Event Design

Google Xi Spreads Its Magic Across IMEX

Group of people on a trade show floor

Skift Take

Google Xi’s CoLaboratory on the IMEX America show floor was an area that encouraged play, exploration, and experimentation. But this was just the beginning. There were additional Google Xi experiences sprinkled throughout the show.

Google Experience Institute (Xi) partnered with IMEX to create a collective journey toward a more inclusive future for the events and experiences industry. “We invited Xi community members and partner organizations to co-sponsor content and experiences and bring Xi magic into their booths and exhibition spaces,” says Megan Henshall, global events strategic solutions lead for Google and co-lead of Google Xi. “The goal was to have all this connective tissue throughout the show floor. The result was so much more than we expected.”

Activations came to life inside and outside the CoLaboratory. This was experimental and there was some anxiety about whether this would all resonate. “Much of what we brought was nontraditional for a trade show environment. We were talking about human flourishing, combining science, art, and technology to create moments that matter,” Henshall says. “I am thrilled with the way people reacted. Our ideas resonated with many who want to better themselves professionally and personally and push the industry forward,” says Henshall.

Photo credit: IMEX

Google Xi also experimented with partner journeys for the first time this year. Several exhibitors participated and displayed a Google Xi flag at their booth. “There is great potential in offering curated journeys to attendees at a show as complex and wonderful as IMEX,” says Naomi Clare Crellin, founder and CEO of Storycraft Lab. “Event strategists have always been aware of the halo effect of the physical placement of activations and how that impacts traffic on a show floor. We wanted to extend the halo effect beyond physical and spatial proximity to create a connective thread that centers the ideas and the practice of inclusion and innovation.” 

A Colorful Journey

Hello! Destination Management partnered with Google Xi to create a multi-sensory, museum-style activation featuring personalized color world readings.

Lori Weitzner, a textile designer and color expert who understands color’s role in creating a mood, is the author of Ode to Color: The Ten Essential Palettes for Living and Design. Her Ode to Color journey also includes scent and music to help attendees discover the color world that best suits them. The journey culminated with one-on-one color readings with Weitzner.

“Ode to Color helps you discover the color that will help with healing, calming, and feeling good. We also touched upon how color can impact events,” says Weitzner.

The booth was extremely busy the entire show, says Cameron Rust, CSEP, director, brand activation, Hello! Destination Management. “It is very rare for attendees to return repeatedly. That is what happened. We heard from many that they wanted to spend more time on the color journey,” says Rust. “Some even returned with friends.”

Zenus, another IMEX and Google Xi partner had technology in the booth to gauge engagement. Its cameras were set up in other show floor areas to measure attendee sentiment, traffic, dwell time, and demographics. This data is invaluable in learning what resonates with attendees and what can be improved.  In addition, Debut captured success management through the behavioral science lens. 

Debut will compile the Cognitive and emotional resonance. That will be combined with quantitative data from Zenus. Google Xi plans to share these results. 

Google Xi also partnered with Marriott Bonvoy Events, Eventwell, and Perkins & Will to offer a resilience room. This is a dedicated space for recovery from sensory overwhelm. The room, supported by trained staff from Eventwell, served as a calming retreat where attendees could take a break and renew. There were also Nook Wellness Sensory Pods. 

Adding Rituals to the Experience

Rituals, which help create a shared identity, were another focus. Reverend Maya Jaguar, an executive coach, interfaith-ordained reverend, and cultural alchemist at Google X Moonshot, led an opening ceremony complete with drummers. “Rituals are 70,000 years old and are still relevant today. They help tap into one’s creativity and engage all the senses,” says Reverend Jaguar.

Photo credit: IMEX

An inspiring moment took place at the Maritz booth, another Google Xi partner, to close the show. A DJ Graffiti dance party broke out. Then there was a parade led by Jacques Martiquet, an event producer who goes by the moniker “the party scientist,” followed by a circle, hand-in-hand. Many shared what they were most grateful for during IMEX. “That was such a moment,” says Henshall.

Pushing boundaries and exploring the proverbial what-ifs is behind Google Xi. For an event to be truly successful, says Henshall, it must foster belonging, create community, and generate meaning. 

“We’ve designed content that’s unexpected and prompts people to think about themselves, their roles, and their talents differently – if they come away with three to five learnings they can immediately apply, then we’ve done our job,” says Tahira Endean, IMEX’s head of programming.

Storycraft Lab was Google Xi’s IMEX creative agency. It expanded beyond its typical role as community moderators and audience advocates to include the space design, speaker management, programming for the CoLaboratory, as well as the design of the resilience room. It partnered with Xi community members, including Robotproof for production, YKMD for graphics support, Kubify for session capture, and Tim Mousseau of Create Safe for facilitation support.

The plan is to continue to build upon these partnerships in the future. “We are working with Carina (Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX Group) and the rest of the team and plan to use IMEX as our sandbox,” said Henshall.