Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio November
Back to Basics
By David Haneke
ADDING FLASH ON A BUDGET
How to create crowd- pleasing productions without breaking
Not every meeting has a six-figure budget. But even though you
don't have enough money to produce Star Wars, your
audience probably has seen Star Wars and would like to be
entertained by an event at least as impressive. Today's business
audiences have come to expect awesome videos, dazzling speaker-
support graphics, live performances by stars, sets that move and
lighting that would rival that at the Academy Awards.
Here are few ideas that can help punch up a meeting without
breaking the budget.
SET THE MOODUse ideas that issue a call to action.Create a simple theme logo that you can use as a screen graphic
as well as on any printed collateral material. The key is to
permeate the meeting with the theme.Be original. Whenever possible, avoid trite and overused
meeting themes like "Mission: Possible."
Spend as much time as you can developing an appropriate theme for
the meeting. Some rules of thumb:
You don't have to build an expensive set to impress the audience.
Recently, our company produced a conference for auto-parts store
managers that was basically a pipe-and-drape set featuring classic
cars mounted on platforms. We rented the cars for $400 a day from a
local collectors' club. The impact was huge.
Try to match the set to the theme. If your meeting theme is
extreme sports, put in a half-pipe and get a local skateboard club
to do some stunts on it. When going with simple pipe-and-drape sets
and a screen or two, dress the set with a forest of rented
Although planners can skimp in some areas, equipment is not one of
them. Make sure the sound system is adequate for the audience.
Lighting can be simple, but be sure you are able to light the stage
and speakers dramatically.
As early as possible, educate the technical director about the
impact you are trying to make. He knows more about what can be done
than you might think. You are paying for his expertise. Use it.
If the room isn't large enough to create a backstage area,
consider putting the equipment in plain view and using its
conspicuousness to your advantage. A wonderful aspect of the
Broadway production of The Lion King is that the audience
is in on how all the staging effects are accomplished.
MIX IT UP
Try to inject a variety of production elements into your meeting by
mixing the media. Use video and speaker support where appropriate.
Also consider live performers: dancers, singers, magicians, stunt
people, whatever will make your point. But they can't be
superfluous; the acts must make sense in the context of the
Then consider the theatricality of the staging. Have some
speakers come up from the audience, others from backstage, still
others from outside the room. If you have a number of speakers,
maybe you should think about having a second podium so the audience
isn't always focused on one area of the stage. The variety can help
keep the audience alert.
Plan the show's flow carefully. Avoid putting a bunch of
speakers back-to-back by interspersing other media or a few
Even if the meeting's budget does not allow for a $50,000
custom-made video, you still can get messages across onscreen by
using preproduced videos. Your company's logo and/or shots of
employees and products are inserted into an existing, generic video
to create a custom look at just a fraction of the cost.
David Haneke, based in Phoenix, is director of Meeting
Express (www.meetingexpress.com), which
produces video modules.
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