well as through pre-and post-event marketing campaigns and social media. There are a tremendous amount of opportunities surrounding a digital event to create one on one engagements to connect sponsors with a key target(s) as well as ways to create unique digital experiences designed just to showcase their brand specifically.

Virtual events open up a lot of additional revenue streams and sponsorship opportunities that can give even greater exposure and impact to larger audiences than a live attended event. There are virtual waiting rooms and landing pages that can be used for sponsor recognition, as well as, closing credits. There are also a lot of great fundraising tools out there that can be integrated into virtual experiences such as Better Unite, One Cause, and Text 2 Give.

5. Utilize Graphics

Utilizing motion graphics and animations are a great way to set the mood for your virtual event and intertwine the event’s theme while conveying the organization’s important messaging throughout. This can be interfaced with recorded and live footage or be used to walk attendees through a product demo or setup process with ease. Additionally, 2D and 3D content within your virtual event can reduce the production costs found in traditional video.

Our team recently had the opportunity to work with the Japan-America Society of Houston on its 52nd-anniversary virtual event where we utilized breathtaking motion graphics and animations to capture the long, beautiful, and ever-flourishing history between the United States and Japan.

Moreover, think about utilizing graphics in your virtual event if you are in an industry that relies heavily on trade shows. Instead of needing to be person-to-person for a demonstration, you can explain your product or service through 2D or 3D technology.

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 steps that you would recommend that they take?

Start with why” — Simon Sinek has it right. Starting with why you want to achieve something, or why you want an audience to feel a certain way, gives you the power of understanding and the ability to inspire others to achieve remarkable things because they understand the purpose and the reasons to achieve it. Understanding a company’s ‘why’ gives all leaders the ability to inspire others and weave together a clear vision of what collectively they are trying to achieve. Many organizations can explain what they do, and how they do it — but understanding why you do it is what people follow and are attracted to, it’s what drives success through a shared vision. Defining what success looks like is key to achieving it.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Along with being known for our production work for events, videos and immersive experiences, VISION is also known for our love for animals. All of our employees share a love for animals and we consider our furry friends to be a part of the VISION family. My precious dog, Ivy, brings me so much joy and I know that same happiness from pets is felt by many people all over the world. So, if I were to inspire a movement, it would probably have to be in animal welfare. I believe it’s important that the world gives back the same happiness to animals that they bring to us.

Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S., with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would love to meet Kamala Harris and say thank you for being a role model for women of all ages, color and backgrounds. She spoke often on the campaign trail of those who had come before her, of being the daughter of an Indian mother and Jamaican father, as well as standing up for immigrants and ancestors who have paved the way towards equal opportunities and justice for all. She breaks new ground time after time — first as a senator from California and a former prosecutor to now the first woman, first woman of color and first person of Asian descent elected to the country’s second highest office. When Vice President-elect Kamala Harris delivered her victory speech, she said “Every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities”. Even her husband, attorney Doug Emhoff, is making history as both the first male and first Jewish spouse of a vice president or president. Kamala Harris is exciting for our country, especially with her goal to represent ALL the people. I am cheering her on and can’t wait to see what she does next.

You might also like...


How Emmy Award Winner Tracey Shappro Is Shaking Up How Live Events Are Produced

by Ben Ari

Paul Richards of StreamGeeks: “Make attendees feel like a real part of the event”

by Tyler Gallagher

Tim Bradley of Matter Communications: “Promote!”

by Tyler Gallagher
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.