“I realised there was a lot more to boxing than fighting and I dedicated myself to reading widely, to improving my education and my mind. It helps me stay sharp and focused,” Anthony Joshua, Adobe EMEA Summit 2018, ExCeL.

Experience is the Summit buzzword, on a big scale. Back in East London for a sixth consecutive ExCeL turn in May, it envelopes a swathe of the sprawling event space, with the brand, and its go-to organiser Taylor Bennett, talking about taking up still more of the 100-acre site next year.

“We started off in the Auditorium and the Capital Hall and grew into the event halls, going further and further down each year. Now we’re in the South Halls as well,” Taylor Bennett production maestro, Russell Bennett, tells Event Industry News on site. “All of sudden we’ve got a quarter of the venue.”

A platform for Adobe to say, ‘We’re the leaders in digital marketing and you can rely on us,’ Summit is no hard sell. It’s targeting the converted and there are more of those than ever.

A record number of attendees, and thousands more online, spent the two spring days in Excel for an exhaustive list of reasons. Among them, listening to leading brands and thinkers waxing lyrical about their Adobe ‘experience’, starting with a presentation from Shantanu Narayen, the company’s President & CEO, getting a first look at the innovations Adobe has in store through Sneak Peaks, hosted by Rob Brydon, choosing from 150 breakout sessions, a fifth of them in the shape of technical labs, deep dive training on products, and the opportunity to hear cultural giants like WBA, IBF and WBO Champ Joshua and Victoria Beckham talking about their paths to success. Fantastic food and drink throughout of course. Oh, and there was a big celebration at the end of the first day, with a 20m LED slide and a set from festival favourites Kaiser Chiefs

What’s the price of ‘experience’? £1,345 a head, with significant discounts for groups of 10 or more, and heavyweight Adobe enthusiasts abound. It’s not shameless profiteering, every pound paid goes into the event and the company pours marketing money in there too in order to deliver a non-stop, highest calibre conference.

Despite all the big names on the dressing rooms doors, the big end of the budget goes towards shaping the space(s).

“This isn’t a regular trade show,” Russell Bennett, who looks after the event’s design, says.

“We’re creating wow moments everywhere that people are going to remember. That’s part of the reason Adobe runs the event. In tune with the message, there are experiences all over the place.

“We developed a Miami/neon theme for the Summit Celebration and it needed an engaging/fun element. What’s more fun than sliding through a 20m LED tunnel into a massive ball pit while being digitally time captured!”

Created in-house at Taylor Bennett, with Hawthorn handling the physical set up on site and the technical logistics, the slide was a big hit with partygoers and with Kaiser Chiefs’ frontman Ricky Wilson who took the plunge microphone in hand.

Original thinking

The Adobe EMEA Summit programme follows a similar pattern every year but the high delegate return ratio means Russell Bennett’s creative designs don’t stop changing the canvas.

In 2017, the central experience on the Adobe stand was a digital ceiling featuring the most hung LED screens ever seen in the UK, with delegates able to choose the content above them from Adobe stock media collections. This year, it was a multi sensory experience showcasing the Adobe Sensei programme featuring a projection mapped brain, which changed according to facial recognition, colour choice inputs and RFID badge data.

Other Summit 18 gags included a projection mapped central tower, a neon roller disco, a VR world, where up to 20 delegates at a time could compete with each other, and interactive table tennis tables in a chill-out area.

“’What’s new? What else can we do’? Those are questions we’re asked all the time,” Russell Bennett smiles “So we’re always on the look out for ideas.

“Each experience is hugely ambitious with many moving parts and complexities. As with all events there is a fixed deadline. Creating completely bespoke experiences from scratch means surrounding yourself with suppliers you trust and empowering people to deliver something that is truly memorable.”

While he uses, by and large, the same contractors for the Summit, having painstakingly put a perfect line-up together a few years ago, Bennett calls in tech specialists to deliver the novelties as required, the multi-sensory experience on the Adobe stand by way of example. So there is always room for ingenious others.

Summary

The Adobe EMEA Summit is a special event. Its audience keeps growing, safe in the knowledge they will learn from ‘experience’, be it the Adobe bigwigs, developers or the contacts they meet there. It’s two days of the extraordinary in terms of content, the event machine, the venue and the people.

“One of the greatest things you can give to delegates is the opportunity to network with other people in the same industry or using the same products,” Christine Bennett, Partner at Taylor Bennett, tells Event Industry News. And by making the Summit so multi-faceted, and interesting, the networking is more productive, because the right faces want to be there.

Wide open space

“The software industry is always changing, Helen Yarrow, Adobe’s EMEA Marketing Manager, says. “Summit reflects that and ExCeL ticks all the boxes in terms of what we want to do, be it in terms of scale, more break outs, more tech labs, for instance, or providing for the extra-curricular. We even offer a cycling programme, with a hut outside for the cycling team, we’ve got groups of partners who want to have their own evening hospitality, so we moor a boat up for them.  It’s so flexible.

“We’ve started planning for 2019, with ExCeL in the frame,” Yarrow adds. “Jane Hague, the venue’s Head of Business Development, Taylor Bennett and I will sit down, Jane will say, ‘the Elizabeth Line is opening in December. Why don’t you move down the halls a bit so 5,000 delegates can get off at Custom House station?’ That’s a sprinkle of change for next year. It means we won’t have an Auditorium keynote, it will be all in the halls.”

In the meantime, Russell Bennett and the production team are hard at work on what are sure to be another set of big hit Summit experiences for April 2019.

Adam is the co-founder and editor of www.eventindustrynews.com Adam, a technology evangelist also organises Event Tech Live, Europe’s only show dedicated to event technology and the Event Technology Awards. Both events take place in November, London.