Holding an event at a convention center is often like painting on a blank canvas. Meeting professionals who use convention centers enjoy the opportunity to design their “main tent” session experience with vibrant staging and abundant seating.
But sometimes, those blank canvasses come in the form of long, narrow bowling alleys. That was the challenge the Meeting Services team, led by Jody Egel, faced while planning the 2014 MDRT (Million Dollar Round Table) Experience at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in February. The MDRT Experience is held annually in Asia. The 2014 meeting brought together 5,000 attendees, mostly from the Asia Pacific region. The goal of the Experience is to increase MDRT’s membership and brand awareness in Asia Pacific, as well as to give MDRT members in this region a taste of the association’s North American annual meeting.
“Our Main Platform was held in two adjacent exhibition halls, rather than a ballroom. While the space was ideal for exhibits, it was not intended for a general session.” Daunted with a space measuring approximately 95 feet wide by 1,000 feet long, Egel and her team quickly realized that their traditional set, with the stage centered between two screens, was not going to work in a “bowling alley”.
Determined to make it work, Egel and her production team put their heads together. “We tried all sorts of creative machinations to make this oddly-shaped room work for our 5,000 attendees. Finally, the light bulb went off.” Instead of flanking the stage with two screens at the front of the room, the room was divided in two, set with the stage in the center of the long, narrow room. Seating was placed on either side of the stage. The production company hung the screens above the stage, and faced them toward each side of the audience.
With image magnification (IMAG), attendees were able to see the speaker’s face, even when his or her back was turned to the audience. The teleprompter had to be placed on the floor, presenting additional challenges. “The speakers had to practice using the teleprompter so they didn’t appear on camera to be looking down.” Communication with the speakers was paramount, as was ample rehearsal time in a mock stage set-up. “Speakers were prepared for how we set up the room, and they rose to the occasion.”
The entertainment stage, off to the side, showcased native Malaysian musicians, dancers as well as one of MDRT’s member bands.
By splitting the audience into two smaller groups, there was a much more intimate feel among the masses. Putting the speaker in the center of the room brought each attendee closer to the action, and made the audience more engaged with the speaker.
“In the end, attendees were thrilled with the general session. Speakers adapted well and MDRT learned a lot from this challenging experience. It was a win-win, and a proud moment for MDRT.”
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About the Author
Lesley Coussis, CMP is the meetings and conventions manager for the Society of Critical Care Medicine in Mount Prospect, Illinois.