TEA SATE Las Vegas co-chairs Shannon Martin and Gregory Senner share highlights of the design conference held Oct 12-15, 2022 at UNLV, in an exclusive interview with InPark editor Judith Rubin.
TEA SATE is the Themed Entertainment Association’s (TEA) signature conference series addressing the art, craft and business of Experience Design. Hosted in partnership with the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), SATE Las Vegas runs October 12-15 on the UNLV campus. Conference co-chairs are Shannon Martin of Color Reflections Las Vegas and Gregory Senner of Cockram Scenario. They are both well-established members of TEA leadership and have worked to craft a unique program that touches on meaningful issues for the themed entertainment community and makes the most of the Las Vegas location.
Link to register and for more information is here.
Sessions are listed below, with additional details published by TEA here.
Click to see our previous interview with Martin and Senner discussing the SATE Las Vegas vision.
You’ve said that attendees should plan for the full SATE experience from Wednesday night to Friday evening. What are the special things they won’t want to miss?
Shannon Martin: First of all, we want to make it clear that everything on the SATE program from Wednesday through Friday is covered in the ticket price – that includes all the mixers and meals, and there’s something happening every night. If you’re registered for SATE, you’re in. Conversely, if you’re not, you’re not – these events are open only to SATE participants.
Wednesday evening is the welcoming mixer at Hospitality Hall on the UNLV campus. Not only will this be a great networking event and kickoff in a fantastic, state-of-the-art space, it’s a showcase of the capabilities of the school’s top-ranked hospitality program. There will be two floors of food, beverages and music and the space will have a red-carpet ambiance and photo ops – Vegas style.
On Thursday night, SATE takes over Illuminarium Las Vegas at Area15, one of the hottest new immersive attractions in one of the hottest new venues. Food and drink will be included.
Greg Senner: As far as a Friday evening event. there are a few discussions going on and something very exciting is in the works – we just can’t say anything yet! If I, were you, I would plan to stick around for Friday night and keep an eye open for a special announcement!
Tell us about the themes and structure of the conference.
Greg: This year’s conference theme is Industry Innovations and Beyond… we will touch on the frontiers of innovation, innovation fundamentals and disruption in innovation. All of course in the context of Experience Design and the “four pillars” of SATE – Storytelling, Architecture, Technology, Experience.
There is no better place to talk about innovation and experiential entertainment than Las Vegas, which constantly reinvents itself. SATE attendees will really enjoy and benefit from the blend we put together of individual speakers, panel discussions, keynotes and hey there is even a one-act play in there somewhere.
Wednesday (Oct 12) is the welcome mixer in the evening that Shannon has already described. On Thursday and Friday (Oct 13-14) the main conference will run from 8 am to 5 pm with a keynote each day. Saturday is a separate-ticket event for TEA NextGen members and students.
Shannon: With SATE Las Vegas we have sought to establish a strong sense of place, and you will see that throughout our program and feel it in the experiences you will participate in. We are really taking advantage of what Las Vegas has to offer – by hosting the conference at UNLV, by featuring local international leaders such as our two keynotes, Paul Steelman and David Schwartz, and by showcasing relevant local experiences such as the Illuminarium visit on Thursday night.
Greg: The TEA Masters will be honored as part of the Thursday schedule as well. TEA Masters is one of TEA’s newer programs – to identify and celebrate figures in the industry who are masters of their craft – and put them in position to give back to the TEA community, fostering professional development and building greater awareness of the many, interconnected disciplines within our industry. At this point, the 2022 slate of TEA Masters has not yet been finalized and announced, but it will be very soon.
What’s in store for students and TEA NextGen members?
Greg: For the main conference Wed-Fri, there is a special discounted registration price for TEA NextGen members. In addition to that, there is a separate Saturday program that has been designed specifically for students and TEA NextGens. A separate, Saturday registration is required to participate.
Saturday (Oct 15) will feature the return of TEA GibGab, juxtaposed with “Meet the Masters” sessions. GibGab is TEA’s signature and very popular speed-networking event. It is an opportunity for students to show their portfolios to TEA member companies and get feedback – and sometimes job offers or internships.
Signup will open soon for participating in GibGab – please note that this does require a separate signup. We’re also looking for TEA member companies to participate and meet the students, as well as sponsors.
Tell us about the keynotes and their Las Vegas ties.
Shannon: Paul Steelman of Steelman Partners – a Vegas-based architecture, planning and design firm – is the keynote for SATE Day One (Thursday, Oct 13) and will be presented in a Conversation with Suzanne Steelman Taylor. Paul is recognized as a visionary designer of global entertainment, hospitality, and gaming architecture. He will talk about his career in casinos and design priorities for gaming projects. His list of recent projects in Las Vegas includes Resorts World and Circa Resort & Casino in downtown. Throughout his career, Paul has completed and constructed every type of casino project imaginable while working with many well-known clients including Genting, Galaxy Entertainment, Las Vegas Sands Corporation, MGM Resorts International, Sheraton, Hyatt, Swiss Casinos, Hard Rock, Caesar’s Entertainment, Silverton Casino, Stations Casinos and many others.
David G. Schwartz, a longtime UNLV faculty member and gaming historian, will give the keynote “Busting the Myths that Made Las Vegas,” on SATE Day Two (Friday, Oct 14). His field of study is gambling and casinos, pop culture, Las Vegas tourism and conflict resolution. David has written several acclaimed books in the field including “At the Sands,” “Grandissimo: The First Emperor of Las Vegas,” and “Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling.” We are excited that David will treat us to his list of famous but untrue Las Vegas myths.
Tell us about some of the other speakers on the program, and their topics.
Greg: We have a presentation from a TEA NextGen member and it’s possibly the first time that’s been a part of the SATE program. Her name is Zoey Thatcher; she’s a SCAD student and her topic is “What the themed entertainment industry can learn from fashion trend reports.”
Other speakers and panels include:
- Jon Binkowski, Renaissance Entertainment – “Creating the original wow for live attractions”
- Danny Burzlaff, Attractions by Unit 9 – “The race for Generation Alpha: How to harness innovation in the Metaverse”
- Michael Libby, Worldbuildr will discuss AI and storytelling
- Cynthia Sharpe, Thinkwell and Nicola Rossini, Riding Chaos present “From zero to hero,” a one-act play about embedding inclusion, diversity and access in the project lifecycle
- Mk Haley, University of TX, Austin – “Innovation in traditional and common character meet-and-greet experiences and how Santas are leading the way”
- Brett Jackson, Live Action Attractions will host an interactive game
- Margreet Papamichael, CLEAR Associates – “A plea to all designers and technologists: can the industry-wide staffing crisis be resolved through innovation in design?”
- Chris Conte, Electrosonic will moderate the panel discussion “Stepping into the digital frontier.” Speakers include Alex Willis of disguise.
- James Anderson of Forrec will moderate the panel discussion Retail Innovation: Creating customer memories. Speakers will include Matt Proulx of Hasbro.
- Paul Kent, VP of the TEA EME Division Board, will present “Are we just in repeat mode?”
- AD Gladu and Dave Cooperstein of PGAV Destinations will present “Lighten up! The power of tapping into your own personal joy.”
- Ed Shaw and Matt Earnest of Entertainment + Culture Advisors will speak on “Innovation through disruption.”
- “Casting the crowd: Innovations in making the guest part of the story” will be a group presentation including speakers Mark Stepanian of CAVU Designwerks, and Adam Sharp.
- “Dimensions in experiences for the 21st Century” – Jean-Yves Martineau, Miner Media
- A presentation on the new MSG Sphere, speakers TBA
Any final notes?
Shannon: After three years of planning SATE Las Vegas, I am so excited we are finally here. Originally planned for 2020, we have really had time to cultivate this one.
SATE Las Vegas is set to be one of the best! With the number of experiences and innovative presenters and panelist you may not get this opportunity again! Register now! No really, attendees seem to be buying their tickets early for this one and we may just sell out! Our host hotel, The Westin only has a handful of rooms left already so do not procrastinate!
Greg: I’m thrilled that I have been able to participate at the co-chair level and believe we are developing SATE for every level of attendee. SATE Las Vegas will bring a great deal of education, experiences, and networking to the themed entertainment industry.