Whether it’s a performance, festival, convention or conference, or any special event that requires staging, there are several considerations you should keep as top of mind when planning stage hire. For example, what size stage do you require? Will you need a raised platform separately or as part of the stage, if at all? How will your performers, entertainers or speakers access the stage? Have you scoped how your stage will coordinate with sound and lighting? Before you get overwhelmed with a million what if and how questions, the first step is to have a clear understanding of the context and details of your event, to therefore determine the size, features and specific requirements of your stage.
Here are our top tips of what you need to know.
Start with a floor plan and scope a stage plan to scale
When scoping out your event space, the first place to being is with a floor plan. Whilst this might not be a fun job for most event planners, it’s the most worthwhile. The important bit? Ensuring your floor plan is to scale. If you’re planning your stage hire based on this floor plan, then mapping this out to scale is even more crucial. This is the only sure way to know that your event space will come to light exactly as you’ve pictured and put in all the preparation for.
When documenting your floor and stage plan, you’ll want to consider thoroughfare areas, audience proximity to sound and stage visibility, any other furniture or items in the room such as tables, chairs or equipment and if your stage doesn’t have performers who are separated from the crowd, be clear about how you expect those needed on stage to access it.
Decide what type of stage you will need
An easy starting point is to ask whether your stage is going to be indoors or outdoors? The next is to consider the size of your performance and the size of your audience (they may not be proportionate). This is where your floor plan will come in handy, as it will be much easier to visualize what you’ll need by where things should be.
Once you have a clearer scopes on these logistics, it will be easier to determine the dimensions you need for your staging. How high should it be? What width do you need? Are there backdrops or do you need to plan for extra depth and create this? What access does your staging require?
The common uses for a stage are concerts (both small and large), theatre performances, conferences and conventions, and ceremonies such as a graduation or religious event.
For concert stages, the priority is usually the sound and lighting. The sound obviously is important for the audience, however lighting equally plays a big part in setting the ambience, creating stage visibility and has a dramatic effect on the overall style and look of the stage. Therefore for concert stages, you should plan this in conjunction with your lighting and audio hire.
Theatre performance stages will generally need a back stage area or some form of ‘off stage’ entry and exit point. This might be for the performers to change costumes, coordinate scene changes or even if you have multiple performers who need an area to wait back stage before it’s their turn to come on. Curtains are usually used for this and are the easiest to create a separated area where you can still hear what is happening on stage (to know for your cue), and be able to enter and exit easily.
Similarly conferences and ceremony stages, you’ll need to factor in the entry and exit of speakers, presenters or participants. If you have speaker presentations, microphone and sound equipment will be important to simultaneously plan for, and similar to with a concert stage you should consider the effect that lighting can have on a focus point, i.e. where the speaker may be. If you’re using a project screen or showing a presentation, the stage should be lit but the rest of the room slightly darker so that the screen is visible to the audience.
If your audience need to be able to access the stage, usually also required for ceremonies, you should make sure your stage hire includes stairs to access. If you need wheelchair access, speak to your hire company about a ramp or mobile elevator.
Planning for the unplanned
Sound and lighting is crucial
Generally speaking, all stages will need some kind of sound and lighting. How much is needed though and specific requirements will depend on the type of event and stage hire you’re planning for (as determined above).
As a guide, when planning the sound and audio equipment for your stage hire, you should firstly know how many people your stage needs to be visible to and what the audience vantage points are. This will help you determine where to place lighting spotlights. For sound, you’ll need to know the floor plan of the room and where your audience intends to be. Its always helpful to figure out the natural acoustics of the room so you can place your speakers in the best position to maximise this.
If you’re planning photo or videography of your stage, you should work with your photographer and videographer as to their suggestions on the optimal set up to get the best quality footage. They might also request a sealed off area for them to shoot and film from. Again, this is something that can be mapped into your floor plan.
All plan As need a plan B, and usually plan A is sunny and clear skies, and plan B is the “if it rains” scenario. If your staging is set up outside, you’ll definitely need a wet weather plan. This doesn’t necessary mean moving the whole event indoors, but factoring in what parts actually need to be undercover, what would you ideally have as undercover, and what can survive both wet and dry. For festival and bigger concert events, most organisers take a risk with wet weather and set up the stage to be usable for either. If you have electrical equipment, this is especially important to have protected from rain as the last thing you want is to trigger an electrical fire or OHS warnings!
Sound, check. Lighting, check. Stage, check.
Most people when organising their own event think of sound and lighting checks, they don’t always factor in a stage check on their run sheet. Whilst the stage check might feel like it’s already been done during your sound and lighting, you should really consider and check for this separately. Here is a short list of what should be covered in your stage check,
- Entry and exit access – Are required access points clear and accessible?
- On stage arrangement and access – Run an ‘on-stage’ rehearsal to make sure any movement that will be happening on stage is possible and as expected.
- Visibility – Have your performers (whether it’s people or things) on stage, and position yourself at the various audience places to ensure the stage is fully visible for everyone.
- Equipment – Whether it’s starting on stage or will be moved on at a later time, rehearse with all required equipment to make sure the stage is set up to appropriately accommodate for this.
If you’re needing staging hire for your next event, speak to Party Hire Group, staging specialists serving Sydney and the Greater Sydney region.