“There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.”
Milton Glaser, American Graphic Designer
When you first walk into a classroom, you don’t usually say, “Wow! This place is really amazing!” They don’t typically set a memorable scene. That’s because classrooms are designed to be functional, and not much more.
Sure, there will be sufficient overhead lighting so that participants can take notes. There might be a chalk or whiteboard. Maybe a video monitor or projector. And only if the room is large enough, a microphone with basic audio system. No frills here, just basic equipment that offers practical solutions. But again, they’re designed to be...functional. Yawn.
But unless you’re only offering entry level workshops, today’s events should never be yawn inducing. You need to make an impression. To really impact your audience and set your event apart, you need meticulously produced stage design.
Stage Design 101
Stage design, also known as set design, scenic design or production design, is the overall creative look of your event. By selecting the right scenery and backdrops, visual technology, furniture, stage risers, and lighting - both functional and decorative - to support the overall artistic and strategic goals of your event and the event’s message, you literally set the stage for success
“Decor sets the stage, and it also gives a great indication to your guests as to how much effort you’ve put into hosting them.”
Rachel Hollis, Author
Great stage design immediately lays out the tone of your meeting and your attendees’ expectations. The scene you set says a lot about who you are and how determined and committed your business is, too. At the very least, your stage design should always be applied to your general session room. Ideally, the design can be incorporated into every aspect of the event including the registration area, tracks or breakout rooms, networking locations, dining rooms, foyers, and even off-site activity locations.
Stage Design As Branding
“Your premium brand had better be delivering something special, or it’s not going to get the business.”
Warren Buffett, Business Magnate, Investor, Speaker, Philanthropist
The first and most important element of stage design is branding. If you were to attend a Nike conference, you would expect to see their name and swoosh logo everywhere: designed into the scenic backdrops, appearing on their presentation graphics and videos, on all their digital and print content, on digital signage placed throughout the venue, and incorporated into the registration desks, lecterns, lanyards and badges. Maybe even as an elaborate fabricated element positioned over the main entrance of the venue.
Whether those specific items actually appear at their events is not the point. The point is that a company like Nike understands the importance of incorporating their brand everywhere. So should you. And remember, in addition to your company’s brand, you may have an event brand (i.e., the event name or theme) to include. Both are equally important
Scenic elements, backdrops, fabrics and general décor provide the perfect opportunity to highlight your brand as well as generate a visual feast that heightens attendee excitement. Whether for a single room or the entire event space, there are literally hundreds of options to choose from to fit all budgets - too many to list here.
Here’s where experience makes a difference in designing an event. A good production company will study your business, learn your company and event goals, assess the demographics of your attendees, and only then propose effective scenic options.
In Part 2, we’ll talk about the visual and physical elements of stage design.