Designing a new blueprint for attendee networking
The Urban Land Institute (ULI) is the largest and oldest network of cross-disciplinary real estate and land use experts.
To support its 45,000 global members, ULI holds a spring and fall meeting in the U.S. that provides access to cutting-edge information from industry experts, interactive sessions, and networking opportunities.
“Now that we are back in person, we thought it was the perfect time to transform our bi-annual meeting from a traditional trade show setup. We wanted to cultivate an experience that spurred attendees to come together, network, share ideas, and be inspired by each other.” — Carly Bushong, Vice President, Meetings & Events
After a long-standing partnership that focused on event production, ULI enlisted Freeman to help transform its meeting with overall event strategy and design.
Our experiential design team determined the best way to bring attendees together was to create a cohesive audience journey. We partnered with ULI to map out multiple activations, experiences, and sponsorships that immersed members in a more interactive environment.
Show floor designers used ULI branded elements to create a unified and organized show flow across the entire experience.
“Members are naturally drawn to go back to their rooms when they need to get work done or make calls, or even just to refresh. So we created a [member engagement] space that people felt comfortable staying in to accomplish all of those things — and be available to network with other groups.” — Thomas Yurkin, Senior Creative Director, Freeman
To boost the amount of time that attendees spent in the membership engagement area, our experiential designers placed it in a high-traffic zone that flowed in and out of the main activations: ULI Program Areas, Mission Bar (food and beverage), various member lounges, the General Session, and a “city center” area where attendees gathered several times a day.
This membership area also hosted several ULI social events so the space included comfortable seating, charging stations, and quiet spots to make calls.
Organizing the social events (networking lunches, donut breaks, beer tastings, etc.) also provided sponsorship opportunities and was instrumental in helping attendees unwind and feel comfortable interacting among their various groups.
During the conference, members were invited to go on the ULI tour, an experience where attendees have a chance to go behind the scenes of city developments and meet with builders. We helped elevate the boarding experience (and the boarding area) into a seamless process worthy of any travel expert, leaving more time for catching up and industry chat.
Big expectations were met with big achievements as registration surpassed its goals by more than 10% for the fall meeting. Also, 94% of attendees reported making at least one valuable connection at the event.