Winners of Hidden Gems have been named! This brand new award program, coproduced by Cramer and Event Marketer magazine, shines a spotlight on the best b-to-b events for small and mid-sized audiences. Event Marketer recruited a premier roster of judges to score and choose the winners across 11 categories—spanning every type of b-to-b event. With hundreds of submissions, the competition was fierce.
“This program uncovers the hidden gems—the events and teams that are pushing boundaries of b-to-b events,” says TJ Martin, managing partner of Cramer.
“Recognizing the industry’s best, smaller b-to-b events is long overdue,” adds Event Marketer group editor and publisher Jessica Heasley. “We salute this inaugural class of Hidden Gems!”
We’ve gone over the winning submissions with a fine-tooth comb and noticed some reoccurring themes running through the best-of-the-best. What’s the difference between a good event and an exceptional event? How do you push your event strategy and experience design to execute something truly unique, powerful, and memorable?
These four Hidden Gems approaches give us valuable insight into these important questions.
1. Embrace the location of your event upfront or transform with intention
When a venue choice can be strategically chosen in the earliest stages and incorporated into the experience design, magic happens.
Often event planners choose locations years before an event. Transforming a space to align with the experience’s theme can feel forced and often requires a lot of work. It’s better to establish the experience’s theme and then select a venue or location that adds layers of sensory experiences on a given theme.
The Ford Motor Company wanted to bring every attendee inside their brand for a dealer event, so they literally brought them “Inside the Oval”. The oval stage design set within the oval room brought everyone physically inside the Ford logo. To test drive the latest models, they went to the speedway and staged the event in an oval. This immersive execution helped earn the Best Overall B2B event in the competition.
Uber Technologies earned runner up for the Best VIP Event for its Uber Elevate Summit, designed to discuss the future of ride sharing in the sky. The venue was an exclusive and intimate location perched atop the Hollywood Hills where every design element was about gazing upward at the sky.
The environmental design created the vast openness of an aircraft hangar, and the stage resembled that of a jet engine.
Don’t overlook the efficiency of a built-in environment like movie theaters. Guardian Protection broadcast a sales meeting from a central ballroom to 12 different theaters across the country. With popcorn in hand, salespeople engaged in virtual trivia games to create team building and a sense of a national event.
19 Crimes Wines chose the legendary Alcatraz for the product launch ‘Night of Infamy.’ The prison theme honored the brand’s nod to the criminals who were shipped to Australia’s penal colonies in the 1800’s. Period prison actors, prison silverware, décor, traditional Irish band, and celebration added to the atmosphere of being ‘banished.’
Zerto, who won for best recognition event, took their top performers to St. Kitts and immersed their employees in the local community. In addition to planning an event at an outstanding tropical paradise, Zerto was intentional about incorporating corporate social responsibility into their program. Guests participated in a community service event to assemble and deliver backpacks filled with supplies for a local primary school.
Dick’s Sporting Goods took home a Best General Session for their Dick’s Outdoor University. They recognized that as a leading outdoor sporting retail store that going low-tech and taking their conference outside was the way to go. In between doses of vitamin D and educational sessions, the two-day meeting was an outdoor fantasy adventure.
2. Bold scale, bold color, bold feast for the eyes
Just because an event is “small” doesn’t mean you can’t create something colossal for the senses.
Genesis, winner of the best product launch event, orchestrated a fashion show during the New York Auto Show and took over the Hudson Yards. The 30-foot tall inflatable handbag, lipstick, and headphones certainly made a statement as a backdrop for its new Mint electric concept car. Genesis conveyed big luxury lifestyle accessory effectively.
Ulta Beauty, which won for Best Employee Engagement Event, relied on bold color to make a straight-forward stage pop with use of hot pink, purple and orange through its graphics and lighting.
Benefit Cosmetics took over the original Johnny Rockets restaurant in LA and covered it in hot pink for a product launch for a roller eyeliner. Can you say Barbie’s Dream Diner?
Experian Services Corp. embraced an environmental design fantasy dictated by our inner child and that which had the greatest power in youth —sugar. Using human-sized gummy bears, ice cream sandwiches that doubled as coffee tables, the gum ball rainbow set included giant coloring books.
T-Mobile, runner up for best recognition event, went all in with their brand color to design Club Magenta, with staging, LED walls, custom T-Mobile scenic buildouts, and tons of magenta lights. Their CEO even dyed his shoulder length locks magenta for the event.
Though minimalism has been embraced as a trend by some, it’s still not by most. We respond to dazzle. It anchors attendees in the moment that creates deeper connection to your brand and content. And it’s hard to forget.
3. Create Real Content Connections
Making brand messaging memorable to an audience remains one of the most coveted outcomes for an event’s ROI.
Dell took home the prize for best General Session for their Global Partner Summit which was themed “Roar.” In between choir performances of Katy Perry’s anthem and a few Lion King hits, presenters were capped at ten minutes, fostering strong focus from the audience. Seeing one of their Senior Vice Presidents dressed as Slash from Guns N’ Roses perform “Welcome to the Jungle” on stage was a highlight.
Blockchains executed the opposite of simple, winning the Best Product Launch Award. Inspired by his 9-year-old daughter’s question of what has he done to change the world, Blockchains founder Jeffrey Berns, bought 67,000 acres of land in the Nevada desert to build a model city that functions completely on blockchain-powered technology. The New York Launch event used 3D, holograms, and other state-of-the-art tech tools to immerse attendees in a virtual experience of his vision.
Not every event requires a big budget. LPL Financial wanted their staff to remember the company’s new mission statement. Writing the mission statement on postcards facilitated memory. Six months later, these postcards arrived in the mail and acted as a reminder to keep the new mission top of mind.
The science behind the connections we make with messages shows that creative approaches can carry beyond what budgets can.
4. Align with outside artists for cultural relevance
An established artist or creative expression of a brand’s message can amplify a brand and engage audiences in new ways.
Who doesn’t love Bad Lip Reading? Well, everyone loves this comic You Tube sensation. The team behind Bad Lip Reading spoofed blockbuster movie dialogue that showcased key points about the new Galaxy S10. Samsung took home two Hidden Gem Awards for Best Road Show and Best Sales Meeting for this hysterical training event.
The right artist attaches a brand’s identity to a cultural movement or trend. The best example of this is Instagram’s commission of set designer Es Devlin for an activation at the Cannes Film Festival. Guests experienced the illusion of floating over a reflecting pool, surrounded by a multilayered projection of a sculpture of a city that told of the power of a good story.
TriNet, a human resources software company wanted to shift its message to be more about people, less about technology, thus the impetus for their ‘People Matter’ event. Annie Liebowitz captured the photography of subjects that were displayed on touchable surfaces that activated. Guests were surprised when each subject dramatically appeared live from behind the display to tell their story in person.
Yext presented their keynote as a musical to align with their Broadway location in New York. Each musical number was scripted to provide attendees with key insights about Yext leveraging the talents of professional actors to entertain and inform simultaneously.
See the list of Hidden Gems winners and the runners up.
Hidden Gems brings to life some of the big ideas, big creative and big thinking—shared by the sector’s smaller events. Congratulations to all of the inaugural winners. And get ready for 2020.The second Hidden Gems Call for Entries opens in June.