Ad Age Looks to Boost Conference Interaction With Beer Tasting, Lounge Seating

By Anna Sekula November 16, 2009, 2:30 PM EST

Beer tasting at Advertising Age and Creativity's Idea Conference

Photo: Gary He

Advertising Age and Creativity's Idea Conference
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Looking to distinguish itself from formulaic and sometimes stale industry conferences, Thursday's Idea Conference from Advertising Age and sister publication Creativity introduced some unusual ways to engage attendees. With an overriding theme of reinvention, the trade magazines invited a diverse crew of speakers—from ING Direct U.S.A. chairman and president Arkadi Kuhlmann to the popular and often outspoken Momofuku owner and chef David Chang—and kept the format of the eight-hour event relatively loose, offering its 300 or so guests a variety of seating areas and plenty of opportunities to mingle.

Held at Terminal 5, the fourth annual Idea Conference was overseen by Advertising Age conference manager Lauren Minardo, who focused her efforts on incorporating interactive elements that wouldn't detract from the program or the speakers themselves. To that end, Minardo took advantage of the concert venue's layout and created lounges that had a full view of the stage, eschewed a banquet-style set up for the meals, and added booths where speakers could linger and chat about their ideas. The conference even broke up its afternoon schedule with an informal beer tasting hosted by Dogfish Head brewery at 4 p.m.

Fueled by feedback from past attendees who wanted more time to interact one-on-one with speakers, Minardo created booths for guests like Chang, who signed copies of his cookbook, and Livescribe chairman and C.E.O. Jim Marggraff, who demonstrated a pen that records audio and tracks what you write. Designed by Production Glue, the individual stalls' close proximity to the stage allowed attendees to pose more questions and engage in longer discussions with these personalities.

In fact, a lot of thought was given to the areas outside of the stage and the theater-style row of chairs facing it. A section of the second floor became an informal lounge where signs advertising free WiFi encouraged those with laptops to sit and relax. However, a different approach was taken with the setup for the space where attendees ate. Here, Minardo opted to replace banquet rounds with low slung café tables and kept the stools clustered around the balcony's ledge, prompting attendees to move around and network.

For the food, Minardo tapped Creative Concepts NYC, which supplied a menu that included individual yogurt parfaits with fresh berries and granola, grilled lemon chicken with caramelized onions and mustard vinaigrette, miniature pulled pork sandwiches, and assorted maki rolls.

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