A Change of Scenery — Without Leaving the Ballroom

How the event technology company Encore brought host city Washington, D.C. to a ballroom for a VIP audience.

Author: Barbara Palmer       

LED screens wrapping around the ballroom for Encore’s annual E2 awards changed at various times, giving event participants the impression of being in different rooms and other venues in Washington D.C.

The audience at a recent event set a high bar for Encore’s creative team, said Liz Whittaker, vice president, creative services, for the event technology company. “They’ve seen it all and are hard to impress.” The participants were Whittaker’s colleagues, including more than 200 of the company’s global leaders and the recipients of the company’s annual E2 awards, who gathered in Washington, D.C., in February. “It’s fun to do these things for yourself,” Whittaker said, about designing the event. “You do have an opportunity to really kind of lean in and showcase what you can do. We pulled out all of the tricks for this one.”

That included LED screens that wrapped around three sides of the meeting ballroom, which were used for presentations, but mostly, Whittaker said, as scenic backdrops for the meeting’s segments and were inspired by iconic spaces in the surrounding city. The setting for Encore’s gala awards show was modeled after the Opera House at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, complete with opera boxes and red velvet drapes that moved from time to time, as if someone were walking behind them.

speaker pn stage red walls

Encore kept the environment fresh for those participants who, over the course of the two-day event, met in the same room for nearly 20 hours.

The next day, in the same ballroom, Encore Chief Operating Officer Trevor Ferguson spoke about sustainability surrounded by images of trains arriving at the city’s Union Station. There were 14 scenic changes in all, Whittaker said, including a custom setting for guest speaker Chris Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton. It was a little awkward inviting Hilton’s CEO to speak at the Ritz-Carlton, a non-Hilton hotel, Encore CEO Ben Erwin said as he introduced Nassetta. Then, Erwin snapped his fingers, Whittaker said, and the LED screens changed to images of Hilton’s Waldorf Astoria Washington DC hotel.

Whittaker said she knew they had met the goal of keeping the environment fresh for those who, over the course of the two-day event, met in the same room for nearly 20 hours when a participant asked about the location where the gala had been held the night before. “Wait a minute,” she said. “We’re in the same room?”

Barbara Palmer is deputy editor of Convene.

dining room with red walls

“We pulled out all of the tricks for this one,” said Liz Whittaker, vice president, creative services for Encore of the team’s efforts.

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