Thursday, 21 October 2010

Technical Requirements for Indoor Venues

Once you know the room capacity, then there are many more details to be ironed out for a successful event. Some of the key points to be determined are:

  • Where is power located, what options are available, what is the cost for tie-in, how will it be tied in, and who will do it? Usually lighting and audio prefer power tie-in near or behind the main stage.
  • Is adequate staging available and can it be set up in a timely manner? Is there a cost for staging as well and is the surface appropriate for the show? Is it steady? Are there safety rails? Is a wheelchair ramp necessary and if so, is one available from the venue or must one be constructed or brought in?
  • What are the exact dimensions of the room? Where are entrance doors and exits? Where will catering be coming from? Where will bars and other venue-provided services (e.g. buffets) be located?
  • Where is the best location for the technical riser?
  • Is there a remote house lighting control available
  • Where are the hanging points located in the ceiling and what is their load capacity?
  • Are there any specific restrictions about installation of equipment or décor such as no nails in walls?
  • What will the venue be doing during event setup? There can be no clashes between technical personnel and venue staff, such as setting up tables at the same time as lighting is being flown. Neither can there be conflicting events in other rooms.
  • What time is room access?
  • Is there easy freight elevator and loading dock access and how long does it take to move from the loading dock to the event location? Will all equipment and props fit into the freight elevator or will they have to be brought in via an alternate route and perhaps even at an alternate time? Can all equipment be moved safely through access hallways and doors?
  • Are ladders or automated lifts (e.g. Genie lifts) available for use to help with rigging in the ceiling? Must a venue qualified operator be used?
  • Are there green rooms readily available with all necessary amenities for technical personnel and performers?
  • Is there an area or spare room set aside for technical equipment container (otherwise known as dead cases) storage?
  • What time is strike and will there be any clashes when loading out?
  • Where are emergency exits located and where are fire extinguishers located?
  • What, if any, are the specific venue safety regulations that pertain to any of the responsibility areas of event production?
Following this site visit and as part of the subsequent preparatory event paperwork, the producer must communicate back to the venue exactly what technical assistance will be required from them. This can be done in any number of ways such as by e-mail, fax, or phone call, but the main thing is to have a request on paper. My own company used to create an “Event Requirements” form that would be printed out from our database program that outlined all these basic needs, including such items as staging and the required size, audio needs (e.g. house audio and the number and type of microphones if the event were simple), house lighting and power tie-in needs, changing room (i.e. green room) sizes and additional support (e.g. coat racks, mirrors, refreshments, etc), and any other special requests. This form would also be copied to the client who invariably had the responsibility of paying for some of these requirements (e.g. refreshments, staging, house power tie-in, etc), but of course we would have obtained the client’s approval before sending the form to the venue.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Determining Room Capacity

Event planners often have trouble determining how many guests can fit into a specific room. I have been in too many situations, especially dinners, where guests are cramped or there is a safety issue because aisles are not wide enough for egress. As luck would have it, there are guidelines, thanks to the Convention Industry Council Manual and the expertise of Catering Managers. Here they are.

• Standup reception. 9 – 10 sq ft (.84 - .93 sq m) per person.
• Theater seating (less than 60 people). 12 – 13 sq ft (1.1 – 1.2 sq m) per person. This allows at least 24 in. (61 cm) of space between rows, which is the most comfortable.
• Theater seating (60 to 300 people). 11 – 12 sq ft (1.0 – 1.2 sq m) per person.
• Theater seating (more than 300 people). 10 – 11 sq ft (.93 – 1.0 sq m) per person.
• Schoolroom general. 17 – 22 sq ft (1.6 – 2.9 sq m) per person. This allows for rectangular tables that are 6 or 8 ft (1.8 or 2.4 m) long and 18 in. (46 cm) wide, with 2 ft (.61 m) per person and 3.5 ft (.91 m) between tables as a minimum for optimum comfort.
• Banquet seating (60 in. or 152 cm diameter rounds). 13.5 sq ft (1.25 sq m) per person for optimum comfort for eight persons at the table. A 12 ft center-to-center separation is best for maximum comfort and safety.
• Banquet seating (66 in. or 168 cm diameter rounds). 13.5 sq ft (1.25 sq m) per person for optimum comfort for nine persons at the table. A 12.5 ft center-to-center separation is best for maximum comfort and safety.
• Banquet seating (72 in. or 183 cm diameter rounds). 13.5 sq ft (1.25 sq m) per person for optimum comfort for 10 persons at the table. A 13 ft center-to-center separation is best for maximum comfort and safety.

Note that these numbers do not allow for any staging or other elements such as décor in the venue. The area occupied by these extra event elements must be taken into consideration if an accurate estimate of capacity is to be determined. For ease of illustration, let us assume that an event will have a stage against the long wall of a rectangular room. The calculation for capacity is therefore given by the following formula:

Capacity     =       Useable area        
                          Area per person        

                   =   (Room length x Room depth) – (Room length x Stage depth)
                                                      Area per person

Likewise, the area used by any other décor elements or hard impediments must be taken into account and deducted from the total useable area. This method of course assumes that the area behind the stage or other impediment is unusable area. The figure below is a graphical representation of this methodology. In this case, the room length is 100 ft, room depth 80 ft, stage width 20 ft, and stage depth 16 ft.

Determination of the Useable Area of an Indoor Venue

In this example, the total room area is 8000 sq ft (i.e. 100 ft x 80 ft) but the useable area is only 6400 sq ft (i.e. 8000 sq ft – 1600 sq ft) where 1600 sq ft represents the unusable area occupied by the stage and the area behind the front of the stage that runs the length of the room. Assuming that this event is to be a dinner, then the room capacity in this example would be 592 persons (i.e. 8000 sq ft/13.5 sq ft per person) if there were no stage, and 474 persons (i.e. 6400 sq ft/13.5 sq ft per person) if the stage were to be used in the location drawn.

It's always best to double check all calculations for room capacity particuarly when you expect to be close to capacity or when there are numerous other elements in the mix such as buffet tables, staging, or decor.