The Television Academy’s return to live events with zkipster: an exclusive look behind the scenes

As one of the most renowned organizations in American entertainment, the Television Academy has reflected and shaped American TV culture and represents some of the most important events in the industry calendar, including the world-famous Emmy® Awards

Behind the brand are the amazing event professionals who plan and produce the countless stellar galas, red carpet moments and community events that bear the Television Academy name. zkipster spoke exclusively with the Television Academy’s Amy Pierce (Manager, Event Production), Barbara Chase (Senior Director, Event Production), and Marc Wade (Executive Producer, Digital), who shared authentic, behind-the-scenes insights from one of the world’s strongest event brands as it returns to live events, based in part on the experiences and take-aways from the few in-person events of last year. We wanted to understand the industry mood and get to grips with the burning issues in the midst of this transformational time, as well as gathering exclusive, invaluable insights to share with our community.

Phil Dunster and guest at the 2021 Emmy® Awards Performers Nominee Celebration
Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images

How does it feel to return to live events, and how will they look?

First things first, we wanted to know how the team feels about the future. From “cautiously optimistic and excited” to “still a bit nervous”, Amy and Barbara’s responses are representative of the spectrum of challenges event organizers faced during the pandemic, and continue to face as live events return. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? 

Barbara, who has been with the Television Academy for more than two decades, had to overcome significant roadblocks during Covid, as the Academy’s usual packed schedule of in person events couldn’t take place. Member appreciation and cultivation events and mixers are a key focus for 2022, and Barbara told us that “we need to make events more compelling than ever”, adding that the Academy has invested in upping the AV component in order to enhance the overall experience. Amy tries to reinvent her events in some way each time to keep them fresh and interesting, and is enjoying collaborating with innovative event vendors again, while the Television Academy’s own Design Services department provides color palettes and creative direction. 

“Live events aren’t going anywhere, but they may take a bit of time to ramp back up fully, and may look different to how they were before.”


With so many unknowns, how will guests’ behavior change?

The cautious optimism felt by the team originates in the big questions all event professionals are currently asking themselves: will guests return at pre-Covid levels? Can we predict their comfort levels, and take the necessary health precautions? Will we be able to meet guests’ changed requirements? Can we adapt and pivot quickly if we need to? Are guests prepared to travel again and, in the case of the Academy, are they ready to face heavy LA traffic in order to attend an in-person event? As an event producer for the Television Academy, Barbara spoke of these and the many other practical new challenges and unknowns that now dominate her everyday decision making. Food and beverage is a crucial consideration for the Academy, as many of its events are catered. A key change the team has implemented is to have masked catering staff serving guests at their popular buffets rather than having guests serve themselves, as they did pre-pandemic. 

Television Academy
Michaela Jaé Rodriguez on the red carpet at the 2021 Emmy® Awards Performers Nominee Celebration
Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images

How can digitalization drive important event KPIs?

Marc Wade, Executive Producer for Digital at the Television Academy  and long-time Apple engineer before taking his multimedia expertise to Hollywood, told us how producing events digitally during the pandemic turned event planning on its head. Virtual attendance changed the way events were budgeted by detaching production costs from headcounts, as streaming to 10, 100 or 1,000 guests has an identical setup cost. Now that in-person events have returned, the attrition rate is much more meaningful, as each no-show has a cost implication, from catering to staffing. The team is also experimenting with hosting internal meetings in a hybrid format, and may consider applying this to future guest events.

Implementing zkipster’s digital solution for in-person events has enabled new efficiencies and a new focus on data. “We faced a real challenge with no-shows”, said Marc, explaining how using zkipster has allowed the Academy to implement a more effective invitation and RSVP process. By sending out digital invitations much earlier and introducing attendance tracking at their events, the Television Academy can tackle industry unpredictability and encourage member accountability.

The biggest opportunity from the drive to digitize the Academy’s event operations has been the focus on data. With its new, more data-driven approach, the organization can make sense of new patterns in guest behavior throughout the post-pandemic event life-cycle, and turn the data into relevant, personalized actions. Using zkipster’s export feature has allowed the Academy to migrate information about guests’ invitation, RSVP, check-in and no-show status, along with many other critical behavioral datasets, into its own powerful CRM. This in turn has allowed for more personalized, data-driven communication to stakeholders.

Television Academy
Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Hannah Waddingham, Hannah Einbinder and Brett Goldstein at the 2021 Emmy® Awards Performers Nominee Celebration
Photo by Mark Von Holden/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images

An exclusive look behind the scenes at the Television Academy

Speaking with Amy, Barbara and Marc, three passionate event professionals at the very top of their game, gave us a fascinating insight into the conversations taking place behind the velvet rope. Guests are eager to return to compelling and meaningful event experiences, and zkipster is proud to empower the Television Academy to maximize the moment with our powerful digital tools for guest communication, digital registration, contactless check-in, and guest data insights.

“Ultimately, we want to let zkipster, the experts, power our events. We know that you not only have our ideas but all the ideas from the network of all your other customers in mind when you build new features, and we can benefit from that.”


Header image: Ted Lasso cast members Brendan Hunt, Hannah Waddingham, Brett Goldstein, Phil Dunster and Jeremy Swift on the red carpet at the 2021 Emmy® Awards Performers Nominee Celebration
Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images