The Return of the Briefing Center: Explore Its History, Evolution, and Future

Briefing centers focus on experience. With technology, innovation, and creativity, these spaces bring a brand or product alive to guests. Excitement and engagement drive the briefing center environment, as they are immersive spaces that encourage interaction.

Pre-COVID, briefing centers found new ways to tell stories that resonate and leave customers with memorable experiences. In the last year-plus, many have been dormant, but some of the world is cautiously opening up, sparking the return of the briefing center.

On a recent episode of Fusion, the Electrosonic podcast, the company’s leading briefing center experts and Experience Technology Consultant Sean McChesney joined the show. He shared the history of the spaces, how they’re adapting, and what to expect in the future.


Briefing Centers Have Always Been About the Experience

McChesney is adamant that experience has always been at the heart of briefing centers.

“Technology has evolved, as well as the architecture and purpose, but the experience is central. The most important question is, will the guests enjoy their time,” he said.

No matter a brand’s goals, it can only achieve them when guests leave with a positive connection. In discussing the evolution of these spaces, they’ve come a long way from “death by PowerPoint,” as McChesney explained.

In the past, it was one to many dynamic. Technology and design combined to change that to be more personal. That’s the key to engagement.

The Rules of Engagement in Briefing Centers

In setting the tone for engagement, it begins before the event. The pre-experience for visitors is all about delivering pertinent information. Some companies are sending branded bundles pre-experience to prepare guests. Many are using AR apps that show the user where to park and enter the building. That sets anxiety about coming into a new space at ease.

The in-person engagement begins as soon as they enter the space. By curating this and considering all aspects, companies can deliver that immersive experience, but visitors pay just as an important of a role.

Post-experience is about continuing that engagement and cultivating brand loyalty. While there are outbound marketing techniques in place, brands can do more. McChesney mentioned the Crayola experience in Florida.

Visitors receive a code that allows them to come home and continue to interact with what they created. Companies can pull off something similar as long as it feels like a natural extension of the experience and not a gimmick.


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How the Pandemic Reshaped Briefing Centers

With no physical environment to interact in, briefing centers became dormant. Upon reopening, they had to adapt to meet new requirements and expectations.

McChesney said, “There are good examples of transitions, like sending out bundled care packages before the event. There have been other changes too, both analog and digital.”

With safety being top of mind, companies had to adjust; McChesney shared some applications. First, he noted that a company used colored wristbands for guests to indicate their comfort level with sharing space with others.

Second, he described how users can still interact with touchscreens, the hallmark for most briefing centers, using their smartphone as the controller. They don’t have to touch anything but still get to participate.

Third, general cleanliness is top of mind for all. Spaces are using digital screens or physical signs to communicate sanitation processes.

These changes may remain, depending on the course of the pandemic. They don’t detract from the experience. Rather, they let visitors control their own experience, and that’s critical in building brand loyalty and driving purchases.

Visitors Have New Expectations

Any person that walks into a physical space now looks at it differently. Cleanliness and physical space certainly enter their minds. But they also are longing for human interaction. Although remote work has been overall productive, McChesney noted that “People want to be face to face and simplification of this.”

Expectations may be higher, lower, or somewhere in between. It’s a personal matter, but one thing to know is that people want to leave an interactive environment with inspiration. Briefing centers will need to find this balance for the future, which means companies need a deeper understanding of what visitors to the space want.

Those who come to a briefing center do so with a purpose known to the brand creating the event. It’s not like other location-based entertainment.

“Those that understand that purpose can match the engagement style that best delivers your message,” McChesney added.


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The Technology Powering Briefing Centers and How It’s Evolving

McChesney explained that there’s not one piece of technology that’s critical but how the systems integrate for a holistic experience. There are digital screens, touchscreens, digital whiteboards, audio visual (AV) solutions such as sound masking, and more that go into a thriving briefing center.

These have all been tenets of briefing centers, but they look a little different now to account for safety and distancing. One technology McChesney feels will take a step back is AR and VR devices.

Merging Fun, Excitement, and Education

Can a briefing center deliver on all three? It depends on the brand and audience. For example, those walking into a Disney experience expect fun and excitement. Other events are technical in nature and display a new product. But that can be fun and exciting, and education doesn’t have to be dull.

The key to successfully balancing the three is determining what will drive purchasing decisions. How much information does someone need to buy? That’s the crux of creating experiences that resonate.

McChesney points to museums as a good example of spaces that do this well. “It’s a large demographic to cover, but almost every person is having fun, excited, and learning. Briefing centers could look to them for inspiration.”


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Looking Forward to the Next Iteration of the Briefing Center

The pandemic changed the briefing center but didn’t make it obsolete. It will still play an important function and be an extension of the brand. However, they could serve new purposes for hybrid workforces. There is an internal application for these to become places where working sessions occur.

The future of briefing centers is still an open canvas. Contact us today to learn more about how Electrosonic can help you develop engaging experiences in briefing centers.


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