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Event planning made easy with SketchUp

Event design in SketchUp

SketchUp for event planning? Oh yeah! Our team takes on the huge task of planning our user conference, 3D Basecamp, every other year. For 3D Basecamp 2018, our new event manager, Aubree, wanted to plan the entire conference in SketchUp to prove that it truly can work for anything. Forget only using paper plans, SketchUp was able to project manage everything to the detail while keeping everyone on the same page. We sat down with Aubree and explored her 3D Basecamp journey.

This was your first major event for SketchUp. We’re so glad to have you here! What makes a SketchUp event stand out from anything else you’ve done?

The community. The SketchUp community is really special and unique. People are highly engaged, incredibly creative, and authentically themselves. Our community isn’t shy in expressing their opinions and getting their hands dirty. Everyone is there to help one another, which means a lot of sharing happens! There are no hierarchies or stuffy corporate suits — instead, there are Hawaiian shirts, laughter, and high fives. It’s a breath of fresh air.

How did using SketchUp ease some common event planning challenges?

Using SketchUp helped us to project manage the entire event with ease. Presenting the space in 3D helped us effectively convey our vision, ideas, and goals. The 3D model was our blueprint for building the event, so we made sure to share it with everyone. We used the model to place decor and wayfinding elements, discuss A/V needs and locations, design our exhibit hallway, and test out new ideas. We went through 8 versions of the model, each time adding new notes and elements that were shared directly with staff, the hotel, our A/V team, and our production company. Using SketchUp as our main production tool helped streamline and improve project communications because there was no guessing — everyone knew exactly what was underway.


Similar to a coffee shop, the Knowledge Cafe was a lounge space where people could work, sip on coffee, and get technical support. It also functioned as a space for ad-hock presentations and AR/VR demos.

There are always challenges in getting other stakeholders to buy-in to an out-of-the-box idea. How was a 3D model helpful to get big ideas approved?

Having a 3D model helped get everyone on board with the master vision. It’s easier to say “yes” when you can see exactly how the plan is going to work. The Oasis was a new concept that was hard for people to understand at first. There was concern that the hallway was too narrow and off the beaten path. However, once we built the tropical environment in 3D, people could see how it was all going to come together. I believe we were successful with this because we were able to effectively communicate our design.

Neglected _hallway_3DBasecamp

Scroll through to see The Oasis lounge, a curated space at 3D Basecamp for people to relax and recharge

The other big out-of-the-box idea that was produced was the Desert Glow party. That was a big venture for our team and it required a lot of careful planning to execute properly. From the beginning, we had ambitious plans to transform the outdoor/indoor area into three unique spaces (Desert Tent, Desert Grove, and Desert Pool). The goal was for attendees to choose their own journey and to select whatever space they felt the most comfortable in. When designing the spaces we wanted the concept of creativity and wonder to be the theme of the event. To accomplish that each space needed to have unique elements to interact with, such as color, performing arts, games, and sculptures. All of these things take up physical space, so it was imperative that we modeled each item with the proper measurements. The 3D model helped us evaluate if things were going to fit properly and gave us the flexibility to try new, out-of-the-box ideas. Without the model, I don’t think we would have felt confident in pulling the event off because of how complex our plan was. It also helped us explain our vision to vendors and anticipate problems early on, which made set-up and dismantle a breeze!


Here's a high-level view of the Desert Glow party space. This allowed the team to make any needed adjustments before pulling it together in real life. Scroll through to see the design take shape.

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This space was used as a transitional space that guided guests to the Desert Tent, Desert Grove, and the Desert Pool


The LED Wall at the Desert Glow party was a huge hit and encouraged creativity. Before placing it in the model, we didn't know where we would put it. Scroll through to see the model come to life.


From SketchUp model to implementation, scroll through to see the inside of the Desert Tent

How did having a visual model help with event set-up?

The social team printed sections of the space and handed them out to volunteers so that they could see what they were working on. This streamlined the set-up process because everyone had a blueprint of what they were working on. They knew exactly where things were supposed to go and how things worked with one another. We also used our printed guides to show vendors where they needed to drop off equipment and how we wanted things placed.


With so many moving pieces, it was important to show the SketchUp models to vendors and volunteers so they knew where to place items. Scroll through the gallery to see the relaxing hammock area in the Desert Pool space.

Is there anything you did at the event that you never would have thought to do without this unique view of your space?

Yes, we own a really large 3D logo that takes up approximately 300 cubic sq. ft. It’s a challenge to work with because it requires a lot of effort to install. Without placing it inside the 3D model, I don’t think we would have used it at the conference. Originally the cube was supposed to be inside the hotel lobby, but when we incorporated it into the model we quickly realized that was the wrong spot. The cube would have taken up the entire lobby with little to no room to move around! The model helped us to manage risks, saving us time, money, and lots of stress!

Sketchuplogo_reallife sketchup_logo

After placing the large logo in different areas within the model, we discovered it would be too large to be placed inside the event space. This is something we would never have figured out if it hadn't been for SketchUp.


Another model showcasing where the large SketchUp logo would be placed

Were there aspects of SketchUp that you feel you couldn’t plan an event without now that you’ve used them?

Absolutely! Using the SketchUp model for space planning was critical to the success of the event. At least 98% of the things we modeled in SketchUp were used as depicted in the model in real life. What we envisioned in 3D became reality. Talk about a powerful tool! SketchUp saved us endless hours of stress and time because we already had a strong game plan going into the event. I believe this is why we had little to no critical issues at 3D Basecamp. Everything was already discussed and evaluated months ahead of time. When someone questioned if an idea would work, we showed them the model and pointed out the measurements.

How did it feel to see your 3D model come to life?

It felt amazing! It was so satisfying to see everything come together like we had planned. My favorite element was seeing the party in real life. We had spent countless hours imagining and discussing all of the elements of the party, so to see everyone painting and interacting with the art was such a treat.


Scroll through to explore the inside of the Desert Tent including the interactive Art Gallery

Tell me about a pain point in your event planning that was easily accomplished with SketchUp.

One of our early goals was to provide alternative seating in front of the keynote stage so that the environment felt more fun and playful. To do this we wanted to provide a mixture of colorful camping chairs, Adirondack chairs, bean bags, and inflatable couches for up to 100 people. As this idea evolved there was some concern that we wouldn’t be able to fit all 1200+ people into the ballroom because of the space needed for the alternative seating to work properly. To solve this problem, we went into the 3D model and added the stage, projector screens, conference chairs, and then measured how many feet we needed to make 100 alternative seats happen. We learned that we needed at least 27 feet from the stage to the beginning of the traditional rows to fit everyone comfortably. Once we had the proper measurements, we were able to move the chairs around in a semi-circle and evaluate if this was an idea worth pursuing. The 3D model helped us space plan without wasting time or energy. We knew with absolute certainty and confidence that we could fit 1200 people with alternative seating inside the ballroom before setting up.


Space planning for the keynote with SketchUp. Scroll through to see the ballroom space come to life.

A more streamlined process, visualization of the space beforehand, and expert planning helped make 3D Basecamp 2018 a huge success. We are ready for you, 3D Basecamp 2020!

Side note: we are already preparing for 3D Basecamp 2020! Stay up-to-date with the latest information. If you can't wait that long, check out our Bootcamp Roadshows, SketchUp 101 training for beginners launching in summer 2019.

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About the Author

When she's not writing copy, analyzing numbers, or executing strategy, you'll find Michelle cooking from her garden in her 100 year-old cabin, logging alpine miles on ski and foot, or enjoying a craft beer and a burger.

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