Corporate events can be as small as a group of five in a technical training session or as large as an annual meeting in an amphitheater with 20,000 shareholders. Associations conduct conferences for employees, and with shrinking travel budgets, they may want to stream some sessions live. Some groups sell DVDs to enthusiastic attendees on-site, then market the DVDs after the conference to others in their industry.
Companies use video to expand their reach to customers, to train staffers who were not at the meetings, and to reward top salespeople with incentive travel to a preferred destination. People love to see themselves in a highlights clip shown at the close of the event, and sometimes the planners show the highlights video the following year to attract more attendees to their events.
One of the benefits of filming corporate events is that you will gain visibility with some of the decision makers in the company. Your ability to help the organization preserve and distribute its message increases your value to the company. Try to attend a rehearsal in the meeting hall or a planning meeting ("preproduction" in our world). Ask for an agenda and the spelled-out names and titles of each speaker. You may be keying those into the final video. Watch for any staging issues, such as uneven lighting or awkward backgrounds, and see if you can resolve them.
Large venues hire camera operators to project images of the presenters so the folks in the back rows can get a good view of them. This process is called IMAG or image magnification, and you will need a good fluid head tripod, with two handles, equipped with remote zoom and focus controls. Frequently, a technical director sits at a video switcher to control when the live camera image is on the screen or when it is appropriate to switch to PowerPoint slides. It is a good idea to have a still store of the organization logo, so the screen doesn't have to go black if there is nothing to show.
PowerPoint slides and other projection apps are difficult to capture off-screen with a camera. Carry a flash drive (thumb drive) with you so you can upload the graphics from the presenter's computer for your later postproduction.
Some keynote speakers employ a video producer to create a short roll-in video that introduces them and fires up the audience. These are usually high-energy segments with graphics, effects, and stimulating music. Your experience with music videos or commercials can help you get selected as producer of those roll-ins.
Add hallway interviews with key players and excited participants to your shot list. Spontaneous accolades can add emotion to an otherwise mundane video, and they can be used in a roll-in for the next year's event. Sound bites and short clips from these testimonials can also be used as promos for the web. With permission, film some segments in breakout sessions. Conferences frequently include several concurrent small groups that meet after the main plenary sessions. Since everyone can't attend these breakout sessions, many will be delighted to know there is video documenting the ones they missed.
Be sure to capture plenty of b-roll before and after the event. It could be simply the signage for the event, or it could include shots of participants arriving and mingling. You have filmed these segments scores of times at family events. A high-angle shot, captured with a tall monopod or with a tripod from across the room, adds another dimension to your final, edited video. Clips from this schmoozefest not only let people see themselves but also show the fun and social side of corporate events.
Your skills with SDEs will give you the opportunity to shine in the eyes of the corporate execs when they see your highlights video at the close of a conference. Some companies have a dinner on the final day, and they may want your video as the evening's entertainment. Keep the video a short montage to music rather than writing a script and hiring a narrator.
Far in advance of the meeting, present your ideas to the company's meeting planner. Explain that you will film activities and that you'll bring editing gear to perform the postproduction in your hotel suite. Ask for guidance about the key activities and people to show and what not to include. Bring files of the company logo, graphics for the conference, and maybe even some still images of key managers, buildings, equipment, or whatever is important to the company. Expect that the meeting planner will want to select the music, see a draft, and approve the final video before it is shown. This is not a wedding video where you have editorial control. However, your clever camera angles, snappy editing, and upbeat music will give attendees something to remember. End the video with your best artistic shot or incorporate a key phrase the company likes to use. Coordinate this with the music for an even greater impact. And be sure to include your name in the credits so they will remember you too.
Stu Sweetow (sweetow at avconsultants.com) is the author of the recently published book Corporate Video Production. He runs Oakland, Calif.-based video production company Audio Visual Consultants. He taught video production at UC Berkeley Extension, was associate editor of Wedding and Event Videography, and was a contributing editor to Camcorder & Computer Video magazine.