True to this year’s “All About Action” theme, IAEE offered a bustling, 3-day journey of discovery during its annual conference in the magical city of Anaheim this past week.
Thought-provoking education sessions, inspiring speakers, and music-filled celebrations brought global event professionals together to network and collaborate around the latest “outside the booth” thinking. As architects of experience, attendees convened at Expo! Expo! to explore ideas that enhance their business and add meaning to events, coming away with new insights to enrich both their professional and personal lives.
The adventure began the moment attendees received badges festooned with an optional tracker device, which enabled the Wearable Beacon Program. Together with the IAEE app, it simplified the conference experience by grouping all information in one place. The beacon went a step further by allowing attendees to personalize and map their journeys while also connecting with colleagues in Smart Networking Zones and in booths that welcomed visitors by name. Beyond the obvious tech angle that weaved its way through the show, that tiny device represented big themes throughout the week: creativity, personalization, education, and collaboration.
The opening session highlighted these same themes by first congratulating the 2016 CEM graduates. Thanks to an exclusive grant from Freeman, the CEM program welcomed the largest graduating class to date, representing more than 20 countries.
On the heels of new graduate excitement, artist Phil Hansen served up an inspiring keynote about creating art and experience in the wake of limitation and adversity. Using his life as an example, he discussed getting stuck in pointillism, a euphemism for logistical details and best practices, and how these restrictions often cloud the ability to see new opportunities. The translation for event professionals? Embrace limitation to drive creativity and new ideas. By breaking out of common practices and exploring what’s in front of us from different perspectives, we discover new possibilities.
Bypass Best Practices
Event marketers understand the value of applying a tested method or model to their own business, but does taking the safe route always pay off? “Best practices are your worst enemy because they let you off the hook,” said Unmistakable Media CEO and general session speaker, Srini Rao. He challenged attendees to move beyond restrictive parameters to “stand out in a sea of sameness.” As audience expectations evolve and escalate, it’s important to consider breaking the best practice mold to forge a new, unexpected path.
Alternative Education Routes
IAEE broke that mold by rethinking education delivery with a variety of learning areas scattered across the convention center. With more than 70 information-packed sessions, holding classes in meeting rooms was inevitable. But each offering encouraged collaboration and interaction regardless of location. Adjacent to a busy tradeshow floor, the Campfire sessions featured thought leaders presenting ideas in tight 15-minute bursts to standing-room-only crowds. Other alternate learning and engagement stations included the Tech Swim Up Lab, Guru Gatherings, Meet Up Pavilion, LinkedIn Corner, and Tech Center Showcase, a space focused on emerging technology.
Creative Pathways for Collaboration and Storytelling
Offering new avenues and environments to deliver information kept attendees on their toes. “When you change the environment, you change the way people think,” said Marc Pomerleau of FreemanXP who led a collaborative session with colleague Jeff Rudner in the Tech Swim Up Lab. With help from real-time audience prompts, these quick-on-their-feet creative thinkers performed an improv exercise around experience design to demonstrate the power of creative collaboration.
From the conference itself to speakers and exhibitors, the idea of creative collaboration to enrich brand stories permeated the week. At multiple junctures, attendees were encouraged to share and contribute their ideas, stories, and artistic prowess, which led to collective works of art. These artful experiences included the IAEE coloring wall, a mosaic drawing that revealed Martin Luther King, Jr. (courtesy of Phil Hansen), and various exhibitor booth spaces covered in attendee contributions.
Building on personalized experiences that create art, the LED lights of the Freeman booth invited guests to alter lighting designs via motion capture as well as create their own constellation. These activities showcased how hands-on experiences start conversations and ultimately lead to more meaningful relationships, and left event professionals with plenty of ideas to enhance their own programs.
This year’s event underscored the value of shared experience by delivering attendees a truly rewarding and memorable journey. The valuable insight and ideas paved the way for year-long inspiration until we meet again in San Antonio for Expo! Expo! 2017.