Inspiring Presentations for Architects at the AIA Show

Posted by Connie Dettman

May 28, 2015

AIA Show Keynote Speech

I recently attended the AIA (American Institute of Architects) Convention in Atlanta, GA as part of our work for clients that manufacture building products and market to the architectural field. For those that didn’t have the opportunity to attend, I’ll share a few reflections on trends in the industry, Bill Clinton’s address, the Advertising Excellence Awards and other happenings at this big event.

The first day began with the AIA honoring the international architect, Moshe Safdie, with the 2015 AIA Gold Medal. Hearing him speak was truly an inspiration and he brought all attendees to their feet when he concluded by saying "Glass towers in the desert are no more meant to be than igloos in the tropics." Safdie pointed out that architects need to design buildings that reflect their environment. Safdie is responsible for designing the most iconic buildings in India (Khalsa Heritage Center), Singapore (Marian Bay Sands), United States (Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art) and six of Canada’s public institutions, including the National Gallery of Canada and the Vancouver Library Square.

Then came what everyone had been waiting for, keynote speaker, former President Bill Clinton. As expected, he was an excellent orator and had the full attention of the 7,000 attendees that morning. He spoke directly to the architects challenging them to design buildings that involve diverse partners and take into account climate control and sustainability. After a long standing ovation he sat down with AIA President, Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA , and discussed in more detail the subject of women in architect leadership positions and joked how he was the most difficult client the architects building the presidential library had ever encountered.

The exposition hall then opened up to more than 800 vendors with the most-well designed and attention getting booths. Clearly, thought and purpose had gone into designing the booths for 15,000 attendees.


Architects toured outstanding architectural buildings in the Atlanta area like the new Porsche headquarters, the cutting-edge TOTO factory and the historic Fox Theatre. They were also able to take necessary continuing education classes to further their careers.

On Friday morning I enjoyed attending the 2015 Advertising Excellence Awards. After recognizing the winners in print and online media, a panel of architects representing firms of all sizes working on projects from large-scale commercial to residential and interiors discussed their likes and, sometimes, dislikes of ads in Architectural Record. Listening to the architects speak specifically about the trade and online ads, was time well spent.

They broke the ads down into several categories including close-ups, collage, headline-focused and project-featured ads. Of course, the architects appreciated the ads that highlighted stunning installations, but they cautioned that a lot of the ads didn’t use high quality photos. When an advertiser chooses to feature their product in an installation and doesn’t take the time to feature the project in the best possible light and framing, most architects are quickly offended.


Another key takeaway from the awards program panelists' discussion was that architects are problems solvers. When you challenge them and they’re not sure of something, they are drawn in and will do more investigating. Show them something unexpected and you will get good results. One of the panel members remarked that an architect magazine can sometimes be “dry”, but when you interject humor and something whimsical into an ad, architects stop and take notice. Expanding your campaign impact with social media posts targeting architects is also of value as long as the content is relevant and thought provoking.

Color, texture and movement in advertising were all key words used during the panel discussion. Architects also love innovation and expect to learn about new products through advertising. While discussing copy heavy ads, the architects cautioned to use direct headlines. Don’t use adjectives that can be applied to any manufacturer, “Be direct and don’t waste words”.

Overall, the show was a success for architects and those who market to them. Architects were able to see the newest products in the industry and manufacturers showcased themselves in the most professional way. Thanks AIA, See you next year in Philadelphia!


Planning for your next trade show? Give us a call at 815-967-0929 to discuss some ways you can improve your exhibit presentation and develop solid leads with a pre- and post-show content marketing campaign.


Request a Free Consultation


Topics: Trade Shows