Why can't we see the entire screen?

Don't approve a meeting setup until you test sightlines from the worst seat.

Don't approve a meeting setup until you test sightlines from the worst seat.

AV101 In order to see anything in the front of your meeting room it must be at least 5 feet 4 inches above the floor.

Try it. Have someone sit in front of you in any meeting room, regardless of room size.

What can you see over the head of the friend between you and the screen in the room? NOTHING below 5'4"!


If this is the case how big a screen can be seen in a room with a 9' ceiling?  (Hint: 9' minus 5 feet)

If you don't use the screen top valence and place the screen at its highest, the useful screen height is only 4 feet.

That looks like a mistake in an empty room before the audience sits down, but the fact is, anything below that feet is wasted so don't expect the attendees to see material below that. I have seen 8' tall screens placed in a 9' ceiling breakout room. When asked, the hotel AV tech said, "They wanted the largest screen possible."

Now the question is how many people can read what is on a 4' high screen? Using the legibility formula (FV = 8x H) anyone further than 28' from the screen will not be able to read typical detail.

If you follow my previous posts you will see a recurring theme: ceiling height = legibility.

You have to arrive early at my church to sit in the back row.

So why put the back row so far away from the stage in your next meeting? "Bowling alley" (stage on short wall) seating is the least effective meeting layout.

Bowling room meeting style.

Always try to put your presenter on the long wall. This allows more people to sit closer to the front - and a bigger back row.

It is ideal to have the audience walk into a meeting from the back of the audience. That way they don't disturb everyone when folks come and go.

If the entrance has to be on the side of the audience, install a 10' wide pipe and drape inside the ballroom, 8' from the entrance door. At least the distraction of opening and closing the door is eliminated.

Two other seating notes: NO CENTER AISLE and STAGGER THE SEATS.

Stagger seats

Why no center aisle? That is where the best seats are. Have you ever seen a center aisle in a movie theater or broadway play? No you haven't.

You also don't see one chair placed directly behind another in any real theater. So why do you accept hotel seating that way? Remind the setup crew this is true theater seating - one seat half way between the seats in front..

Request an 18" - 24" walking space between rows. This encourages people to fill in a row without those on the isle having to stand up to let them in/out.

If allowed, set each chair 4" from each other side-by-side. The average width of a banquet chair is 18". The average width of the typical audience member is more than that.

It will take some extra time to set the room but when you take these steps you get a happier audience and a more productive meeting/event. You will hear many excuses from the setup supervisor. Agree on room layout guidelines and theater seating before you sign the contract.

You will have to be prepared for the venue to repeatedly say "nobody has ever complained about the way we set a room." Best practices are on your side BEFORE you sign the contract.

For a real world seating capacity chart try this instead of the inflated capacity charts from the hotels. Hotel capacity charts don't consider safe side aisle or comfortable seating. Most fire marshals will not allow the published capacities.

Check out a Google search for ballroom meetings. Look for good and bad setups. Don't be surprised all pictures are taken from a standing position in the rear of an empty room - it doesn't represent what any audience member sees with someone sitting in front of them..

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IBM PC and Philips Compact Disc - we supported both introductions to the world

The IBM PC was introduced to the world 30 years ago at an event Stage America produced.  We had no idea why the high security at the Hilton Inverrary near the large IBM facility in Boca Raton, FL. We created a set piece that allowed a custom Buhl XENON overhead projector to sit on stage, project tru a 24" square hole in the set to a 8'x8' front surface mirror to a 12'x12' rear projection screen in the set piece. The reason for this kluge? IBM did not allow any slides of the presentation. Only overhead transparencies (called foils back then) would be created from hard copy on a Xerox machine. That way there was no third party eyes on the presentaions.

Meeting rooms each side of our venue and all the hotel rooms on the floor above were rented and secured during move in and show. The crew was invited to leave once the set up was completed. An audience of 100 sales and marketing staff was in the audience.  It was weeks from the event until we knew what the event subject was.

Similar experiences thru our history became our DNA.

We were called to a meeting in NYC to Polygram Record HQ. At the time Polygram owned Polydor Records, Arista, Mercury, RSO, MGM Records, Verve, Casablanca, Pickwick, and Decca. The event would take place at the exclusive La Coquille Club in Manalapan, FL (near Palm Beach). Each of the presidents were asked to introduce their new talent. Clive Davis introduced Whitney Houston recently signed to Arista.

The challenge would be to create an audition studio in a meeting room for 100 presidents and executives from the record companies. Phillips engineers were very concerned we use the best studio equipment while creating an environment for a meeting.