Field Report: Inside the HPE Discover Keynote at Sphere Las Vegas

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HPE Discover 2024 made history with the first-ever corporate keynote at Sphere.

There is a new bar set for keynote brand storytelling and corporate events: If what you’re experiencing makes your skin tingle. That’s how the audience felt at the HPE Discover keynote, “Intelligence Has No Limits,” held at Sphere Las Vegas on June 18, the first corporate event to leverage the venue’s “largest LED screen on Earth,” with its 1.2 million LED lights, immersive sound system and landmark futuristic vibe.

As the crowd filled the 17,000-seat venue, the screen lit up with Aristotle’s quote, “All mankind by nature desires to know.” In the next instance, hundreds of phones were out to film a 4D flight over mountain peaks and tranquil shores, into the depths of redwood forests, and then into the bustle of cities. As elephants came stomping, appearing to stand over the audience, the seats shook.

As the camera zoomed out to the view of Earth from space, the narrator said, “AI holds the key to unlocking infinite possibilities for our planet,” the main theme of the event, and went on to deliver a video experience on the brand’s key topics, such as sustainability and leveraging knowledge from experiments in space.

“Big moments require big venues,” said Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) ceo Antonio Neri as he took to the stage.

RELATED: HPE CMO Jim Jackson Talks the ‘Sphere Effect’ and the Future of Keynote Content

Neri has had his sights set on Sphere for some time to deliver a landmark event and even did a hard-hat tour of the venue while it was being built, according to Rob Pace, president at i4D Events, HPE’s agency of record for global events, which handled the keynote’s production. We caught up with Pace at the keynote.

Sphere offered a perfect canvas for next-level creative storytelling. Before the big announcement of HPE and NVIDIA teaming up to create “a portfolio of co-developed AI solutions,” Neri made full use of the venue’s immersive sound and video capabilities to showcase some of the brand’s top partnerships and projects, including Purdue University’s Center for Global Soundscapes, GE Aerospace and BMW. One of the most memorable scenes was bubbles appearing on the screen with customer logos rising all the way to the top.

HPE ceo Antonio Neri took the stage during the historic presentation.

NVIDIA ceo Jensen Huang, sporting his usual black leather jacket, made an impressive entrance riding his own star power, with the screen behind him black. Closeups of both ceos were fed to the screens hovering in the center of the Sphere, while the rest of the background offered a vivid representation of technology.

“You must find a way to turn that flywheel of your company’s experience into AI. The era of generative AI is here,” Huang said. The two ceos joined forces to announce NVIDIA AI Computing by HPE to “accelerate the generative AI industrial revolution.”

The rest of the keynote highlighted the specific products the companies are launching and wrapped up with a flyover video bringing it all together with the concept of using the technology “to unlock the human ambition.”

So how did it go? The reaction from the audience spoke for itself: “We don’t usually get applause to videos, but we had applause to all videos,” Pace said. “The only time I saw people with their phones was when they were recording or taking pictures of the content, not texting or doing emails. That’s an indicator of engagement and immersion.”

Speaking of video content and engagement, Sphere’s expansive capabilities came with inherent challenges. First, leveraging existing content created for the venue and streaming it live required navigating complex property rights. Also, some of the video content to be featured in the keynote was reused from other purposes, and wasn’t shot at the required 16K resolution. The team incorporated it on the largest screen, but augmented it with additional imagery that spanned the entire dome, and added haptic seating effects, to have it become a seamless part of the experience.

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The keynote featured an “Intelligence Has No Limits” theme that centered on genAI.

The biggest concern was ensuring that Sphere amplified the keynote presentation and the announcement, but didn’t overpower it.

“We spent a lot of time finding the balance there,” Pace said. “We didn’t have video for the announcement, because we wanted it to be a discussion between Antonio and Jensen about how the two companies and their offerings make a better solution. So, we intentionally kept it simple and focused on the two ceos.”

Also, the final video—a key piece of storytelling that brought it all together—wasn’t part of the original presentation. “It’s obvious now that we needed an ending that matched the beginning, but we didn’t catch it until the end,” Pace said. “Having the best possible plan is what you do, but it’s equally important how you respond when something unexpected happens.”

The audience took it all in as an enveloping experience.

“It was very exciting,” attendee Robert Craft with Stoneworks Technologies told us afterward. “The partnership with NVIDIA was very exciting, and the venue captivates your attention. A lot of times when someone is speaking at a keynote, you might be looking at your phone and answering messages. Everyone’s disconnected. But not here. I also liked how the speakers interacted with the videos as opposed to just speaking. A picture is worth a thousand words.” Agencies: i4D Events (global events AOR); Sphere Studios (technology); No Filter Creative (content).



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