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Reinventing An Approach To Event Design

CREATIVITY Caesars Entertainment is partnering with the Event Design Collective to elevate the event experience.

Originally published in The Meeting Professional – January 2020

BY ANNETTE GREGG, CMM, MBA

In early 2019, Caesars Entertainment announced an unprecedented partnership (tinyurl.com/CaesarsDesign) with the Event Design Collective (EDC). Nearly a year later, the global entertainment company has held four sold-out trainings with a waiting list for the 2020 classes. Lisa Messina (MPI Southern California Chapter), vice president of sales for Caesars Entertainment, describes the results of the first phase of the partnership and what they anticipate for the future.

The Meeting Professional: What is Caesars’ goal in partnering with EDC?

Lisa Messina: Our goal is to certify 1,000 meeting industry professionals including Caesars Entertainment sales and convention services teams as Certified Event Designers (CED) by 2022. This 36-month partnership includes an immersive training and coaching program through sponsored summits and industry events planned for Las Vegas. Our vision is to take the stakeholder alignment and event design process to the next level. In a general sense, knowledge of the event design process allows us to better understand our clients and better execute their events and meetings.

TMP: What’s been most exciting for you in the first year of the partnership?

LM: It’s been exciting to see adoption of the design principles, both by our Caesars team and the client participants. We all really want to take this approach—putting the meeting attendee at the core of our design—but it’s hard to do with our busy jobs. It means we need to reinvent our approach from an emphasis on tactical implementation to one of understanding the stakeholders first. Our internal sales and operations teams are beginning to use the language on some of our larger client events, particularly the clients that are holding events at CAESARS FORUM.

TMP: What helped this project be so successful?

LM: One of the keys to internal adoption has been an executive sponsor in Michael Massari (MPI Sacramento/Sierra Nevada Chapter), our chief sales officer. Fellow member of the MPI International Board of Directors Amanda Armstrong (MPI San Diego Chapter), assistant vice president of global travel and meetings for Enterprise Holdings, had just finished her EDC certification and gave a strong testimonial of the program to Mike. Soon after he met directly with founders of the Event Design Collective, Roel Frissen and Ruud Janssen. The scope and length of the partnership required support at Mike’s level, and he’s been a strong advocate all along the way.

TMP: In addition to training 1,000 internal and external stakeholders with the EDC, how will you measure the success of this partnership?

LM: It’s already been successful in so many ways! The excitement around the workshops has been so encouraging—we have a waiting list for our 2020 courses already. I’ve seen my sales team having more empathy for clients as a result of the stakeholder mapping exercise. We’ve also started some client conversations about redesigning some future experiences, undoubtedly deepening our relationship with these returning customers. We are starting to track in our CRM when we are able to have this richer design dialogue with clients and will be able to see how this converts to sales in years two and three. Our team has also been able to present our learnings at industry events like the Corporate Event Marketing Association annual meeting and the Event Marketing Summit, reaching new audiences beyond the meeting industry (see sidebar).

As experience designers, we at MPI are thrilled that major industry corporations such as Caesars Entertainment are investing in training to craft events with more intentional thought around the stakeholder. Messina says Caesars believes the sponsorship of this education is their giveback to the industry, to help all event professionals level up in event design knowledge.

“When you learn together, you stay together,” says Janssen, sharing his excitement about the progress to date. “The collaborative three-day EDC program allows the team and clients of Caesars to have a common language to explore event design together. Exploring past and future events from multiple perspectives deepens the relationship and trust measurably. We see it happen in real time during every program.”

Visit the MPI blog to hear more from Messina: how she encouraged adoption internally and the mistakes she learned from during the early phases (tinyurl.com/MessinaDesign).

You can also join our online Experiential Marketers and Designers Community (mpi.org/membership/communities). And if you’re not an MPI member, learn more about joining and the value of belonging to this community.

If you’re ready to take the next step in experience design, enroll in one of our upcoming Event Design Certificate courses today: mpi.org/education/certificate-programs.

Each month during 2020, Annette Gregg, CMM, MBA, senior vice president of experience for MPI, interviews MPI members to highlight some of the best examples of event experience design (or user-centered design) across the globe. Look for the reports in every issue of The Meeting Professional.

 

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A More Impactful Event

We spoke with Reina Herschdorfer (MPI Oregon Chapter), director of marketing, national meetings and events for Caesars Entertainment, about putting Event Design Collective (EDC) learnings into action.

Some of the key characteristics of experience design are creating experiences that are immersive, participatory, personalized and authentic. How has Caesars used EDC knowledge to demonstrate these characteristics?

“In March, we will officially open CAESARS FORUM, a 550,000-square-foot conference center on the Las Vegas Strip featuring the two largest pillarless ballrooms in the world,” Herschdorfer says. “Since breaking ground in July 2017, we have built a strong marketing campaign and have gained a lot of traction. We are now getting ready for the opening of CAESARS FORUM in March and are literally taking our campaign on the road for six weeks prior to our opening event.

“During the CEMA Summit, Caesars Entertainment’s Meetings and Events Marketing team held a two-day EDC session to design the grand opening experience. We set up across from show registration. At first, being in the center with everyone walking by, we felt vulnerable. But this proved to be a benefit as participants collaborated with us throughout the conference, and ultimately the event we designed will be that much more impactful. Using the Event Canvas enabled us to go deeper into the design, leveraging more perspectives beyond simply identifying the event goals. We had many different perspectives and looked through each stakeholder’s lens. We are not ready to share our plans as we have not launched this yet. Invitations are going out right after the new year. The experience will be impactful and will include immersive, localized elements that are quintessentially Las Vegas.”

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