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.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Sponsor a Refugee Family NOW

This post is a departure from my regular ramblings about special events. This one is about the refugee crisis in the Middle East, an urgent, worldwide problem.

After headlines broke a couple of months ago finally recognizing the problem, people everywhere started clamouring to help with sponsoring refugees. Unfortunately, few knew where to go or what to do. The fact is, the majority of refugees, at least those coming to Canada, must be sponsored by community organizations or groups of five or more permanent residents. Applications to sponsor are also accepted from so-called Sponsorship Agreement Holders, usually churches or charitable groups. At present, there is no central web site or location where people can go to donate to any of these individual sponsoring groups.

The process to support a refugee or refugee family is not a simple one. It requires the sponsoring organization to provide funding and real assistance for the family for a period of one year. This includes: finding rental accommodation; finding work; providing food, clothing, and furniture; assisting with a major cultural transition; helping to learn English; and registering for schools. It requires commitment. The typical cost is in the order of $25,000 or more per year that each sponsor must raise to do this. For this reason, the organizations that do sponsor must be very committed to seeing the project through to its completion. 

It is with this in mind that I am writing to appeal to my blog readers to help with the real sponsorship of two refugee families that my parish is undertaking. One such family is from Iraq and includes a husband and wife, and three small children, ages 8, 6, and 2. We are expecting them to arrive in Canada before the end of 2015. We have also made application for a similar Syrian family and expect them to arrive around the middle of 2016. 

Our fundraising goal is $50,000 for both families and to date we have raised just over $30,000. If you would like to help us reach our goal, you can read more about the project at There you will find a link to donate directly online. For donors from Canada, we are a registered charitable organization, so you will receive a tax receipt at the end of the year.

Our new Prime Minster, Justin Trudeau, has promised to immediately increase Canada's quota of refugees to 25,000 from 10,000. This greater number will still need to be settled here in a similar fashion and the task will be no less onerous for sponsoring organizations. Indeed, even more organizations will have to step forward. Now is the time to really become involved.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

More Event Photography

So here is my attempt at more event photography. My son, the lighting expert, ( asked me to shoot for him last night. Pretty cool stuff he does.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

New Books on Event Production Now Available

I'm very pleased and proud to announce the formal publication of the revised editions of my two books on special event production. These books have proven internationally popular in university courses around the world since 2008 and as detailed guides for event practitioners everywhere.

The revised editions update all aspects of event production, incorporating the latest in information and mobile technology, digital audio and video, sustainability, experiential content, risk management, and much more. As well, amazing event photographs, interviews with global industry leaders, numerous pedagogical features, and online resources all enhance the learning experience.

These are must-have guides for the industry. There is nothing else like them.

Follow the links below to purchase copies.

Monday, 9 March 2015

New Book Revisions Complete

I have finally completed the revisions to my two popular textbooks, Special Event Production: The Process and Special Event Production: The Resources and they are with the publisher.

Lots of new material in these, including brand new chapters on Event Design, Information Technology, and Sustainability, plus updates of every chapter in both books. Updates concentrate on bringing emerging technologies into the knowledge base, things like the digitization of pretty well everything that is part of a special event, from audio, lighting, and video, to the use of technology as entertainment and as decor.

As well, besides the war stories and production challenges that have been extremely popular in the original versions, there is a new feature called "The Voice of the Industry" in every chapter. The voices are exactly that - opinions and comments from some of the biggest names in event production from around the globe. Part of the purpose for these was to be more inclusive of all the countries that are now producing amazing events and for whom there is not a lot of international exposure. Experts hail from China, India, South Africa, Russia, Egypt, Germany, Brazil, and of course Canada, the USA, the UK, and Australia.

There has been a wholesale changeout of images so that the books now incorporate some spectacular event images from every corner of the world.

Look for the new books to be available in the fall of 2015. I will keep you posted as to availability and cost.