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How does LAI Live reinvigorate a well-established, must-attend gala in the association industry? With the collaboration of creative minds and a client with a forward-thinking approach. As with most live events, the ASAE Summit Awards have experienced post-pandemic event and attendee adjustments while successfully continuing to sell-out tickets. But it’s not enough to just have a well-attended event, they want people to talk about the experience long after the gala has wrapped. So, from Event Design to the final show production, the LAI Live team delivered on designing and producing a unique attendee experience for the Summit Awards! 

Event Design

To start, we held a LAI Live Event Design Workshop, a custom experience curated around a client’s specific 

event needs. For this client, we gathered key event contributors including the ASAE meetings team, 

their third-party meeting planners, and our LAI Live Producers and Creative Directors. Through a series 

of facilitated activities, the team developed three key benchmarks to build ideas from. 

  • The event should be “cool,” creating anticipation and a desire to come back 

  • Attendees should feel a sense of “belonging” 

  • The vibe should be “fresh” 

Following the event design, the team presented a list of ideas for a cool, fresh event with a sense of belonging. We looked at everything from the attendee flow to the programming, carefully considering which items needed to stay in place for logistical reasons vs. what had been in place because “that’s the way it’s always been”. 

Theme Design

Setting the tone for the event happens well before guests enter the venue. It begins with that first promotional email or invite. For this year’s Summit Awards, we left the Event Design with a clear directive for the kind of visuals we wanted to create that could be summed up in two words: luxurious and minimal. We focused the palette on black, which in color psychology is regularly used by luxury brands to create a sense of drama and exclusivity around product advertising. We combined this palette with modern architectural photography and a highlight of metallic gold tones to communicate exclusive value and visually set the stage for the awards show. 

Scenic & Stage Design

Inspired by the final chosen graphic design, the LAI Live Producers created three concepts, each paying tribute to the fresh, cool, forward-thinking undertone of the angled texture. Since the awards stage carried a small footprint, allowing for more tables in the center court, the scenic stage design challenge was to create a large ‘Wow’ in a small area. Each concept was created using individual panels that could be tiered on the stage or ground, creating a mesmerizing three-dimensional look for the audience, while providing enough usable space for the presenters. With the layered panels, strip LED lighting is placed between each to better highlight the detailed design work. The tiered elements also provided the opportunity for a backstage, hidden entrance, creating a better experience for presenters and award winners to exit and enter the stage without being exposed to the audience. 

Event Attendee Experience

A first impression can make or break an event experience. Historically, the ASAE concept was to “save the impact for the program” and block the view of the main stage until game time. To provide a unique attendee experience we flipped the space allowing guests to walk into the historic National Building Museum and immediately be taken in by its massive beauty, complete with full awards gala branding. This also provided the opportunity for guests to spread into the program area at any time during the event, helping to reduce overcrowding in the reception area. Running in tandem with the new entry experience, the planning team overhauled the check-in experience with an improved table layout, reducing wait times and lines. To create a sense of belonging, ribbons were available for sponsors, first-time attendees, award winners, and others, to show-off how each individual had a place at the event. Regardless of where an attendee ventured, event branding was seen…even in the restrooms with branded mirror clings, soap bottles, and hand towels accented with vases of fresh flowers. 

Program Reccomendations

In the grand scheme of things, the “Program” is only about 45 minutes of the four-hour event, but changing the cadence of the scripting was key in creating a fresh experience. In year’s past, it started with the Anthem, then a video open, followed by an emcee thanking sponsors, remarks from the CEO, into awards, dinner break, ending with a nationally recognized musical guest provided by sponsor, Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation. Recommendations for change included a “cold open” with the event co-chairs starting onstage and in the audience. After some quick back-and-forth banter, our newly added roving camera was used to follow the co-chair through the audience conducting quick interviews with attendees. The faster-paced open was accented with tighter scripting, allowing the award-winner videos to tell the story of those being honored in a more dynamic way. We also engaged attendees by showcasing photos from the reception during the dinner break and having an onsite videographer capture and edit testimonials during the reception, which were user to close the show. This created an immediate ‘Look there I am’ moment for the attendees throughout the program. 

Final Results

The LAI team successfully created a custom event experience filled with welcoming moments of surprise, removing its predictability and delighting guests, all without affecting the overall program and event times! The rave reviews from audience members proved it was a success!