Photos: Line 8 Photography, Myron Hensel Photography, Intel Corp., LeadDog Marketing Group inc.
There's an ethereal element to a live performance – something that inches audience members closer to the edge of their seats and brings them springing to their feet when the final curtain closes. It's why the Rockettes take to the stage of the Radio City Music Hall with their high-kicking wonders, and why people will fork over a few Benjamins just to sit in the nosebleed seats. According to Victor Torregroza, events program manager at Intel Corp., it's also why people come to trade shows such as the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the largest trade show in the United States in every respect and a gathering place where attendees get to lay eyes on cutting-edge technology before it becomes commonplace. "People travel the world to come to these shows," Torregroza says. "At CES, there are more than 170,000 people leaving their homes, families, and jobs to experience your brand. That's why I've always been a huge advocate of the live experience. No matter how much technology we pack into our booth, we know that attendees are still social animals who crave the human element of the face-to-face experience."
As such, Intel has made live presentations the centerpiece of its exhibit experience at CES since 2011, when the company debuted its Spotlight presentation series, which comprises brief in-booth demonstrations and lectures. Delivered live from the show floor, these presentations were intended to give a human face to Intel's often-futuristic technology, Torregroza says. At every edition of CES since, Intel has brought makers, dreamers, and doers from a variety of industries to its booth to share their insight on the rapidly evolving field – and how the company's technology is fueling that revolution.
"Live presentations work. And in our case, since it wasn't broken, we weren't going to fix it. But we were going to evolve our approach in an attempt to make a good thing even better," Torregroza says. Part of that plan to continually push the envelope with Intel's in-booth experience included a three-part directive from Intel executives for the 2015 show: that presentations be unexpected, delightful, and, perhaps most importantly, sharable. Intel knew that for each of the 170,000-plus attendees milling around the show floor, scores of people were following the action from home via social-media posts, blogs, press coverage, and more. So to capture that secondary audience, LeadDog Marketing Group Inc., Intel's production partner for the Spotlight presentations, designed content to be highly sharable, in hopes that members of the media and social influencers would relay the company's messages to consumers who weren't even at CES.
With goals of generating booth traffic, increasing product awareness, and growing attendees' inclination to purchase products with Intel inside, LeadDog issued a global casting call for talent to take the stage inside the Spotlight Theater. "We focused on storytelling first. We wanted to share the most interesting and important aspects of Intel that would appeal to the widest range of consumer," says Katharine Lentini-Judah, group account director and producer at LeadDog. "Some of these stories would be told by a single expert, and some would be discussions among industry insiders who would participate in a larger conversation on trending topics." After culling through potential speakers – including candidates as diverse as Maegan Smulders, the woman who "speed interned" with 10 companies in 112 days, and Intel's in-house wireless charging expert Kumar Chinnaswamy – the LeadDog team presented a finalist pool to Intel executives. They, in turn, selected the speakers who could amplify the message that Intel technology powers amazing experiences.
Writing the Script
Intel might have been recycling its plotline, so to speak, but it still needed to rework the Spotlight presentations to fit its business goals and new product offerings for the 2015 show. One way it would do that was by switching up the format. Unlike previous years, when presentations essentially repeated the same melody in a different key, the 2015 Spotlight presentations would come in three distinct varieties: Fireside Chats, Amplify Technology demonstrations, and Wow Experiences. No matter the format, brevity was paramount, Torregroza says. "The rule of Hollywood is to always leave them wanting more, and we adapted to that rule as well."
Fireside Chats would take topics introduced during CEO Brian Krzanich's keynote address and expound upon them in an informal environment – a move that was in line with a key directive from upper management. Krzanich would be joined by other industry experts for each of the four panel discussions, delving into the proliferation of wearable technology, the redefined computing experience, the acceleration of diversity in the technology workforce, and the rise of the "technology everywhere" trend. "Everything in the booth, from the technology demonstrations to the other presentations, would support the keynote 100 percent. And these chats would be a great opportunity for our CEO to dive deeper into his keynote themes," Torregroza says.
Another newcomer to the 2015 Spotlight presentation lineup was the Wow Experience. "We looked to create experiences that were artistic in nature to capture our audience's attention and increase engagement and interaction on the trade show floor," Lentini-Judah says. These would focus on passion points – music, entertainment, gaming, fitness, fashion, and food – where technology and personal lives collide. "Purposeful, live experiences would be delivered by people who use Intel technology for their personal or professional projects, yielding amazing results," she says.
Of the three genres of presentations, the Amplify Technology demonstrations would be the most product focused. Executives and product evangelists would take to the stage and show the audience at CES how Intel technology is fueling their pursuit of the aforementioned passion points. "These are true overviews of specific new technologies where Intel wanted to create more awareness," Lentini-Judah says.
While the engaging presentations, panel discussions, and product demos on tap would lure droves of attendees on their own, Intel decided to sweeten the deal by offering a bevy of giveaways. These wouldn't be cheap pens or branded golf balls; rather, Intel planned to bestow high-end devices incorporating its technology, including two-in-one laptops, tablet PCs, and wearables such as Basis Health Bands and SMS Audio LLC BioSport Audio earbuds. A CES-specific microsite and social-media posts informed show registrants of the high-tech prizes that they could win by attending a Spotlight presentation. At the conclusion of each session, one lucky attendee would be selected to take home one of the coveted prizes. With speakers booked, presentation styles cemented, and giveaways on order, LeadDog and Intel were ready to head to Las Vegas for CES.
Props and Scenery
As CES attendees arrived at the 100-by-120-foot booth, built by Brampton, ON, Canada-based Taylor Manufacturing Industries Inc. (aka The Taylor Group), they discovered that it was indeed a sight to behold. "I always say you eat with your eyes, and the Intel booth was a visual feast," Torregroza says. "We really wanted to wow attendees with not only the interactive brand experiences, but also the design of the exhibit itself." A half dozen tree-like demo stations morphed into a kaleidoscope of colors, and the Spotlight Theater, with its 45-by-10-foot LCD video board, wowed visitors with innovative digital content whether the theater was empty or full.
Intel has included a theater in some form in its exhibit at CES since 2011, but typically relegated the space to some recessed corridor of the massive booth. "This year, it became the central storytelling forum, used by artists and professionals alike to demonstrate how their businesses have evolved using technology powered by Intel," says Mike Klym, vice president of design for The Taylor Group. The massive theater spanned 60 feet in each direction and practically gob smacked visitors in the face when they ventured into the exhibit. Bleachers flanked the 25-foot-wide, T-shaped stage, framing the LED video board mounted above it and beckoning to attendees to take a seat and simply enjoy the show.
"As each presentation was about to begin, three huge screens dropped down from the ceiling truss," Torregroza says. Silk voile scrim also descended, enveloping the space in a kind of intimacy not usually found on the trade show floor. "In addition, music, lights, videography, photography, and beautiful animation were all choreographed to signal that something was about to happen in the booth," he says. And with the drama dialed up, the featured speakers took to the stage.
On the first day of the show, Krzanich delivered his keynote address on emerging trends in technology. That speech took place in an auditorium off the show floor, but was live streamed in the Spotlight Theater. The next day, Krzanich and fellow executives from a cross section of technology firms seized the stage for the newly unveiled Fireside Chats. In four separate, back-to-back presentations, panel members candidly addressed various keynote-related topics, with the presentations more closely resembling a conversation at a coffee shop than a product pitch in a trade show exhibit.
Audience members might have been intrigued by the insider information dished during the Fireside Chats, but they were utterly slack-jawed during the art-infused Wow Experiences. In one presentation, digital artist Joshua Davis rendered a conceptual drawing of his hand using Intel products. In another, speakers from interactive-design firm Rhizomatiks Co. Ltd. gave audience members a glimpse of their artistic view of technology through a face-mapping tutorial. The third Wow Experience – a demonstration of Open Labs' StageLight music-production software – featured a trio comprising a vocalist, violinist, and producer performing live on stage. "We had the musicians give a live performance, and then the producer demonstrated how he could arrange and edit the performance right there on the stage in real time," Torregroza says.
Even the Amplify Technology product demos were far from infomercials. The demonstration of Intel's RealSense technology, which allows users to control the computer using gestures and voice commands, featured a chef making guacamole. Despite messy hands from slicing veggies and mashing avocados, the chef was able to effortlessly gesture through the recipe instructions on the Food Network App without getting the tablet's screen dirty. At the end of the presentation, servers brought everyone seated in the theater a small sample of the guacamole and some chips, in what Torregroza calls "an Oprah moment."
Another demonstration included models strutting across the stage as if it were a high-fashion catwalk, clad in ivory dresses adorned with spider-like devices (made using a 3-D printer and powered by Intel technology) that sense the wearers' stress levels. In all, five product areas – wireless technology, wearables, RealSense technology, security, and Android products designed to support Intel technology – were demonstrated in the Spotlight Theater.
As each presentation drew to a close, the moment arrived that attendees were waiting for – the giveaways. When the presentation host gave the signal, an "eye in the sky" camera mounted above the stage began panning the crowd. After several seconds, the camera zoomed in on a single face, which was splashed on the video board, and the lucky winner was invited on stage to receive his or her prize. Select attendees took home everything from tablet PCs to earbuds, all of which incorporated Intel technology.
The theater was just one facet of the booth, albeit a large one, Torregroza explains. Following each presentation, staffers escorted attendees to demo areas of interest and engaged them in conversations about the amazing things possible with Intel technology. When the theater wasn't in use, branded video content and a live social-media feed appeared on the giant screen above the stage. Together, the theater and product-demo areas intertwined to create an immersive in-booth experience for attendees, even during intermissions between the live presentations.
Intel's live-presentation strategy not only assisted the company in entertaining attendees hour after hour, but also helped generate results that were nearly as jaw-dropping as the performances that graced the in-booth stage. Through exit surveys, Intel discovered that 58 percent of attendees were more likely to purchase Intel products than they were before they visited the booth (exceeding the company's goal of 46 percent). Furthermore, Intel found that 57 percent of attendees were more aware of the capabilities of its products as a direct result of their booth visit (besting its goal of 50 percent). Moreover, 98 percent of booth visitors expressed interest in Intel's products, and 70 percent reported imminent buying plans with those anticipated expenditures valued at $3.2 million, outpacing goals of 94 percent, 50 percent, and $2.9 million, respectively.
What's even more impressive than those sales-related stats, however, is that Intel fostered meaningful interactions with 84 percent of CES attendees over the course of the four-day trade show. Sizzle Awards judges hailed that metric as "simply amazing," and attributed the success to the wealth of audience-appropriate content. "I loved that the whole booth was about storytelling and experiences," one judge said. Plus, Intel executed the Spotlight presentations with a far-from-blockbuster-sized $300,000 budget.
Those results are not only tantamount to a minutes-long standing ovation but also proof positive of the power of live performances. That aura may be unquantifiable, but Intel leveraged the potential of presentations to produce cold, hard results. It just goes to show that if the magic of theater works on a Broadway stage, then it can sparkle on the trade show floor as well. E