ILEA Live: Bringing Together Creative Event Professionals from All Industries
The International Live Events Association (ILEA)’s annual conference, ILEA Live, was held Aug. 16-18 in Denver, Colo. The event, and the association itself, brings together creative event professionals from across all industries.
The common theme across all these event disciplines is the need to provide transcendent, immersive experiences. People today are looking for more than just an old-school event with a single screen and classroom-style lecture presentation. They want their event to stand out from the crowd and are looking for ways to turn that idea into reality.
The featured keynote presenter was Chipotle Mexican Grill’s William Espey, who almost single-handedly developed the messaging that ultimately propelled the brand to fame. Espey shared his secret for brand success — to deliver an experience that temporarily makes them forget who they are, or how they think of themselves, or in his words, “transcendental motivation”.
Two other keynotes featured Brent Mather of Gensler Architecture, who gave a presentation on architectural design that was interesting but failed to connect the dots to event design elements, and George P. Johnson’s Rodrigo Espinosa. Espinosa’s presentation focused on customer experience and brand positioning, covering cross-industry trends and the shifts in event mindsets.
Espinosa shared that Salesforce has mapped out 70 different personalized journeys for attendees of its annual Dreamforce conference, which correspond to various personas or roles. This helps ensure that every attendee feels special, and receives the right content for their individual needs.
At heart, marketing and branding is about building connections.
“There is no B2B or B2C marketing,” Espinosa said. “It’s all human-to-human marketing. People are the new marketing channel.”
ILEA Live offered a wide variety of sessions and topics. I chose to focus on creativity, selecting sessions that I thought would spark my imagination or help me overcome creative blocks, but there were also many sessions with practical applications.
The Event Wars general session divided people up into teams and leveraged everyone’s knowledge to create an event production schedule. The Haute Dokimazo workshop gave participants the ability to build their own agenda and learn from their peers. There were sessions on sustainability, on fundraising, virtual reality, sales and eSports. A little something for everyone.
Between sessions, attendees could talk to sponsors in the Tech Zone, get headshots taken or just connect with each other.
Many attendees come to ILEA Live for the networking. The association offers single day and single day keynote only passes for a reduced fee, with workshops and the Esprit Awards gala also available independently. It’s a model designed to appeal to the many small business owners and self-employed event planners, producers and suppliers who make up the audience and may not be able to justify a full conference fee but still want to interact with their peers.
“This community is amazing,” said one long-time conference attendee. “I’ve made so many friends that I can call upon any time I need help or advice.”
That networking was on display at the opening event in the History Colorado Museum, where attendees listened to the band, ate and drank to their hearts’ content, and perused the few exhibits that were open. My only regret was that many of the exhibits were closed, likely to avoid any food or beverage spills. I didn’t purchase a ticket to the Esprit Awards Gala Dinner but from the photos and headaches (and slightly lower attendance the following morning) I’d say it too was a great success.
Emcee Nigel Collin engagingly delivered presentations, introductions and quips to get the audience to interact. The session on creativity that he and Richard Foulkes delivered/facilitated was packed, and not just because of the Australian and British accents. Check out the duo’s Thought-Cast podcasts for somewhat humorous takes on serious topics.
In the final session, Collin described a journey across Australia that he had made in search of unexpected creativity.
“We are all a lot more creative than we give ourselves credit for and we’re all smarter than we think we are,” he said in closing.
It’s time to give ourselves the credit we deserve — only then can we truly embrace change and help move the events industry forward.
ILEA Live 2019 will be held Aug. 8-10 in Minneapolis, Minn.
For more information on ILEA and membership, visit the new ILEA Hub.