UNDP Equator Prize

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18 Jun

UNDP Equator Prize

Jun 18, 2015 2259

When the United Nations speaks, people listen. When the UN turns to Go West Creative to amplify and clarify their voice, the UN’s message becomes even more compelling.

At the Equator Prize Awards ceremony, 2400 representatives of non-government organizations (NGO’s), governments and climate-centered foundations came together with one voice. Celebrities, heads of state and scores of world leaders, all from hundreds of nations came to celebrate the countries and NGO’s which are doing the most exemplary work in water, conservation, and climate awareness.

The UN described the Equator Prize ceremony as an “Academy Awards-style program” and that was certainly an apt description–except that there may have been more celebrities in the room at the Equator Prize Awards than the Oscars.

The participants read like a who’s who of influential people in the UN’s climate-change efforts:

  • Edward Norton, three-time Academy Award-nominated actor and UN Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity
  • Queen Noor of Jordan
  • Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore
  • Jane Goodall, ground-breaking anthropologist and UN Ambassador of Peace
  • Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and the UN Development Program Administrator
  • Connie Britton, actor and UNDP Goodwill Ambassador
  • Kyra Sedgwick
  • Jackson Brown, Grammy-winning musician

Like any worthwhile cause, creating climate-change awareness is challenging. And producing the ceremony honoring those doing such important work was challenging in and of itself. Security was one of the first challenges; with so many dignitaries and current and former heads of state involved, security for the event was tight. Background checks were conducted on every member of our team before they were let backstage to work with the protectees.

For the ceremony, the UN secured legendary Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. But Fisher Hall is also the home of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and our load-in and preparations had to fit into the Philharmonic’s schedule. By the Phil’s rules, we could not leave a crumb on stage, even during a rehearsal.

The day before the Equator Prize Awards, we were allowed to immediately move into the hall with all of the equipment required for the show. We installed massive screens and all the necessary accoutrements necessary for such an undertaking. We did so with the understanding that when the Philharmonic arrived the next day for a rehearsal, we had to be completely out.

The next day the Philharmonic arrived and found an empty stage for rehearsal. Then, at 3:30 pm, as the Philharmonic concluded their rehearsal, we were given possession of the Hall once again, with ‘doors’ for the Equator Prize Awards just three hours away, at 6:30. Three hours for load-in and checks isn’t enough for a ceremony of this size and importance. But we made it enough. Still, the challenging part had only begun.

Due to the responsibility and commitments of the participants, rehearsals were not a possibility for many of the presenters and speakers. Therefore, half of the presenters and speakers had not rehearsed, and knew little or nothing of what they were to do on stage when they arrived. We created a unique system to brief, rehearse and cue each of the high-level officials and celebrities prior to their moments in the spotlight.

Each presenter or speaker was met in their individual dressing rooms ten minutes before their cue to go on stage. We briefed them on their cues and their marks, and rehearsed as possible. After the briefing, each participant was brought to the stage just before they were announced and handed off to the stage manager, who cued their appearances. After handing off the participant to the stage manager, the “briefer” then went to the next dressing room to bring the next presenter up to speed–a presenter who was inevitably a former head of state or celebrity. This went on throughout the entire night, and the program went off without a hitch.

The whole world was watching, and we came through. The message that night may have belonged to the United Nations, but we were privileged to ensure that the message resonated clearly enough that the whole world heard.

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