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Part Two of Tony Castrigno’s Insight into Scenic Design Trends

In Part Two of his piece on scenic design, Tony Castrigno from Design Contact, touches on trends from this past year, how certain aspects of presentations have changed completely, and what to expect from scenic staging in 2018.

What would you say are the biggest trends in presentations this past year? PowerPoint is dead? What do your clients want to augment the message of the speaker?

Slides, be they PowerPoint or Keynote, are not going anywhere soon. The primary reason for this is that they are content repositories and organizers that work well for the presenters in other aspects of their work. It is how thoughts are captured, information is organized, and product images are collected and used in everyday business. It’s how information is shared with colleagues and customers. The software is very portable and part of nearly everyone’s computer. But what is trending is production companies and agencies are taking those files and helping to reimagine them for the stage. As formats have become more complex, it is less likely that a powerful presentation is delivered as a 16:9 window in a larger projection or video surface. I have been at this long enough to remember when speeches would be given to a designer who would do storyboards of a presentation, which would then be produced as a slideshow (some very sophisticated), and rehearsed and presented against a script. The message was carefully crafted and visualized. Ironically, it is PowerPoint that killed this process. We used to say, “Everyone’s secretary is a speech designer,” as executives started to experiment with controlling their own content and bringing it to the meeting. As you might expect, this was a low point in visual design for meetings! I see the trend coming full circle; the executive PowerPoint is now the INPUT to more-media-savvy designers who adapt it for the new dynamic staging environments. This is dovetailed with more storytelling and stronger narratives in speechwriting.

Is the lectern dead?

Let’s hope so. Most presenters now feel very pressured to step away from the lectern to really connect with an audience. The advent of new teleprompting technology and techniques make that more and more achievable. Just refer back to my comment about TED Talks. Presenters also need to develop the skills to be engaging and inspiring in order to step away.

Has lighting changed? Will it?

YES and YES. Driven by the extensive use of IMAG lighting, stage presentations became more and more flat and even to assure a good image. When locked to a lectern, desk, or chair, lighting can be focused and controlled to create visibility while leaving the rest of the environment dramatically lit. When presenters started doing more walk and talk, the lighting had to be flat and even across the entire stage, often washing out the look and sometimes parts of the screen. As intelligent and moving lights become more sophisticated, it is getting a little more feasible to “follow” a presenter to control the lighting.

These same intelligent lights are now more and more capable of integrating with video and scenery to become integrated into the design, rather than laid over it. In some cases, the lighting team controls the video feeds as well through servers that make for even more seamless integration and manipulation of the visual spectrum.

As entertainment lighting becomes more and more sophisticated and audiences see more and more of it at rock shows and other spectacles, the use of light in a meeting environment can be scenery in itself. We can be be looking at the lens of carefully deployed units, watching their beams dance in the haze we pump into rooms, or splashing patterns and colors across a 3-D set.

How has video changed the way event presentations unfold?

Used as a storytelling tool, it has made the presentations more dynamic and visually compelling. It replaces PowerPoint in some cases, allowing for more fluid visuals in a presentation. Used as a visual technology, it allows all sorts of environmental effects and transforms spaces dynamically through the meetings. Video is no longer confined to the screen!

What do you think will change around scenic staging in 2018?

Considering the rise of experiential marketing and the way audiences want to engage more with their surroundings, I think what used to be a scenic backdrop is now becoming a stronger and more visual experience landscape. Presenters are becoming more aware of the context in which their message is delivered – and how they themselves are staged is becoming more important. I think the power of dimensional architecture integrated with media is the future of “scenery” in the corporate environment. Meeting spaces will become more immersive, more engaging, visually richer, and better storytelling environments.

We hope you enjoyed our series on Scenic Design Trends. Keep an eye out for more words of wisdom from industry experts!


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