Advice to Event Planners: Turn Up the Lights!


If you had to guess what percentage your words, tone of voice, and body language contribute to how a person understands your message, what would you say?

Most people believe that words are the most important aspect of communication. However, research indicates that your words impact only seven percent of how your message is understood. Your tonality contributes 37 percent — and your body language 55 percent. Unfortunately, many event planners don’t take this into account when planning a meeting — or the photography for a meeting.

When organizing an event, virtually all planners remember to get a microphone so the audience can hear clearly — but they often don’t do as well in accounting for the visual aspect of communication. Over the years, I have attended hundreds of luncheons, dinners and events where the speakers stood in the dark when presenting. The room is dimmed for the candlelight dinner, and when the speaker steps up to the microphone he ends up standing in the dark. The candles illuminate the dinner tables — not the speaker.

The popularity of the PowerPoint presentation has made the situation even worse. Most organizations have been quite thrifty when buying their projectors. Unfortunately, this low-cost equipment only works well with the lights down — so speakers once again are left in the dark.

One or two spotlights on the speaker can easily address the problem of seeing the speaker. By renting a projector with 3000+ lumens, the planner can allow the room lights to stay up. If the projector is bright enough, you might not even need spotlights.

With many PowerPoint presentations, the human eye can move from the speaker to the screen and adjust to the change in lighting easily enough for the presentation. However, the camera cannot do as well.

I am always amazed how many times I am hired to photograph an event where they turn the lights off or down so much that I must use a flash to make photos. The flash is so distracting to the event. What is most surprising is when the person who hired me then asks me not to use a flash. I have to explain that I can stop, but due to the lack of light in the room, I can’t take any more photographs.

There are a few things meeting planners can do so that first and foremost the message is understood — including the visual component. By renting a brighter projector and having spotlights on the speaker, everyone can see the presentation and the speaker. If the spotlights are color-corrected for daylight, then when the photos are made the speaker is the correct color, as is the PowerPoint.

In addition to providing the audience a better experience, this will also help newspaper and television photographers capture the event without using a flash or setting up their lights. Better images encourage editors to place the images on front covers and prime spots in the newscast.

So next time, put the speaker in the light!

[tags]photography tips, Stanley Leary, event planning[/tags]


One Response to “Advice to Event Planners: Turn Up the Lights!”

  1. I do a wide variety of events throughout the year that include corporate presentations to awards events and almost every one of the events is done in almost total darkness. Occasionally a good production company is hired to light the event for the speaker and the awards presentations and they provide enough light that enables me to create some decent images. Of course the audience is in the dark, so flash is necessary to photograph them. My client always asks for a wide shot of the audience using no flash in a dark room. I try to explain to them that if they bring the lights up briefly, I can get the shot, but they always tell me it would ruin the atmosphere and disturb the audience! I use a Nikon D3, so I can shoot in low light situations, but I still need some light to get a good image. Wish I had the answer to this problem, but it is challenging to educate clients. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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