A picture's worth 1000 words, so let us tell you the story behind this one! Last winter, Hello! Arizona Destination Management created an intimate reception and dinner for the top 75 sales team members of a large transportation company. The dinner was held at a resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.
This event was a part of a yearly conference and was designed to make attendees feel like they were exclusive VIPs, allowing them to network and relax amidst the hectic conference schedule. Of all of the events at the conference, this was the most important to our client because the event had a history of poor turnout and short dwell time for the attendees. At the conference, multiple companies host receptions and dinners each night, and there is fierce competition to outspend and out-wow each other to retain as many attendees as possible for the duration of the event. This gave us leverage to really infuse our experience producing other events both in Scottsdale and at our other offices. We make a point to chart the attendee experience from reception to dinner to after party, revealing more of the party each time. This keeps things fresh and attendees more likely to stay to see what else will pop up. The client wanted high attendance and long length of stay, so we used that to govern every decision we made about the program. With our objective in place, we began to look at the physical parameters of the event.
One of the things that Arizona, and Scottsdale specifically is known for is the beautiful climate, perfect for holding small to medium size outdoor events. Outdoor space is of course at a premium in regions with favorable climates, and the client was fortunate enough to have booked a partially-enclosed tent space that the hotel has on-premises for every year of the event. This clear-span, clear topped tent offered beautiful views of the Arizona sky and surrounding desert, without fully exposing attendees to the outside environment. We planned to use the natural beauty of the Arizona desert to elevate the experience with minimal décor to accent the space.
Unfortunately for the client, this space was removed prior to the program, and there was no other outdoor space available for their event. In fact, the only room available at the resort was a manger. Wait… that's another story…. The only room available was a small, short, unriggable (so unimaginable that it isn't even a word!) ballroom. The bold carpet in this ballroom is done in Native American and Mexican patterns, which would clash with traditionally elegant decor. We needed to create a concept that would compel guests to attend and stay. Something voyeuristic but exciting, themed to the Arizona setting but in an elevated "only available right here and now" experience.
We decided to base the colors on the compelling vistas you get when you look at light refracting onto the copper and mica particles of the sand, as well as the sun's golden rays reflecting on brightly colored Native American buildings and flower fields. We called the event "Mixed Metallic at Sunset." Ambiguous? Yes. Thought provoking? Yes. Do you know what to expect? No! We worked with the client to develop the messaging for this event to paint a story of looking at Arizona through a different lens: modern, with notes of tradition, a personification of the dance created as the sun sets over the dunes and vegetation. This was a way for the client to instantly grab the attention of attendees who were choosing which event to attend.
The Décor + The Venue
Back to the venue! We already mentioned that it was a fairly small space and that we couldn't hang truss from the ceiling. From the early onset into the design process, we knew that any décor we used in the room needed to be flat to leave as little footprint as possible. We used this to our advantage, by creating a bold statement with chocolate drape and crystal swags. The swags were used to separate the reception from the dinner, allowing attendees to see inside, but not entirely. This left a very airy and open feel that maximized the space and coordinated with the theme. We kept the linen, drape and crystals light, airy or full of sequins in earth or neutral tones. This upped the elegance factor and actually allowed the carpet to play a starring role, taking on the look of the Arizona desert awash in golden sunset tones. Pops of color were also incorporated in the centerpieces, which incorporated local wildflowers mixed with colorful traditional tropical stock.
We used up-lights around the perimeter to give a sunset look and add dimensionality to the drape, and were also able to hang most of the lighting the client was bringing in on existing "lighting bars" in soffits. This prevented us from needing an additional four bulky truss units that were brought in for us to place at the last minute. We were able to tuck the two lighting systems that did not fit on a bar onto truss uprights in the corners in otherwise unused space.
The resulting event had record-breaking turnout and guest stay. By keeping it authentic but fresh, we were able to bring a piece of Arizona to the convention, and hopefully taught a few people what an Arizona-themed party can really be like.