How did you get into the rental/staging business?
I started my career working in the theatre, initially as a production electrician then as a lighting designer. I was fortunate enough to be involved early on across a broad cross section of the industry, including large scale touring and regional repertory theatre both of which, even then, had their forays into video and projection. As a freelance lighting designer I was mainly lighting play, music and dance but it wasn’t long before I was being asked to get involved in corporate events and conferences in particular.
There is an old joke in the theatre that an actor can’t do anything on stage without knowing “what their motivation is”. In other words, they won’t just say their lines or take direction but instead need to understand the whys and wherefores. This is something that I came to understand a whole lot more when working on conferences. It is only by really taking time to understand the business objectives for the event, the messages to be communicated, and the desired outcomes that we can begin to use creative and technical wizardry to really make a real difference.
What is your favourite project that you’ve ever been involved in?
It has to be the National Teaching Awards Tour. From a technical point of view it’s not groundbreaking but the 4 week back-to-back schedule is tough. There is an awards show for every possible industry nowadays but I have never seen in any other industry the genuine excitement, admiration and gratitude that the teaching profession shares at its events. Teachers are also fantastic orators and you hear some amazing, seemingly off the cuff, acceptance speeches.
Is there are a particular product that you’ve come to look on as ‘an old favourite’?
Perhaps not a specific product but I know that we are sometimes quick to dismiss older technology in favour of the very latest. Audio visual communications technology advances so quickly yet the manner in which we communicate has taken thousands of years to evolve! A question I regularly get asked by end users is ‘what is the latest bit of kit that we can use at our conference?’. It is always disappointing to hear this as, although there is an opportunity to provide something that ‘gets one up on the Joneses’, you feel they are missing the point and failing to come up with something that engages the audience and communicates their message. More often than not the most effective solution is one that uses several more traditional audio visual technologies in a live environment and has them working together to create an engaging experience.
Is there a recent product that’s caught your eye that you think will be very useful in your business?
I’m particularly keen to see where the new generation of large format multi touch surfaces takes us. Most people have quickly become very conversant with the hands-on language of touch and gesture. There is a real opportunity too for this technology to develop further so audiences can interact with each other and give feedback via a shared surface. How long will it be before audiences sit around touch surfaces, can interact with the presentations, and with each other, via a common interface? At many events the audience is the biggest asset in terms of combined knowledge and experience but also the biggest investment in terms of their time. Any technology that can maximise their engagement and simultaneously harness their thinking has got to be pure gold.