Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

November 24 2015

How Experience Design Will Unlock Creative Moments In Vancouver

Carolyn Clark

A convention isn’t simply about the number of education credits attendees can earn, the range of new products in trade show booths or the pile of business cards they can take home from networking receptions. It’s about the journey each attendee takes during the three or four days of on-site programming — the unplanned encounters between education sessions, the feelings that stir from keynote speakers and the opportunities to explore the host city. As Convening Leaders approaches, PCMA and Freeman are working together to use experience design to make sure that meeting planners and suppliers will be able to uncover more possibilities throughout every minute of the conference.

“We use experience design principles to guide the audience through a well-cultivated journey and determine exactly what event organizers want attendees to know, to feel and ultimately, to do,” Stacey Thorp, Senior Producer, Freeman, says. “In Vancouver, that will include several new options to learn and network.”

“Convening Leaders is our once-a-year opportunity to rally the entire PCMA community together and satisfy their appetites for innovation,” Kelly Peacy, CAE, CMP, Senior Vice President, PCMA, says. “We know that each minute of the conference and each inch of the convention center represents an opportunity for us to better connect with our audience. No matter where they turn, we want to deliver the education and engagement they need to grow in the meetings industry.”

Fueling The Design With Attendee Feedback

Part of delivering on the PCMA promise relies on listening to attendee feedback from the most recent Convening Leaders in Chicago.

“Attendees have asked for more informal spaces for conversations, to check email and social media or to simply take a break from the program, so we have incorporated that request into the open space design,” Dan Traver, CEM, Business Development Vice President, Freeman, says.

Traver adds that Freeman is making some key adjustments to the popular Learning Lounge. As more attendees flocked to the area in 2015, the volume from conversations inevitably grew louder. Traver and the Freeman team have worked to ensure that those conversations can continue while eliminating noise issues.

“This year, the design of the Learning Lounge will be on different levels and spread out across a larger area that is carpeted and features wood-panel walls, which should help address sound levels,” Dan Traver, CEM, Business Development Vice President, Freeman, says. “We are also working with other vendors on noise mitigation options.”

Inviting The City Into The Convention

In addition to addressing how attendees will hear, Freeman is paying equal attention to what they will see throughout the experience, and Thorp highlights that the production team is aiming to make the powerful scenery of the Pacific Northwest an integral part of the experience.

“The Vancouver Convention Center is surrounded by natural beauty of water and mountains showcased through large glass walls,” Thorp says. “Instead of covering the windows, the open space design will incorporate the natural light to create a sense of bringing the outdoors inside the meeting.”

“The views of the harbor are an ideal way to give attendees a chance to relax in the midst of meeting new people and taking notes in education sessions,” Peacy says. “The content at the meeting is our top priority, but we want to make sure that attendees will be able to immerse themselves in the destination, too.”

Making Backstage A Learning Lesson

The picturesque view of the mountains and water will set an inspiring backdrop for the experience, but the Freeman team isn’t afraid to invite attendees to see another side of the experience, either.

“Because Convening Leaders is a meeting for meeting planners, we want to show ‘The How’ in addition to ‘The What’ behind the production elements,” Traver says.

Rather than hiding the behind-the-scenes production work, the Freeman team is ditching traditional pipe and drape partitioning in favor of plexiglass. This will give meeting planners a clear view into the Freeman Audio Visual control room during production, rehearsals and room changes.

“The control room, nicknamed ‘The Aquarium,’ offers another level of transparency in the logistics and production process,” Traver says.   
Generating More Interaction At The General Session

Following the PCMA spirit, there will be plenty of new programming additions and new risks in 2016, the general session will feature a big first for attendees: the opportunity to use FXP | touch while speakers are on the big stage.

“Attendees will be able to interact with the speakers and the content through easy-to-use tools such as live polling or multiple choice questions,” David Haas, Director of Technology Solutions at FreemanXP, says. “This requires presenters to be flexible with their prepared content and tap into the energy of the audience. Depending on immediate audience feedback, speakers may adjust their planned remarks in real time to best suit audience interests.”

As Freeman and PCMA have worked together to outline the on-site experience, they continue to return to one guiding principle for 2016.

“Cultivating Creative Moments isn’t just a theme,” Thorp says. “It’s the core element of our design approach.”

Interested in learning more about the development of this year’s theme and its role in shaping the experience in Vancouver? Check out “How Your Events Impact Your Organization’s Overall Marketing Strategy.”

Want to learn more about how to cultivate creative and compelling moments for your own audience? Click here to get in touch with Freeman.

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