Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 2014

Advanced Lighting Techniques for Your Next Meeting

By Kate Mulcrone

With lighting options that include incandescent, light-emitting diode (LED), compact fluorescent, and halogen bulbs ­— as well as sophisticated new systems that integrate movement, brightness levels, and other effects ­— planners can be overwhelmed by this easy-to-overlook aspect of event production.


“Lighting plays so many roles in the event space, whether you’re trying to just light speakers, create atmosphere, or evoke emotion,” Matthew Johnsen, director of product management at PSAV Presentation Services, said during an interview in “Light ’em Up: Advances in Lighting Capabilities,” the latest video from The Intersection: Where Technology Meets Inspiration, presented by PCMA and PSAV. Johnsen thinks that too many planners underestimate the importance of lighting to their events, and often consider it a nonessential budget line item.

Johnsen divides lighting into two categories: functional and strategic. Functional lighting is just what it sounds like — putting a spotlight on a speaker, for example — whereas strategic, or environmental, lighting creates a mood or evokes emotion. It’s through strategic lighting that opportunities to improve the attendee experience come into play, and also where many planners are missing opportunities.

Ignoring lighting in breakout sessions is a common mistake, according to Johnsen, who points to studies showing that the right combination of lighting, audio, and video at an event can improve information retention by up to 80 percent. Another example of strategic lighting is paying careful attention to the colors you use, because color can play an important role in evoking emotion — green can bring about calmness, while red infuses energy.

Lighting design can be complicated, so planners should work with their providers to outline solutions, products, and scenic elements to aid in the decision-making process. Draperies and other light fabrics are also critical to a sophisticated design — and part of the overall learning experience that proper lighting can foster. “What better investment could you make,” Johnsen said, “if your attendees leave an event and actually remember what they heard?”

5 Takeaways From PSAV’s Matthew Johnsen

1. Mix up your draping colors to get more from lighting.

2. Use lighting effects between speaker transitions.

3. Don’t forget the break rooms and breakout rooms.

4. Add scenic elements to your lighting package.

5. Ask about greener, more versatile LED lighting.

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