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Taylor & Francis
Freelancer's Guide to Corporate Event Design: From Technology Fundamentals to Scenic and Environmental Design / Edition 1

Freelancer's Guide to Corporate Event Design: From Technology Fundamentals to Scenic and Environmental Design / Edition 1

by Troy Halsey


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Freelancer's Guide to Corporate Event Design: From Technology Fundamentals to Scenic and Environmental Design / Edition 1

The Freelancer's Guide to Corporate Event Design is the only book that will get the reader up to speed on the ever-changing and growing industry of corporate production. Written by one of the industry's leading designers, this book uses a candid and straightforward style to illustrate the process of designing a successful event.

Learn the fundamentals of venue selection, rigging, lighting, audio, video, and scenic design with informative diagrams and detailed illustrations. This guide will show how to plan, design, and execute events of any size. Additionally, the designer will be armed with a strong knowledge of common mistakes, tips and tricks, and industry standards that will build and train a production team prepared for just about anything.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780240812243
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Publication date: 09/02/2010
Pages: 324
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Troy Halsey is an award-winning scenic designer who has worked in the field of theatrical and corporate design for over 15 years as a professional freelance carpenter, event and video producer, technical director, and production manager. He holds a BA in Dramatic Media from Texas Lutheran University. Currently, he is the Lead Scenic Designer for one of the industry's largest event companies.

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Freelancer's Guide to Corporate Event Design

From Technology Fundamentals to Scenic and Environmental Design
By Troy Halsey

Focal Press

Copyright © 2010 Troy Halsey
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-08-096092-0

Chapter One

An Overview


The phrase corporate events covers a wide variety of meetings and events, and the use of the word corporate can be misleading. The craft is not limited only to corporate meetings; it can also be applied to association gatherings, large nonprofit meetings, speaking engagements, training seminars, and any number of special events. The craft of corporate events has also been referred to as business theater; corporate theater; and conference, seminar, or event planning. Although each name can describe a specific element of the trade, the names are often used interchangeably.

The inclusion of the word theater, such as in business and corporate theater, may seem odd to traditionally educated thespians, but there are many similarities between corporate and traditional theater. Both traditional and corporate theater have audiences, performers or speakers, scenery or decoration, and typically some form of specialized lighting and sound equipment. In fact, the only real differences between the two would have to be their intentions and their locations. Whereas the intention of traditional theater is to entertain, corporate theater aims to inform or sell. Traditional theater typically occurs in a designated theater building or space; corporate events occur in hotel ballrooms and convention halls and are thereby required to supply their own lights, sound, and production controls. In an effort to alleviate confusion, for the remainder of this book, we will use the phrase corporate event(s) to encompass any form of large organization or corporate gathering.

Types of Corporate Events

We will refer to several forms of corporate events throughout this book, but any attempt to classify every possible scenario would be a volume of work in itself. Instead, corporate events are generally classified by either the type of host producing the event or the type of audience attending. Generally speaking, two entities host corporate events: corporations and associations.


Corporate events are primarily internal meetings in which executives present company initiatives, policies, and reports to a targeted sector of their workforce. What separates a corporate event from other events is that audiences are composed primarily of internal employees who are required to attend. Sales conferences, training seminars, and manager meetings are the most common examples of corporate events.

These events host a vast collection of executive presentations, motivational speakers, and entertainment acts all aimed to inform and motivate the audience. As a result, corporate events typically have larger production budgets than association meetings and more elaborate theme development, which in turn dictates the overall design of the event.

To an outside observer, it may seem odd for a company to invest so heavily in a corporate event. Even employees may ask at times if the money spent wouldn't be better served divided among their paychecks. However, addressing employees in person, rather than through an email or video, is still the most effective way to deliver a message. Sales conferences, especially, serve as a form of pep talk before starting a new year, similar to coaches addressing their players before a big game. Training seminars provide a way for employees to receive important education without the distractions of their daily routine. Finally, manager meetings permit peers to exchange advice and tactics regarding effective management styles.

From an executive standpoint, the value of a successful corporate event greatly outweighs the production costs. And as implied previously, these production costs can become quite exorbitant – so much so that it is estimated the business of producing corporate events has evolved into a multibillion dollar industry.


Associations consist of members in a similar trade or specialty such as cardiologists, school teachers, or automotive workers, to name a few. The intention of association events is to provide further education and networking opportunities for the association's members.

Most associations are not-for-profit. This does not mean they do not take in revenue; they must generate income to pay their staff and keep the lights on. What is interesting is these types of meetings do not make their money on registration, but rather on selling booth space on the exhibit floor.

Exhibit floors are big business in this industry. They essentially allow vendors to target their message, brand, and/or product to a focused group of potential customers. The association hosting the event makes most of its bankroll by charging these vendors very high rates to set up shop on the exhibit floor. The exhibitors or vendors happily pay the fee because nowhere else would they get such a focused group to listen to their sales pitch. Imagine a company that sells a $5 million MRI machine exhibiting at a medical conference of over a thousand doctors. There would really be no other way for the company to have such one-on-one access to so many potential customers who are out of their office, lacking distractions, and ready to learn or kick the tires of a new MRI machine. This event truly creates a win-win situation for both the association and vendor.

In essence, then, the real dynamic of association meetings is to provide education and networking opportunities for members, while marketing the exhibit floor to potential vendors. And what a sales pitch they have: "We will be bringing together 10,000 doctors that you would never otherwise have an opportunity to meet with face to face; are you interested in renting booth space for our event?"

Associations are easy to identify, as stereotypically their names begin with either American or National and end with Association. In addition, their budgets are typically smaller than corporate events, and motivational meaning is minimal. This is not to say that association meetings are less production intensive. In fact, being membership-based organizations, associations have the added stress of ensuring that their attendees enjoy the event experience and will want to attend the following year and continue their membership with the organization.

Ironically, a common request to production designers from association hosts is that they want an exciting and professional event without it looking as though it cost a lot of money. This request also stems from the fact that associations are membership-based, and their primary income sources are from membership fees. The fear is that association members may feel their financial contributions could have been better spent elsewhere than on elaborate scenery that served as merely eye candy.


Though they may not be the most common form of event, hybrid events are certainly growing in popularity. Such events are referred to as hybrids because they are hosted by a corporation but intended for customers who attend by choice. Such events may also be referred to as corporate customer events.

Whereas internal corporate events are usually led by an executive team who speak to employees, the hybrid or corporate customer event minimizes executive exposure to avoid looking like an elaborate commercial for the hosting company. Hybrid events typically have only one or two corporate messages, which are then followed by a series of speakers who focus on industry-wide topics. These industry-wide topics are what attendees are seeking to learn more about and thus are what draw them to attend the event. In turn, attendees provide the hosting corporation with an opportunity to advertise new services and products.

The real meat of hybrid events occurs during breakout sessions, where attendees have the opportunity to explore topics that interest them or try out products they may consider purchasing. This opportunity in turn provides the hosting corporation with an indication of what areas of their businesses are apt to grow and where they should be focusing their resources.

Production budgets for hybrid events vary greatly and are hinged primarily on the size of the industry and hosting corporation, as well as the event's popularity and expected annual attendance. Similar to association events, exhibit floors play a huge role in hybrid events providing both income for hosting corporations and resources for attendees to peruse.

The ingenious element of hybrid or corporate customer events is that often attendees do not realize they are attending what is essentially a multiday sales pitch. They instead believe they are merely attending a training seminar or network opportunity hosted by the leading company of that particular industry. Software and gaming industries, for example, host these types of events several times a year under the guise of training seminars in which attendees have the option to become certified in a particular software package. However, similar to the exhibit floor, hybrid events are truly a win-win for both the hosting company and attendees. Attendees acquire the education and networking opportunities that they seek, and the hosting company strengthens its customer relationships, fortifying its role as an industry leader.

Types of Meetings and Sessions

Without goals and objectives, there would be little point in having corporate events. Furthermore, for goals and objectives to be shared in a meaningful way, they must be organized and presented in a logical manner. To do so, information is distributed among meetings and sessions, with each serving a unique function. Over time several forms of meetings and sessions have evolved as standard in the event industry. Although not every event hosts each type of meeting or session, most contain at least a few of the types described next.


Welcome sessions are generally held either the first evening or morning of a multiday event. During these meetings, the hosting company or organization, as the name implies, welcomes the attendees. Often a video is shown introducing the event's theme, key speakers, and event highlights or reviewing events that occurred since the group's last gathering. Most importantly, the primary function of a welcome session is to excite the audience and prepare them for the days to come.

It is not uncommon in larger events for welcome sessions to be followed by receptions. Welcome receptions can range from conservative cocktail gatherings to full-fledged keg-tapping parties. The style of reception that is held is dependent solely on the culture of the hosting company or organization. Regardless, in its most basic function, a welcome reception provides attendees an opportunity to mingle with their peers and enjoy themselves before an onslaught of meetings.


At some point during the event, whether it is held on a single day or over the course of several, the entire body of attendees will be asked to gather for a large group meeting. These meetings are known as general sessions or plenary meetings. Such sessions are often referred to as main tents, harkening back to the traveling circus in which the most exciting performances occurred in the main tent. This nickname applies perfectly because these sessions host the most noteworthy speakers and presentations during the event.

It is most often during these sessions that the audience is addressed by organization or company executives and new products or initiatives are revealed. In essence, if specific information must be shared to everyone attending the event, it is done during a general session. Depending on the bulk of information needing to be shared, several general sessions may occur during the course of the event.

General sessions are the primary focus of this book because they require intense planning and thoughtful design. However, the fundamental knowledge you need to plan and execute a successful general session will carry over easily to other forms of corporate meetings and events you might plan.


Breakout sessions are specialized meetings that focus on specific topics, such as corporate procedures or software packages. With several breakout sessions occurring simultaneously, audiences consist of a mere fraction of the entire attendee body. When events are held at large hotels or resorts, smaller meeting rooms throughout the property are typically used to house breakout sessions. Although breakout sessions for corporate events tend to be more evenly distributed due to required attendance, association breakout sessions can vary greatly with audience size depending on the topic's popularity.

Depending on the size of the event, the number of breakout sessions that occur can range from a mere handful to several hundred over the course of the event. For each breakout session occurring simultaneously, there must be a dedicated speaker or presenter, audio/video equipment, if necessary, and some form of support staff. As you can imagine, organizing and managing the hundreds of presentations and support materials associated with breakout sessions can be quite a daunting task. In response, specialized services called speaker support or presentation management are now offered by most large audio/video providers. These services will be covered in more detail in Chapter 9, "Speaker Support."

From a production design standpoint, breakout sessions typically are little more than an empty room full of chairs with a video projector connected to a laptop computer. Larger breakout rooms may require an audio system of some kind, to ensure that the speaker can be heard by all attendees. Generally speaking, very little is done creatively to transform bleak meeting spaces into environments that tie into the hosting company's or organization's branding or the event's theme. If anything, a banner might be added for a hint of branding. Often, this lack of branding is due to the sheer number of rooms being used, as designing each space would be cost prohibitive. However, more often than not, designing breakout sessions, creatively or thematically, is not seen as a priority by the hosting company or organization. This is unfortunate to say the least, because attendees will spend most of their time during the event in one of these spaces. As a production designer or event planner, you should keep breakout sessions in mind for extending event or theme branding beyond the general session.


Legislative or parliamentary sessions are unique to association events. It is during these sessions that the association elects new officers or votes to install new policies or bylaws. Such meetings often take place in the same room as the general session, but may require additional audio/video equipment to accommodate a large panel of executive officers on stage.

These sessions are typically less creative or thematic, focusing purely on operational tasks within the association. Microphones may be needed in the audience to allow members of the association to address the panel of executive officers during legislative discussions. Some associations may discuss sensitive topics that require security to be posted at the room's entrances to prevent uninvited guests from overhearing privileged information.


The exhibit business has been and continues to be a very profitable industry for production companies. The amount of money companies spend on the design and fabrication of their exhibits can be staggering. These exhibits are investments that can be showcased at several events over the course of many years. Furthermore, an exhibit is not only a portable booth displaying a company's line of products and services, but also an extension of the company's brand itself. Larger exhibits can truly become experiences in themselves. Exhibit designs can range from small, off-the-shelf 10' × 10' booths to elaborate multistory labyrinths of technology.

As mentioned previously, the reason these investments are made is that there is no other place, aside from the exhibit floor, that a vendor can meet face to face with so many customers eager to try their product. In addition, exhibit floors are a source of income for the hosting association because exhibit floor space is rented by the square foot at exorbitant prices. The amount of money generated by this industry on a yearly basis is in itself a testament to how successful the exhibit floor model has become in recent years.


Excerpted from Freelancer's Guide to Corporate Event Design by Troy Halsey Copyright © 2010 by Troy Halsey. Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

The Basics; An Overview; The History of Corporate Theatre; The Elements; Venues; Staging; Seating; Rigging; Lighting; Video & Projection; The Audio; Speaker Support; Scenic Design; Scenic Design Part I: Research; Scenic Design Part II: The Basic Layout; Scenic Design Part 3 Shape, Color; and Materials; Scenic Design Part 4: Technology and Design; Scenic Design Part 5: Practical Design; Scenic Design Part 6: Construction and Hardware; Creating an Environment; Special Effects; Responsible Planning; Event Safety and Redundancy; The Green Movement; Glossary; References

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