How BlackOak Pivoted To A Modern Production Company

The pandemic had a significant impact on the events industry, but it didn't stop BlackOak. How did they pivot into a modern production company? Read about their resilience within the events industry and how that has morphed them into the company they are today.

In the Spring of 2020, BlackOak faced the same uncertainties as the rest of the world. They resigned to working from home without knowing how it might play out for them in the live events space.

THE IMPACT OF COVID19 ON EVENT PRODUCTION COMPANIES

BlackOak had just come off a robust 2019, where they produced one epic event after the other. But this new reality posed direct challenges to their business. In the year prior, they had activated outside-the-box events like Datassential’s Foodscape Conference. Hundreds of guests had gathered to engage one another and dine together, face-to-face. How could something similar be possible during a full-on quarantine? And even if the attendees could somehow safely gather in the coming months, would teams be able to work shoulder-to-shoulder to install the production equipment needed?

THE PATH FORWARD FOR EVENT PRODUCTION

As the days (and soon the weeks) began to pass, the reality of the pandemic became apparent. The event industry would not be returning to in-person events any time soon. They would not be moving forward with any of the significant event productions clients had lined up for the coming months.

From VR events in virtual spaces to a UV sterilization tent for the shop, BlackOak’s ideas of replicating the past year’s work were halted. Conversations turned from how to pivot back to the business of last year to BlackOak’s core focus: client’s needs. They began to assess the various client activations they had done in the past. BlackOak challenged themselves to develop actionable and practical workarounds that would proactively deliver what kept their clients up at night. BlackOak’s experience with leading innovation in the traditional event space served them well. They were used to working through setbacks and last-minute changes in plans. With each project, success or failure — new skills were developed.

BlackOak began to reach out to their existing clients to find out what was critical to stay afloat. Which events would need to be somehow still executed? They soon found themselves exploring virtual events and remote production. Thankfully, the clients were thrilled. BlackOak produced their first large-scale virtual event in early June — a graduation ceremony for the seniors at a Chicago Public High School. They were able to service their key constituents — students and parents — with the virtual activation. Students found it meaningful, and the families could ‘gather’ safely, celebrating their children’s achievements.

GETTING BACK ON THEIR FEET

As Spring faded into Summer, BlackOak worked diligently to improve their technical skills and invest in the best tools for new event types. They were intent on providing best-in-class execution on any client activation they committed to. While the team worked primarily from home, the building sat empty. As for BlackOak’s family of brands, KEHOE DESIGNS, the fabric department made masks, and other PPE, the graphics department-built plexiglass barriers, and Floral Exhibits opened Green Market Garden pop-ups around the city. But The Geraghty, BlackOak’s 25,000 square foot event space, was empty. How could they put the existing space and equipment to use?

As the strictest ‘stay-at-home’ orders were lifted and clients were looking for higher production values, it was time to expand production capabilities. BlackOak played to their strengths, working with KEHOE DESIGNS and their family of brands to craft a pair of celebratory hybrid weddings. First, an internal project. For preparation and a proof of concept. BlackOak’s own Craig Kidwell had been married the previous year. Craig and his bride busted out their wedding attire and stood in as ‘clients’ while the team worked out the kinks of filming and broadcasting a hybrid event and the safety protocols to ensure safety for the crew. During this challenging time, BlackOak wanted to give back to the community. Their family of brands donated a hybrid wedding to a first responder and his fiancé. The result? It was a celebration that was everything they hoped it would be — marvelous, interactive, and most of all — full of love for the couple and their family.

WHERE BLACKOAK FOUND THEMSELVES

BlackOak was thrilled to put their new system to the test. But many couples decided to reschedule their weddings to the following year to enjoy a traditional marriage celebration instead of a virtual gathering. Despite the lack of wedding interest, there was an influx of inquiries for galas and fundraising events. Once again, BlackOak shifted direction, putting their freshly-honed talents to productive use for our non-profit partners. One memorable event found BlackOak’s team transporting much of their equipment to a college campus. They set up a virtual streaming studio on campus to broadcast the annual fundraising gala in a single day. BlackOak worked out ways for the crew and on-site talent to stay socially distant and COVID-compliant throughout the process with consistent success.

BECOMING EXPERTS — BUILDING THE BLACKOAK STUDIO

The pieces were coming together, but how could BlackOak put the new skills and equipment together? An idea sparked. Within The Geraghty’s vast open space, they built a fully functional digital streaming studio. Designs were drawn and re-sketched, and the plan took shape. The BlackOak Studio was devised with a massive LED wall backdrop, intelligent lighting, a sophisticated audio system, professional-grade video equipment, and the ability to stream live and reliably to an audience.

Over the next several months, many events would come in and out of the space. From a high-end fashion runway show to a morning talk show and choir performance — the team helped organizations raise funds and spirits. Each event transformed the BlackOak Studio with personalized technical production.

With the return to in-person events, the ability to seamlessly produce state-of-the-art remote productions remains in BlackOak’s wheelhouse. Clients realized that there were particular efficiencies gained by virtual vs. in-person, and for those instances, they’ll be more than ready to deliver effective solutions.

About BlackOak Technical Productions

BlackOak Technical Productions is a full-service, full-scope technical production company based in Chicago, IL, and activates nationally. They are a modern production company with years of experience bringing a fresh approach to in-person, hybrid, and virtual events for corporate, social, and non-profit clients.

In 2012, BlackOak started as an internal division of KEHOE DESIGNS — and now — BlackOak Technical Productions integrates independently into the overall KEHOE DESIGNS brand portfolio. BlackOak works relentlessly to deliver the promise of the boldest ideas in technical production with a design-focused and human-friendly approach.

Don't be a stranger. Discover BlackOak Technical Productions — visit www.blackoak.tech, follow us on social media, or call us at 872.281.7700.

Contact Info:
Name: Kim Bakota Lamb
Email: Send Email
Organization: BlackOak Technical Productions
Address: 2555 S Leavitt St, Chicago, IL 60608
Phone: (872) 281-7700
Website: https://blackoak.tech

Release ID: 89065790