Upcoming ACOM Event Calendar

September 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Topic: Working Effectively with MINT

October 2009

October 15, 2009
Topic: Times are Tough... How CSMs Can Keep Providing the Best Service to Meeting Planners

November 2009

Idea Network
November 19, 2009
Track 1: Discussion of Housing and Registration Issues
Track 2: Discussion of Food and Beverage Issues

December 2009

December 10, 2009
Topic: The Whys and Hows of Earning the CMP

January 2010

Annual Conference
January 8-10
Dallas, Texas
Westin City Center

Transform an Event with Specialty Lighting

Submitted by Denise Suttle, CMP, Assistant Director of Convention Services, Albuquerque CVB

ACOMmodate asked lighting expert Terri Mathews, president of Gumbeaux Event Productions in Shreveport, LA, how convention services managers can benefit from the knowledge of the variety of lighting options for events. As we all focus on stretching the event dollar to produce memorable events with shrinking budgets, Terri offers many intriguing ideas to enhance our in-house or offsite events. Add these to your CSM Best Practices Toolkit!

Specialty lighting is one of the strongest components an event planner can use to create an exciting and elegant environment. Lighting can be as simple as uplighting and room washes to create mood and complement themes; as sophisticated as custom light design for branding or room patterns; or as exciting as sound-activated motion lights for a dance floor or special announcement. Regardless, through the use of specialty lighting, an ordinary event can be transformed into something spectacular bringing together the sights, sounds and tastes of the event and creating a lasting impression for all guests.

Uplighting is one of the most cost-effective, yet dramatic ways to make a meaningful impact on an event. Color match lights, through the use of gels or LED lights, can be positioned around a room, behind the dance floor or along architectural features to complement the color of the party and to add warmth to the overall space.

Typically, we encourage at least 25-30% of an event budget be spent on specialty lighting, more if possible. Lighting is cost-effective because it can be utilized to enhance so many areas of an event (food, centerpieces, stage/dance floor, entrances).

Uplighting is the least expensive form of specialty lighting ranging anywhere from $25.00 for a par fixture with gel to $50.00 for an LED fixture. Warm white or gold hues are perfect for creating depth or accenting an already vivid room. Room washes eliminate the coldness of house lights, makes guests, décor and food look great, and ensures that guests can still see one another. A room should never be too dark or too bright. By washing the walls with one color and the ceiling with another, a room or tent can be completely transformed. Room washes range between $150-$250 a fixture as we typically use intels or color changers.

Customized light design is one of the most impressive lighting options an event planner can choose. These can be used to project sponsor logos or themes in the room, or put a bride and groom’s monogram or name in lights on the dance floor. Monograms are impressive by themselves or work incredibly well with uplighting. In addition to logos or monograms, custom patterns such as stars, textures, snowflakes or other event elements can pan or breakup the room emphasizing a special event theme. Custom gobo patterns can be as inexpensive as a custom steel design in a Source 4 fixture which runs about $150.00 or a color pattern in a motion light which can run as much as $400.00-$500.00 with the fixture.

Dance floor lighting can be subtle waves of colors during a slow ballad or instant high impact night club lighting. Motion lights can be sound activated keeping beat with the music; intelligent fixtures that project logos, images or textures; lasers that shoot brightly colored beams around the room; or LED lights to illuminate and cover the dance floor in rich colors. Add a light haze into the air and guests will not see the lights, they will experience the light effects. Dance floor and stage lighting depends on various elements: event, size of stage, entertainment rider requirements, size of dance floor, and whether you use par fixtures or intelligent fixtures.

Specialty centerpiece lighting is a simple way to add punch and elegance to your guests’ tables. Working with a florist or decorator, a lighting designer can add battery-powered lighting elements that match wedding or theme colors or slowly transist from color to color in centerpieces. These work well with candles but also can be an option when you are limited by open flame laws. Another great way to emphasize a centerpiece is to use complementary uplighting in the corners of the room. For example, if your centerpiece has a purple accent flower, use a matching color uplight in the corner of the room to bring out the centerpiece. Centerpiece and table lighting such as battery-operated votives, LEDs or pinspots typically run between $15.00 - $20.00 each.

Overhead pin spot lighting is another great way to light centerpieces as well as buffets, bars or other signature areas. Hanging pin spots is an art form as you want to create the perfect showcase without shining directly into a guest's eyes.

Finally, an event is not complete without exterior lighting. Today, many communities are using intelligent lighting to illuminate public buildings at night to add elegance and excitement during holidays or special events. Whether it is colored uplighting on surfaces, motion lighting to create excitement, or simple twinkle lights in trees, there is no better way to make an impression on arriving guests than lighting the outside of a building or tent or the grounds of a house or museum.

Labor costs for specialty lighting depend obviously on the amount of lighting fixtures that are to be installed and such variables as load in and load out times, access to venue, whether a venue requires union labor and if a lighting technician and hands are required for showcall.

Whether your event (or budget) is small or large, specialty lighting will make a big impact. It is an element many don't think about, yet it is the most effective way to take a vision and make it come true. From weddings and conventions to political rallies and galas, specialty lighting will create the first impression you desire and the lasting impression you need.

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