Chilling Out!

Client: Global Food Distribution Company
Venue: Sheraton Toronto Airport Hotel
Program: Battle of the Bands Lip Sync Contest

GFS2016a057Every time we do an event we find people who truly missed their calling. Instead of being bankers, accountants, or chemists they could have been performers. That is why we love doing these programs. It really provides an opportunity for certain people to show what they are capable of.


Tonight’s program was no different. With 18 teams performing in a lip sync battle there were lots of opportunities for stars to be discovered. In the first round all 18 bands lip synced a 60 second version of a well known song, in a head to head format. Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and U2’s “Vertigo” produced the best pair of performances, but each of the 9 bands that moved to the next round  deserved their win.

GFS2016a134In the second round The Air Chilled Diced Chickens version of “I’m Too Sexy” and  Steve and the Rockets “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” brought the crowd to their feet, and ushered them and two other bands into the Championship Round. With four bands remaining a true star was revealed. “Seven Deadly Sins” rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” resulted in a standing ovation, as sincere and enthusiastic as any response to a performance in Rock the Stars 14 year history. The lead singer was astounding, but the whole band really needs to be commended for their amazing energy.

The competition’s judges, Simon, Paula and Randy, were suitably generous in their praise of this performance. Their comments and witticisms over the course of the entire competition kept the bands focused on their performances and kept the audience completely engaged.

Thanks to the great staff at the Sheraton. They were extremely helpful and professional and provided great support during our load in and set up. We hope to be back here soon!

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Team Building for Introverts

Every organization has a few extremely outgoing individuals. They are the first to shake your hand at a meeting and the first to make toasts and speeches at an event. They are willing to embrace new challenges without fear of failure. Team building activities seem to be designed for these people.

But, the average person is not that gregarious. In fact, most people are shy in one way or another. That is what makes Rock the Stars such a rewarding and inclusive experience. Although extroverts will shine during our activities, our programs are actually designed with the introvert in mind. Here are three reasons why.

1 Small Steps

NAH2012 62DxOEveryone knows that you must learn to walk before you can run. The last step of a Rock the Stars activity usually involves a group performing in front of their peers. This is a scary thought for many people. But we don’t just ask participants to jump on stage and perform without preparation. There is a process that guides them; a series of small steps that lead to the big moment. For example, in our U Rock program the first step is forming your band and choosing a name. Simple enough. The next step is going to one of the instrument stations. No problem. Later you will explore the wardrobe area. Bet you find a wig that makes you look amazing.

Facilitators are there the entire time to coach and teach. When we reach the final step, rocking out on stage, the process has been so gradual that even the shyest person has made the transformation to rock star!

2 Always a Group Activity  

FL3_002B_DxThe best way to engage people in a team building activity is to present tasks that can only be accomplished as a group. Programs must be designed so no one feels singled out or put on the spot in an uncomfortable way. In Rock the Stars everything is done as a team. Participants join a band and choose their role within the group. A band, like any team, is best when it is composed of people with different personalities. Are you outgoing? Become one of the singers or a lead guitar player. Are you more reserved? Find a spot behind the drum kit or keyboard. In our bands every role is important.

3 Costumes and Props

AI_006_DxBCostumes and props add fun to any activity. They are great for role playing and performing. They can turn an adult into a kid again. Getting into character is a great way for people to get over any stage fright they may experience. Even a simple wig, boa or a pair of sunglasses can create an alter-ego. And for someone who is afraid of being on stage, costumes are a magic potion that takes the fear away.

There are many reasons why clients continue to book Rock the Stars for multiple events and inclusiveness is probably the biggest. Everyone is involved. Everyone finds a role. Everyone learns something about themselves and their team. And when the introverts realize there is nothing to fear? That’s when the stars really shine.

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Rocking the Square!

Client: A Global Medical Equipment Company
Venue: Hard Rock Cafe, Toronto, ON
Program: Battle of the Bands Lip Sync Contest

GEHC2016a 85DxOWhen Rock the Stars facilitates events at the Hard Rock Cafe the synergy is undeniable. The history on display, the state of the art stage and sound system, and even the perpetual daylight of Dundas Square adds an element of hyper-realism that makes the client’s experience extremely unique.

GEHC2016a 37DxOWhen our participants rolled in they were thrilled by the rock memorabilia, the decor and the band equipment set up on the stage. When they discovered that they themselves would be the evening’s entertainment there was a excitement mixed with a little trepidation.

GEHC2016a 89DxOOur emcee explained the principals of a team lip sync contest; that it was a group effort, that everyone could pick a role they were comfortable with, and they could choose props & costumes to enhance their performances. The wardrobe station was revealed and within moments the room transformed into a group of colorfully dressed rock stars working on their swagger.

The practice round began strong with the Infamous Ge-enie’s dramatic performance of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and GE Mallet’s version of MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This”. Vast Difference’s version of “Jump” was a master class in the power of the trio. Our judging panel was completely floored by the performances. Randy was on his feet, Simon put aside his signature wit for some genuine praise and Paula expressed her appreciation so sincerely that the entire room blushed.

Every band (and team) has its star performers and this group was no exception. The activity’s stars were Johnny, from Johnny Rocks, and Jessie from Jessie and the Rippers. In the championship round Jessie’s “Wannabe” was stunning while Johnny’s “Gangnam Style” was sublime. In the end the audience picked Johnny Rocks as the winning band.

Big thanks to Anjuna Grewal and the rest of the staff at the Hard Rock Cafe for providing the venue for this amazing experience!

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Rock the Stars Trend Spotting!

What do corporate events in 2016 look like? We have noticed many new trends, plus some older ones that are sticking around.

corporate39. Local: The eat local movement may not have the same innovative feel it did a few years ago, but it is an initiative that can be deemed trend-proof. Support your local providers and enjoy the good food they produce.

8. Thinking Green: Insisting on a smaller carbon footprint has the added benefit of adding CSR to your event. Glass and fabric always feel better than plastic and paper.

7. Social Responsibility: Build goodwill by giving back to your community. It is home to your neighbors, your colleagues, your employees and your customers.

6. Remember ROI: Providing clients with a good return on investment never gets old.

0075. Event Sponsorship: Logo displays are great, but give your partners the opportunity to shine by suggesting they sponsor an entertainment or team building activity.

4. Colorful Themes: Rio Carnival, 80s Hair Metal, Cuba, James Bond, Space. Creative themes are fun and more engaging for guests.

3. Diversity: Whether your group is local or from around the globe, it is full of unique individuals. Celebrate this.

Social Banner card version22. Interactivity: Entertainment should always be engaging. Getting your guests on the dance floor is great. Getting them on the stage is even better.

1. Social Media Engagement: Buzz about your event will continue after it is over. On social media platforms it will last forever. Create opportunities for guests to express themselves on social media during your event.

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Sweet Home Appliances!

Client: Global Appliance Manufacturer
Program: U Rock!
Venue: Rock the Stars’ Toronto studio (The Jam)

One of our favourite venues in Toronto is called The Jam. It is a rehearsal studio and musicians club, owned and operated by it’s membership, where people come together to play music in well-equipped studios. There is also a large atrium which can serve as a concert hall. It is an indoor playground for musicians and music lovers, and has been a preferred venue since its doors first opened.

WCC 23DxO We recently facilitated an event there for a major home appliance service department. We began by forming a larger group into two smaller bands. One band became the “backing band” and learned how to play a song, using real instruments.  The other became the “vocal group”, rewriting the tune’s lyrics and working out a vocal performance. After the first song was completed the band’s roles reversed so everyone had a chance to both sing and play an instrument.

Each band did a great job of personalizing the lyrics to fit their group’s corporate culture. Cee-Lo Green’s “Forget You” was rewritten to be about an errant parts delivery truck. “Sweet Home Alabama” was rewritten to be about a team member’s love of webinars. The bands performed great. We began with simple arrangements that were made slightly more complex every time we ran through the song.

WCC 46DxOWith two songs mastered we ended the session with our facilitators playing guitar and bass, a guest from the group playing drums, and everyone else gathered around microphones singing their favourite songs. Classics from our songbook, like “Summer of 69″ and “Living on a Prayer” were big hits, but we also went off-menu to rock through some Madonna, Britney and Wham!

Big thanks to Pickle Barrel for the delicious catering and Cory at The Jam for always treating us like family.

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Economical Crush!

Client: A National Insurance Company

Venue: Hilton Meadowvale, Mississauga, ON

Program: Battle of the Bands Lip Sync Contest Live!

EIC2016a 207DxORock the Stars recently had the privilege of providing after dinner team building for an insurance company conference. The challenge was creating a program that would engage and entertain a ballroom filled with 220 attendees. Because we are Rock the Stars, this means getting everyone in the room on stage, performing in costume!

EIC2016a 329DxOIn other words, this was a perfect event for Battle of the Bands Lip Sync Contest! Participants were formed into bands and entered into the contest. After selecting costumes from our huge selection of rock star clothes and accessories, bands took the stage to lip sync and air guitar as a team to their favorite songs. To make the program truly unforgettable music was provided by a real rock band, set up behind the competitors.

EIC2016a 397DxOTeams competed in pairs, performing 60 second versions of each song. They rocked out with prop instruments. They jumped off the stage into the audience. They strolled and strutted in full rock star regalia. After each pair of bands performed our MC asked the audience to choose the winner by applause and the winning team moved on to the next round.

The first round featured 20 amazing performances. The second showcased 8 more. In the final round 4 teams rocked out to songs like “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)”, “I Will Survive” and “I Kissed a Girl”. In the end, a version of “Living’ on a Prayer” performed by The Party Crew, wowed the audience and the evening’s winner was crowned.

A great big thanks to the wonderful staff at the Hilton Meadowvale, particularly to the event team. They did an incredible job of transforming the room from a trade show to a concert hall in a short amount of time. This hotel’s staff and meeting facilities have made it a favourite place to host Rock the Stars events.

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Hunger Heart and Harmony!

Client: A Global Technology Company

Venue: Palais des Congres, Montreal, QC

Program: Guitar Throw Down with Rock It! Team Challenge

What does a wise and insightful event planner do when her conference attendees are at risk of “Death by PowerPoint” (her phrase, not ours). She calls Rock the Stars and asks us to create a 30 minute energizing and engaging activity that will inject some fun and interactivity into the conference.

Sean GerryBOur solution? Guitar Throw Down and Rock It! Team Challenge. Two world class guitarists and a dynamic drummer kicked off the event with a guitar duel. Our Rock the Stars MC solicited requests for songs or musical styles from the audience to challenge the band. Suggestions like “Duran Duran”, “George Benson”, and “Dragon Force” were thrown at our intrepid guitar players who ripped fearlessly into each challenge like they were born to play that music.

The audience was then formed into teams and challenged to “Name that Riff”. Next it was “Hum that Tune”. The host changed the game every 5 minutes, which amplified the energy in the room. During the “Finish the Lyric” game the whole room sang the first verse of “Don’t Stop Believing”.  The activity closed with a final guitar battle, during which the audience got off their feet and rushed the stage. It was an incredible experience for our musicians and MC who left the room feeling as renewed as the participants.

Working at Montreal’s Palais des Congres was a great experience. The staff, including the security and receiving crews, were incredibly helpful and professional. A tip of the hat as well to the great audio providers from Freeman. It is always a pleasure to work with their crew and the Freeman staff we met in Montreal were great.

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Party Like a Rock Star!

Client: CSAE Trillium Chapter
Venue: Westin Harbour Castle Conference Centre, Toronto, ON
Program: Play With the Band

CSAE stageThis year guests at the Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE) Trillium Chapter’s holiday gala were invited to party like rock stars! The organizers created a vibrant and exciting atmosphere that was elegant, stylish and very rock and roll. Gorgeous center pieces and decor adorned the room, while huge screens projected videos from everyone’s favourite rock bands. But the focal point was the stage in the middle of the room, with moving lights, LED fixtures and classic rock and roll par cans shining through a thin layer of haze.

Rock the Stars was invited to do one of our favourite things: be the back up band for the association’s many talented members. As appetizers came out of the kitchen we gently started off with our own fabulous vocalist on songs like “Moondance” and “Dreams”. The band slowly shifted gears, performing songs by Bob Seger and Creedence Clearwater Revival, complimenting the “Party Like a Rock Star” theme.

But this was all just a warm up for the first set’s glorious closing song, when one of the chapter’s directors donned a gold lamé jacket and an electric guitar and stunned the crowd with an amazing rendition of “Come Together”.

More incredible performances from chapter members followed, including a saxophonist joining in on “Mustang Sally”, a pianist leading the band through “Brown Eyed Girl”, and an incredible singer whose rendition of “Summer of ’69” inspired everyone to get off their chairs and onto the dance floor. The dance floor was jammed with people waving their arms in the air as we closed with guests singing along to “Don’t Stop Believin”.

Big thanks to Alice Parnis of Event Fusion, the technicians of AV Canada for their great work, and to the Westin Harbour Castle for their behind the scenes hospitality. And a really big thanks to the CSAE Trillium Chapter for letting us be part of this wonderful event!

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Anthems by the Falls

Client: Global Financial Services Firm

Venue: Scotiabank Convention Centre, Niagara Falls

Programs: SongDivision’s Song Slam, Keynote Presentation, Guitar Throwdown, and Play With the Band

We love doing large, elaborate events. The number of moving parts is incredible and it’s a treat watching everything fall into place. The most important parts are the people, both  facilitators and the 600 participants. Our Rock the Stars crew was stellar; musicians who have played with artists as diverse as Moist, Big Wreck, Burton Cummings, Jill Barber and I Mother Earth. The event featured many components, including a keynote presentation, an energizing guitar duel, the writing of four original songs, and an after party with an interactive live band.

The setting for the afternoon was one of the large event halls at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls. It’s an expansive space, with 40′ ceilings illuminated by sky lights.  The group was welcomed by Jeff Pearce, who kicked off the afternoon with a keynote address. Jeff was a founding member of multi-platinum band, Moist, and his multimedia presentation is a humorous and insightful peek into life in a rock band. His message is about how risk, creativity, trust and teamwork are the keys to success in any enterprise, musical or otherwise.

SeanGerryGuitarThrowdownAfter listening to Jeff speak about life as a rock star, it was time for participants to get immersed in some real live music. Rock the Stars got the crowd to their feet with a “Guitar Throwdown”, an interactive display of musical mastery that had the audience calling out songs and artists to challenge the two incredible guitar players shredding for their affection.

DTTL2015A 278DxOThen it was time for the main event, “Song Slam”. The group was formed into 4 teams who were told they had ninety minutes to write an original song based on the themes of the conference. The group responded at first with apprehension and disbelief. Our MC put participants at ease by explaining exactly how a song is written, with small easy to follow steps, guided by experienced musicians. Apprehension turned into excitement and soon snippets of songs were filling the huge event space. Ninety minutes later the event hall was filled with music, and everyone was on their feet working out choreography and rehearsing their new compositions.

DTTL2015A 293DxONext… show time! The party moved into the Centre’s beautiful ballroom, decorated as a hybrid of harvest festival and a concert hall. Each “band” performed their song, crowding onto the stage and dance floor and singing out the lyrics displayed on projection screens. There was a reggae song, a punk rock song, a country song. Each song featured themes important to the client and to the conference. Performances were met by incredible and genuine enthusiasm by everyone listening.

DTTL2015A 305DxOAnd once everyone had a taste of what it was like to get on stage there was no stopping the party. The interactive Rock the Stars band delivered an incredible set of music, live band karaoke style, which had the stage and dance floor packed for the rest of the night. By the time the final chorus of “Don’t Stop Believing” was belted out it was clear that all the moving pieces had done their part and the experience was something that would never be forgotten. A big note of thanks to the event planners, the amazing crew at Scotiabank Convention Centre, technical production from Freeman Audio Visual, our partners from SongDivision, and of course our own talented facilitators.

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Cardinal Rules!!

Client: Cardinal Health
Venue: Toronto Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre Hotel
Program: U Rock!

CH2015A 193DxOIts not easy to sneak into a hotel in the CH2015A 234DxOmiddle of the day to set up for a top secret event that evening. But this is something we are often asked to do. Event planners like our activity to be a surprise, so we usually load in underground, sneak through service corridors and set up in vacant rooms. This is more challenging for large events, like the one we did for Cardinal Health last week. While the group’s attention was focused on projections and presentations, our crew maneuvered fifty drum components, twenty speakers, a dozen guitar amps and over thirty guitars and keyboards through the common areas and into breakout rooms. Without making a sound. Without being seen. Big thanks to the Marriott staff for their assistance and good humour.

CH2015A 26DxOThe surprise worked. When the activity was announced the whole group was astonished. The program began with our dynamic rock stylin’ instructor, Kerri, showing everyone how to swagger and strut like rock stars. Next, our wardrobe staff visually transformed the group from health providers to dynamic divas. Every band was then introduced to facilitators who had them choose instruments and learn to play a rock song.

By the time we got to the performance the mood was electric. Each of fourteen bands took the stage and delivered energetic and entertaining performances. Every person in the room was transformed into a rock star for a moment. We heard stellar renditions of “You Really Got Me”, “Rock and Roll” and “The Joker”. But the best moment was at the end of the evening, when a new Cardinal Health band was spontaneously formed from members of all the other bands and the Rock the Stars musicians simply watched in amazement.

For information about turning your stars into rock stars please visit


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