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Engaging Events With AI

How BrandSync and Skyline Exhibits are using the power of AI to enhance human connection.

Peter Leyden discusses the future of AI at FutureSync. Custom AI-generated album cover and giveaway at EXHIBITORLIVE 2024 in Nashville.
Peter Leyden discusses the future of AI at FutureSync. Custom AI-generated album cover and giveaway at EXHIBITORLIVE 2024 in Nashville.
Photo: Courtesy of Skyline Exhibits

AI is here to stay, irrevocably shaping politics, economics, and society. It is part of every conversation, every day and in every business space.

While some are apprehensive that AI feels impersonal, strategic communications agency BrandSync and its parent company Skyline Exhibits are harnessing AI to enhance, rather than replace, human connection. As industry leaders, they are hosting conversations where colleagues can gather to discuss what AI means to the events and exhibitions world. As producers, they are activating AI to elevate their experiential marketing to foster deeper connections between their brand and audience.

Last August, BrandSync launched a series of AI-focused client events featuring thought leader Peter Leyden to explore the future of events and experiential marketing. Leyden believes the world is on the cusp of "world-historic technological transformations" that will drive progress, emphasizing the importance of AI's role in that transformation. While Leyden acknowledges AI's risks, he also believes in its potential to enhance human connections and stresses intentionality.

FutureSync, BrandSync's kick-off event hosted in partnership with BizBash, took place in Minneapolis in August 2023 and featured Leyden as the keynote speaker. The conference explored AI's broad implications and the challenges marketers face in the events industry, focusing specifically on emerging trends and innovative solutions. Following Leyden's keynote session, the 45 attendees participated in lively group discussions delving into AI's impact on both society and events. That evening, the group gathered for a "Jeffersonian-style" SyncUp dinner moderated by BizBash's David Adler.

Continuing the conversation, BrandSync again partnered with BizBash to host intimate "SyncUp" dinners in November and January. At these dinners, attendees delved deeper into a multitude of event-focused issues raised at the larger gatherings, including AI and its evolving implications.

Inspired by the ongoing dialogue surrounding AI, Skyline CMO Wendy Gibson found the perfect opportunity to put the abstract into action at EXHIBITORLIVE 2024 in Nashville this past February. Gibson's strategy used AI to "engage and excite" attendees and connect them to the Skyline brand. She emphasized that AI was not the centerpiece. Instead, she deployed AI as an enhancement to increase engagement, dwell time, and lead capture.

Since Nashville is known as "Music City," Skyline invited visitors to its booth to pose for photos and, within minutes, receive a custom AI-generated album cover inspired by their image. Inside the jacket, they received a Skyline-branded portable charger giveaway shaped like a vinyl record. The results were impressive, with a nearly 20% increase in net new leads. The booth became a memorable conversation piece, allowing Skyline to make personal connections with attendees, many of whom visited the booth multiple times and brought their colleagues back to participate.

BrandSync's next AI-focused event, featuring Peter Leyden, will take place in Tucson this spring. It will examine AI's future role in automotive retail and the corresponding implications for event planners integrating AI into business strategies and campaigns.

In the meantime, Gibson and her team are exploring AI-fueled ideas to connect with attendees; she said, "We're at the very beginning of utilizing AI in a fun way to engage our audiences. This is the tip of the iceberg."