The Smith Family Gathering in the age of COVID

By Elliott Gansner , Tam Smith
Photo 1: 

As did many families, we reimagined our annual event this year. Instead of Camp Smith at The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wis. (the original plan), we created Camp Smith @HOME. An hour after the shareholder meeting ended (online, of course), the family tuned into Zoom for an hour of programming. We allowed a half-hour before to socialize and a half-hour at the end for questions. 

We’d love to hear what other families have found successful. Contact Barbara Spector, editor of Family Business Magazine, at

The family enjoyed the opportunity to connect and chat before we started and loved the quick-paced, visual experience of the call. The hour included the following:

  • Toast to all with a special brunch cocktail (recipe sent out earlier)
  • Video music performance by two family members playing their guitars and singing a song with their own ”COVID” lyrics
  • Slide presentation by our incoming chair on the family organization leadership changes, his philosophy and plans for the coming year
  • Q&A with family members serving on the foundation board about what we are doing to support our communities
  • Video presentation of a children’s placemat, featuring family art and history, with a colorful collage on one side and a Menasha/Smith Family Alphabet on the other
  • Video presentation of a sixth-grade report, “History of Elisha D. Smith”
  • Video slide show update on family news and photos of family members @home
  • Small-group social breakout sessions
  • Screenshot photos of the family

We had 46 computers connected and around 65 or 70 people represented, not including the kids that came in and out of view — including during the Q&A session. That was about 25 fewer than we had hoped to host at The Osthoff, so overall, not bad.

This event was very much a team effort, and we were happy to be able to showcase the talents and leadership of so many of our younger members. Overall, in addition to our seven council members, we involved seven of our 6th gen and one 7th gen member. We are now thinking about how we can repeat some of this when we are together in person, hopefully next year.

Elliott Gansner is chair of the Smith Family Council. Tam Smith is the previous council chair and serves as a member of the council. The Smith family owns Menasha Corporation, a corrugated and plastic packaging manufacturer and supply chain solutions provider based in Neenah, Wis.


Article categories: 

Other Related Articles

  • Covid-19 raises cybersecurity issues for family offices

    The move to working from home revealed vulnerability to phishing among family offices that had not set up proper controls for remote access.As family offices scrambled to respond quickly to the health...

  • Single-family office nuts and bolts

    Eric Allyn knows his way around an operating company.Born into the family that owned the Welch Allyn Inc. medical device company in Skaneateles Falls, N.Y. for 100 years, Allyn could tell you all abou...

  • Family business CFOs are essential in black swan events like COVID-19

    The changes in the world today are multi-dimensional and complex. Many factors were already in play at the beginning of 2020, but the COVID-19 global pandemic this spring was a black swan event that t...

  • Onboarding new family members must be an intentional process

    If you don’t think onboarding new family members is important, you may want to ask Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for a second opinion. In January 2020, a year and a half after their wedding, Prince...