When we were coming up with concepts for our fall webinar, we asked ourselves, “Over the years, what’s the one thing clients always want to hear from our team?” The answer: Creative ideas for their events.
That’s why we worked with our group of panelists to gather up our best examples of stage design and corporate event ideas for 2024 and beyond. We were so excited to share them with our audience at our recent webinar: Freshen Up Your General Session!
Our ideas fell into three categories: Design, Logistics, and Entertainment. Below are just a few of the many examples and highlights from our event, which you can watch in full at any point!
Design: Corporate Stage Design Ideas for 2024
Aaron Barlow, Meeting Tomorrow’s Event Designer, kicked off with fresh stage decor. One of his examples highlighted a recent event we produced for a client who wasn’t interested in a tech-y feel. For this client, whose daytime event took place in a California venue, he designed a custom printed backdrop with organic shapes, draped with beautiful live flowers.
“You can create a softer vision with organic elements such as plants or living walls and printed items,” Barlow said.
On the other end of the spectrum, he shared a very modern and tech-forward example of a circular stage with a “live ticker” at the top. This client took influence from sports and concerts and wanted to infuse an LED ticker for not only live updates and conference info, but to totally rock out at their opening and closing events.
The live ticker, while an option for larger budgets, was a completely immersive element to make the stage and entire room feel larger than life.
Next, Aaron shared a number of lighting ideas. Lighting can be one of the most affordable yet impactful ways to instantly transform an entire space, he explained. These can be as simple as custom Gobos (a custom disc placed over a light to make a pattern or image, like a logo) or simply changing the color scheme for different sections of your programming. For example, warm, cozy lighting for fireside chats changes to dramatic blues and purples for keynotes.
Another point he made was that many newer ballrooms have interesting architectural details that can be embraced with lighting. He shared one event we recently did at the Seattle Convention Center, which highlighted the unique sound-proofing panels on the ceiling by lighting them in red, creating a room with much more depth and visual interest than if our lighting designers had just kept the ceiling dark.
He wrapped up by sharing some of his favorite unique stage shapes including multifunctional stages, with different areas for different programming to keep the audience’s attention and make each agenda item feel fresh.
Logistics: Surprising Seating & Meeting Conference Attendees’ Needs
Joey Rodriguez, Meeting Tomorrow’s Manager of Event Planning Services, continued with ideas around freshening up your seating arrangements and other logistics that impact the attendee experience.
“Most of my examples are really just a fresh look at what you’re working with,” said Rodriguez. “See if you can reimagine the seating to give it a real purpose that aligns with your event goals and objectives.”
Her first example included a client who rented soft seating towards the front of their room. This encouraged attendees to sit close to the stage (great for the presenters’ energy) and to network. It also provided a level of sophistication, and made the general session room look beyond the “ballroom norm.” The rest of the furniture was hotel furniture arranged at tables, meaning this option didn’t break the bank to create a dynamic and unique floor plan.
Another example she shared was of one of our clients who used the areas around the edges of their GS room for different networking and programming. They used lighting to achieve different “Zones,” in which attendees visited during different programming sections of the event including networking times and breakouts. This was a cool, interesting way to divide up the space of the giant ballroom in a unique way.
“I’m always going to advocate for good lighting over all else, because it’s so transformative,” she said. “This was all done with lights and only hotel furniture.”
She wrapped up her section by encouraging meeting planners to think about what else can be included in the GS room to strengthen the attendee experience at your conference or other corporate event. For example:
- Can you have charging stations in the back of GS that won’t be disruptive?
- How about a whole coffee pop up shop that gets people in the door, but closes when someone’s on stage. Or, can you have servers providing coffee service during the program?
- Is there an opportunity to make some of these experiences exclusive to VIPs or specific attendee groups?
The Entertainment Imperative: Arts, Activity, Attention at Corporate Events
Our final panelist was J. Damany Daniel, Chief Imaginator at The Event Nerd. He kicked off by reminding #EventProfs it’s, “Our imperative to make experiences matter and I think that that is never more true than in your general session.”
He started with describing deeper ways to incorporate the arts in your event including the significance of authentic local artists, paying artists for their work, and curating experiences that reflect the local culture. For example, in an event they produced for Visit Dallas, they featured Ballet Folklorico, Bandan Koro dancers, a choral performance and the Dallas Black Dance Theater.
“It wasn’t just presenter, presenter, presenter,” he said. “People got to be taken on this really, really beautiful journey throughout the course of the experience that they otherwise would not have had access to.”
He also described adding elements like local DJs, live house bands, and visual arts like custom murals to kick up the energy a notch and create engaging and memorable experiences. He once hired a local, award winning musician to write and perform dramatic string music for a custom walk-on song for a CMO.
Next, he moved on to describe activity and attention. From unexpected candy stations to intentional, locally made SWAG to hot sauce tasting bars, he emphasized tactile, interactive experiences that leave a more lasting impression on attendees. For example, a screen printing station where attendees can select and screenprint their own shirt reduces unwanted SWAG, provides an opportunity for a local screen printer, and creates a stronger memory.
He also touched on the importance of coaching non-professional speakers to deliver polished presentations — an often overlooked way to truly freshen up a general session.
His overall message was hone in on local, authentic ways to create immersive and engaging events that leave a lasting impact on attendees.
“This moment is the only moment that exists,” he concluded. “Even if we get back together tomorrow with the same group of people and the same backdrop and the same things happening, the moment is different. So at this moment, what can you capture? What can you create?”
Watch Full Event: You can watch the full event here by entering your email address. Our panelists shared dozens of more great ideas we’d love to share with you!