Breaking Down Barriers to Create an Unforgettable Experiential Event

One the most effective ways to ensure guests will remember an event is to integrate them into the experience rather than just have them witness it. Breaking down the barrier between presenters and audience members, guests and entertainers is a vital part of creating a true experience.  The more experiential an event is, and the deeper guests are involved in an occasion’s proceedings, the more engaging — and unforgettable — it is for the attendees.

Here are some ways I’ve devised to transform an event into an experience.

For corporate events such as benefit galas, dinners or award ceremonies, which often feature several speakers throughout the evening, I’ll design a stage with “waterfall stairs,” a series of cascading steps leading from the floor to the stage – imagine the entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art – but on a smaller scale.

Visually, the architecture of the stairs immediately softens the barrier between guests and speakers (see photos above and below). This design is particularly effective because it allows presenters or honorees to access the stage from a seat in the audience rather than ‘magically’ appearing from backstage. Attending an event where the honoree gets up from the table next to you and makes his or her way toward the stage is a much more engaging experience than if the honoree were to emerge from behind a curtain!


I’ve also sculpted the stage and stairs for weddings and family celebrations, using a curved, multi-level stage with cascading stairs between tiers. Generally, percussion and horns will be placed on the level farthest back, with a piano on the next and vocalists on the lowest platform closest to the crowd.

This type of setup allows guests to feel like they’re in the center of the action, while also facilitating an intimacy that encourages a ‘give and take’ between performers and the audience, which is often so crucial to a great live set. Sometimes guests can get a bit ‘spirited’ at social celebrations, so I always have an event staffer present to make sure the talent feels comfortable and can do their jobs without negative interruptions. This kind of oversight can be as obvious or low-key as the occasion warrants.

At the end of the day, the beauty of bringing guests a more immersive experience is that it will create a lasting impact with vivid memories they will cherish for a lifetime.