This seems to be a common term of trade in the exhibitions field in North America, dating from the late eighties at least, which has also been spotted in Britain. It seems to be a jargon term not well known outside that business. The need to make an effective impact at business presentations to dealers and customers has led to the techniques of the more high-tech end of modern theatre being applied to sales pitches and promotion. Take a line through the average new car launch: complex stage sets, vast lighting grids, high-powered sound systems, actors, dancers, the whole theatrical experience applied to the business of persuasion. So it’s not hard to see how the phrase business theatre (less commonly, business theater) came to be applied to this approach, even though much of the conference organisation, exhibition creation, and event management that’s lumped under the name is considerably more modest than these relatively infrequent set-pieces.
It’s not like a business theatre show, where you’re going into a ballroom, or a stadium show, where you’re on a playing field. It was a chance to build conventional scenery, and showcase it.
Theatre Crafts International, Apr. 1995
As creative director of Spectrum, a company which specialises in “business theatre”, Elliott has vast experience of designing exhibitions, conferences and live events all over the world ...
Independent on Sunday, Sept. 1998
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