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One fall day in November, an insurance company welcomed 300 of its top performers to a closing night gala at the Four Seasons Resort in Orlando, Florida. This annual event is the capstone of the company’s annual conference, and is intended to reward the incentive winners while also motivating them to achieve their next years’ financial goals in order to qualify again next year.

THE CHALLENGE

This year’s event was unique in that it was onsite at the hotel. Up until this year, this evening event consisted of an off-property event where attendees were transported to a world-class venue for an exclusive party. However, this year the event needed to be held onsite at the hotel for the first time ever, while living up to the WOW factor of past years. 

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THE CONCEPT

We knew that in order to truly wow these attendees, we needed to transform the space. Although the brand new ballrooms had exquisite details, the attendees had seen those details the entire week during each daily meal function. We weren’t able to build upon the existing visuals in the room because they had become stale. We knew we needed to have a concept that played upon the caché of the hotel while creating an elevated experience that transported attendees to another time and place. So, we looked to the hotel for inspiration. Since the client’s big selling point for this conference was that it was being held at the Four Seasons, and being an event that took place in the Fall, we developed an elegant "Autumn in the Park" theme that allowed us to vastly change the visual scape of the space while highlighting a central theme of the hotel.

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THE DÉCOR

We love this client because she’s all about the visual contrast in an event, and expects us to create something unexpected from something expected. She’s very in tune to texture and color and how it plays with a table setting, so we knew we needed to elevate this look over what someone would typically associate with Fall or harvest décor. We chose to anchor the event with a 100′ wide blended projection screen. This was a huge visual departure that covered the entire long side of the ballroom. It was on this screen that we projected larger-than-life fall imagery with fluttering leaves and glistening sunsets that transitioned from day to sunset and then to twilight. It was a wonderful element that gave the event a tempo, transitioning from day to night. Lighting and audio supplemented this element to give the audience the appearance that they were outside in a park.

When it came time to choose a textural and color palate, we knew we needed to include traditionally autumnal colors like orange, gold and saffron, but needed to put a high-end spin on them to avoid looking "harvest" or "rustic." To accomplish this, we used turquoise as a primary color palate upon which to complement with the traditional colors. Linens ranged in a variety of contrasting organic and geometric patterns that both offered a direct literal translation of leaves and an abstract hint at the theme. This allowed us to focus on the foliage to bring the most deliberate Fall reference. We kept the floral decadent and over-the-top, with billowing branches of over-saturated fall leaves mixing with dripping exotic flowers in fall hues. To contrast the very traditional look of the centerpieces, we added a modern touch with cool translucent turquoise vessels.

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The table designs were numerous to echo the many unique colors and shapes of fall leaves. Some featured communal wooden tables, traditionally thought to be rustic, but mixed with rich velour chairs and ornate chargers. Other tables featured linen that replicated fallen leaves in a supple jewel-tone. This color play was echoed by the screen as it slowly morphed from all-gold leaves to crisp blue evening sky.

THE STAGE

In addition to the screen, which we used as a living dinner entertainment component, the client wanted a surprise name act performance after dinner. Being a surprise, she wanted the stage’s true purpose for the national act to be concealed from view until after dinner. Also, everyone needed to have an up-close experience; no one could be in the back. Understandably, this created a big challenge for us. How could the stage be close to everyone but also not visible until after dinner? To satiate this need, we created a "center bandstand" in the very middle of the event that became part of the visual design of the space. This became a very organic space for the CEO to address the attendees, who were all intimately close to the stage. We treated the fascia of the stage with dark espresso wood slats and draped the stage with autumnal vines to create a sense of permanence. In reality, these seemingly effortless foliage additions’ primary purpose was to conceal the copious amount of audio cables and hookups the entertainment required. Because the stage was in the middle of the room and designed to just look like a place for one person to address the crowd, we needed everything to disappear until the exact time.

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THE ATTENDEE EXPERIENCE

By looking at the concept of Autumn from a different vantage point, we were able to create an authentically Fall experience that was completely different from what you would typically associate with a Fall event. The attendees felt appreciated and were amazed that we were able to create this experience in the time allotted, in some cases only two hours prior to the event. The result was an incredible event that led to the client awarding us the contract for the following year’s event without a bid process and with a higher budget. Despite what could have been seen as an unavoidable challenge, everything seemed to "Fall" into place!

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