When it comes to corporate events, it can be a challenge to produce an exciting show without burning through the budget (and the ceiling).


Since mankind victoriously made fire from flint and steel, we have struggled to curb our pyromania tendencies. Fire is an obsession, and we are drawn to the flames like moths. Even in indoor settings, such as highly produced concerts or meetings, we find ways to use fire and other stimulating special effects – vapor, lasers and vibrant lights.

But it is possible for the pops of light and sound to potentially overpower the show’s inherent purpose? We think it is.

Ramp or Heartbeat?

Every year, it seems, there is an increasing pressure to push the boundaries of the previous show. The C-suite leadership dramatically swooped down from the ceiling last year? Let’s bring them in on elephants this time! It’s normal to want to shock and awe the guests, especially for a corporation-produced meeting. You want to justify the costs and time involved for attendees. You want to have their undivided attention. You want to fuel camaraderie. You want to inspire them to take action!

Some clients view the timeline for annual events as a ramp, with the complications and costs building each year. We at Switch view it a little differently. Instead of a ramp, which involves exponential growth in budget, we see the show as a heartbeat: tension and excitement builds up each year as the event grows nearer. Attendees are eager just to congregate and celebrate, so the production’s focus and energy should leverage the existing anticipation.

Events, Too, Have a Target Audience

The purpose of an event will vary from client to client. For some, the event will serve to ignite employees’ loyalty to the brand. For others, the event will be designed to accelerate sales. How well we honor that deeper purpose is what determines the success of a show. Not how many fireworks we shoot off. So how can we visually supplement a show without straying too far from what it is aiming to accomplish? Like many of the things we do here, it starts with understanding the client and its audience.

Be Creative With What You Have

We often incorporate technology that is really flexible in terms of use and that will last for the duration of the event without de-sensitizing the crowd. For example, LCD screens provide an excellent conduit for cheap, creative effects. For one client’s major convention, we built the screens into the stage design with functionality to move up and down for added visual effect. And because they show video, there is a lot of flexibility in what can be displayed. Projection screens can play a similar role. When we produced a sales kick-off meeting for a large communications client earlier this year, oversized screens provided theme continuity throughout the event. They engaged the audience with high impact video and presentation material.

Experiment with New Technology

LED lights are another way to tell a story through special effects. Each tiny bulb is the equivalent of a pixel, so the closer together they are, the more definite of a picture you get. This technology is still fairly expensive, however, so the bulbs often need to be spread apart. The “image” may look “low-res,” but with enough distance, your eyes will naturally fill in the spaces to complete the picture. Pixel mapping is another up-and-coming technology that has pretty endless possibilities; projected onto a surface, it can give incredible 3-D effects.

Start with a Bang – But Be Safe

A short pyrotechnics spectacle is often planned into the introduction or finale of a special event as an exciting way to kick off the show, but pyrotechnics can be dangerous if not used by professionals. Because we organize events in completely different regions of the country, we hire local pyrotechnics professionals to ensure coordination with the Fire Marshal and fire departments. With thousands of individuals congregated in a confined space, it is best to always prepare as much as possible beforehand, even if it may seem like a painstaking process at times.

Elevate the Purpose of Your Event

The dazzling effects and technology integrated into a show will vary from brand to brand. The challenge is finding a way to captivate an audience and still be true to the central concept of the show. While special effects can create an exciting atmosphere for attendees, always keep in mind that their purpose is to elevate the experience, not act as the framework. Whether the event is catered to a small group of investors or is organized to recharge and incentivize a sales team, an effective production will motivate people and drive action.

To learn how Switch can become an effective partner in bringing your meeting to life, email Joe at JoeF@theswitch.us.