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Jonathan Brown

How to Transform Your Corporate Event Into a Compelling Visual Story

This event expert shares techniques to ensure your special events hit home with attendees.

Face-to-face corporate events are supremely effective avenues for brands to deliver large amounts of information to an audience in a condensed time frame. If events are done right, attendees walk away changed--their eyes open to new ideas and possibilities, and with a sense of confidence and loyalty. It’s at these events that the visual design successfully works to amplify the messaging and connect the dots to create a powerful, cohesive experience.

Great visual event design creates a unified set of visual elements that create a wide range of experiences, from the main keynote presentation to an on-site activation or pre- and post-event communications. A great design expands upon an event’s theme, bringing focus and reinforcement, and it amplifies the core message, spurring it to life.

Are you wondering why visual design is such a critical puzzle piece at corporate events? It’s the glue that holds the event together and powers impact and retention. Three days after hearing some tidbits of information, people remember only 10 percent of it, according to Dr. John Medina’s “Brain Rules.” But when you pair that fresh information with a relevant image, learners retain 65 percent of what they hear.

To accomplish the practical and strategic goals they’ve set, event marketers should keep four main elements top of mind when turning their corporate event into a compelling visual story experience:

1. Make the event distinct and memorable.

Corporate events and the life cycle of communications that accompany them contain important messages and initiatives that must stand out and resonate to be heard and remembered. Visual design builds on a company’s brand to augment this messaging.

Too many marketers start from a place of “What should we do?” Instead of beginning with actionable steps, it’s better to first take some time to clarify the ideal strategy for each unique brand and event.

Consider what you’re trying to communicate, tie that together with the theme or the focus of the event, and then identify critical insights that can guide you through utilizing design to amplify the event.

For example, we designed an event with the theme “Converge.” The specific message was one of unification for the 5,000 attendees who came together from every part of the world and a swath of the company for the live event. Our visual communication design was anchored in the company’s corporate brand identity, but was unique enough to give the event special meaning.

Designs that stand out the most begin with team discussions focused on pinpointing key insights that will help amplify communication and deliver ideas succinctly. Starting from a place of clear communication internally gets everyone on the same page moving forward and encourages ideas that will make the most impact.

2. Create consistent brand experience across mediums.

Visual design is the glue that holds the piece together and is essential for creating a consistent brand experience across mediums. Without effective visual design, an event can feel fragmented: Audience members’ in-person experiences won’t match up with the credentials, upfront messaging, or follow-up messaging they receive.

According to research by Lucidpress, brands are four times likelier to experience brand visibility when they present their brand consistently, and consistency can also increase revenue by 33 percent. Visual design helps maintain this desired consistency with ease and clarity. This is not only important for branding, but it can be a logistical necessity for more complex events.

For example, we recently designed an event in Las Vegas that occurred across three locations, each about 15 minutes apart. In such a huge, visually dynamic city, we needed attendees to still feel as though they were part of the brand and immersed in the live experience as they walked from one location to another.

No matter where attendees found themselves, they needed to feel like part of the event. To achieve that, we created a cohesive design that extended and amplified the messaging throughout the event--and the city.

3. Make it capable of translating to a variety of mediums.

An event is not one medium. Instead, it’s multiple mediums working together to create an overarching experience. It encompasses everything an attendee sees from beginning to end--and year-round.

Events include the onstage action like keynotes speakers, physical environmental pieces like signage, digital motion and sound, pre- and post-event communications, social media activity, an app and so on. The visual kit of parts needs to be rooted in the brand as well as the event theme to create an event that engages and entertains at every one of these points.

The event designer has to create a kit of parts that clearly communicates the theme and strategic message but is flexible enough to work on a tiny phone screen as well as it works on a massive stage. As you build that kit, keep all of these mediums in mind.

There’s nothing worse than realizing too late in the game that your event app will be a point of frustration, rather than a pleasant convenience. Seamless consistency helps users engage more easily and have a more positive experience. Reliability can build up trust and loyalty in a brand.

4. Keep it relevant to audience members as a series of connected experiences.

When someone takes the stage, the presentation and messaging must stay anchored in the communications. But within the boundaries of your strategic insight, there’s a huge realm of possibilities of how you can relate to customers, clients, and, of course, conference attendees so they experience an authentic connection. No one wants to spend three days sitting in an audience while corporate messaging is fired at them. They want to genuinely connect and engage with a brand.

A cohesive, but not dull, visual identity is key to engaging the audience throughout. It keeps your event from feeling fragmented, unifying onstage experiences with the credentials, upfront messaging, signage, and follow-up details attendees have already been immersed in. A strong end-to-end visual branding in communications and the live event will engage your audiences and heighten the impact--and staying power--of your message.

Event design is more complex and far-reaching than ever, but marketers who can understand and then implement these tactics will create events that won’t soon be forgotten.

Jonathan Brown is vice president of design at San Francisco-based InVision Communications, an engagement agency that provides best-in-class business communication solutions for sales meetings, user conferences, employee engagement campaigns, product launches and more. He oversees design services and creative excellence for visual executions across all agency and client projects in the digital, motion media, print and experiential spaces. The company is included on the latest Special Events “50 Top Event Companies” list.


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