Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What size screen do I need at my event for presentations?

Most meeting and event planners simply let their audio-visual provider decide this for them – and why not? Those professionals often know what will work best in most situations, so it is easier to just let them make the decision. Well, those of you who have followed my posts for a while will know that answer is not good enough for me. I want to know how to make that decision myself – not because I don’t trust them to make the right one – but because I can do a better job of planning the event if I know the answer myself. I can find better event space (or make better use of what we have), I can get more out of my AV provider (by speaking to them intelligently about my group’s needs), and I can better advise my clients about what needs to be done and why. So how do I determine the size of screen needed for a room?

One of the main rules I keep in mind is that the base of the screen typically needs to be at least four feet above the floor [note: some AV companies recommend five feet minimum]. This means that the image projected on the screen (which usually fills the screen) sits at or above head level for a seated audience, allowing everyone to see the presentation. If the audience is standing, then the bottom of the projected image will need to be at least six or seven feet off the floor. Why does this matter? Two words: Ceiling Height.

If you are holding your meeting in a ballroom, then the ceiling is probably between fifteen and thirty feet high. Raising a 10’ by 10’ screen so that the bottom edge is four feet above the floor is not going to be a problem. However, what if the ceiling of the meeting room is only ten feet? Now, you are limited to just six feet of space for a screen once you raise it up four feet. If your audience is standing, then you have, at most, four feet left once you raise the screen six or seven feet – and a six by six screen is usually the smallest size available. You would need to either change rooms or switch to using multiple monitors…

The audience size is important as well in determining screen size. If I am expecting 100 people to attend my meeting and I know that I will be seating them at 60” rounds, I will need about 1,500 square feet to seat everyone. [Download Sizing Chart] Let’s assume the ceiling is 12’ high and the room measures 30’ wide by 50’ long. We can fit an 8’x8’ screen or a 6’x6’ screen in the room, based on ceiling height. Which do we need? I would most likely use the 6’x6’ screen. Why? Well, the 2x8 Rule says that, for a 6’x6’ screen, the closest seat should be at least 12 feet from the screen and the furthest seat should not be any more than 48’. Since the room is only 50’ long, even someone at the very back of the room should be able to easily see the screen. Could you use an 8’x8’ screen? Certainly. But, in this example, I would go with the 6’x6’ unless there were specific reasons to use the larger screen instead. As your attendance rises, so does the size of room that you will need. As the size of the audience requires more space, your screen will have to be bigger as well to accommodate that.

So what happens when one screen is not enough for the number of people you have, or when you have to use smaller screens due to ceiling height? You get multiple screens and sync them so the same image is displayed on each screen. I’ll look at when to use those options in a future post…

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Women Owned Small Business in the Government Market

You may have heard that the Federal Government has really put an effort into getting contracts into the hands of women-owned small businesses. In February of this year, they formalized their certifications so that women-owned businesses are now required to go through a certification process. You can qualify as a Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) or an Economically Disadvantaged Woman Owned Small Business (EDWOSB). The difference is not money, but whether or not your NAICS code (code that the government uses to identify your business type) is underrepresented or significantly underrepresented. Meeting Planning Services are significantly underrepresented so we qualify as an EDWOSB.

If you are registered with the government as a contractor, then go to the SBA login. If you are not registered, go to and set up an account. It is populated with the information from your Federal registration with CCR and ORCA. It is on this site that you get the information regarding what is required to qualify as a WOSB. You can upload the required information, or if you are already certified by one of the very few approved certifying organizations, (ours was WBENC) you can upload the certificate. You also have a form to complete. Once you have completed your paperwork, then go to CCR/ORCA and update your status.

I have not seen much in the way of Federal agencies doing set-asides for WOSB, but I keep hearing it will be happening in this next fiscal year. We certainly are hoping that we benefit from this new program. If you have any questions about how we got our certification and/or I can direct you to where you need to go to get started, please feel free to email me at

~ Linda Begbie • Executive Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why would you serve dessert at an afternoon break?

It is such a simple idea, serving the dessert from lunch at an afternoon break, yet it is a strategy that is often overlooked by novice planners. Indeed, most planners I work with when they are new to the field tend to treat each meal function as a separate event, unconnected to any other on the schedule. Although this is true to some extent, when it comes to lunch and the afternoon break, you have a golden opportunity to save some money while providing timely snacks for your group.

A typical draft agenda schedules lunch from 12:30 – 1:30, with a break (that usually includes more food!) set to occur somewhere around 2:30 or 3pm. Now, I love to eat, especially when someone else is paying for it, but this ends up being a lot of food in a fairly short amount of time. Your attendees will have just had a (hopefully) filling lunch, including dessert, and you are now offering them more food – which is likely to be just as sugary and as high in calories as dessert…

Some people believe that, in a situation like this, people will self-regulate and eat less at the break than they would if the break were served later. From my observations over 17 years, though, that does not seem to generally be the case. People still pile up their plates with cookies (or whatever else is served). They then snack on the pile for a while and end up leaving most of the plate sitting on a table somewhere – uneaten! Not only have we failed to have people take less food but we have also generated a lot of wasted food – and spent a fair amount of money to do so.

The two primary solutions I offer to clients are (1) to change the time of the afternoon break and/or (2) to serve the dessert from lunch at the afternoon break. If they also need to rein in their budget, then I really will push for option #2. In fact, I will often recommend serving dessert at the PM break even if the break already is, or can be, scheduled for a later time.

Pushing the break back a bit in the schedule lets folks have a bit more time to digest lunch (and possibly dessert) before they are presented with more food. However, serving dessert at the afternoon break, in conjunction with a time shift or not, does more than just spread out the calorie intake.

People do eat a bit less at lunch (simply because you are providing less) and their stomachs will not be as full if you omit dessert from lunch. With less calories consumed at lunch, you attendees will more likely be ready for dessert when you serve it later in the afternoon. And, since dessert is typically included in the price of the lunch you provided, you are not spending more to have it brought out at the break. [So long as this option is arranged ahead of time, most hotels are quite willing to work with you on it and do not charge extra for serving dessert separately.] So… not only have we saved some money by not serving a whole new set of snacks but we will also, hopefully, find ourselves with less food left over both after lunch and after the break.

While this solution does not work for all groups in all situations, it is one more option to be aware of that you can use to trim your food costs while still providing your event’s participants with an enjoyable conference food experience – and I frequently recommend it to my clients.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Choosing the Right Venue

When working with various clients to plan a meeting, conference, or event of any kind, one of the big pieces is the site selection. Site selection is a process with a purpose. The site has to have the correct parameters for the event that will be held there.

The size of the plenary session needs to be adequate to comfortably fit all the attendees in a comfortable setting and one that makes sense for the topic and attendee participation, if any is expected. The meeting planner also needs to take into consideration if any large screens are going to be used, what media will be used, will the attendees be able to see easily, and what room set-up is preferred.

Meeting “flow” is another area that is important for each event. The number of meeting rooms and the size and arrangement of the meeting space to be utilized can have a large impact here. How large is the General Session room? How many breakouts are needed? Where are they located? Are they on the same level as the rest of the event? Can attendees access them easily? Can the rooms easily accommodate the audio-visual equipment needed?

And, how far away is the food? Yes, that is always an important question for everyone! RDL staff never likes to use the same rooms for meals that meetings are being held in when they can avoid it but we do want it close by. (Having meals in a separate space gives people a chance to get up, stretch, and move a bit. Plus, the change of scenery can be good for a mental break as well.) And attendees don’t like to be too far away from the food either. Considering all the flow and potential uses of space before selecting a site is incredibly important.

Another important thing to consider when selecting a venue for a client is the location of the event. Is it convenient? Is it located close to public transportation? For those flying to the event, where is the airport in relation to the venue? How about the subway/train? And, for those driving in, what parking options exist? Take into consideration ADA access & limitations, such as the location of elevators in relationship to sleeping rooms & meeting space. Where are the restaurants and the recreational facilities and how easy is it to access them?

One of the final, but vitally important, considerations for many clients is the price. What will it cost to hold the event there? How much are the sleeping rooms? What is the cost of the food & beverage? Is there a cost for the meetings space? Is the venue willing to work with us to meet budget limits? Can the client afford it?

All of these items are important and will help guide the client towards selecting the most appropriate venue for their event. Keep these suggestions in mind and enjoy your next event!

~ Cyndy Hutchinson • Executive Director, RDL enterprises

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Three Types of Presentation Aids

Although many options exist for speakers, I have found that there are really only a handful of aids that they regularly use when making presentations at a meeting or conference. So what choices are they making? Let’s take a quick look at three of the most common types in the industry today (not in any particular order)…

Yep, these are still used. They are easy to acquire and set up, and don’t require a lot of space to use. They give the presenter flexibility in terms of what information to post on the page. However, their utility is limited as the audience size grows, becoming ineffective once you hit a certain point. Flipcharts are excellent tools for small groups with high interaction between the audience and the speaker or trainer.

Videos can be very engaging and powerful, using the combination of images and sounds to evoke strong feelings in an audience. However, lowering the lights to effectively show a video may also encourage portions of the audience to doze off… In all seriousness, though, videos are very much a one-way presentation format with little opportunity for interaction between the presenter and the audience. When properly incorporated into a presentation, videos can work well regardless of the size of the audience.

Essentially a slide presentation, PowerPoint offers a few advantages over the old slide carousels. Firstly, it allows a presenter to make substantive changes to their presentation very late in the game. In fact, many presenters don’t even complete their presentation until just before their scheduled talk so they can include the latest data or information and reorder the slides for best presentation of the data. A few other advantages PowerPoint has over slides are that it allows for relatively easy “jumping” to other sections of the presentations, it can include video and sound files as part of the presentation, handouts are easily produced from the originally file, and the file itself is much easier to transport than a slide carousel. Unfortunately, the format does tend to get misused by presenters in their attempts to make their presentations more interesting. If you need to prepare a PowerPoint presentation, you may want to check out my Rules for Using PowerPoint.

Those of you who are more experienced will notice that I’ve left off two formats that were once quite common: Overhead Projectors and Mock-Ups (also known as examples or samples). Both of these formats are still in use but neither one is used as frequently as the three types outlines above, if at all. Overhead projectors, once a staple of any AV company’s equipment stock along with slide projectors, have been almost completely replaced by LCD projectors (which are being used to project PowerPoint presentations). I have not seen one used in a presentation for at least five years. Mock-ups are still in use by trainers but they, too, seem to have been supplanted by PowerPoint in many cases and, when they are used, I have almost always seen them used in conjunction with one of the other methods.

Keep in mind that, whatever method you choose to use, make sure that it is appropriate for the venue and audience – as well as for the content. Ultimately, how well the type of presentation aid supports the content and situation is usually more important than which type it actually is and, as always, your content is more important than the aids used to present it.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises