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ORLANDO/CENTRAL FLORIDA As the event team from German business software company SAP began making plans for the 2017 edition of Sapphire Now, the brand’s largest annual conference, it drew design inspiration from what would be the event’s biggest announcement—the expansion of the company’s Leonardo “digital innovation system.”
To help make that news meaningful and engaging for the more than 20,000 attendees, organizers completely changed the look of the event, which ends today at the Orange County Convention Center. In the past, product education “campuses” were separate from the real-world demonstration “showcases.” This year, organizers brought the two together in a radial design to visually emphasize the connectivity of the technology.
“We want to show that our technology does integrate,” said Felicity Carson, who joined SAP as vice president of marketing and head of SAP global events in September. “It has an interconnectedness as you go from one demo station to the next; it’s like you are going from one story to the next. And then we have the nodes where our customers can see different scenarios and examples of how technology comes to life.”
At the center of the new X-shaped design was a massive circular theater, dubbed the SAP Leonardo Experience. Videos illustrating SAP’s innovation technology played on interior walls, surrounding attendees in an immersive visual experience. At the center of the theater were eight seats where guests could put on headsets to watch a four-minute virtual-reality video about the technology.
Outside the theater, four demonstration showcases allowed guests to see real-world applications of the technology, such as how machine-learning can be used to analyze a customer’s clothing in a store and then recommend new items that are similar.
While the overall design was driven by content goals, organizers said they also incorporated attendee feedback gathered last year, such as a suggestion to bring back an open line-of-sight into the keynote theater. Some of that input came from a new initiative last year that used hospitality students from the University of Central Florida to conduct face-to-face interviews on the show floor. Organizers found that this impromptu, in-person format provided valuable information, so this year they expanded the effort to 80 interviews per day.
“It’s not supposed to be a representative survey. It’s really an observational approach that allows us to better understand the experience from a real attendee perspective. And it provides the ‘why’ behind the other data we have,” said Frank Buchner, senior director of SAP events.
Other new elements this year included a 500-seat theater, where 30 20-minute presentations took place, and an expansion of the meeting center by more than 30 percent. SAP also partnered with Yahoo Finance to stream on its home page and the SAP ticker page the opening keynote sessions.