Fostering Inclusion and Belonging at IMEX America 2023

Client: IMEX
Venue: Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: October 2023

IMEX America is the largest trade show in the U.S. for the meetings and events industry. Its 2023 event attracted a record 15,000 meeting and event professionals, visitors and exhibitors. Encore joined forces with IMEX America for the second year in a row to deliver an experience showcasing how meeting professionals can change the world through everyday event decisions. The vision for the 2023 activation? Breathe life into conversations around fostering inclusion and belonging through human-centered design.  

 “It’s really important to our customers, when they get their communities together, to find ways to connect with the human element of who they are both personally and professionally,” explains Encore President and CEO, Ben Erwin.  

The way Encore fostered discussions around this theme was as intentional as the theme itself. Armed with industry-leading insights, the team knew: 

  • 93% of planners are likely to use immersive technology to engage attendees  
  • 85% of planners believe that immersive experiences foster greater attendee engagement  
  • 83% of planners think the technology that delivers immersive experiences would enhance their event ROI 

Tailoring their approach to planners, Encore crafted immersive storytelling with its Break Free: Continuing the Journey activation, showcasing tools and tech planners could integrate into their own events to make them more accessible to all participants 


In order for visitors to actively feel the value of designing for belonging and inclusion, the Encore team transformed a 5,600-sq. ft. environment into a fully immersive experience using a range of technology solutions.  

Once show-ready, the activation offered an immersive theater with visual and hearing assistance tools, a Think Easy commitment and community space, and a zone where attendees could playfully explore new ideas and technology. Each aspect of the activation was designed with intention, leveraging planners’ interest in immersion to forge meaningful connections, foster engagement and enhance the ROE of events. 

 To make the maximum impact, they: 

  • Activated multiple senses through scent, lighting, sound, touchscreens and other technologies to improve participant engagement, enhance learning and increase information retention 
  • Created diverse open-flow environments by hanging 50 custom rigging hooks, which supported everything from audiovisual equipment to custom builds to space-defining draping 
  • Produced an immersive theater experience by: 
    • Cutting 16:9 screens to create a single, connected wrap-around screen for visual storytelling 
    • Conceiving, designing, writing and producing media content for the immersive theater that explored how human-centered event design creates inclusive experiences and elevates belonging 
    • Seamlessly delivering the content by stacking projections and blending original images 
    • Enveloping the audience in 5.1 surround sound 
    • Increasing accessibility for the hearing impaired with closed captioning via a QR code accessed through Chime Go  
    • Providing video, audio and imagery descriptions for the visually impaired via headphones 
  • Encouraged reflection on the immersive theater experience by constructing a ‘commitment wall’ outside its exit, where participants could write and post their intentions for change 
  • Designed conversational nooks in a Think Easy space to let attendees escape the hustle and bustle of the trade show floor 
  • Presented fireside chats, LinkedIn Lives and Happy Place Happy Hours to foster conversations and increase networking opportunities 
  • Provided holograms, swing seating and a human-size bird cage to create interactive, social-media friendly photo opportunities 


Over the course of the event, 700 planners went on the Break Free journey of vulnerability, awe, wonder and excitement, learning ways human-centric event design creates better participant experiences. An additional 2,000 impressions were generated by portal, fireside and theater traffic. By the end of the event, Encore had qualified 177 leads. 

The Break Free experience demonstrated how smartly designed events can build communities and achieve long-range outcomes for organizations. Meeting and event professionals discovered how to create inclusive experiences that satisfy multiple stakeholders, create lasting relationships and ultimately influence change.

Encore’s understanding of its IMEX America audience also demonstrated how an empathetic approach can not only remove barriers in an event experience but also create an empowering sense of belonging for greater impact. Encore increased participant learning and engagement by intentionally designing environments that engaged all the senses. This sensory activation also helped participants remember how the Break Free experience made them feel long after it was over.  

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