When it comes to all the major details of planning your event, lighting is probably far from the top of your list–if it is on your list at all. But this often neglected category is essential if you want to produce an event that is well executed, professional, and unforgettable. Over my next several posts I’ll explain to you the ins and outs of event lighting from beginning to end: why good lighting matters, what makes good lighting, and how you can make good lighting easy and affordable. So stay tuned, and feel free to post questions in the comments section below.
Why does lighting matter?
1. Lighting keeps you out of the dark
Most obviously, good lighting allows you to see. It might sound simple, but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve seen events planned with no regard to this basic requirement of light. Some venues look great in the daytime with full sunlight streaming through the windows, but at night the house lights are full of dark spots that essentially create unusable sections of the room. Other times outdoor events are planned with little to no conservation as to what happens when the sun goes down. Here’s a hint: That security light on the corner of your building won’t be bright enough to help your guests find their dinner plates.
2. Lighting focuses attention
Proper lighting helps your guests know where to look at any given moment in time. This is usually done by making sure the focus of attention is the most brightly lit subject in the room. Is there a speaker on stage? Is there a product display you’re unveiling? You should spotlight the subject. Are you displaying a video presentation? The house lights should be dimmed so the screen is the brightest object in the room. Do you want your guests to engage in conversation over dinner? You should have a dim house with candle centerpieces directing attention to the middle of each table–the appropriate place for good conversation. Incidentally this is exactly how the best restaurants draw attention to great cuisine: with dimly lit rooms and simple candle centerpieces on each table–it’s a far cry from the deep fried experience of your local “wall-of-television” sports bar!
3. Lighting sets the mood
Every moment in a well programmed event has a “target mood”. Whether it’s an urgent call during a fund-raising push, a dramatic presentation for a product reveal, or even a dance party for an end of fiscal year celebration, lighting helps you achieve the mood you need during that moment. Trust me, by the way, when I say that almost always, programming alone will not help you attain this appropriate mood–and there’s nothing more awkward than a programming event that doesn’t match the mood of the room. (Think Michael Scott emceeing the Dundees).
4. Lighting makes it look like a million bucks
Without good lighting, your event simply will not feel professional. No matter how much you invest in the food, the decor, the multimedia presentations, they all depend on great lighting to add the final aesthetic touch of professionalism. The problem is, great lighting is often so subtle that most people never recognize it’s even there. But it truly matters. Whether it’s the right accent lighting on your corporate banner, a great rim light on your company logo, or the perfect hair light on your plenary speaker, the effect of great lighting may be subtle, but the difference is dramatic.
Hopefully by now, I’ve convinced you of the fact that you need good lighting. I can hear many of you saying “Ok, I need good lighting. What does that mean? How do I get it? And how much is this gonna cost me?” In my next post, I’ll show you the essential elements of good lighting, and help you know what to look for when it comes to planning and evaluating good event lighting. I’ll answer the rest of the questions in a final post.
Stay tuned, and don’t forget to post your questions below. I’ll leave the light on for you.