Lights. Camera. Action! No, it is not another shooting day in the studio – but the way corporate special events are staged these days, with elaborate scripts to follow, it could easily be mistaken for one. “Events are becoming more sophisticated because clients’ demands have also become more sophisticated,” says David Ong, general manager of Off-Site Connections (OSC) China. “Clients do not want to just attend an event, they want to experience it.”
More than anything else, visual cues are necessary in engaging their senses. And what elements attract the eyes? Drama, beauty and the unusual. It is also important that any special elements have a common thread that connects them to the central theme, which, in turn, encapsulates an event’s objectives.
Creativity is a necessity in conceptualising events. “OSC’s philosophy is that being creative does not necessarily equal a big budget. Often, powerful visual impact can be delivered through creativity and cost-effective measures,” Ong says. But it helps if there is at least some budget for a boost from technology.
“Through the integration of technology with entertainment, the visual experience is enhanced for the guests. For example, LED lights as the backdrop coordinated with a dance routine will add excitement and energy to an entire performance,” Ong adds. “Technology can be one of the key elements in creating a stunning effect at an event. For example, visual graphics projected on LED screens can be animated to coordinate with music or the programme on stage. Customised programmes that utilise technology can leave a lasting impression
OSC’s recent event for the launch of a commercial and residential complex in a second-tier city in China was themed “Heavenly Fiesta” and held outdoors to reveal the 22-metre-high property. Ong recalls: “The launch opened with an angel being lowered from the sky onto the stage, followed by a dance performance where dancers joined the angel on stage. The angel’s descent was visually stunning against an evening backdrop and paired with heavenly music. After the opening act, the action-packed pyrotechnic show was kick-started with a magic act.”
Instead of a traditional ribbon cutting, a VIP on the stage pulled out a handkerchief – actually a flammable flash paper – from his suit and lit it. The sparks of fire cued a shooting star to fall from the sky – in reality a burning fuse installed on the roof – which landed on a light bulb wall that was also on the roof.
“The light bulb wall then lit up and prominently displayed the property’s logo, and this cued the pyrotechnics on another part of the roof to go off,” Ong continues. “When the pyrotechnics ended, the drape that covered the sales office dropped to the ground and the lights inside the sales office turned on simultaneously. At this point, a pyrotechnic waterfall – aiming both up and down from the top of the sales centre – was ignited to symbolise the end of the ceremony. Thus through technology we created a visually stunning event that was memorable for the guests and for our team.”
More than eye candy
In the Philippines, Radisson Blu Cebu hosted Hi-Tech Connect, a side event of a business events conference focusing on technology. The hotel was tasked with serving and entertaining about 400 delegates within only 45 minutes.
In a bid to impress and make the event memorable, it hired a band and some carnival acts, as well as lots of lights. “We wanted to convey the concept of a very high technology-based presentation, something futuristic but not too radical. We used the theme of Lady Gaga’s
images/looks,” says Zoe Montenegro, events director of Radisson Blu Cebu.
At the entrance of the ballroom stood a humongous drag queen with as big a personality and hair as the pop diva herself, and a face all made up to signal party time! A step into the venue immediately established just how much fun was going on. It was a busy, happy, happening place – a stage dominated the middle of the ballroom and huge images of models were scattered around the room.
Radisson Blu gave its guests the opportunity to experience and squeeze the most from the 45 minutes because of the wonderful assault on their senses. They were entertained by a very kinetic band playing an all-Lady Gaga set of hits – it turned out the drag queen-doorman was also the lead singer-cum-emcee.
The walls all around the ballroom were lined with dancers, and carnival acts like acrobats being thrown into the air and contortionists. “Entertainers all over the ballroom performed energetically as we chose upbeat music that put everyone on the edge of their seats,” Montenegro says.
Visualise the entire event
Anyone can sit down and think of something fantastic to impress guests visually, but it takes a certain level of discipline and skill to make everything gel together. All details must have a connection to the central theme, and these details must flow seamlessly through the different aspects of an event.
Witness one occasion where this was not done: the delegates of an event were met by hordes of young men and women in colourful manga (Japanese cartoon) character costumes replete with wigs and make-up. The guests were welcomed in the lobby, more characters greeted them by the escalators, and still more waved at them along the hallways leading to the venue. Naturally the guests’ expectations and anticipation rose each step of the way, but on entering the reception area, the characters were no more. There was just a normal set-up of tables and chairs, leaving the delegates wondering what the characters were all about – and feeling let down.
There’s a lesson to be learned here: Once you start it, you must complete the picture. Never stop in mid-stroke – after all, this is what makes a visual impact, well, impactful.
How do you make people stop, notice and look?
ENTERTAINMENT: A live band is always good but entertainment options can always be bettered. Bring out the fire-eaters, contortionists, showgirls and stilt-walkers.
UNUSUAL CHARACTERS: Costumed characters are a sure-fire way of grabbing people’s interest and drawing them into the event’s theme and objectives. At Radisson Blu Cebu’s Hi-Tech Connect, a networking luncheon, guests got a good idea of what lay past the venue entrance when they were welcomed by a towering drag queen in high-tech fashion while Lady Gaga’s music blasted away.
FOOD: The grand opening of the Futian Shangri-La in Shenzhen kept the guests impressed, but the most heartfelt ooh-ing and ahh-ing came during the nine-course meal, which boasted incredibly intricate plating and tastes that matched the presentation. Dessert was described as a “seasonal fresh fruit platter”, but it turned out to be a jaw-dropping affair, with chunky strips of fresh fruit on a bamboo leaf inside a large raindrop-shaped ice shell that proved to be the photo opportunity of the day.
FABRIC: Be it a curtain or stretch-fabric structures, the use of textiles adds an extra dimension to a venue. Curtains provide drama while the fabric structures, also known as tension shapes, create a kinetic feel. They are very affordable but high
LIGHTING: Lighting creates the mood and immediately transforms any venue. A very popular lighting unit is the gobo, best compared to a stencil or photographic slide. Gobos can project logos, patterns or photographic images. Lighting can also be set up in sync with music, enabling guests to “see” music rhythms as well.
SPECIAL EFFECTS: Don’t stop with the lights. There are all sorts of extra effects such as the cryo – a low-crawling fog machine – and flogos, shapes (your logo perhaps?) made out of tiny bubbles that miraculously hold their form and float up through the air every few seconds.
FLOWERS: Technology aside, from time to time we should remember the joys that flowers bring. Says US-based Visual Impact on its website, “flowers are seen not only as decorations, but as all-out floral performances. Each event is unique, and [can be] designed to capture the desired magic and mood”.
PYROTECHNICS: Fireworks are a grand way to cap an event. With a bigger budget, you can add impact by commissioning a firework display tailored to your product and image.