The first thing attendees see when they enter your general session room is the stage. It literally fills the front of the room and sends an immediate message. Or does it? Does it set the tone, establish the mood and trigger the emotion of the event? Or is it a platform, some big screens and colored lights? Here are some new ways your staging design can energize and motivate your audience.
Stage design gives you the freedom to transform the room and create a customized event experience for the audience. But, let’s be honest, event staging design really needs a make-over. All those standard ideas and approaches are looking a little old, tired and cliched. By making it a key part of your event strategy, you can pump up the energy, reinforce your key messages, and make the audience sit up and feel like they are part of something important.
Much More Than a Place to Stand and Present
Don’t think of the stage as just the place where speakers stand and present. It’s much more important. The stage is the “face” of your event or conference and where you create the experience of your general sessions. But, to make that happen, you need to include the staging design in your pre-event planning. Once upon a time, production companies or AV suppliers would include a stage design in their RFP proposals. The concepts were usually good, but they actually designed to fit the space and not to create an experience.
The reality is: That was the best those companies could do based on what they knew. Even now, suppliers are often forced to attempt to create the staging design for your event before you have actually figured out what the event is about, what is going to happen and what you want the audience to do. As a result, staging design is based on just a few tactical questions.
- How big is the room?
- How many people are in the audience?
- How many screens do we use?
- What is your event theme?
- Do we use a podium?
- Where do we put the panel discussion?
It Starts in the RFP
Believe it or not, today, these are not the most important questions! Don’t let them drive your staging design. Those questions should come later, after you have decided the goals, key messages, what you want the audience to do and the experiences you want them to have. Invest the time to think through the event and put that information in the RFP. Your RFP should provide the detailed information the production companies or AV suppliers need to give you an accurate estimate for the experience you need to provide. Remember, you can’t create a good event by simply specifying the lights, projection and sound any more than you can choose a great new car by simply demanding four wheels!
If you’d like more ideas on writing your event RFP, check out our blog post: Make Your Audio Visual RFP Process Effective and Efficient. Okay, let’s get started on the staging design make-over.
The Cold Reality of Event Staging
Realize that the audience will be impressed by your staging – the Wow Factor – for about 60 seconds. It’s like a birthday present. You appreciate the colorful wrapping paper and that big red bow, but what you really want is inside the box. It’s the same with your event or conference. The audience will always appreciate wonderful staging, but they came for the content. If the stage design doesn’t enhance and support the key content and messaging – you end up with an empty box. So dig deeper:
- What is the staging saying to the audience?
- How is it making them feel?
- How is it immersing them in the content?
Your answers can make the difference between the audience just watching the event – and participating in it, ready for action when they leave.
The Stage is the Brand
Whether it’s a corporate event or an association conference, make sure the stage is an extension of your brand. Besides using the brand colors, logo and messaging, it puts the content at center stage and constantly reminds the audience why they are there.
Think Like Broadway
On Broadway, the stage settings are designed to complement what’s happening on the stage and to help bring the audience into the story and action. They don’t design the sets first and then write a play to fit them. It’s easier to imagine a good stage design if you think of the stage as the canvas for your content and experience. Start by answering three questions.
- What are you communicating?
- How are you communicating it?
- What experiences are you creating that enhance the content?
Answer these three questions first and then let your staging designers do their thing. Just like a canvas, look for good composition and a focal point.
What the Audience Needs to See
During different parts of the agenda, the audience needs to know where to look. That means it’s smart to think through your event ahead of time, based on what is happening on the stage. When a speaker is on stage, you want a single focus point. A panel discussion needs several points. Your award ceremony needs a lot of points as people come out of the audience to the stage, or if you are having large groups receiving awards.
Now here’s where having an experienced staging designer comes in: You have to do more than just create places for people to stand or speak. You are creating ways for the audience to relate to what is being communicated and a personal connection with the people. Yeah, you are creating an experience. One that will galvanize how your audience thinks or acts.
Your Event in a New Light
If the stage is your canvas, then lighting is your paint. The new generation of LED lighting instruments replaces the huge, heavy lights meetings used in the past. This gives you the flexibility to put light in different, unexpected places. Light the aisles to extend the staging design into the audience. Suspend panels overhead to give your event space a customized ceiling. And use lighting to change the mood and to enhance communication. Color-code the content and give each topic a different color. Then you can change the look of the stage to support them.
Take Video Off the Screens
Remember, your audience didn’t come to the event to sit in the dark and watch television. Just having a few big projection screens is so last century. Thanks to LED panels and small, high-quality video projectors, the images can be strategically placed on the stage and in the room. Use video as part of the overall stage design. Let’s say you have four key areas or pillars of content. Give each one a vertical video column. This allows your speakers to interact with the content and not just stand in front of it. Plus, you have the option of having different images or video on each screen or to spread a massive image across all of the screens.
Remember, the video projection is a part of the overall design. You don’t build the staging design around the screens.
Think Beyond Rectangles
The stage is a rectangle. The screens are rectangles. The speaker-support images and videos are rectangles. So break it up! Today, you have the freedom to think beyond rectangles and create different spaces and places for information and content. Make the stage and screens ovals. Add a thrust that lets your speakers move closer to the people. Do the session in the round. Put the audience on the stage and the presenters on the floor. New elements keep attendees paying more attention.
Think Like the Audience
The big idea is to think like the audience. What would make them more excited and receptive to your messages? What would make the event memorable and keep them talking about it long after it’s over? Where can you spend smart and get a lot more bang for your budget?
Shepard is at the front of the line with strategic, creative, innovative staging design. We believe that the brand, content and the audience experience come first. Powerful staging can be affordable – it simply has to be planned. We are always ready to talk and share new ways your staging design can energize and motivate your audience. And boost your event success.