Exhibition AV Hire at NEC Birmingham

Exhibition Stand at NEC Birmingham with Sound System and Projection

When Stagetex were asked to provide audio visual support for an exhibition stand at The NEC it was important for the sound system to be as discrete without compromising on quality. 

Working on the VEX Robotics stand, Stagetex were responsible for all aspects of audio, cameras and projection. 

Project Manager, Tom Edwards, selected a combination of Ohm CT-26 and CT-6 speakers in white and powered by Crown XTI amplifiers for the audio system which was required to provide clear speech throughout the area.

Audio visual system including cameras and laptops at NEC Birmingham

The video system comprised a Black Magic HD projection system, live cameras and graphic overlays displaying the results of the robotics competitions. 

As a full production audio visual hire company, Stagetex supplied all of the equipment from their own hire stock.

Laptop and AV Hire for an exhibition stand at The NEC


5 Cost effective ways to keep your audience engaged

Putting on a conference is significant investment so you will want to be sure you are getting the most you possibly can out of it whatever your objectives. 

An important part of that is ensuring that your delegates are fully engaged and ready to learn. As well as planning the right number of breaks there are things that you can do during your sessions to engage your audience and measure the outcomes of your event. 

1. Crowd Source Questions

Don't wait until the end of a presentation to ask the audience if they have any questions. This inevitably ends up in an awkward silence until someone speaks up and, even then, the shyer members of your audience are unlikely to contribute. 

Crowd sourcing questions can be something as simple as allowing delegates to send a text message to a specific phone number with their question or by using an app like sli.do.

2. Red for Fired, Green for Hired


Live polls are a great way to focus your delegates at the start of the day, understand their expectations and get their feedback at the end of the day.

During presentations, live polls are a great way to provide a short break, engage the audience and make sure they are understanding the content. 

There are a wide range of audience response and interactive voting systems available from dedicated handsets to apps like sli.do. Of course, if you're using apps like sli.do you will need to ensure you have good internet connectivity in the venue (don't just assume hotel wifi or mobile signal will be sufficient). We'd recommend engaging a professional event network supplier like MaxWifi.

Of course there are much more low-tech solutions. Think about the "green for hired, red for fired" cards used in the BBC show The Apprentice You're Fired. Give each delegate a double sided card with one side printed red and one side printed green then ask them to hold up "green for yes, and red for no". 

3. Breakout with Purpose

Be direct and strong when setting goals for breakout sessions or round table discussions. Ensure that you provide a clear question or goal for discussion. Ensure that the question or goal is displayed on screen as a reminder during this time. Remember it's the responsibility of the presenter to engage with each group during the breakout session to ignite further discussion. 

4.Do something different

Ideas are everything and are often no expensive to achieve. No matter how good your presenters and content, your delegates will start get get tired towards the end of the day. 

What could you do that would make them laugh? Is there a funny video that you could include in a presentation? Could you have a live competition between members of your team? What about booking some entertainment?

5. Make it personal

Personal stories that the audience can empathise with are a great way to keep your delegates engaged. Whether it pulls on heart strings or is a funny anecdote people like to hear about other people's real stories and experiences





Is HD Projection Worth It?


The short answer is, it depends. There are a few key things that will determine whether the additional cost of hiring an HD projector for your event rather than a standard XGA projector is worthwhile. 

Defining HD

HD is short for high definition and there are a number of variations and the differences between the different variations are quite significant. You’ll hear terms like 720p HD, HD ready or 1080p Full HD.

Just to be clear we are talking about Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution (sometimes referred to as 1080p / 1080i) resolution. This means that the image is 1,920 pixels wide and 1,080 pixels tall.  

1. How big is your projection screen?

Projected images are made up of tiny dots (pixels). The number of pixels is defined by the maximum resolution of the projector. The higher the resolution, the more pixels there are. 

The bigger the image you project, the bigger each pixel becomes. For example:

If the image is 1,024 pixels wide and the projection is 1 metre (1,000mm) wide, then each pixel will be approximately 1mm wide (1,024  * 1 / 1,000).

If the same 1,024 pixel wide image is projected 3 metres (3,000mm) wide, then each pixel will be approximately 3mm wide (1024 * 3 / 1000).

Eventually you can start to make out the individual pixels if you are sat close enough to the screen. 

2. How far away from the screen are your delegates going to be sat? 

The closer you are to the screen, the easier it becomes to see each pixel. We usually recommend HD projection for screens of 12ft and above based on your first row of delegates being around 4 metres from the screen.  

3. What’s the resolution of your content?

If not then there may be no benefit in using HD projection. If you have standard definition content to show then there’s no point in splashing out on HD projector hire.  

4. How detailed is your content?

If you are organising a medical, scientific or engineering conference it’s likely that you will have at least some presenters who have slides that include detailed statistics or diagrams. In this case it’s often beneficial to have HD projection. 

5. Do you have the budget?

HD projectors cost around twice the price of lower resolution projectors to hire. For example, we charge £250 per day for a full HD, 5000 lumen projector. The equivalent 5,000 lumen XGA (1024 x 768) projector is £120 per day to hire. Unless HD projection is essential for your event then you might find better ways to spend the extra cash whether that’s some extra lighting, a more interesting stage design or a contribution to better arrival drinks for your guests. 

And remember

HD and 16:9 are two different things (see our blog post on the difference between 4:3 and 16:9 projection). You AV company will be able to project in 16:9 resolutions without using HD projectors. Don’t let them try and charge you for more expensive projectors when you simply don’t need them!


Setting Aspect Ratio in PowerPoint and Keynote

The  increase in different screen resolutions appearing at conferences and events in recent years we are often asked how to make sure presentations are being created in the correct format. Most events have either 16:9 or 4:3 aspect ratio screens and we show you how to set your slide deck up correctly for each aspect ratio below. 

Setting Aspect Ratio in PowerPoint

1. From the "Design" tab select "Slide Size". 

2. Choose from "Standard (4:3)" or "Widescreen (16:9)"

Adjusting Aspect Ratio in PowerPopint


Setting Aspect Ratio in Keynote

1. Click the "Document" button in the top right of the screen. 

2. Under "Slide Size" select "Standard (4:3)" or "Widescreen (16:9)"

Adjusting aspect ratio in Keynote



16:9 vs 4:3 - What's the difference?

First you need to understand "aspect ratio"

Aspect ratio is the relationship between the width of a screen or video image compared to its height expressed as width : height. The most popular aspect ratios in live events are 4:3 (also known as fullscreen) and 16:9 (also known as widescreen). There are other aspect ratios for larger format screens including those used in the film industry. 

Popular 4:3 screen sizes at events

8' x 6' 
10' x 7.5'
12' x 9'
14' x 10.5'

Popular 16:9 screen sizes for events

8 ' x 4.5'
10' x 5.6'
12' x 6.75'
16' x 9'
24' x 13.5'

Working out if a screen is 4:3 or 16:9

All projection screen sizes are quoted with their width first and height second. Therefore to work out if a screen is 4:3 or 16:9 ratio: 

1. Divide the width (first number) by 4
2. Multiply this number by 3
3. If the result is the same as the height of the screen then the screen's aspect ratio is 4:3

If it is not then: 

1. Divide the width (first number) by 16
2. Multiply this number by 9
3. If the result is the same as the height of the screen, then the screen's aspect ratio is 16:9


Can I use 4:3 videos and slides on a 16:9 screen and vice versa?

We encourage all of our clients to create their video content in the same aspect ratio as the screens that they will be using at their event. If you need help with this then your audio visual or event production company should be able to help you get all of your content into the right format. 

 If this is not possible then there are two options: 

Letterboxing

What: Leave a black border around the sides. 

Benefits: There's no need to stretch and distort the content.

Drawbacks: The screen is not filled and so the image is smaller than the screen you have hired which might make it difficult for your guests to see. 

Stretching

What: You can stretch a 4:3 image to make it wide enough to fill a 16:9 screen or squash a 16:9 image to make it narrow enough to fill a 4:3 screen. 

Benefits: The screen is filled so it can look better as part of an overall event design. 

Drawbacks: The text and any images will be squashed or stretched which might make them difficult to read. Squashing logos can upset your sponsors or marketing department. 


Should I use 4:3 or 16:9 screens for my event? 

There are a number of factors that will determine whether you should use 4:3 or 16:9 screens and video content for your event. 

Have you already made all of your slides and videos in one of the aspect ratios?

If so you might find it easiest to select a screen option with that ratio rather than remaking your content. 

Are you going to be using plasma screens, LED screens or LCD screens?

If so, the chances are that they will be 16:9 aspect ratio as this is the case with almost all modern plasma, LED and LCD screens. HDTV is 16:9 and the move towards HD in recent years has made 4:3 aspect ratio screens somewhat obsolete. On the other hand, many AV hire companies still have lots of 4:3 aspect ratio projectors in their hire stock. 

Are you projecting lots of small details like statistics or detailed diagrams?

If so you might consider using an HD projector and, in that case,you will need to create your on-screen content in a 16:9 aspect ratio. 

The height of the room may be a factor in whether you choose a 16:9 or 4:3 screen for your event.

If rooms with low ceilings it's often preferable to use a 16:9 screen as it is much wider than it is tall when compared to a 4:3 screen. This means that it can be easier to see the  bottom of the screen without it being obscured by the heads of other delegates or presenters. You should discuss this with your event manager or AV hire company


Setting up Slides for 16:9 or 4:3

Our blog post Setting Aspect Raio in PowerPoint or Keynote shows you how to set up your slide deck in the right aspect ratio for your event. 

19 Things Only Event Organisers Understand

1. The highlight of your day is finding a power socket somewhere vaguely near your hotel bed and not on the other side of the room.

2. You can go anywhere in the world with your air miles but you're always too busy to take time off. 

3. You arrive at your friend's wedding and start adjusting the table centres.

4. You go to see your favourite band but all you can think of is how elements of the lighting design would look great at your next event. 

5. People think you can make the sound louder and quieter at the same time. 

6. And those same people think you can make a room colder and warmer at the same time. 

7. When you hope for anything but conference chicken for dinner. 

8.  AAA backstage passes are no longer the most exciting thing ever. 

9. You're walking through the airport and spot other people travelling with a Peli Case.

10. You're backstage with your favourite band but you don't ask for a selfie. 

11. Almost every item in your wardrobe is black.

12. You've been up for 16 hours and lunch looks like this.

Conference Organiser Lunch

13. Or if you're really lucky........ conference sandwiches. Everyone love conference sandwiches.

14. Everything goes wrong and it's only you that even notices. 

15. Anything can be fixed with gaffa tape.

16. You've just finished a 24 hour day and derig but can't sleep because you're still buzzing on caffeine and adrenaline. 

17. You're always early for EVERYTHING. 

18. Excel is your best friend. 

19. This means the world has come to an end. 

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How to plan the right number of breaks for your conference.

As a conference organiser you will be keen to get as much content into your conference as possible. However, your delegate experience will suffer and you’ll find it harder to meet any learning objectives for the event if you haven’t scheduled enough breaks of the right length. After all, you can present all the best content in the world but if your delegates don’t retain and act on it then you’ve wasted your time and theirs. 

So how long is the right length of time to schedule for conference breaks. As a rule of thumb consider a minimum of a 10 minute break between each hour long session as well as longer breaks for coffee or an extended lunch but here are some factors worth considering that might influence your decision: 

1. The amount of interaction in the sessions

If you include regular interaction during your conference sessions (that the delegates actually engage with)  then you can reduce the number and length of the breaks required to hold their attention. Ideally you’ll incorporate some form of interaction between each section of learning (usually every 10 to 20 minutes) because this gives your delegates the opportunity to process and retain the information that they have just learned. Some ideas include: 

  • Use an audience response / interactive voting system. Your conference AV or production company will be able to help you with this. 
  • Allow delegates to text or tweet questions to the presenter or panel rather than asking them live with a microphone. This will stop the awkward start to the Q&A session where nobody wants to go first and means that even the shy members of the audience will be able to ask their question.  
  • Break into small groups to solve a problem and feedback to the wider audience
  • Use the technology in the delegate’s pockets. I was recently at an event where the whole audience were encouraged to share a video about the event on social media. And it worked.

By the way, it’s often easy to cut down on session length whilst still getting the same point across to your audience. Look at TED talks. Some of the most engaging presentations are just 2 minutes long. by allocating longer session lengths you may well be forcing your presenters to stretch 20 minutes of content to fill the session. It would be much more interesting to have a 20 minute presentation that delivers all the key points in an engaging way followed by a 40 minute interactive session than a 45 minute presentation and 15 minutes of awkward Q&A. 

2. The length of the event

You can include shorter breaks during a one day event than a three or four day event because your delegates will not be taking in, processing and trying to retain as much information. Usually a minimum of ten minutes for a break between one-hour sessions works well with longer breaks for coffee, lunch and dinner. 

3. Is a break really a break? 

If you’re asking delegates to do something specific during a break then you can’t really call it a break. Whether it’s entertainment, a presentation or a group discussion any formal planned activity during a break can reduce the effectiveness of that break on learning. 

4. The amount and complexity of content

How fast paced are the sessions? How much content is being delivered? How complex and detailed is it? Are there difficult concepts to understand? Breaks provide a great opportunity for groups to get together and feedback informally with each other or for those delegates who like to sit and think quietly to do just that. Either way the more complex the content the more time you should allow for it to sink in. 

5. The size of your venue

The bigger your venue the longer the breaks need to be. We’ve all sat in conferences bursting for the loo and counting down the minutes (that seem like hours) until the next break. Well, to me, that means that enough break’s haven’t been scheduled and now I’m focusing on my biological needs rather than learning and interacting with the material that’s being presented. 

In fact, the chances are that I’m bursting for loo because there wasn’t time to go in the last break when I was dashing from session to session because the previous break was not scheduled to last 10 minutes but the walk from the plenary to the breakout session took 15 minutes. 

What about you?

What do you take into consideration when planning conference breaks for your delegates? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below. 

Choosing The Right Conference Music

Conference organisers often overlook the importance of music choices at their conferences but we consider it to be as important as the choice of venue and speaker. Without the right music at the right time, your delegates can feel awkward or be distracted from the content of the event. Here are our thoughts on conference music based on our years of experience working in the conference production industry. 

Background music on arrival

Whether your delegates are going straight into the conference room or waiting in a networking or registration area, you will want to have background music playing. The background music at this point in the conference sets the tone of the event as delegates arrive and ensures that the early birds don’t feel awkward walking into a silent room and striking up a conversation.

Is it a motivational sales conference? Then make sure your background music reflects this with up to date pop tracks. Are you about to deliver some bad news? Probably best not to go with the upbeat background music but you could consider something instrumental and calming like Tosca or Einaudi. 

When planning your delegate's journey through the conference venue you might consider having some more generic instrumental background music in the networking / reception area and then louder more up-beat tracks as the delegates enter the main conference space. This will set the scene for a change of tone and help your delegates settle in whilst bringing conversations to a close. 

Music Stings

Music stings are short pieces of music, often used in conjunction with voice of God announcements, to signal the start of a new section of the conference or to welcome someone to the stage. 

Music stings prevent the risk of an awkward silent moment between the person being announced and arriving on the stage. 

Good music stings are high-impact (often edited to start at the chorus of well known songs) and reflect something of the event, presenter or award winner. If is usual to ask your presenters if they have a preferred piece of music and then ask your audio visual company to edit this into a sting for your conference. 

But be careful. We heard a story of a conference organiser selecting a track with the lyric “What’s that coming over the hill? Is it a monster?" as a sting. Then the award winner stood up and they had more than a passing resemblance to the ogre from Shrek. 

Background music during breaks

Unless your conference is very short, you will almost certainly have some breaks. It’s important to ensure that you have background music planned for these breaks. As soon as the final presenter leaves the stage it is usual to begin playing background music. This is really important because it encourages your delegates to start moving and prevents any awkward silences. Background music during breaks is usually fairly quiet and is often instrumental. 

Background music during group exercises

We’ve all been at a conference where the speaker introduces a group exercise, walks off stage and then nobody moves. It’s awkward. Nobody wants to be the first person to speak. Just like background music during conference breaks it’s important to use background music during group exercises or break out sessions to make delegates feel less self-conscious especially at the beginning of the session. It’s really important that the choice of music is not overwhelming and doesn’t just end up increasing the overall noise level in the room which impairs group communication. We always suggest instrumental music during group exercises. 

Conference Background Music Inspiration

Here are some great artists to consider for instrumental background music at your next conference: 

Escala                      Upbeat covers from a modern string quartet

Tosca                       Electronic background music          

Raven                      Upbeat covers from a modern string quartet               

Ludic Einaudi          Modern classical piano

The Piano Guys      Upbeat piano covers including strings

 

Why do I need Voice of God announcements at my conference?

Thinking back to conferences that I’ve attended I’ve often felt awkward. There’s nothing worse than being one of the first delegates to arrive into a silent room and that’s why having background music at your conference is so important. The second thing that I hate is not knowing what I should be doing. Whether its waiting to go into the main conference room or knowing how long until the end of lunch knowing where I’m up to and where I need to be next allows me to be fully engaged in the event. 

That’s where Voice of God announcements come in. Although many conference organisers don’t even think of this aspect of their event Voice of God announcements can have a huge positive impact on their delegate’s conference experienced. 

When to use Voice of God announcements

Voice of God announcements at conferences are generally used for three main reasons: 

1. Providing information to delegates

For example, during the pre-conference networking or a coffee break, the Voice of God can be used to let delegates know how long they have left before the next session starts (usually a 20 minute warning, 10 minute warning, 5 minute warning and  2 minute warning). This same system is also popular during workshop sessions or breakouts letting delegates know how long they have before they need to rejoin the main conference.

2. Directing delegates

At the end of a networking session, workshop session or even a coffee break, the Voice of God can provide a clear, loud announcement to direct delegates to their next sessions. 

3. Introductions

Whether it’s signalling the beginning of a section of the conference or welcoming a presenter to stage a Voice of God announcement is a great way to get your delegates to bring their conversations to a close and focus on what’s happening on stage. These types of introductions are often combined with a music sting.

Should Voice of God announcements be pre-recorded?

As part of your conference planning you should work out where and when you are going to need Voice of God announcements. The next stage is to script and record them. It’s important to pre-record as many of your Voice of God announcements as possible as this gives you audio visual company the ability to play them on cue rather than having to find the person who is making the announcement each time. 

How do I go a about recording a Voice of God announcement? 

Your conference's audio visual company should be able to help you script and record your Voice of God announcements for a small cost. They should also be able to co-ordinate with good voiceover artists who can provide announcements in a wide range of styles, languages and accents. And the cost doesn’t have to be prohibitive. A good voiceover artist may be able to record a short announcement for as little as £10. 

Consider languages

Do you have delegates coming from more than one country? It may be worth considering recording your Voice of God announcements in more than one language (especially if you’re using them to provide information to your conference delegates or directing them around your conference venue). 

Example Voice of God Scripts

Pre-conference networking and breaks

Welcome to <conference name>. <session> will begin <room name> in <how long>. Please <activity currently being undertaken e.g. continue to enjoy your coffee in <current room> and we’ll let you know when it’s time to begin.

Ladies and Gentlemen the <conference name> <session> is beginning in<how long>. Please make your way to <room name>.

On arrival into the conference room

Ladies and Gentlemen please take your seats. The <conference name> <session> will begin in <how long> minutes time. 

Ladies and Gentlemen the <conference_name> <session> is about to begin. Please take your seat. <any housekeeping messages e.g. turn off your mobile phone>

Start of conference

Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to <conference_name> <session>. Please welcome to the stage <first presenter’s role e.g. your CEO or your host for today’s conference> <first presenter name>.

This announcement is usually followed by a music sting and some movement from the lighting system as the person walks up to their position on stage.   

Why do I need a Corporate Show Caller?

The presenter gets to the line in their presentation where the video’s meant to be shown then ............ silence. We’ve all been at conferences where there are these horrible, awkward moments whilst we wait for the AV team to dim the lights, switch from the cameras to the laptop and start the video. Those seconds can seem like minutes for delegates, presenters and conference organisers alike. 

We’ve all attended conferences where the presenter introduces a video and then a completely different video starts. 

This is distracting for the delegates, off-putting for the presenter and can really ruin a conference organisers day. 

It’s all down to planning. 

Or is it? Conference organisers spend months, even years, planning their conference from picking venues and presenters to writing the schedule and even getting involved in the scripts. So with all of that careful planning, why do so many conferences still not go to plan on the day? 

It’s down to communication. 

The conference organiser has a vision. The audio visual technicians have been given a bunch of slides, videos  and a script to follow. Hopefully the AV company has tested all of the slides and videos and checked them against the script. But what happens when the presenter goes off-script or there’s a last minute change. What happens if someone's off sick and there's a last minute change of technician. Who is there to hold it all together whilst the conference organiser is figuring out why the canapés are still frozen and there’s a flood in the lobby? 

That’s the role of the show caller. The show caller spends time with the conference organiser in advance of the conference. The show caller understands the content of the conference, the things that are likely to go wrong, the presenters that are most difficult to work with and then works with the AV company to carefully test all of the slides and videos to ensure they fit the script and schedule perfectly. 

On the day of the event, most of the AV technicians (especially on larger conferences) will never have seen the script before or if they have it will have been during the one or two days running up to the conference and during the rehearsals. They rely on the show caller to tell them when to go to the next slide, when to turn up the lights, when to switch to the live camera feed and even which presenter is coming onto stage next. And the show caller makes ensures that things that should happen at the same split second happen at the same split second. 

"The show caller makes sure things that should happen at the same split second happen at the same split second."

For example, a presenter is about to be introduced. As soon as the presenter’s name has been said there are a number of things that must happen instantaneously to create this boxing ring entrance-style moment:

1. The presenter’s walk up sting needs to be played by the sound engineer

2. The PowerPoint operator needs to put the presenter’s name on the central screen

3. The camera director needs to ask her camera operators to film the presenter as they walk up onto stage

4. The lighting operator needs to make the moving lights move and flash to build excitement 

5. The follow spot operator needs to light the presenter as he walks through the audience to the stage

It’s the show caller that holds this together in the same way that the stage manager or deputy stage manager does in a theatre production or musical. A minute or so before the presenter is introduced, the show caller gives a cue to each of the audio visual departments: 

“Standby sound, sting 27"

“Standby slide, slide 38"

“Standby cameras for entrance from stage left"

“Standby lx sting and lights up on lectern once presenter in place"

“Standby spot to pick up presenter stage left"

A few seconds before the presenter is introduced

“sound, slide, cameras, lx, spot”

Presenters name is said

“GO!"

And every technician executes their cue perfectly.

How do I find a corporate show caller? 

Your conference production company or audio visual supplier should be able to provide you with an experienced, professional show caller for your conference or event.  Corporate Show Callers . com is also a great resource for finding freelance corporate showcallers. If you’re stuck, get in touch and we’ll connect you with someone who can help with your next event. 

Listen in on a show caller

In this video you can listen in on the stage manager’s comms during a musical production of Hairspray to get a feel for the detail involved.