Encore showcased how intentional event design and high-level production can create inclusive experiences that help give attendees a sense of belonging.
Encore showcased its creative process and production capabilities with the “Continuing the Journey BREAK FREE” activation at IMEX America. The core theme addressed was embracing empathy to create a sense of belonging throughout the attendee’s journey.
This was Encore’s second BREAK FREE activation after showcasing a different setup and content at last year’s show. The experience saw engagement from over 900 participants.
The immersive theater experience was born from a partnership with IMEX. It featured themes of creating connections and promoting collaboration. The intention was to elicit an emotional response and meet the needs of stakeholders.
The Call for Inclusivity
The overall theme revolved around human nature, which is IMEX’s talking point for 2023. “Through working with IMEX, we really wanted to showcase how Encore is inclusive and that we’re aware of what needs to be included,” said Zac Phillips, associate director, project management at Encore.
The experience began by telling the story of the challenges faced by event professionals working to produce an event. “We took a lead from our actual employees and the team that was involved in producing this,” he said. “I feel this really translated to our attendees as well as our clients.”
From there, the experience transitioned to three animated “vignettes”. These showcased possible challenges and how a proactive approach can help address issues and create a more inclusive experience.
The entire experience and design took roughly six months to complete. Encore’s creative team conceived the space, the experience, and all content. The main video message filled a 12-ft. high, 180-degree LED screen.
“We wanted to try to affect a lot of people and people that might not be affected normally,” he said. “We wanted to showcase that we can help with that.”
Phillips described several aspects of the immersive theater experience that promoted inclusivity, including the acknowledgment of various issues attendees might be experiencing, such as blindness, color blindness, or hearing impairment. “We tried to address these issues in the video that was displayed,” he said. As a result, the video featured closed captioning and audio descriptive features.
“We tried to basically cover all of the senses,” he said. “That’s something that we try to do at every event that we are involved with.”
The Power of Pause
The ample space was alongside the Inspiration Hub, the home of IMEX’s education. Aside from the video-powered activation, the space hosted networking and became a stage for conducting interviews. It also allowed attendees to experience a moment of pause. This was an impactful element of the experience as it allowed attendees to embrace a moment of calm amid the bustling IMEX event floor.
“It featured multiple activations happening simultaneously within the space and I think that gave people some time and solace away from the main event floor,” Phillips said. “You’re on the event floor but you don’t feel like you are,” said Kate Walsh, vice president of employee experience at Hello! Destination Management, who was interviewed on-site about her experience.
The sizeable wrap-around screen and isolation from the show floor allowed attendees the chance to observe the content presented during the video presentation with more clarity as the theater’s design successfully eliminated outside distractions. This is especially significant when considering 59% of BREAK FREE attendees surveyed at the booth said attendee engagement is a struggle, while 70% agreed that technology is crucial to cultivating engagement.
The booth also featured a fireside chat area, a lounge area, and a hologram activation that was a part of the enclosure. “We were giving people a lot of options while taking them through the journey and showing them some of what Encore has to offer.”
Sustainability was also an important consideration when designing the activation. Encore used its mobile technology to obtain attendee feedback, which meant the BREAK FREE booth complied with IMEX’s zero-waste initiative.
“We used QR codes that were embedded within some of our videos that we displayed so that we were not handing out extra pieces of paper and we’re not using up a lot of those vital resources,” Phillips said, adding, “We use our technology to really stay sustainable.”
Encore found other ways to keep the activation’s carbon footprint low. It used water bubblers instead of water bottles and refrained from handing out swag. For the build, it used pipe and drape instead of carpet or built walls.
The themes and material presented at the exhibit seemed to spark inspiration among attendees, as 94% of those surveyed said they believed it was possible to make an environmental impact by modifying the materials used during an event. In comparison, 76% said they sometimes or never consider carbon emissions when selecting event venues.