Ask the Expert – Setting the Stage with Lights

When you meet Jen Baker, it’s very quick to see she has a passion for stage lighting.  She serves as the Lighting Designer at Ridgecrest Conference Center and has been involved with technical services for eleven years.  Lighting is more than a job for her – in fact, when I asked her how she views her work with lighting as a ministry, she said:

One of the first things God created was light.  I have always taken that as without light we cannot see the beauty of the Master Artist and His creation.  Light has the power to illuminate, sculpt and create an atmosphere.  Lighting is a tool that can be used to help break down the barriers during worship and create a safe place for people to enter in worship.  My place as a lighting designer is to visually interpret the message being communicated, whether in song or spoken word.

Needless to say, Jen knows lights and knows them well.  I recently spoke with her about elements of lighting for events of various sizes.  Here are some of the highlights I took from our discussion:

  • Utilize color schemes to create the atmosphere/mood of your session. You can create a warm, cozy feeling with warm tones such as soft white, amber, oranges, purples and reds.  High energy effects can be created through yellows, oranges, greens, whites, light blues and pinks.  For a slower, more intimate time, utilize blues, pinks, purples, reds and some greens.  When in doubt, always start with blue or white.  It is a good, neutral color that works well for any type of atmosphere.
  • If you have a contemporary band, a few lights in the right place with some uplighting and backlight can give you the same experience as a big stage, in a more intimate setting.  If you just have a speaker, lights across the back wall, on either side of the projector screen or around the room can make the room less boring, more intimate and give your audience something to look at.
  • If you have banners or a small stage design, adding lights to highlight can make it pop. It will draw attention from the first moment your guests enter.
  • You don’t have to use only stage lighting to enhance your set – you can use lamps, LED rope lights or candles that change colors.
  • Always be strategic in where you place your lighting or what you are highlighting. You can get away with fewer fixtures by doing this.
  • Don’t let it get you down if someone doesn’t like the color choice or effect you choose. You will never please everyone.  Individual audience members differ in their sensitivity.
  • If you have a worship leader, try to work with them and help create an atmosphere that enhances their song choices.
  • When it comes to power, make sure you get enough extension cords to make everything neat. Always buy black.  Nothing is worse than bright orange extension cords running across the front of a room.
  • The most important thing of all: Gaff Tape!  Do not use duct tape to tape down cords.  It leaves residue; gaff tape will not.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Jen, it’s that you can do a ton of creative things with lighting to enhance your event space.  You don’t have to be an expert in technology to incorporate basic additions with lights.  While we will leave the large event spaces to the professionals, you would be surprised what a few lights and a little practice can do!



Setting The Stage…

Event planners often wear many hats. They may be interior decorator, graphic artist, chauffeur, and customer service representative within the span of a few hours. The interior design aspect of this job – preparing the stage and other meeting areas to be visually appealing, may or may not be an area of strength for you. Here are a few tips to help you grow.

Red Stage Curtain

  1. Learn something new. Take a floral design class at a community college, subscribe to a food magazine, tour other event facilities in your area. Designate a spiral binder or even a folder on your phone or computer and collect photos you think you could use later. A rush of new ideas can feed you for months.
  2. Something borrowed. When I was a newly graduated college student, working as a discipleship assistant in my church, we planned several retreats each year. Always on a rather tight budget. Once the food and location were paid for, we rarely had any money left for “frills” and this is when I learned the art of borrowing. I had close connections to a high school theater group, and they allowed us to use all sorts of props, from pillars to entire sets. As long as we picked them up and returned them in good working order they were ours for the taking. These added tasteful interest to stages and meeting rooms. We also borrowed plants, from a local garden center. We knew the owner and promised to replace anything we damaged. For one womenʼs retreat we borrowed thirty ferns and several large blooming plants. These gave the stage a lush appearance, and filled the room with a light but sweet scent.  We also placed a small couch, an end table and a lamp on the stage, taken right out of someoneʼs living room. Women couldnʼt stop commenting on the beauty and uniqueness of the stage and it hadnʼt cost us anything but a few man hours and some gas for the truck. What might you borrow to enhance your next event?
  3. Donʼt forget lights. Lighting can make or ruin a stage. Consider the difference between a candle-lit dinner, and one eaten under the harsh glare of a halogen bulb. What types of lighting do you have access to at the facility? Will you use different effects for different portions of the group meeting? Large groups of candles have become more popular in worship settings in the last ten years. They can add an air of intimacy and worship, but can also bring risks and sometimes the need for regulation. Check with the facility to see what their policies are on open flames.

Consider and plan lighting ahead of time so that it works with your goals. Creating an aesthetic atmosphere in your large group meetings that supports your goals takes planning and creativity. What can you do this week to invest in this area of your role as an event planner?