Filmmakers know this, which is why they use music to enhance the images on the screen. In a horror movie, music is often the signal to the audience that the girl on screen should absolutely not open that basement door. In comedies and dramas alike, upbeat songs play as heroes ride off into the sunset.
Lighting helps tell the story in these movies as well. That basement door the girl is about to open likely isn’t in a well-lit hallway. And that sunset our heroes are riding into? It’s created by good lighting. Just as filmmakers enhance the enjoyment of their films with these elements, you can utilize music and lighting to enhance the experience guests have at your events. Here are a few ways to ensure you’re setting the right mood.
A successful event is comprised of many elements, but Camille Blaylock, owner of BA Idaho, says music is one of the most important components.
“When you walk into a ballroom and there’s no music playing, the tone is so flat and boring,” she says. “But if you have a good song on in the exact same room, it feels alive.”
Music can enhance many aspects of your event. You might want soft music playing in the background as guests arrive at your venue. Upbeat songs could play as award recipients walk onto the stage. And as the dance floor opens at the end of your event, a DJ or live band could provide hours of music for guests to dance to.
Selecting music for your event can be a difficult task. Chances are your guests’ musical tastes will be varied, but they’ll likely have some musical common ground, too. According to Blaylock, the music you choose will also depend on when and where it’s playing.
“If it’s going to be background music for a cocktail hour, that’s going to be completely different than the last night of a conference where you have a party.”
Blaylock suggests acoustic or instrumental music for cocktail hours and social gatherings. This could come from recorded music, or a live string quartet or guitar player. Kristen Cole, owner of Sound Wave Events, says it’s always good to use songs from a variety of generations, especially well-known hits.
“Everyone’s going to know, and most people are going to love, a good Journey song. If you throw on ‘Old Time Rock n’ Roll’ by Bob Seger, everyone’s going to know that,” she says. “There are songs through the ages that people are going to appreciate.”
If you decide to hire a professional audio technician or DJ for your event, they can help choose music that best fits your event and its theme.
Blaylock says she has several prepared playlists geared toward different types of events. And both Blaylock and Cole say you should always discuss your music selections with your audiovisual provider.
Once they know what your goals are, they can select music to meet those goals.
Audiovisual teams can also build a “do not play” list to meet your needs. Songs on this list may include songs with offensive lyrics, but when building that list, Cole suggests thinking beyond language.
“There are some songs that are just downright annoying,” she says.
Most of us carry our favorite songs everywhere we go thanks to cellphone apps like Pandora and Spotify. And with adapters to connect our phones to PA systems widely available, it can be tempting to forgo hiring an audiovisual company to provide music for an event. However, a professional will do more than simply hit play on your favorite playlist.
Cole says sound acoustics are different in every venue and a professional audio technician has special training to understand how to adjust volume and levels to fit each space.
“We do a lot of different sound checks during our setup, from different perspectives of the event, to make sure the sound volume is appropriate,” she says. “And we adjust sound throughout the event, that’s something we’re always paying attention to.”
Turning the music over to someone else also allows you to focus on your guests.
A professional will have all the equipment needed, and the knowledge to work it. This prevents you from having to learn it, or from pulling others away from their work to run to an electronics store to buy adapters or other equipment.
Running music yourself can also lead to embarrassing moments. Imagine your cellphone ringing through the PA system or it accidentally playing that guilty pleasures playlist you’d rather keep secret. Blaylock says that while hiring a company to handle these elements is an expense, it also relieves lots of stress.
Since many corporate events are held annually, Cole says lighting can make the event feel different each year.
“I think it is really important to look at the goal of the event, and what kind of experience you want to give the guests,” she says. “Are you having a really elaborate awards ceremony or recognition of some sort? Are photos going to be taken on the stage?”
If so, Cole says you may want to spend some of your budget on an attractive stage backdrop.
Blaylock says it’s important to sit down with your lighting vendor and discuss your vision, and to be honest with them about your budget.
If the lighting elements you want don’t fit your budget, they may be able to achieve something similar at a lower cost.
When meeting with your lighting vendor, it’s helpful to have your venue selected because your desired lighting effects may not work in some venues.
Again, by discussing your plans with your lighting company, they may be able to suggest a solution that fits your venue and still gives you the desired effect.
Also consider creating a social media hashtag for your event, and encourage your guests to tag their Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posts using it.
You might also consider fun elements such as a GIF booth, which creates short, animated photos that guests can share on social media (tagged with your event hashtag, of course). And Cole says a standard photo booth can provide a fun souvenir for guests, but it’s also another great branding opportunity for your organization.
“They can brand that photo strip that’s being printed out to continue getting their brand in front of potential clients,” she says.
With a little planning, these elements can be combined with music and lighting to create an event your guests will enjoy and remember.