BizBash's 10 Conferences That Captivate 2023 is sponsored by Pixis Drones.
The basics: Former global biotechnology company Horizon's national sales meeting took place Feb. 13-23 in Las Vegas. Produced by Wilson Dow Group, the event—which drew 1,200 Horizon employees—featured more than 230 unique sessions with over 60 onstage presenters.
A unique challenge: For the 2023 event, the team knew they needed to shake things up—both to keep it fresh for attendees, but also to acknowledge an impending acquisition. The goal? To create an environment that genuinely united the organization, fostering deep, lasting connections between Horizon's message, legacy, and people.
A steal-worthy stage design: The team looked closely at the design of its main stage—and ultimately opted for a panorama created with 980 LED panels spanning five screens, curled inward toward the audience to create an immersive feel. Overhead were 225 tailor-made kinetic LED lights, designed to shift and synchronize with the content on the screens. Furthering the viewing impact were 40 ceiling-rigged speakers, which transformed the room into a Dolby Atmos-powered auditorium.
"Creating an immersive event experience was integral to accomplishing our primary goal," explained Gino Pennacchio, senior creative director for Wilson Dow Group. "We wanted this audience to feel close to the stage, content, leadership, and each other, so we knew we had to go beyond traditional expectations of screens and envelop the audience in their goals, accomplishments, and vision for the future. Whether you were in the first row or the back, we wanted everyone to have the same experience."
And guided by the symbolism of Horizon's four-pillared logo—which represents patients, caregivers, physicians, and communities—a custom-made visual emerged on the center of the stage; it pulsed and reverberated a heartbeat that sent waves of synchronized motion between the lights and the LED screens, cueing critical moments in the presentations.
Symbolic programming: Unique programming was also used to evoke the event's themes. Kicking things off, the room was filled with sounds of phone notifications, ads, nagging children, junk TV, and myriad other day-to-day distractions. Visual static filled the screens, enveloping attendees in a symbolic display of the distractions they face amid rumors of an acquisition. A glowing pulse was then seen and heard from the middle of the stage as a Kabuki drop revealed the pillars, serving as a visual reminder of the company's purpose and commitment to patients.
"The [idea] was to submerge participants in the many distractions that echoed in their daily routines and the uncertainty around the future of Horizon, ultimately guiding them toward clarity—the unifying Horizon logo pillars," said Ben Wilson, an account executive for Wilson Dow Group. "This sensory journey emphasized the importance of focus and the promise of determination and will. ... We created an experience that delved into the thoughts of everyone present, acknowledging the challenges of change while keeping the core purpose of Horizon intact to connect the attendees."
For the closing event, meanwhile, the team honored Horizon's legacy by having six employees share personal stories of how they each found meaning through their work at Horizon. "We wanted to capture and showcase the company's enduring spirit, look back into the little moments that highlight who they are, and share with all the people who have helped build the organization," noted Pennacchio. "This needed to be starkly different from the grandiose opening, to amplify those stories—so we dug into our knowledge of cinematic techniques and dialed down the brightness of the graphics, spotlighted the storyteller center stage atop a minimalist stool, and repositioned the IMAG cameras to the front of the stage to create an intimate storytelling angle."
Lessons learned: "One key takeaway is that it's not always about what you do but what you choose not to do," said Pennacchio, noting that with such a tech-forward stage it would be easy to overwhelm the audience. "Pulling back at times with intimate moments created a more balanced and impactful experience."
Leaning into storytelling was also key, he added. "While relying on impressive visual aspects is tempting, real attendee engagement often comes from sharing genuine stories that resonate with everyone. Lights, sound, and visuals should enhance storytelling and not take away from it—and sometimes that means going big, but other times it means having the restraint to let other elements shine."
Learn more about our sponsor:
Pixis Drones is a market-leading drone light show company built with experiential agency DNA and a splash of Hollywood moxie. While the company is known for the drone light shows it did for Super Bowl LVI, the 2022 NBA Draft, and the 2023 NFL Draft, it has delivered shows for noteworthy B2B and B2C brands across various industries and markets.