See the beat!
Music beyond sound.
The International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) wanted to commemorate the welcoming of sign language interpreters into their membership as well as raise awareness about their activities. A special, inclusive, branded experience was designed for them that brought deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing people together around music.
International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) & the Swiss Deaf Federation
Experiential strategy, / experience design / PR / art direction / live event production
I was the Experiential Strategist for this event. Creating this inclusive experience remains my most proud achievement.
The International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) was eager to celebrate the inclusion of sign language interpreters into their membership—but there was a catch. They didn't want to draw further criticism for doing too little too late for the deaf community.
AIIC was facing other PR battles too. It had an ageing membership with too few new, young members. It was failing on its mission to educate the general public about interpretation. (Even in its headquarters city and the home of the UN, Geneva, most people didn't know what simultaneous interpretation was.)
What AIIC really needed was an event that would solve all these problems at once. In other words, an event to (1) educate the general public about interpretation; (2) rebrand AIIC as cool, hip, and relevant, particularly in the eyes of young interpreters who could potentially become members; and (3) win over skeptics in the deaf and sign-language community who felt AIIC really didn't care about their cause.
The best way to convince the deaf community that AIIC cared was to prove that the Association really understood what it meant to be deaf. This meant both professionally (how to service the needs of a deaf client by ensuring excellent sign language interpretation) as well as on a human level (what it's really like to live in a world without sound). The latter is something that the general hearing public is extremely curious about too, so that became the leading insight for the event concept.
Getting both deaf and hearing people to experience each other's worlds was not an easy feat. In the first part of the night, the mixed hearing/deaf audience played a number of games that allowed them to experience life from "the other side." These were structured around music since both love music but experience it very differently. Hearing people usually assume the deaf can't enjoy music. Having a mixed deaf/hearing event staff played into that exchange.
For the second part of the evening, Robbie Wilde, a deaf DJ and Hewlett Packard brand ambassador, and Amber Galloway Gallego, a superstar deaf interpreter of hip-hop from the US who collaborates with rappers like A$AP Rocky and Wiz Khalifa, came to tell their inspiring life stories and to perform live.
The entire event was simultaneously interpreted into French, French Sign Langauge, and English (by AIIC members of course) making the audience acutely aware of what interpretation is and what AIIC does. The event ended with a "deafkotheque" party (an inclusive discotheque that uses haptics and light effects). The slam-dunk ending defied young interpreters' perceptions of AIIC as an ageing, stuffy institution.
The event was co-hosted by the Swiss Deaf Federation.
The event was packed with 300 attendees (92 deaf/hard of hearing; 208 hearing including 8 VIPs from international organizations). 60% of the audience were under 35 years of age; 90% were not interpreters/translators nor familiar with those professions. 100% of event attendees and temporary staff left the event able to define "simultaneous interpretation" and could state the "role of AIIC." Online media exposure for AIIC topped 151K and offline 98K. AIIC experienced more website hits in the month following the event than in the previous year.