The latest visual and sound technology can make participants at conferences and exhibitions feel personally engaged in clients’ messages, and does not have to be expensive. By Ian Whiteling
A key part of last year’s successful London 2012 Olympic bid was the effective use of film and video in the final winning presentation in Singapore. It featured six films to help illustrate a variety of key points and give the judges the most realistic experience possible of what holding the Olympics in the most cosmopolitan city in the world would be like. The concept film was particularly effective, and was one of two films created by production company Wilder Films for the bid.
“It was produced to communicate to the International Olympic Committee the complex, ‘dry’ technical details that were to form the backbone of the bid,” says creative director Paul Gowers. “The film was used to deliver what could have been very boring information in a succinct and dynamic way. The film couldn’t replace the live element of the presentation, but greatly enhanced what the speakers had to say, and helped to add emotion and dramatic impact to their speeches.”
More and more companies are realising the potential of moving images and dramatic sound effects to increase the impact of their events, whether for a conference or an exhibition stand. “Used together, as with film or video, they can be incredibly powerful,” says Gowers.
In a crowded and noisy exhibition hall, companies are competing for visitors’ attention. Film and video, used appropriately, can draw people to a stand, as well as providing differentiation from the competition. LED technology now means that this can be done on a very large scale to improve stand visibility, or to help create the right stand ambience to support products, services and branding messages.
At a conference, the captive nature of the audience means film and video can be used to communicate in a more controlled way – longer pieces can be used than in an exhibition environment, as they will be viewed from start to finish. Film and video can help theme an event, add entertainment value and emotion and communicate complex information in a succinct and engaging way.
The important point, however, is not simply to use the latest visual and sound effects, but to use them appropriately. The key is not to let the technology lead, but to build it carefully into the overall message that is being put across. Whether used in an exhibition or conference setting, these effects must complement the concepts, visions and values being delivered.
“Dramatic sound effects and special effects need to be carefully planned,” warns Andrew Douglass, managing director of event-led communications specialist innovision. “Any effects used should be relevant to the audience experience and key messages. If this is not maintained, they can actually have the opposite effect and detract from the event experience.”
He adds/ “In my view, more and more companies are shying away from anything that could be seen as overly elaborate, concentrating on a more personally engaging way of delivering content or key messages. Audiences are becoming harder and harder to impress, plus many companies are telling their employees to make cutbacks.
“Consequently special effects should not be employed solely to impress, but to be part of an intelligent way to deliver content. The aim should be for an audience reaction to be: ‘Wow, I’ve never seen or heard anything like that,’ rather than: ‘Wow, how much did that cost?’,” says Douglass.
It is not always the most dramatic effects that create the most impact: “In today’s world of audience participation, new technologies and specially designed software can also be applied to make an event more intimate, more involving and more personally stimulating,” says Liz Bagnall, managing director of Stagestruck.
An event held by the company recently for American Express combined traditional stage presentations with the feel that the conference was being brought to delegates personally. This was achieved by bringing the screens down to table-top level and relaying the speaker support material to these individual “stations”. The beauty of this effect was that, later in the day, the teams at each table could receive intimate training sessions to learn new customer software.
“The same technology can be used to relay questionnaires and quizzes to teams, sending answers back to a central server for ‘marking’ and use at the end of the event,” explains Bagnall. “Events using these new programmes, whether as part of the event or post-event, also offer a means of testing whether key messages have been understood and how much the audience bought into the whole experience.”
The problem for many companies is knowing whether visual and sound effects will enhance their conference or exhibition stand, then deciding on which ones to use and whether their budget will stretch to include them.
One thing is certain, however – the power of the innovative use of sound and vision to create an engaging experience means special effects should at least be considered.
Yet only by seeing an effect first hand can you really appreciate its strengths and weaknesses. This is where choosing the right events consultant is vital.
Look for a good track record in the use of innovative sound and vision, together with intelligent reasons why the various techniques were employed. What’s more, request demonstrations, either first-hand or recorded, where possible.
But most importantly, you need a company that puts the aims and objectives of the event first, is transparent about the cost implications and is able to assess return on investment.
Of course, using visual and sound effects doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive, as Julian Pullan, joint managing director at Jack Morton Worldwide, points out. “From the point of view of film and video, it doesn’t have to be big budget to have impact,” he says. “We often find that the lower budget jobs are more creative and as a result more effective. I think this is because clients often allow agencies to be more creative when less money is at stake.”
Pullan adds: “In the corporate sector, the thing that really costs is the foreign shooting, so clients should be sure they have something really worth saying to consider this. Aside from film and video, many effects are relatively cost effective to generate.”
Another way to generate more value from the use of visual and sound effects is to extend their use beyond the event. If the growing emphasis on experiential marketing continues, special visual and sound effects are likely to increase in popularity as techniques to enhance the effectiveness of events.
“The future is about ‘experience’ – both actual and vicarious,” says Tom Beaumont-Griffin, founder and executive creative director at brand experience company Sledge. “Technologies are allowing us to create ever more potent experiences that are becoming ever more personal and targeted. At the other end of the scale, the affordability and quality of large scale projection is enabling us to create dynamic, interactive environments that visitors can immerse themselves into and not just be passive recipients.”