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Another Sphere first: Hewlett Packard convention’s keynote address

Updated June 18, 2024 - 6:46 pm

Like the concerts, movie and dazzling exosphere displays that preceded it, the Sphere’s first-ever venture into hosting a business conference keynote address was a home run for attendees and operators of the four-day HPE Discover 2024 conference in Las Vegas.

There were few empty seats in the 17,000-seat arena when Hewlett Packard Enterprise President and CEO Antonio Neri took the stage for his 75-minute presentation.

Sphere technology was in the spotlight for the entire presentation, including video segments with clips from a Sphere content catalog that included portions of Darren Aronofsky’s “Postcard From Earth” film. Those clips showcased use of the Sphere’s haptic sound system rattling seats.

‘Wasn’t that amazing?’

“Wow! Wasn’t that amazing?” Neri asked after an opening video. “What an amazing venue. Big moments require big venues. Welcome to my living room. I hope you’re going to have an amazing experience here today. It is an honor to be with you at the Sphere and to give the first ever, ever keynote in this space.”

At times throughout the presentation, the high-definition, 160,000-square-foot wraparound screen projected videos — some of them captured for HPE by the Sphere Studio’s Big Sky camera — various digital images projecting big data imagery and “picture in picture” splits showing Neri on camera with data imagery in the background.

The only special venue feature that wasn’t used was the scent emitters. But then, what does data smell like?

The “Postcard” film fit the theme of the presentation as Neri discussed how artificial intelligence can be used to manage massive amounts of data to solve many of the world’s problems, from ensuring the production of renewable energy, to enhancing agriculture to end global hunger, to curing diseases, and to exploring the universe.

One of the highlights of the presentation was Neri’s introduction of Nvidia Corp. co-founder and CEO Jensen Huang as a Hewlett Packard Enterprise partner. Nvidia, a Santa Clara, California-based American multinational software company specializing in artificial intelligence, is collaborating with Hewlett Packard to manage data in a new partnership formally announced Tuesday.

The crowd applauded and cheered throughout the presentation.

“That was unlike any keynote speech I’ve ever seen,” said Emile Schouwstra, a director of IT services for SLTN, a company based in the Netherlands.

“The Sphere is very impressive, and I think it was the perfect place for this keynote,” he said.

And that’s exactly what HPE was hoping for when it made the decision to stage the event at the Sphere.

Preparing for months

“We’ve been working on this for months so I spent a lot of my time looking at the reactions of others and listening (as attendees left),” said Jason Newton, vice president of global marketing for HPE. “We wanted this to be an experience and to bring out that emotion in our customers, and that’s what this venue enabled us to do.”

“We felt very, very good about what happened today,” Chief Marketing Officer Jim Jackson added. “We wanted to give people an experience that they couldn’t get anywhere else. We were just feeling the buzz post-show, with lots of positive feedback. People were energized. They were excited. And that’s what we wanted.”

Newton and Jackson would not disclose the cost of renting the facility or production costs. But they concurred that they achieved their goals of making a mark with their tech announcements in the venue.

In past Las Vegas appearances, HPE met in ballrooms at The Venetian that required overflow rooms to accommodate thousands of people. Jackson said the company considered using Allegiant Stadium, but it would have had to build a stage there and could possibly have lost attendance without a transportation plan from The Venetian conference headquarters to the stadium.

Jennifer Koester, president and chief operating officer of Sphere, said that her company viewed the first keynote speech at the venue as a success and that other companies have inquired about using it for their corporate events.

“I really think HPE did an amazing, amazing execution of their corporate event, and I think they shared their vision in a way that when I looked around the audience was engaged and they were listening,” Koester said in an interview after the event. “I do think that Antonio (Neri) did a great job of really making sure that we utilized everything in this venue to amplify their message. I couldn’t be happier with the first keynote that we had today with them and the way it turned out. I just think it was an experience unlike any other.”

HPE Discover 2024 attendees will get one more chance to see the Sphere in a different way. Attendees have been given access to attend a special performance by Dead & Co.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on X.

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