Pulling off a successful conference takes a village. Months before your audience walks through the doors, the lights dim, and speakers take the stage, a design team is working hard to build the event's brand ecosystem. From mission, purpose, and messaging to colors, type, and graphic marks—the foundation that you build and invest in over the life of the event—makes the difference between a hit and a flop. When it came to putting together our first-ever benefits conference, we knew we had to start from zero and methodically design a system that would stand up to the rigor of our teams and the expectations of our attendees. From choosing the right colors and fonts to creating animated presentations, our team went above and beyond to create an event to be remembered. There were bumps. There were opportunities to pivot. Ultimately, there was a champagne-popping level of success. I'm biased, but I credit that to the creative blood, sweat, and tears we poured into it along the way.
The creative team's goals for the event
From the start, we wanted to create a cohesive, conceptually rich, and visually appealing experience that would be valuable and enjoyable for attendees. To achieve these goals, the team put together a comprehensive event kit that included everything from the color scheme and branding to the mission and purpose of the event. Working closely with our event production partner, we made sure to think through every step of the event journey and experience.
Building the identity and carrying it through to the finish line
We started with an event-specific creative brief that allowed creative and marketing to articulate and align on the challenges, goals, and needs. From there we established smaller, fast-moving working groups to tackle topics such as event naming, copywriting, and guiding principles. Once we landed on “Movement,” we let those decisions infuse with our aesthetic decisions such as color, typography, image treatment, and sonic branding (I could write an entire additional post on the value of sonic branding).
Once we established the foundation, implementation began. Different members of the team dove into stress testing and building out visual elements for the RSVP marketing push—because what good is a hot event if nobody knows about it or attends? From email marketing to event web development, to an accompanying digital marketing push, we set out to increase awareness and drive responses. This is also the moment we began to really build advocates across our sales organization and leverage their 1:1 client relationships.
As the event marketing was in full-swing, we also worked very closely with our production partners to build out all the environment and experiential assets: the event space, IRL points of interaction, swag, way-finding, and booth experiences. Working with our marketing partners, this was the key moment for creative to help "sell" the experience and bring the event to life and gain leadership sign-off on final elements.
This leaves only a few more steps before the big show. The actual content creation for the speakers and sessions. Creative and marketing teams worked closely to ensure we weren't just telling the right message but also amplifying the storytelling. Fast-forward through the late nights and final few weeks before the event and we arrived in Chicago for the build-out and run-throughs. Because we worked closely with a production agency, the creative teams quickly adjusted to content capture and real-time content marketing. To keep attendees excited, make those who couldn't attend a bit jealous, and maintain a voice in the market, we embarked on a sprint to create day-before materials to drive enthusiasm and day-of content, to share glimpses of the event.
OMG. It's done—but not actually. Now was the biggest test of the creative system we built out; the post-event promo and on-demand content. Leveraging the assets we had been building and investing in along the way, we created our final set of creative assets. This included pushes to the on-demand session videos, recap content, sizzle reel to drive interest in next year's event, and, finally, clean up our design files so they make sense to us in a few months when we dive into the next one.
When it comes to designing a conference, there are a few key lessons that we learned from Movement 2022.
- Invest in the design from the beginning. From the very beginning, it was clear that we wanted Movement 2022 to be a visually stunning event and conceptually sound. We wanted the event to feel cohesive and put together, and we wanted the branding to be on point and ready for the unexpected.
- Have a clear vision for the event. When we started planning Movement 2022, we had a clear vision for it. We knew what we wanted the event to achieve, and we had a clear idea of the type of event we wanted to create. This made it much easier to make decisions about and to stay on track.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. Putting together an all-day conference is a big undertaking, and we quickly realized that we couldn't do it alone. We expanded our working teams and streamlined stakeholder communication to move fast. This was invaluable in making sure that the event was a success.