Creating a Memorable Attendee Experience

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Creating a Memorable Attendee Experience


By Beth Buehler


Have you ever attended a meeting or event and thought you had been there before? Nothing really stood out, it was just another hotel, a different city, and a different shade of carpet and wallcoverings with a touch of artwork. Instead of just a shuffled agenda and new destination from year to year, people are expecting more these days. And shouldn’t it be more fun for the meeting and event planner than that?


Destination Colorado Meetings checked in with two of its more than 150 members about creating a memorable attendee experience and uncovered a wealth of great information.


“I totally think now more than ever, attendee experience is the most important factor. In an age where in-person events were halted during the pandemic, people are looking to spend quality time when they are attending events,” emphasizes Kayzha Shepard, president of operations Rythm EFX Event Design & Productions.


“Each year, attendees can be harder and harder to impress with everchanging event production and new technology. We focus on the roots of the event or customer to provide a genuine experience that will hit home for attendees rather than try and impress them with neat gadgets or new technology,” Shepard adds.


While clients have long been focused on attendee experiences, it’s with a different lens. “The demographic of the event is considered more than ever to create more focused guest experiences. We have more data available to show how events are impactful for sales teams, conference attendees, gala participants, etc.,” says Erika (Lohmar) Kulovitz, founder and CEO of Akire Productions. “With that in mind, the C-suite values of making memorable and deep connections with their attendees is more than ever before. This personalized approach makes each event more valuable for everyone involved.”


Here’s a glimpse at what else Shepard and Kulovitz have to say about creating a memorable attendee experience.

EmPower Training Conference and Expo Display by Akire Productions. Photo by J.D Laske of Overflow Create.

What are a few ways meetings and events can make a good first impression?

Kayzha Shepard: Decor is our top priority when a client requests a memorable event. First impressions can make or break an event, and these can be a large-scale archway or entrance that tells the guests they are being transported to a fun and memorable event. Next to decor, things like cohesive lighting, branding and audiovisual elements are the key to success.


Erika (Lohmar) Kulovitz: The initial touch point for any meeting or event happens before a guest even reaches the doors. Setting clear expectations through a variety of pre-event communications prepares each person to be fully present in the experience. Once they arrive at the airport, things like signage and branding are carried onto the shuttles and through the hotel to build excitement and anticipation for what’s ahead. On top of these touches, greeters elevate this excitement by bringing the in-person connection that lets guests know they are indeed a very important person. Creating these first impressions communicates to guests that no detail is too small, and everything ahead has been created specifically with them in mind.

Is creating a memorable attendee experience more about all the little things that add up or a few impactful moments?

KS: In our 14 years of experience, creating a memorable experience is really about those big, impactful moments. Custom branded or themed elements like photo opportunities, grand entrances and a wow factor that anchors the stage or dance floor is a big key to success. However, if an event skimps on the lighting, catering, entertainment, or other smaller elements it can lead to a less impactful event for guests. Our trick is really to create a cohesive experience by filling rooms with beautiful lighting and a few key elements that embody our client’s vision and will leave guests ready for next year.


EK: It’s both! Creating a memory is done by valued connection. Everyone has different things they value when it comes to experiences, so our goal is to tend to each of these needs in a variety of ways. We accomplish this by allowing different learning and communication styles as well as the various ways of receiving love and respect to fuel our creative process. By rooting our process from these places, we create a valued connection for guests who appreciate the small details and the guests who enjoy a grand gesture. Something that may have been overlooked or overdone for one guest will be an experience—a memory—for another guest of which they will remain connected to long after the event has passed.

This custom fabricated archway by Rhythm EFX was inspired by Red Rocks Amphitheatre and built as a special request from Dapper Event Design for a Rock the Rockies event at Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center. Photo by Rhythm EFX.

Provide an example of a Colorado meeting/event that excelled as an attendee experience. Why does it stand out?

KS: We worked on a themed event last year at the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center that captured the Colorado music experience. Our firm was commissioned to create a 25-foot rock archway that resembled Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver. The massive archway was the talk of the event, and hundreds of photos were posted to social media sites for weeks to come. This event stands out to me because this one single decor element changed the entire experience for attendees. It transformed the typical ballroom floor into something different from other conferences and events at the Gaylord and made the guests excited to show their friends, colleagues and others how fun this event was.


EK: When we had the pleasure of working at the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center, one of the evening events was about showcasing local artists and flavors of Denver. By collecting the best of what Denver has to offer all in one place, attendees were able to experience the music, art, food, people and places that make Colorado such a uniquely beautiful place.


Our design turned the hotel lawn into an artisan market where guests were given custom-designed vouchers to choose a piece that spoke to them. In the case that one Colorado curio just wasn’t enough, they were also able to purchase goodies: select soaps, fabulous lotions and lip balms, local honey, and local tea blends to take with them to remember the wonderful night. Guests could even get involved in the creation process by doing things like making their own bath salts. Additionally, musicians added a bed of joy and warmth to the experience by providing a local sound performed acoustically throughout the event as guests enjoyed tastings of several locally made beers, wines, whiskey, and bourbon all procured by the hotel.

How can a venue and other aspects of an event make a difference?

KS: Venues are the anchor to a great event, and I always caution our clients to use venues that offer a neutral color palette in their ballrooms. We often see venues that have bright-colored carpet and eclectic chandeliers that are difficult to work with as a company that is trying to provide an experience that is based off decor and scenic elements. Great venues also can make a difference by providing a friendly, knowledgeable staff. Hospitality is essential for event professionals and having a supportive, friendly face can set the tone for the whole event.


EK: Each venue is unique because of what it offers. And venues willing to push beyond the standard boundaries of what is offered in daily food packages quickly show their ability to broaden the range for what an event can be at their location. Food and beverage is arguably one of the most important factors when choosing a venue, and it is not a “one size fits all” for guests. While we can turn a simple ballroom into a beautiful space with décor and audiovisual features, none of that matters if our guests with allergies and intolerances do not have options. This is important because when they don’t feel heard, seen or appreciated, it will be difficult for them to hear, see or appreciate anything else you have to offer them. …


When clients are spending a sizable chunk of their budget on food and beverage and the CEO or honored guests do not have faith that they will have satisfactory food and beverage options, the effect on the event is that it will likely be one of the only things they remember.

Cowboy Hat Archway for Coors 150th Anniversary in Golden by Rythm EFX, design and event planning provided by Imprint Events Group. Photo by Rhythm EFX.

How does Colorado excel at providing attendee experiences?

KS: We provide fun themed decor that can range anywhere from après ski and rustic to cowboy and nature lovers. Our culture in Colorado allows for tons of fantastic, themed events that can provide attendees with memorable, unique experiences. Colorado event companies are here for the passion of creating a great event and we have awesome venues. I think that makes it an ideal location for event and meeting planners worldwide.


EK: Colorado lives up to the expectations of its visitors by providing pristine venues, hotels and resorts that beautifully reflect the breathtaking setting. The experience of just being there is accentuated by the culture, food, entertainment and activities that are found in every city, big and small. Unlike other locations, the spirit of the outdoors comes alive in a multitude of region-specific adventures and off-site experiences available to visitors with various levels of aptitude and tastes in outdoor recreation. Colorado offers something for everyone, making it the perfect place to host an event.

What are your top tips for creating a memorable attendee experience?

KS: In our experience it boils down to nontraditional, large-scale decor elements; cohesive branding; and interactive activities. Large-scale decor provides the impact and sets the tone while cohesive branding makes your event stand out from the others, so attendees remember you. Activities provide attendees with fun, interactive things to do during cocktail hour or mingling time, keeping them entertained and excited to share their experiences.


EK: First, creating a memorable experience goes beyond creating a beautiful experience. Choosing brand appropriate colors, linens, florals and furniture is merely a step to building an event that conveys the intended messages in deliberate ways to be received by the specific people for which the event is being designed. As a meeting/event planner it is our job to go deeper. There is a whole world of creativity to play in. We highly suggest you ideate to the max and let the hard facts (budget, venue, etc.) be your guard rails.


Second, educate yourself not just in industry offerings but in people. Ultimately, as meeting/event planners we are there to serve. Knowing what your guests need and how they will receive will inspire how to best design an event. Lastly, at Akire Productions, we like to say you need to build the box before you live outside of it.


Now that you have several great ideas and examples, go forth and start creating your own memorable attendee experience!



Top Photo: An impactful stage for the EmPower Training Conference and Expo by Akire Productions. Photo by J.D Laske of Overflow Create.


Colorado native Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 19 years, helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine, and was on the team that introduced Southwest Meetings + Events in 2023. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.