Four Ways Lighting Makes a Small Meeting Seem Bigger

Most planners are well aware that a lighting package is a must when hosting a large conference. From spotlighting a keynote speaker to creating a high-energy laser show, lighting is a big component in generating excitement and capturing the attention of hundreds of conferees.

Planners of smaller meetings (gatherings of 30 to 75 people) might be surprised to learn that a small-scale lighting plan for an intimate audience can also generate excitement and capture attention, and increase retention and awareness too.

And the best part? Lighting a small meeting is affordable and one of the best investments a planner can make. Here's why:

Lighting sets the tone for an interesting session. All of us have walked into a small meeting room for an eight a.m. presentation to be greeted by bare tables, chairs, a podium, and a projection screen, all sitting under the harsh glare of fluorescent lights—be honest. It's not a setup that sparks an "I can't wait to listen to three hours of presentations!" mood. The last thing you want your group to be is bored and not focused on the content of the meeting.

What if you entered a room, which was dimly lit, with colorful lights on two of the walls, a moving projection of the corporate logo on the ceiling, and a spotlight on the podium?

A few strategically placed lights add personality and make a space interesting. With just those few easy extras, something starts to happen—there's a buzz when people enter the room, and a new level of excitement kick-starts the meeting and generates anticipation of other surprises to come.

Lighting facilitates communication and helps retain attention. Even though most attendees in a small meeting room can easily see the speaker at the podium, you may not be capturing all of their attention. Watching a talking head in a room with house lights invites eyes to wonder and maybe even close.

Try dimming the lights and placing a small spotlight on the podium, and viola! Now you have a focal point. Moreover, conferees can better see the expressions of the speaker, resulting in an audience that is more in tune with the presentation and better able to grasp the content. If it's a new product you are discussing, light it at the front of the room with several small spotlights to help your group better focus on the topic.

Lighting techniques can replace expensive signage. Have you ever attended an event and weren't sure who the sponsor was? If it's a small client-appreciation meeting you are hosting, use lighted projections on the wall for more impact. If your corporate logo is lit on the walls, there won't be any confusion about who is behind the meeting. In addition, consider projecting your logo on the outside entry of the meeting room.

After a few days, posters on easels and corporate displays on foam core will sport bent corners and marks. Invest in less expensive projections on the wall, and you now have indestructible signage. Once you have a projection plate made, it is yours to keep, making it a long-term investment that you can reuse at next month's meeting.

Lighting is a great bang for your buck. Planners eagerly spend on centerpieces and table coverings, but lighting tends to be the last dollar spent—when really it should be a top-of-the-budget line item.

When considering ROI on a small meeting, a small lighting investment will go a long way—increasing attention and retention, and creating an atmosphere for a meeting the group will be excited to attend again. For your next brainstorming session or other small team gathering, integrate a small lighting component and get ready for big results to come of it.

Michael van Akkeren is the director of conference services at the InterContinental Houston, located one block from the Galleria Center in uptown Houston. He can be reached at [email protected]