When a client asks you to stage an event on the swimming pool
terrace of a resort, or on the rooftop of an urban hotel, or in
an unfinished warehouse space, or in a sports venue, or in a multi-level
open space, or in a large ballroom with no built-in stage area,
you may be facing some big site-planning challenges. Don't freak!
We have some ideas and suggestions that will help you sort it out.
Among the many choices that will affect the way your attendees respond,
the placement of the entertainment is your decision.
Non-traditional spaces offer you flexibility. Through the magic
of draping, lighting, decorating, and stage placement, you can transform
almost any space into a great performance and event venue. This
flexibility requires that you scope out the space with a keen eye
- and choose the best locations that give good focus to the important
features of your event as well as maintain good flow among the attendees.
1. Scale the space to fit your event
People like togetherness.
If the space was designed for a crowd of 600 but you only expect
300, create intimacy and focus by using only a portion of the space.
Once you have determined the shape and size of your area, this will
help you in placing entertainment, multimedia presentations, speakers,
and other features. You may need to pipe and drape the area to scale
the space to your needs.
2. Place the stages
People like to be able to see and hear.
Once you have a feel for your area, try to get a sense about possible
focal points. Which locations will be able to be seen by the most
people at one time? You may have speakers, product display, entertainment,
and other presentations to consider - and they may not all be on
the same stage. In a rectangular shaped ballroom, putting the entertainment
stage in the middle of one of the longer walls will give better
focus than placing it at the end of the room on one of the short
walls. Centering your seating, dancing, and audience around a stage
on the long wall will give you closer and better visibility to your
entertainment and other presentations.
People like symmetry.
Entertainment staged in a corner can be perceived as incidental
instead of commanding. In addition, corner (triangular) shaped stage
areas have to be larger because of the encroaching side walls. Take
a look around. Are there obvious elements to the space that give
it a natural symmetry? Features such as chandeliers, ceilings, wall
treatments, backdrops, and other elements can be very strong and
will help you create your desired focus and flow.
People like being on an even plane.
In multi-level spaces, keeping your entertainment from being alienated
from the crowd is usually the greatest challenge. Don't fall to
the temptation to put the stage area on a stair landing or up high
above the crowd on a perch. In most cases, people like to be close
and on the same level with entertainment, unless your entertainment
is strictly background or just for ambience.
3. Maybe you don't even need a stage at all
People like to be close to the entertainment.
Having a very low rise stage or no stage at all creates one of the
best feelings for intimacy and audience interaction. You may not
need a stage at all. Providing a solid level surface sized to fit
your entertainer's needs as specified in their rider may be all
you need. If you do determine that you need a stage, keep it low
(under 3 feet), use dark carpet to help hide cords and other gear,
and try to allow for a minimum three-foot empty space behind the
stage for instrument case storage as well as accessibility for power
hookups or backdrops.
People like a good fit.
When it fits right, it looks good. For instance, we require a stage
or stage area that is 8 feet deep by 24 feet long. If we are providing
music for an event that calls for a speaker or presentations to
be made from the same stage, we suggest that the stage be slightly
larger to accommodate the additional needs. Always ask the entertainers
how much room they need to set up if they do not provide it to you
in advance. Remember that the back of most musical gear such as
amplifiers is not a pretty sight, so try to take that into account
when placing floating stages or staging an event in-the-round or
out in the open. Also, rain protection for the band gear is very
important in an outdoor event.
4. Pay attention to the backdrop
People like visual drama.
When choosing your stage location, notice the backdrop. Is it a
fire extinguisher hanging on a ballroom wall? Is it a door to the
"back of the house" hallway? Is it the electrical panel for the
venue? Or is it the skyline of a city? Is it a snow-capped mountain?
If you are not planning to decorate or place your own stage backdrop
or banners, take a look from the audiences perspective before making
your final choices.
Your entertainers are trying to engage your audience. They want
you to have a successful event. Help them by placing them in an
approachable, logical, and sensible spot with good focus from the