by Jay Ward
When selecting a venue for an event even the most experienced meeting and event professionals often overlook lighting. While lighting may not be the most important element, it should be something that is considered when doing an overall assessment of how the venue will fit the event.
Because most venues host events of all types with a wide range of technological and décor needs, the newer, or recently renovated, venues have placed more of an emphasis on providing as many lighting options as possible in recent years. For example, a state-of-the-art ballroom should have unobtrusive chandeliers, recessed flood lights, indirect fluorescent lights and some sort of track lighting with several fixture options (flood lights, pin spots, etc.). There are even venues that have certain types of LED lighting in the ceiling or wall sconces that can achieve any desired color. Also, all incandescent or LED lighting fixtures should be on dimmers.
For many events, having control of the lighting to make changes during the program can be imperative. For example, if a meeting will have video content you may need to bring down the ambient lighting level when each video is played. In order to do this you will need to have some sort of control that will allow for a smooth transition from the general meeting lighting level to a level suitable for viewing the videos. The technical slang for these different settings is the lighting “looks.” Most modern venues will have these controls on a wireless remote so the lights can be adjusted from anywhere in the room. Often the in-house engineering staff will coordinate with the AV professionals to program the various settings into the remote. Then the remote can be placed at the AV control table for quick and easy lighting cues throughout the event. Without remote control options, someone will have to walk over to the wall mounted control and adjust the lighting for the various “looks” throughout the event, which is definitely less than ideal.
Different types of lights emit different lighting colors. In a typical event you will want a nice warm glow that looks more amber than white. For this reason it is important to make sure that there are options other than fluorescent lights that can be used to achieve the desired light level. I have been in many rooms that have options other than fluorescent, but the alternative lights weren’t able to achieve the desired level of brightness, leaving you with the undesirable choice of either not enough light or very harsh fluorescent lighting.
Many venues are beginning to install LED lighting fixtures that can truly make the lighting options limitless. By using a mixture of red, green, blue and sometimes yellow LEDs you can achieve almost any color you desire. I have used LED installations to create some awesome effects such as changing colors throughout an event or incorporating the organizations logo color scheme into the room lighting. LED lighting options will be more common in the future because they offer so many great choices.
Bring Your Own
Even if the venue you select doesn’t offer the best lighting options there are still ways to bring in your own lighting, even on a reduced budget.Your AV or lighting supplier can provide more than just stage lighting. Usually at a relatively low cost they can also supply pin spots, architectural lighting accents, gobo textures (light patterns) or other options to compensate for the lack of installed venue lighting. While this does represent added cost to the event, these types of lighting additions often provide significant value.
As a general rule, I recommend going through all of the lighting options with the venue’s electrician during your site visit. If you keep all of my points in the back of your mind as you do this, common sense can be your guide the rest of the way. Try to visualize the entire event and think about how the lighting will work within your vision. If you simply aren’t sure then you should always have a trusted AV partner that you can consult before making any final decisions.