Thursday, 1 September 2016

Getting in the Creative "Zone"

In this industry creativity is a much-revered talent. Not only that, but it must be almost instantaneous creativity, thanks to short lead times for proposals.

I have practiced and taught creativity for many years, but only recently have I discovered what for me is the best scenario for coming up with good ideas. It is not a gimmick but it does involve getting up from your desk and doing a little exercise.

Basically it is walking at a steady but not too strenuous a pace and it must be done for at least 30 minutes and not up an incline. Personally if I do this on a nice level walking trail, particularly away from traffic, I find that after about 20 to 30 minutes, my mind starts to de-clutter. At this point once I feel relaxed and able to move smoothly, I begin to think about a problem or proposal or whatever needs solving. I find that very quickly I will begin to develop related ideas that are creative, logical, and ultimately workable. I then continue to concentrate on this generation of ideas and try not to think about the physical walking or about my surroundings. In reality, this seems to be a form of hypnotism if one can call it that. By the end, if it has been a productive walk and lots of ideas have come forth. I often think back and realize I have no idea how I got from the start to the finish of the walk as I was so involved with the great ideas.

This seems to beat many other techniques for generating ideas, at least for me. But why? Here is what I think. When we walk at a steady pace, it has been proven that most people tend to fall into a regular pace of 120 steps per minute. This coincidentally is the almost universal pace that armies march at because it literally makes their minds numb and susceptible to taking orders and it also fosters togetherness. Not only that, but recent studies have also analyzed top musical hits over the years and found that the majority of songs are at a tempo of - you guessed it - 120 beats per minute. Finally, this number corresponds to an actual frequency of 60 cycles per second, a "mesmerizing" frequency in our brains. 

Think about this as a way to come up with new ideas. If you try it, let me know if it works.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Lighting for Houses of Worship

I am not an expert in this type of event technology but my son, the lighting genius, certainly is. The images below, taken by me, show some of his recent handiwork on a local installation. Seems to me it would certainly enhance any service.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Determining Vertical Stage Size

My most popular post to date has been the one about determining horizontal stage size for an event. In this post, thanks to several questions, I address the vertical dimension.

The first assumption in determining the height of a stage is that the special event is not being held in a venue with a permanent stage such as a theater. Otherwise, the height is dependent on the size of the audience, whether they will be sitting or standing, and whether the ground or floor is level (we will assume in this section that the surface is level). Standing audiences can occur for concerts, receptions, dances, trade shows, product launches, and others. Seated audiences can occur at dining events, award ceremonies, opening and closing ceremonies, meetings, and numerous others. We will deal with each of these.

Standing Audience

In order to make an educated determination of the correct height for a standing audience, we must make some assumptions of human characteristic body dimensions and typical spacing between persons in a standing crowd. For purposes of this exercise only, let us assume that the average person is approximately 5 ft 11 in. (179 cm) tall and that in a standing crowd, people will tend to space themselves no closer than 2 ft (0.6 m) apart. Also, we must assume that persons in the crowd are able to maneuver themselves sufficiently to see over the heads of other persons two rows ahead of them (i.e. about 4 ft, or 1.2 m in front of them). If we further assume that at minimum any persons in the audience must see at least the top part of the head of an average person standing on the stage (near the front or downstage edge of the stage), then we can draw some sight lines to assist us with calculating the correct stage height that will relate directly to the size of the crowd. Figure 1 does just this. Note that at 25 ft (7.6 m) away from the stage, a person is able to see the top part of the head of someone onstage if the stage is 3 ft (1 m) in height. Likewise, at 50 ft (15 m) from the stage, the height must be raised to 4 ft (1.2 m) to achieve similar visibility and at 100 ft (30 m) away from the stage, the height must be at least 8 ft (2.4 m) for the same visibility. It is clear from this explanation that given a specific audience size and venue size, that a stage should be constructed of sufficient height to enable the entire audience to view the stage in the worst case scenario. For example, even in the case of a standup reception at which there will be stage entertainment, the assumption must be made that during the entertainment, attendees will crowd the stage to the extent that they will be about 2 ft apart, even though when the entertainment is not on, this may not be true.

Figure 1: Stage Height Determination for a Standing Audience

Seated Audience

For a seated audience, the height is also determined by the ability to see over the head of a person sitting directly across a table (if dining) or directly in front by two rows (if theater-style). We will illustrate the principle by using a dining situation in which diners are seated at 72 in. (1.8 m) diameter round tables, separated by 10 ft (3 m) center-to-center. Exactly the same principle applies as for the standing scenario, except that, because the distance from the observer to the person opposite is much greater than the critical distance in a standing crowd, the angle is lower and so the stage can be that much lower in height. Figure 2 illustrates the angles and can be used to calculate approximate stage heights. Once again, the worst case scenario must be assumed and if the tables are less than 72 inches in diameter (e.g. 60 in. or 1.5 m rounds) then the calculation must be rechecked. Note also that because of the low angle, a constant stage height may be used for the nearest 50 ft (15 m) to the stage before the stage height really needs to be increased, unlike the standing situation.

Figure 2: Stage Height Determination for a Seated Audience

It should be kept in mind that the variables in determining stage height are many (e.g. slope of ground if outdoors, proximity of audience members to each other, whether performers stay on mainly the downstage portion of the stage), so the above analyses are only intended to be general guidelines and not hard rules. Each situation will be different and in some cases, a lower stage might be adequate.

Read more about this and many other topics in my new books.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

More HDR Event Photography

Some of my latest HDR event photos. Now I am not an accomplished event photographer by any means and mostly I just do it as a learning experience because photography is my hobby. However, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have an amazing catalogue of images of your events if you are a planner or manager. This is what defines you and your company. Never settle for just acceptable - hire the very best event photographer you can to document your events and put only the best in your online portfolio.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Hot Ideas for Experiential Entertainment

Over the last week or so, I have been moderating a LinkedIn discussion about the perceived decrease in live entertainment at corporate events. Let me first condense the discussion into its main points and then offer some ideas for experiential entertainment.

First, many contributors agreed with me that there is less live entertainment nowadays, with most blaming it on cost and the apparent lack of return on investment. Some were of the opinion that corporate executives automatically cut entertainment when faced with a budget crunch. Typical examples given were using a DJ instead of a live band. Some talked about still using basic interactive entertainment such as magicians, caricaturists, and graphologists as value for money as far as their interactivity capability went.

In this discussion, my contention was, and still is, that planners desperately need to be educated and to up the creativity ante in order to obtain and successfully use live entertainment. This means taking the time to scour the web but also to occasionally step away from their computers and phones and venture out to things like festivals, nightclubs, and industry conferences where the latest and greatest in live entertainment is exhibited. To be a good planner, you need to thoroughly understand what a specific act can do. You cannot be lazy or trust the same old four or five acts or bands to be the right ones for every client. Sometimes it takes guts to challenge a client who says there is no budget when you know that there is an act that fits the existing budget and can wow the guests. More than anything, you have to ask the right questions about the purpose of the event and the message that the client wants to get across to guests. Armed with that information, you should be able to recommend several live entertainment options within the allowable budget. If you cannot, then you need to do more research if you want to rise above the competition. Having said that. what follows are some specific ideas that may help you start on the road to giving your clients an amazing experience using live, interactive entertainment (all suggestions have active links).

  1. Kung Fu demo team - I have personally used this before with success. I dressed up a kung fu group to look like guests. They started an argument in the buffet line and then got into a fight. Everyone was  totally surprised until they revealed themselves and gave a real martial arts demo.
  2. Tai Chi demo and participation - great for group participation and health
  3. Bedlam Slinkies - human slinky toys 
  4. Energetic Engineering - lasso and knife throwing 
  5. Crazy giant balloon show - performer inside a giant balloon
  6. The Belles - spandex-covered roving entertainers
  7. Wild costumed characters - these costumes are amazing
  8. Walkabout wearable projection - have fun with projections on guests
  9. The Living Garden - a beautiful garden comes alive
  10. Pickpockets - watch out!
  11. Beauty Boutique - an extreme glitter experience
  12. Firewall - combines sight, sound, and touch in a magical experience
These are only a tiny fraction of the unbelievably creative offerings out there if you search. In my experience, most performers, especially ones who do walkabout, roving, or table/reception entertainment, are usually more than happy to customize their performances to incorporate something unique about the event or the sponsoring organization. That, of course, makes it much more relevant.

More to come in another post about how to create stage shows with a truly experiential component.