When we started to talk about pulling off an online conference in a matter of three weeks I thought everyone on that Zoom call was crazy. Getting a normal event up and running in a matter of months was ambitious, but a mere 21 days just seemed ludicrous to me. I’ve had a hand in helping to organize several workshops and conferences over the years, and anything less than a 2-3 month turnaround time is really pushing it. Most shoot for at least a year. Yet, the The Table Agency Group (TAG) is an ambitious organization.
TAG, We’re It
As a collaborative group of hungry creative agencies pushing to get Vancouver, WA (a small town in the big shadow of Portland, OR) on the creative map, we need to have a certain amount of drive. Most of what we do is taken with a shotgun approach in order to move with a certain amount of flexibility and dynamism so we don’t get weighed down in the details of our initiatives.
TAG, at its most basic, is a partnership between local creative agencies and studios. Each member of the group has access to the collective’s knowledge base, sharing information freely back and forth. We are also able to leverage one another’s workforces, pulling in members with specific skill sets to help us run successful client projects. It’s this elucidating quality that lets each agency operate from a space larger than their individual size and skill depth.
Doing What We Do
We were starting to plan the first Rise Up conference, a one day virtual (Zoom-based) event geared to help businesses cope with periods of great disruption. The pandemic of 2020 has wreaked havoc on businesses worldwide—many of them not knowing how to navigate these muddy waters. Our goal was to help.
Most of what we do is taken with a shotgun approach in order to move with a certain amount of flexibility and dynamism so we don’t get weighed down in the details of our initiatives.
The topic of the overall conference was heady and layered-making the three week time period seem even more unrealistic, but we marched on undeterred. What we achieved was, in my opinion, truly impressive.
In the span of those few short weeks we managed to plan, organize, and execute a full scale conference featuring three speakers and three panel discussions (totaling 24 speakers) and raising nearly $10,000 for local charities. We additionally, and most importantly, imparted information & advice on how to approach disruptions in our work lives, develop realistic expectations for change, and we explored ways to locate new opportunities and put a plan of action in place around them.
The Warm Fuzzies
The takeaways on a personal level, and for the studio, were numerous and eye opening—too many to list here. But here are a few of the most notable bits that Brian and I ended up walking away with:
- The power of camaraderie: A collaborative group is essentially about working together towards a united goal. We experience this every time we take on a TAG project. Seeing this in action for a purely altruistic cause drove home the importance of working collaboratively with others.
- The benefits of resource sharing: The creative professions are very tight lipped about things like processes, clients, and money. TAG has broken down those walls, and with good reason. We want to further the practice of other members. You can’t do that when you won’t have honest conversations.
- Design for good: I’ve had the opportunity to work with a variety of organizations doing work as a philanthropic work. I’ve never worked so seamlessly with a group doing it, however. Rise Up saw every one of these creative forces set aside their egos, take direction, take the lead, step up, and get it done. It was a joy to watch this unfold.
- Presence of mind: When you’re pulling an event together with so many diverse voices you never quite know how it will all come together. We were quite surprised at the unity and tone of voice that permeated the event. While we all come from different backgrounds and our experiences over the last few months have varied, we were nearly synonymous in our viewpoints and discussions.
- Affinity for action: 27 strong voices can lead to an awful lot of confusion and circuitous, confusing, or even wishy washy ideas. Yet, over the course of the three panels it became very clear that we were not there to bemoan the state of affairs. We were there to learn, share our thoughts with one another, discuss our methods of dealing with disruption and get stuff done.
The Rosey in Full Effect
I know I’m painting a rather creative, utopian picture. And you’d be right to call me out on it. Did the event run perfect? Not by a long shot.
At the end of the day, there were things that could have been improved or simply been done better at the event (a process we are working through as a group right now as we look at doing the event again in the months to come). Yet, given the crazy self-imposed deadline that we thrust upon ourselves; we put our heads down, acted as a united resource and pulled off a complex event that provided real value to an entire community. In the end, this is what I became a designer for.- - -