Back to home
in Life

Hosting a Virtual Gala: Pandemic Edition

  • July 16, 2020
  • By Karen
Hosting a Virtual Gala: Pandemic Edition

History has been made.  

Our Ambassador team rocked the socks off a virtual gala, and made history. 

Not only here in the Royal City of New Westminster, but throughout the ‘sparklehead’ community.

The Hyack Ambassadors is a Leadership Program open to young women, 16-18 years of age who reside in the Royal City of New Westminster. They have weekly training on a variety of topics including speech preparation, mental health, financial literacy, personal presentation, cooking classes, etiquette, makeup, and skincare.

The mandate of the program is to be a Hyack Ambassador and to be your best SELF –  through service, education, leadership, and fun.

I’ve been involved with the Hyack Ambassadors for a number of years, and this program has always been special to me.

This program elevated me back in 1988 when I was voted Miss Congeniality.  I would say that I am a more self-empowered female because of this program and as crazy as it sounds – I am the person I am today because of the beautiful people, connections, and faith placed in me as a young woman.

This year, our gala was to take place April 17-18th at Douglas College Stage.

As most other things around the world, our committee canceled our gala weekend. At the time, nobody knew the extent of the coronavirus, or how the next weeks, months or years would play out.

So the Ambassador Committee met back up on Zoom, and after a ton of discussion, we pivoted our events online.  

Not one event but TWO.

We held both a virtual ‘Super Sunday Speech Symposium’ and Gala  – social distance style.

‘Zoom’ and ‘pivot’ are the words of the year!! 

As much as I am present in the online space (I am a little bee in the vast world of the beehive), this was a huge learning curve for our whole committee. But we had a vision for making this event special and visually appealing for our candidates. 

We felt an obligation to each young lady.  

So we tossed, turned, and brainstormed ideas. Our fabulous Alyssa Quan guided us through the tech world of Zoom. We rewrote scripts, conducted interviews, performed lighting and sound checks, ordered cakes and flowers, and presented each candidate with their dresses on the Saturday of the gala.

And with this collaboration of minds, our vision fluidly transpired. Even though COVID was beyond our control (read: the serenity prayer), this was our way to make it feel a little more special for each of them.  

I hosted the “Evening of Stars” Gala from my home in the Royal City of New Westminster.

I took it upon myself to encapsulate the idea of hosting an event online with the skill and grace of Ryan Seacrest.  I channeled my inner Ryan and decided how I wanted this to look with what I could control. 

The key question I asked myself was: 

What experience can I provide the audience?

Then the ideas rolled in.

  1. A backdrop – what does that look like? I wanted it to be clear, clean, and professional and there it was: Our Hyack Ambassador media screen – perfecto.
  1. How do I want to present myself? Exactly like I would if I was doing the gala on the stage. Makeup, hair done, and a be-you-tiful dress.

I reached out to Ashley Dickson of @ashleypaintsfaces, an instructor at Mark Anthony School of Cosmetology. She sponsored our student makeup artists this year with supplies. We did a camera-ready makeup tutorial right before our Gala, and now I possess the all-important skill of contouring and blending.

  1. What to wear? I went against the grain (shockin’) and decided on a black off the shoulder dress. Apparently, this color translates best.
  1. The right setup. 

In my research, I found that the nose shots are very unappealing on camera.

 I decided sitting was best but felt that a regular chair wasn’t the answer. I settled on a stool with a back (which came all the way from my kitchen).

Now what was I going to keep my script on? Ah, a music stand!

Finally, this felt good to me.

The night of our event Deb our chief was right beside me (just off-camera).  With me being the host, my audio was live for the whole event.

(I just want to clarify that Deb and I have been in each other’s bubbles since it was okayed by Dr. Bonnie Henry.)

Our tech genius Alyssa worked out the kinks of delays and wonky sound, and she had an eye for what was most visually-appealing to our audience.

Everything was fantastic – we had all the bases covered.  

And the evening was absolutely amazing.

Viewership was sky-high to our Super Sunday Speech Symposium, and we maxed out on our Gala evening. We even had emails piling in that people couldn’t get on.  

It was outstanding.

Except for one small caveat: I struggle with pronunciation.

It’s true.  Sometimes my brain and mouth do not connect.  They do not work in tandem, and I have zero clue on how to change this. Some words I just CAN’T pronounce properly. .

Our Evening of Stars Gala was no different.  I mispronounced the city I live in. A lot. It’s a common mistake to say New West MI-NIS-ter, adding the extra ‘i’ in there.  It was brought to my attention that I made this mistake repeatedly.  I immediately was deflated, but I didn’t let on because god, there were people around me. 

I am completely embarrassed by this.  I can’t even watch YouTube because I am so embarrassed.  

And truly, it took me a while to write this. I needed to process.

These mistakes honestly stripped me of enjoying all the greatness of this event. 

But still, making history feels so fantastic.  

No, I wasn’t the first woman to fly an airplane solo, but I did believe in this process and both events were hugely successful. 

I feel extreme gratitude for the support and love of this community connection, and all the fabulous heads that came together to create a book of memories during COVID.

So here’s the kicker on my end:

I know I did a fabulous job.  I loved every second of it.

Even though I still feel crappy, I have accepted that this is not a reflection of my value as a human because shit – I went directly to taking this personally.

I am human.

It’s part of me.  And yeppers, there are times it’s hard to accept not having my shit together.

But, we never do and sometimes it hits (and hurts) more than others.

This time was a stinger. 

But in the words of Glennon Doyle – we can do hard things!

My acceptance and attitude will guide me through this and the next time.


By Karen, July 16, 2020
Sunchokes, 3 ways!
Red Velvet Brownies
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Instagram API currently not available.