Once upon a time, in a city … well, smack dab in the middle of the country, Switch was born as an agency producing, for the most part, live events – tradeshows, wholesaler meetings and internal communications. It was our job to activate cool, cutting edge footprints for the iconic and starkly different brands in the Anheuser Busch portfolio. Each unique beer has a different audience, a different message and a different lifestyle to be conveyed.
Today, there is more emphasis on the “experience” than ever, with mobile devices serving as portals into each other’s lives. It’s easy to consume and share the unique and thrilling experiences we encounter – whether the hottest fashion trends at Coachella or a play date with a puppy. It’s amazing to see how these “secondhand” experiences constantly change how we take in the world.
Here at Switch, we produce live events (from internal meetings to charity galas to sponsorship activations) to leverage the profound impact of being part of a real-life, in-person experience. We sat down with Joe Farell, producer on some of the largest B2B events Switch activates, to discuss the powerful impact of physically gathering people – in this case, employees – together in one setting for united messaging, direction and motivation.
What’s the secret sauce for motivating at meetings?
In reality, there are many motivational techniques; there are no ‘magic bullets.’ Each audience, each business culture is different and of course, responds to a given technique differently.
That’s why it’s critical to learn as much as possible about a client’s business culture to ensure you are employing communication techniques that will resonate with and elicit the desired response from the target audience.
How does technical direction all contribute to a meaningful meeting? Does producing a grand show instill a sense of pride in belonging to that organization?
I think it’s important to consider that more and more businesses are becoming more and more physically diffused. The idea of a towering skyscraper as the world headquarters is yesterday’s model. Employees are no longer working at the same physical location and are interacting in person far less often in the workplace than ever. This dynamic means that the rare occasions wherein a company gathers itself together in the same room become very important in the sense that everything about these experiences helps to create a shared identity for the attendees.
I think this is particularly true in the main conference/general session room. Every experience in the main room is a shared experience. The quality of presentation, content and production reflect directly on the corporate image the client wants to establish or enhance. So again, understanding the culture and image the client wishes to convey is the key in developing production ambience and selecting the appropriate technologies to support it.
How do you use feedback from earlier shows to inform the tech direction, content, visuals, etc in the future?
If knowledge of the client’s culture is the key, then the best possible way to gain it is utilizing the experience gained in previous events. Carefully monitoring audience reactions to employed motivational techniques is the best way to refine and enhance them in future applications.
What new technology has been incorporated into the event in recent years?
The biggest thing as far as I’m concerned is the proliferation of LED displays and the increasing sophistication of media servers, some of which are designed specifically for live events. As this technology becomes more and more available in the market, it’s getting cheaper and more flexible. It’s hard to beat the visual impact of large format LED. Through this technology, you can elevate the content of your meetings, both in terms of motion video graphics, staging and audience engagement. (For a great example of how Switch accomplished this, check out “The Constant Motion of Real-Time, On-Site, On-Message Motion Graphics.”)
Seamless production of live events and meetings is a tall order, as the audience might gauge the production and content as a sign of the company’s future goals and internal investment. Because most of the events serve as the one inclusive gathering every year or two, it’s essential to generate momentum, focus and passion that will carry through to the next meeting.