Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

May 22 2014

Turning an Exhibit Hall into a Church

Joe Faulder, Senior Sales Executive, Projection Presentation Technology
This case study illustrates a point that is so often missed in our industry today. Whether a supplier, meeting manager or facility partner, we all play specific and important roles in bringing an event to life. Most of us provide a service; and if we are lucky, we know what we do well – and what we don’t. What we tend to forget sometimes is that supplying an excellent service is just the first step. Behind every event is a person or organization that is trying to achieve something specific, but they don’t always know how to realize their vision. When starting to work with a new client – and before we get started on the logistics – we should always stop and ask “why?” Truly understanding why your client wants to do something is the first step in transforming yourself from a vendor to a trusted partner. Following is a brief case study of an event and four principles I now use regularly with new clients.

The event: A fundraising dinner for The Archdiocese of Boston. I had been asked via email to provide a quote for audiovisual services. All I had to go on was a list of technical specifications from last year’s AV vendor and a brief message saying they really wanted to “do something different” with the space and maybe “add some set.”

STOP

1. Time to ask why.
The multi-tasking, get it done part of me simply wanted to copy and paste the equipment list I was sent, add pricing, send the quote back and get on with supporting the five other clients I was working with at the time. But this would have been acting purely like a vendor, putting all the responsibility back on the client. The act of deciding to get involved and find out more was the first step to becoming a partner. After a brief phone call I found out that the dinner was actually to raise money for priests’ retirement funds, budget was an issue (isn’t it always!) and the theme was “Celebration of The Priesthood.” The video and presentation content was going to celebrate the lives of priests and the roles they play in their congregations. The planner wanted all set elements to support this theme. I now had much more to go on. But I was far from done.

2. Get your hands dirty from the beginning.
During the phone call, I learned that the planner was meeting members from the Archdiocese at the church the next day to look through the church attic for inspiration. Now, if I had considered myself a vendor, I would have asked for the client to report back after her visit to the church; however I asked if I could come along and participate. After two hours in the church attic, a few shared, silly laughs and the stumbling across of some incredible relics, we had a plan (and I had unknowingly formed a bond with my client).

3. Make sure your ideas are deliverable within budget. 
The space we had to work with was large and bare. Our idea was to keep it that way but come up with a few focal points that made each attendee feel like he/she was actually in a church. Our focal points were going to be a podium with an attached crucifix, an entryway comprised of ceremonial vestments and stained glass windows. Since there was a strict budget to work with, a little creativity was needed.
  • I found an old and slightly beat up podium that the venue had retired and a beautiful crucifix from the Church to attach to the podium. Virtually no cost. 
  • We found some beautiful vestments worn by priests in all sorts of different ceremonies in the Catholic Church. We thought we would line ten up, five on each side at the entrance of the room. As guests arrived they would be funneled through these magnificent robes and it would be as if the priests themselves were welcoming the guests. We decided to light them very simply from above so they would stand out. Again, very little cost.
  • The difficult part was creating the stained glass windows. While at the Church we had come up with the idea of taking high resolution HD photographs of the actual stained glass windows. We were then going to project these images onto two frames that were reshaped from an existing stock set we had in National inventory. The cost was the shipping of the set piece, projection and labor to build. The result was two realistic looking stained glass windows behind the stage. The video elements coupled with subtle lighting made for a fabulous looking room.
4. Keep it simple!
There are so many different technologies and experiential tools available out there in today’s event world. Although I personally love to play with new toys, the perfect audiovisual solution for an event can usually be achieved quite simply. For me, this event taught me that when I roll up my sleeves and do everything I can to really understand my client’s needs, I can build trust and turn a vendor relationship into a long-lasting partnership.

About the Author

Joe Faulder, CTS, is a self-proclaimed “bi-lingual audio visual sales professional” with Projection Presentation Technology. He speaks both “tech” and “planner,” helping meeting professionals cater their technology needs to best fit the needs of their events.

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