LinkedIn Omaha Wows with Après Ski Holiday Blowout

Rachel Richards of Step Group chooses the event lighting pros at FadeUp Design Group for LinkedIn’s massive yearly party.

Extraordinary Event Planning

When corporations and non-profits look for an out-of-the-box event planning company in Omaha, Step Group is often their first call.

Founded by CEO Rachel Richards, Step Group creates events that build a whole world for their clients. They keep the entire event on-theme, starting with check-in, then moving through food, drinks, and entertainment.

Over the years, Step Group has become LinkedIn Omaha’s event planner of choice for their yearly December holiday party. Rachel had planned the event several years in a row, starting when they only had two hundred fifty local employees.

But now, LinkedIn’s Omaha staff is closer to a thousand people strong. The challenge for Step Group is clear: Find fresh ways to keep all of those employees entertained and engaged for an entire evening.

Rachel said, “You have to think about the introverts and the extraverts—people who want to be on the dance floor and those that don’t. What can you provide for every personality type?”

And with several of these parties under their belt, Step Group has to continue to perform, topping themselves year after year. After last year’s huge success, themed “Under the Big Top,” they had to find an idea that would completely upend expectations.

Planning an Event for LinkedIn

When LinkedIn’s event planning team called Step Group, they asked Rachel to present two ideas. They wanted Rachel to bring one of her team’s concepts along with a theme LinkedIn’s team had brainstormed: “An Enchanted Forest.”

Rachel was concerned that creating an “enchanted forest” would force her to spend the entire budget on world-building and not enough on interactive fun. And, Rachel says Step Group prides itself on stretching their client’s budget.

Richards had an idea called “Après Ski.” It would recreate the vibe of a ski lodge after a long day on the slopes. She said, “My husband likes to ski, but I like the après ski part. It’s the dancing, the drinking, and the socializing at mountaintop bars.”

So, Step Group created mood boards, color palettes, and slogan ideas for both events. Then, they brought LinkedIn’s planning team to the venue. They tasted menu items and looked at the different entertainment options for both themes.

When the LinkedIn team saw how much more fun and variety the Aprés Ski theme could provide, they were hooked. Step Group decided to call the party “LinkedIn Ridge Ski Resort” and created a logo.

LinkedIn liked the logo so much they even created t-shirts to sell for charity.

Soon after, the Step Group team delivered party invitations designed to look like ski lift passes. This was an event in itself with snow machines, hot chocolate, and music. They got everyone excited about how the LinkedIn Ridge Ski Resort would look and feel.

Now, all Step Group had to do was transform the space.

Transforming The LinkedIn Ridge Ski Resort with Light

Linked in had chosen The Marriott in the Capitol District for the venue. Richards said, “I’m usually not keen on using hotels. It can be hard to work with the busy carpet and non-descript walls.

“But the Marriott’s carpet is in dark browns and greens, so it worked well with our theme. Plus, we needed a lot of space and several rooms to play with.”

To create the atmosphere in each room, she brought in event lighting pro Heath Marrinan of FadeUp Design Group.

Rachel said, “Every part of the event needs light. And, once we’re in the space, I see more things that need special lighting. I rely on Heath’s expertise to bring it all together.”

The Ski Lodge

The space that anchored the event was a ski lodge—a warm and classy room for those who preferred a mellow atmosphere.

Step Group brought in pool and foosball tables, lounge chairs and fur rugs, along with interactive games and a forty-eight-foot bar. The room’s music came from a jukebox the guests had total control over.

Heath decided to paint the room in a warm amber light. Using several mountain-shaped gobos, he filled a large blank wall with a whole mountain range, giving guests the feeling of peering out of a ski lodge window.

Richards was a little concerned the relaxed room wouldn’t be a draw, but she said, “It was packed all night long.”

The “Outdoor” Bar

In the area next to the lodge, Step Group wanted to recreate a space that felt like guests were outside and could ski directly up to the bar. They brought in picnic tables, checkers, blankets, and a fire.

They also brought in several trees of various heights. FadeUp highlighted each tree’s unique character with intentionally placed up-lights.

The room was a favorite of those who preferred no music and long conversations.

Club X-Games

Club X-Games was a room for partiers. High-energy and loud, DJ Ashton Martin kept everyone dancing with a Road Dog DJ system and LED wall provided by FadeUp.

FadeUp kept a lighting technician on the moving lights rig to react to the music and make sure the looks kept changing all night long. FadeUp also provided the room with several of its glow tables where guests could set their drinks.

Step Group put in a skiing video game that required players to get in a ceiling-mounted harness to play. They projected the game on the walls so everyone could watch while they danced.

The Silent Disco

Step Group also had a secondary dance floor employing a trending concept: The Silent Disco. When someone walks into the room, they see people dancing and singing along with a DJ and a light show.

But attendees can’t hear what the DJ is playing until they pick up a pair of headphones to listen.

Rachel gave FadeUp a lot to play with inside this room. Heath designed the look around an LED dance floor with intricate LED light features throughout the space.

The Mystic Mountain Lounge

Next, LinkedIn partiers could make their way into The Mystic Mountain Lounge. The room sat sixty at a time, and there was always a line.

When people walked in, they’d see and hear a pianist bathed in blue LED light in front of a brightly lit blue and orange curtain. But the people were there for what came next—a magic show on the room’s main stage.

The LinkedIn Ridge Ice Lounge

Later, guests had the option of heading out to the Marriot’s outdoor skating rink. Next to the rink was the Ice Lounge with an eight-foot ice bar, an ice sculpture/champagne-fountain, and an “Ice Queen” reading tarot cards.

Heath lit the ice bar a bright blue. Behind it hung a white LinkedIn Ridge logo. He put a gently textured blue moving light on the logo so it looked like it sparkled.

This was a room where people could hang out, eat at s’mores stations, and head back outside for more ice skating if they were in the mood.

Creating an Event Success Story

Rachel Richards counts on Heath Marrinan and FadeUp Design Group to catch her vision and help her turn it into a reality. They’ve worked together often enough that she knows she can trust his creative process to work in tandem with hers.

Rachel said, “Heath’s very creative and hands-on. He really listens. I provide him with mood boards and floor plans, but the end result is always twenty times better than I ever could have envisioned.”

She continued, “Lighting changes every single room. It brings everything together.”

The reviews were phenomenal. And best of all, Rachel’s LinkedIn contact told her this year’s event was the “best yet.”

What’s your dream-come-true scenario?

If you’re planning an event, you may not know exactly how everything will come together in the end. You can choose great pieces and plan carefully. Still, if you want everything to work as a whole, you need creative, intentional lighting.

Pro lighting highlights what’s important, hides what isn’t, creates flow, and sets the mood you want to set.

If you’re an event planner looking for a creative lighting collaborator, contact Heath Marrinan and FadeUp Design Group.