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Part One: "Exit Through the Gift Shop"

Applying theme park principles to corporate events.

By Doug Binder, Sr. Creative Director, InVision Communications, with Jimmy Verrett, Sr. Creative Strategist/Sr. Creative Director, InVision Communications

When inventing and designing corporate event experiences and attendee journeys, we often find inspiration in theme parks, their promise, offerings, and design. Charged with transporting (paying) guests to fantastic worlds at Galaxy’s Edge or Skull Island, or on adventures with Harry Potter or Princess Elsa -- ALL DAY, EVERY DAY -- theme park designers employ many practices that we can translate to the corporate event.

A key challenge marketers often face is how to craft experiences that right off the bat bring attendees into the fold of the brand’s magic, confirming for guests that their time (and money) are well spent. In this first (of a 3-part) blog series, we explore theme park designs that offer tips on how to make an immediate impact by engaging audiences quickly—before and right as they arrive on site.

The Promise

“This is going to be awesome!”

Theme park promotion does a great job of building anticipation by depicting the exact experiences they offer, with no spoiler alerts needed. You can hear the laughter and screams, feel the thrills and sense of wonder, and even imagine the tastes, smells, and touches. It’s full sensory.

Even in this digital age, parks still sell lavishly illustrated maps of their properties. Remember how exciting it was as a kid to get your sticky hands on one of those showing everything at Disneyland or Kings Island or Ponchartrain Park? The Log Flume! The Beast! Space Mountain! Even after a full day or week, we’d take those home and study them to prep for our next visit.

Think about how this might be applied to a corporate event – a sales meeting or user conference, for example. What techniques might be utilized to allow the attendee prospect to employ his or her imagination to a positive effect? How can you tap into their sense of wonder and adventure, creating a true desire to attend and anticipation of the event?

Pro Tip:

Inject your marketing with multisensory triggers beyond mere photos and video recaps. Enable attendees to “transport” themselves to the event months in advance and make the promise irresistible. (And then deliver on it.)

Make your live engagements really come to life by adding a layer of clever visual appeal to marketing and navigation. Inspire adventure in the everyday.

The Threshold Experience

“Leave the outside world behind…”

One of the biggest lessons Walt Disney learned from Disneyland was that he should have bought more property. Within years, his first Magic Kingdom was choked off on all sides by very un-Disney-like parasites and competitors. In subsequent developments, Disney created a buffer around his most magical places.

Guests park their cars in the real world and are then transported across a threshold into Disney’s world. The physical experience of riding a ferry boat, monorail or other unique conveyance kindles an emotional narrative that can be exciting, mystical, even disarming. It’s the palate cleanser that whets the appetite for anything and everything that lies ahead.

Pro Tip:

Use the space between a venue’s entrance or elevator banks and your event’s “entrance” to reveal your narrative and disarm your attendees. Some simple ways include employees/greeters, fun signage, and changes in light and music.

More extravagant methods include tunnels, mazes, and false walls, compelling the audience to surrender their real-world baggage and give themselves over to your experience.


“…and enter this special place.”

The front gate! The arch! The port of entry! Registration! We cross over from outside to inside and the journey begins in earnest.

In theme parks, the arrival experience might include the sugary aromas and minstrels along International Street, the back-in-time charm of Main Street, USA, or the overwhelming intensity of a dozen thundering roller coasters on every side.

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At events, how do guests know (and feel) that they’ve “arrived,” that they’ve crossed the threshold? How do we make them feel welcome and included right away? What will make them feel comfortably oriented in the space and the experiential context? How will they know what to do next?

Pro Tip:

Create arrival experiences for guests that emotionally engage, deeply connect and adjust their mindset to receive and internalize your key business messages. Do you want the attendees to arrive feeling excited, happy and amped? Or do you want them more circumspect and open-minded?

Key tools for setting right arrival tone include:

  • Music, light, color and simple projections
  • Information and directional signage (style and substance)
  • Human interaction (a cheering section!)
  • Sensorial details like food and beverage, tactile activities, playgrounds and entertainment

Bonus: If you employ a Threshold experience, use it to ramp up to – and connect with – the Arrival experience. At that point, the audience will be under your magic spell!

And then, the journey continues…next time. Check back soon to see part 2 of our series, where we dive deeper into amusement park design that helps inspire event customer journeys. If the anticipation is too much, like a kid eagerly waiting in line at Splash Mountain, get in touch with us sooner to discuss ways to make your next corporate event the happiest place on earth. Contact us at to learn more!

Part 2 of Exit Through the Gift Shop

Part 3 of Exit Through the Gift Shop