How I did it: Behind the scenes of Pythian’s 20th anniversary party

Christina Anderson
Christina Anderson is the talent acquisition programs and operations manager at Pythian Group. She helped to organize the firm’s 20th anniversary party. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

This article originally appeared in the 2018 edition of Meeting in the Capital. Read the full digital magazine here.

In September 2017, the Pythian Group turned 20.

It’s a major milestone for any company and is an especially significant landmark for a high-tech firm such as Pythian, which provides IT consulting and managed services.

So, in other words, it was time to throw a big party.

“We were ecstatic, really, that we were turning 20 years old,” said Christina Anderson, talent acquisition programs and operations manager at Pythian. “We wanted to bring the community that we work with together to celebrate.”

While not a full-time event planner, Anderson had previously organized several weddings and other events and was asked to help co-ordinate Pythian’s anniversary event.

The party turned out to be a huge success, with some 300 guests from 16 countries descending on the Canada Aviation and Space Museum for a night of celebrations.

It took many months of advance planning, a hard-working committee and creative thinking. Here’s how Anderson and her team did it:

Taking stock

Before jumping straight into logistics, Anderson plotted a rough roadmap. What’s already been accomplished? What research has already been undertaken? What needs to be done next?

She also explored the type of atmosphere she wanted to create, which helps to answer several more practical questions. For example, should it be a formal, sit-down dinner? Or more of a cocktail-style event with lots of mingling?

Venue

Selecting a physical location is one of the biggest decisions for any event planner. In Pythian’s case, Anderson explored a half-dozen venues before deciding on the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.

In addition to making sure the space was an appropriate size, Anderson toured the sites armed with other questions. For example, she knew she’d have live bands playing. What are the acoustics like? When it comes to food and beverages, can they bring in their own caterer and alcohol?

Once again, the desired atmosphere played a factor. Anderson knew there would be guests who hadn’t seen each other in years and wanted to ensure there were nooks and other areas were people could connect and talk.

The museum also nicely tied in with the event’s theme of going forward with technology.

“We wanted the venue to be quintessentially cool,” Anderson said. “The aviation museum inspires that idea of looking at technology (and) looking at how we can progress into the future.”

Guests

Pythian has office locations around the world and wanted its global team to feel included.

To enable as many staff as possible to attend, Pythian got creative and allowed employees to tap into their professional development budget to offset the cost of their flight and hotel.

Communication was key, Anderson said. Information was included in the company newsletter and an FAQ was written up to explain what expenses would qualify.

“We had to take a look at things like how would we get them to and from the event (as well as) to and from the hotel,”she added.

This approach of enabling employees to use their own resources to co-ordinate travel logistics – rather than trying to tackle it all from Ottawa – helped keep the workload manageable.

Several local staff also got into the spirit by offering their out-of-town colleagues a place to stay during their Ottawa visit.

Teamwork

One of the biggest lessons Anderson said she learned was the importance of relying on others for their expertise.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help (and) don’t be afraid to ask questions,” she said.

That approach paid off. It turned out that a relative of one of the organizing committee members manages entertainers in the Ottawa area and was able to help arrange the musical lineup, which ultimately included Juno nominee Kalle Mattson, cover band Don Bilodeau and DJ Illo.

Anderson also drew on the expertise of outside experts for specific components, such as Top Shelf Distillers to create signature cocktails for the event.

She added that the work of the party committee, which consisted of her fellow Pythian colleagues Sisina Vivas, Lesley Slack, Jennifer Jackson and Bev Hemish, was invaluable.

“I can organize and plan this all out … (but) I’m just the one holding the clipboard,” Anderson said, praising her team. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”

— With reporting by Kieran Delamont

This article originally appeared in the 2018 edition of Meeting in the Capital. Read the full digital magazine below: