How Mixing Retro Approaches with Cutting-Edge Technology Engages Audiences

November 28, 2017

Schae Kane

As Strategy Director at Freeman, Schae Kane helps show organizers and associations better understand their audiences and what they value, using this information to design an experience that successfully bridges the gap between audience needs and business goals.

Have you noticed how certain styles always come back? Retro trends eventually circle around and become a hot commodity once again – from vintage board games to mid-century architecture and even acid-wash jeans (yes, really). And while retro trends may start out in consumer spaces, sooner or later they translate to the business-to-business space as well.

What does this mean for event planning? That it’s essential for event organizers to skillfully weave classic elements with modern technology as part of a comprehensive strategy to create unforgettable experiences for target audiences.

But why is this necessary, and how do you do it?

The limitations of technology

We live in a digital society where there’s more computing power in the average smartphone than in the computers that sent men to the moon. Technology has enabled connections and conversations all over the world with just a click of a button. And chances are, every one of us has googled something at least once in the last 24 hours.

Yet, as advanced and cool as technology can be, it’s no replacement for genuine, face-to-face experiences.

One would think this is fantastic news for event organizers, and it is – except for one major caveat: Face-to-face experiences must still bring value to attendees and vendors.

Fortunately, to do this, organizers don’t have to blow up the event in its current form. Nor do they have to make a binary choice between in-person interactions or all-digital interfaces. Instead, they can blend the two to create an immersive, mind-blowing experience unlike any other. The secret is to embrace a layered approach.

How to perfect layering

The idea behind layering is to strategically blend technology with personal components to create multi-faceted interactions.

For example, consider first-timer orientations. These are nothing new in the event space and many organizers have eliminated these gatherings even while others continue to embrace their value. Either choice can be right – depending on the audience.

However, the most effective orientations incorporate more than just an in-person component or just a digital approach. Instead, they layer the appropriate tools to deliver the right value for the right people:

  • Pre-event online education can provide newcomers with the basics of the event: details on registration, lodging, schedules, how to download the app and so on.
  • On-site orientation can take the event introduction process deeper, including face time with the leaders of the organization, discussions around why attending the event is so important, desired key takeaways from the event and information on where to find support on-site.
  • Ongoing digital communications can provide key reminders, schedule updates, information about VIP opportunities and a variety of other messaging to target specific goals for specific attendees.

Now the event has a name, face and personality that translates to a tangible relationship and hopefully ongoing conversations that add value to everyone involved.

Similarly, education-focused conferences have traditionally offered lecture-style learning environments and still do. But new formats, like the upside-down classroom, collaborative spaces (think small group huddles on bean bag chairs versus standard classroom settings) and second screen technology have added new dimensions to learning – and with it, a whole new world of opportunities.

Overcoming challenges

Whereas for years, events have been stuck in traditional methods of engagement, organizers now have access to a variety of tools that add layer upon layer to the experience. However, this also brings certain challenges, such as:

  • How to manage the sheer quantity of information to be communicated
  • How to increase engagement in new, different and sometimes untested ways
  • How to attract younger generations without coming off as inauthentic
  • How to offer clear on-site navigation that effectively moves people from space to space

Digital tools, deployed appropriately, can help alleviate these headaches and enable organizers to do more with their events.

By perfectly layering cutting-edge tools with tried-and-true methods of engagement, the entire event landscape can be elevated to create truly extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. After all, there’s nothing old-fashioned or trendy about wanting to build lasting memories.


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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.