Executive Briefing Centers are business-to-business centers in which current or potential clients are given an up-close look at the host’s latest products, history, or other top sales points. The centers are interactive, and outfitted with expensive and exciting technology.
Here are some fun examples:
Kellogg’s Cereal City USA included (before its shut-down in 2007) a theater that represented visitors onscreen. . . shrinking them to the size of breakfast table salt shaker.
Volkswagen’s Autostadt (opened in 2000 and is still going strong) features a theater with rotating plasma screens and opportunities for kids to design their own cars in 3-D kiosks.
WilTel’s Technology Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma In their own words: “The 52,000-square-foot floor plates are connected to a “solar well” vertical circulation core that improves energy efficiency and provides interaction space on balconies and stairways. The 16-foot floor-to-floor heights and sloping ceilings draw daylighting deep into the core. Fritted glass walls control glare and heat gain while diffusing the natural light.” One visitor described the experience as similar to “walking into a spaceship.”
Clearly, the point of all this effort and design is to wow big customers. And in today’s digital era, the expense and attention to this mission is often well-spent. However, there is at least one way to fail at these centers: by neglecting to clearly define the branding, mission, and goals.
According to Jack Rouse, whose company Jack Rouse Associates has created a number of corporate briefing and visitor centers, including Autostadt, the best presentations come from people who have thoroughly answered the questions “Why are we doing this? Who is it for? What do we really want to say?” Being clear about mission is vital for successful sales and communication. With projects this important and expensive, years of preparation are both common and necessary.
Executive briefing centers are the ultimate example of the effect of design on experience. Customers who walk into a successful center are wowed at the intelligent design, every inch of which is aimed at impressing the consumer with interesting, surprising, educational, entertaining content. Once again, design determines success.
For those of us on a smaller scale: If you regularly greet clients at your office, consider the design of their experience. How fluid is the greeting, serving of drinks, seating, lighting, wall fixtures, brand messaging, and any needed props? Are your emails formatted well, sent in a timely manner, and do they link to smooth social networking campaigns and an easy-to-navigate, informative, aesthetically pleasing website? Even for those of us without the means or need for a large executive center, thoughtful changes in structure and presentation can make a world of difference in your business.