Wednesday, September 7, 2011

When should I get a second screen for my presentation?

When I work with clients to determine the audio-visual (AV) requirements for their events, they often consider one screen to display a presentation sufficient. In many cases, they are right. However, there are times when a single screen just isn’t enough. So how do I know when to use a second screen (or more)? There are essentially three factors I consider when deciding to use more than one screen.

     1. Audience Size
     2. Angle of Viewing
     3. Size and Shape of the Meeting Room

    Audience Size: Simply put, a large audience is more likely to need multiple screens than a small one. Note: I do not give a specific number. There is no fixed number at which you must have a second screen. A large audience does not, by itself, necessarily demand more than one screen but having higher numbers does raise a red flag for me, warning me that I may need to add screens. You need to take the other factors into consideration.

    Angle of Viewing: Given the way light reflects off of screens, it is very difficult to see projected material if you are at too low of an angle relative to the screen. Straight in front of the screen, 90 degrees (or perpendicular) to it, is usually the best spot. Ease of viewing is gradually impacted as you shift away from that prime spot until you hit about a 45-degree angle. Once you pass that and sit at a sharper angle, it becomes very difficult to read whatever is on the screen. Don’t believe me? Try it with your computer monitor and see how far you can get away from 90 degrees before you can’t read your screen. The same principle is at work.

    Size and Shape of Meeting Room: This actually impacts more than you might think and, while most meeting rooms are fairly rectangular in shape, there is great variation out there. A single property can have long and narrow rooms as well as square ones and the shape of the one you are using can have a huge impact on your seating and screen needs. Here are just a few of the ways a room’s size and shape can affect seating and the need for more than one screen.

    1. A room that is wide but not very deep might require a second screen in order to accommodate proper viewing angles.
    2. A room that is long and narrow may need a second screen due to distance from the screen (as per the 2x8 Rule).
    3. Ceiling height affects the maximum size screen that can be used, which determines the maximum effective viewing distance.
    4. If there are pillars or other obstructions, you may need to provide additional screens to ensure that everyone has a good view of the presenter’s material.

      All of these factors are really about sightlines and making the viewing experience better for the attendees. When I do a site visit, I always take the time to walk the room, testing sound (to determine if I will need microphones or not) and checking sightlines. I am also looking for things that will affect how I can use the room – where “front” can be, where aisles can/must be placed, etc. Permanent fixtures such as doors, windows, fire escapes, and other areas that you cannot block with staging, seating, or screens can also affect set up and you need to take those into account when determining the need for a second screen.

      If you do decide to get a second screen for your event, don’t forget to also request a signal splitter. This device routes the signal from a laptop (for example) to multiple destinations – in this case, multiple screens.

      I often say that, even after everything else is forgotten, attendees usually remember two things about every event: the food and the AV (especially if bad). If they cannot see the presentation clearly, they will likely remember that fact longer than the content of the session. So take the time to consider multiple screens for your event and provide your attendees with a good AV experience to remember…

      ~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises