EMS 2024 creative workshop participants

EMS 2024 Kicks off with Interactive Workshops, Pickleball, Ex Awards and Festival Vibes

The MGM Grand Las Vegas came alive with the sounds of lively networking, industry speak, music and laughter, as attendees took part in day one of the Experiential Marketing Summit (EMS) on April 24. The No. 1 conference for creators of the brand experience immersed a global audience of b-to-b and b-to-c marketers, trade show organizers, agency executives, meeting planners, event strategists and tech specialists in hands-on workshops, creative group work, panel sessions, booth exhibits and a festival-themed Ex Awards ceremony.

Contests, music, sports, swag, snacks and gamified experiences got the energy up for the first day of EMS. Read on for a recap of what went down around the conference center.

EMS 2024 signMore from EMS 2024:


John Capano with workshop attendees

John Capano led an interactive master class on developing a measurement framework.

Kicking off EMS, experts led interactive workshops and master classes to engage attendees with tricks of the trade, applicable insights and collaborative group work. First up, John Capano, managing director of The Ev&Ex Agency and vp of the Experiential Marketing Measurement Coalition (EMMC), taught participants how to develop a measurement framework through an activity that assigned a hypothetical event to each table and encouraged them to consider the attendee journey, input from key stakeholders and the overall “why.”

Then, Matt Sincaglia, vp-strategy and analytics at RedPeg and founding member of the EMMC, ran the second master class on “Measuring DEI in Events and Experiences” that defined key terms, explained visual and nonvisual representation, highlighted the importance of transparency in accountability, and outlined best practices for pre- and post-event data acquisition. The session’s workshop component focused on creating a DEI measurement framework around a specific DEI goal, KPIs and support metrics.

Over in the Creative Brief workshop, attendees took part in a charette that had them dreaming up campaign strategies for three legacy brands looking to make new connections with a Gen Z audience. The twist: It was all analog. No genAI, no digital blueprints, no filters. “Consider what conventions can be turned upside down as you jump into the exercise. I encourage you to borrow from friends in improv and say, ‘Yes, and…’” said Jessica Heasley, group editor and publisher of Event Marketer.

Participants received kits that included building bricks, magazine cutouts, glue and stickers, and they listened to Beyoncé on vinyl while they worked together in pairs on their proposals or visual concepts. Circulating the room were three guest industry mentors to provide feedback (à la “The Great British Baking Show”), before the top campaign ideas were presented to the group.

EMS 2024 exhibit panel

The “Trends in Experiential Exhibits” panel featured speakers (from left) Amy Sondrup of Access TCA, Kate Alter of Philips Healthcare, Sarah Jensen of Toshiba, and Aaron Conk of Delta Faucet Company.

The “Trade Show Exhibits x Experiential = The Future” Master Class featured a “Beyond Booths” session with Jon Wolff, global events manager for Lenovo’s Solutions and Services Group, who shared insights on how exhibits are evolving and a practical guide to making brand stories stand out through innovative displays. Continuing the conversation, a panel of corporate exhibit marketers spoke on the future of experiential in exhibit spaces.

Lastly, the EMS Executive Forum pre-conference, hosted by InVision Communications and designed for brand-side marketers, centered on creating personalized and differentiated brand experiences that appeal to audiences across generational divides.



Puppy park at EMS 2024

The puppy park saw a lot of attendee traffic to pet and play with the dogs.

Following an afternoon of education sessions, attendees had their first chance to explore the Hall of Ideas and interact with exhibitors at the Opening Reception, plus get an up-close look at a Tesla Cybertruck brought in by Electrify Expo. From custom hats to printed tote bags to phone charms, participants got their swag on while enjoying cocktails and sweet treats at booths, like cotton candy and popcorn. Taco bars stationed in the aisles offered a savory snack.

A hit last year, the puppy park returned to EMS, offering attendees even more canine cuddles. The white picket-fenced, grassy corral was a hot spot at the reception, with dogs clamoring for pets and toy time. New for this year, EMS jumped on the pickleball craze, with a full court right on the show floor, and on day one, it was already bringing out attendees’ competitive spirit. They came to play.

A big draw of the night was the vintage concert t-shirt contest hosted at the Highmark Hub. Eleven participants showed out with tees representing The Rolling Stones, Britney Spears, Spice Girls, NSYNC, Woodstock, Beyoncé, Aretha Franklin and even some local bands near and dear to their hearts. Decided by audience cheers, the winner received a $75 Ticketmaster gift card, and fans of The Smiths turned out to lead its t-shirt wearer to victory.



Tattoo art at Ex Awards

Ex Award attendees added to their festival attire with tattoo-inspired art.

Keeping the music theme going, we were living for all the festival chic looks that showed up at Event Marketer’s 22nd annual Ex Awards Gala. Flower crowns, crochet tops, rhinestone jeans, sparkly cowboy boots, bandanas and tropical suits made an appearance at the ceremony, and attendees got tattoo-inspired art painted onto their hands and arms. They showed off their outfits in a photo op pulled from the festival scene that displayed their auras in four-photo GIFs and prints. The good vibes continued through the night as winners were announced, with interludes of Taylor Swift’s greatest hits, particularly her “22” song, and dance breaks.

This year’s program drew more than 1,000 entries from around the world, with brands including ABC, Amazon Studios, Bayer, Cadillac, Caterpillar, Dell, Frito-Lay, Paramount+, Salesforce and YouTube ultimately adding to their trophy cases. But it was Taco Bell and a cast of partners—Biite, Edelman, Uncommon, Cyrano Rox and Little Cinema—that took home the highest honor, the Grand Ex Award, for “Live Más Live.”

“Like an Apple launch for a taco, the event hyped a year’s worth of innovation announcements in a single event… and combined brand announcements with entertainment and access like never before for consumers,” said Rachel Boucher, head of content at Event Marketer, during the ceremony. “It epitomizes what a hybrid experience can be and might make you rethink your campaign timelines and touchpoints altogether.”

Grand Ex winners with trophy

The Grand Ex Award went to Taco Bell and its partners for “Live Más Live.”

Attendees cheered on their peers with the same energy shown to headlining artists at Coachella, and we were here for it, especially as winning teams strutted and danced down the catwalk, where they were met with a modelesque fan-blowing moment and paparazzi shots.



During the Ex Awards ceremony, Event Marketer also named a new inductee into its Experiential Marketing Hall of Fame: Alex Sapiz, svp-corporate marketing at Cisco. Sapiz was chosen for an array of contributions she’s made to the modern event program as a global events leader, from attendee wellness to attendee choice, personalization and engagement tracking. But above all, Event Marketer editors recognized Sapiz for being a champion of measurement practice. She was honored in a special segment that featured a surprise compilation of video messages from her colleagues—most of whom called Sapiz “the G.O.A.T.”—and received the Experiential Marketing Hall of Fame “Golden Badge.”

Alex Sapiz accepts Hall of Fame Award

Alex Sapiz, svp-corporate marketing at Cisco, was inducted into the Experiential Marketing Hall of Fame.

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