NEW YORK More than an hour before the doors opened, a line of tech fanatics was already snaking its way around Guastavino's, the site of Engadget's New York readers meet-up on Thursday. Like previous consumer gatherings from the AOL-owned tech blog—events that have taken place in San Francisco and Tokyo—the organizers had no problem attracting attendees to a free evening of food, raffle drawings, and gadget showcases from companies including Samsung, AT&T, and Motorola. However, the crowd of nearly 1,400 guests wasn't all guys in grubby T-shirts—the alcohol-free meet=up also drew a fair share of women and children just as eager to test out new the products.
To produce the affair, Engadget editors worked alongside AOL's internal events team, headed by senior manager of corporate events Jenny Stahl, and brought on JesGordon/ProperFun to design a fitting environment. The setting needed not only to give the 17 exhibitors space to display their wares and include areas for food and drinks, but also allow the crowd room to circulate and find the different vendors in the packed venue.
Signage was key to the design scheme, but with the low ceilings on the ground floor and the vaulted tile ceilings on the second, hanging objects overhead wasn't an option. Instead, the producers employed 10-foot-tall white inflatable cylinders, emblazoned the tops of each with the name and logo of the presenting company, and placed them beside the corresponding tables. The result was that even when the 15,000-square-foot site was packed, attendees could still identify each of the areas. Also visible amid the crowds were neon signs shaped like lightbulbs and electric sockets, a playful nod to the tech event's offerings.
To encourage guests to linger after inspecting all the gadgets on display, the layout also incorporated lounges, furnished with white seating, beanbags, and low-slung tables, and Engadget hosted giveaways every hour onstage. Guests, who each received a raffle ticket at the event's entrance, had a chance to win one of more than 50 items—including HTC, Samsung, and Motorola smartphones, a Roomba 560 from iRobot, and Pioneer headphones—and could enter the sweepstakes to win a special prize by scanning a QR code printed on the napkins.