Complex gatherings require creative solutions
Meeting professionals plan their tactical strategies for months before entering the Zone of Action in the ballroom. Despite extensive reconnaissance and detailed mapping, land mines can pop up when you least expect it. That includes AV and staging operations. What do you do when you are suddenly in the line of fire? We asked Brandon Goodman, vice president of project management with Encore, who has been a member of Encore’s Production group for 13 years after serving as a squad leader in the US Army.
Goodman’s 275 project managers, technical directors, engineers, digital producers and technical specialists manage complex events—a term he uses to describe considerations beyond size and price. He gives three examples and how he managed variables.
High-tech Approach to Old-world Venue
Conflict: Imagine a beautiful old building with vaulted ceilings gilded molding, polished hardwood floors and gleaming chandeliers in the heart of Washington, D.C. The agenda calls for a motivational video presentation for a high-powered board of directors, but the vibe needs to be dignified respect—no taped cords running across the floor. Those who have produced events near the White House are probably already considering how to deal with Wi-Fi interruptions from passing motorcades.
“Stress is stress. It comes in many forms and you have to get good at managing high-stress environments.”
Solution: Non-standard drapery to match the room’s furnishings, floating screen designs and dedicating internet and technical support for audio fit the bill for this VIP group.
Insight: Goodman asks to meet with event producers a minimum of 30 days before an event to conduct a site visit and learn about the objectives. He then plans backward to determine everything from proper screen size to appropriate room buildout and how to protect the floor.
“You have to layer in the complexities of all of the risks involved,” he explained. “There’s no wrong way to do it. We set up an environment to meet each specific client’s needs.”
New Venue, No Site Visit
Conflict: New and unusual venues in remote locations bring their own complexities. Fresh renovations and new builds bring excitement and possibly elevated attendance, but what to do when there is no time for a physical tour to see the rigging and electrical access between the time the contractors clear out and guests start arriving?
Solution: In a recent deployment, his team designed and resourced for two separate events, one that relied on ground support equipment and one utilizing ceiling support—the client’s preferred alternative because of the streamlined aesthetics. Rigging approval came in the day of load-in and a quick decision had to be made about what alternative to use.
Insight: The uncertainty required the team to stay nimble and have countermeasures at the ready for whatever happened when they arrived. “It was a true collaboration from start to finish due to all the communication and the transparency,” he said.
Conflict: The unexpected often happens in the events industry, particularly when estimating attendance post-Covid.
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Solution: “The challenge is tricking the ballroom,” said Goodman. The good news is that if demand balloons, creating overflow areas and introducing hybrid components is a lot easier today than a few years ago. If caution keeps people at home, pipe and drape can help make a cavernous space feel cozy and turning speakers to face down can keep the audio from bleeding out. Immersive lighting can make a big space seem more interesting.
Insight: Nimble teams design plans for both smaller and larger than-anticipated gatherings to scale the technology and the staging for the number of people attending. It also helps to have wiggle room in the budget in case of unexpected changes.