At John Murray Productions, we know a thing or two about event props. Before we were building them, we were dreaming them up for our client’s events. When we moved into our Oakland studio and our fabrication capabilities grew, building event props became a favored project. They push our project managers and fabrication team to think outside the box, and are often quite creative. Event props are one of many ways to create a memorable experience for event attendees, but there is much to consider when choosing them as part of your event décor.
First, what is an event prop? An event prop can be any physical element used to create an entertaining event environment, and they typically fit a theme. This includes oversized replicas of familiar or brand related items, stage decor, pyrotechnics, welcome treatments or photo opportunities. Read on to learn more about how and why event planners use them for their scenic environments.
How Event Props Effect the User Experience
Event Props Create Impact
Perhaps the best reason to use an event prop is to provide some sort of wow factor, as this makes an event memorable. Often this is done using scale. Think giant scissors at a groundbreaking ceremony. Or a giant check given as a prize. Or a giant blue bow rigged to untie from the entry alcove for a medical building’s grand opening, like we did for our clients at UCSF. Scale provides visual impact and allows long distance viewing, so attendees standing far from the action feel involved in the action. Interactive event props are another way to have impact. Examples include a giant push button or buzzer to be used on stage. For the National Hockey League’s Stadium Series held at Levi’s Stadium, we fabricated an oversized goalie helmet for each team. The helmet was designed to swing open at the bottom creating a gateway through which the players entered the field and on to the ice rink. Filled with studio fog, and accented with dramatic lighting, these event props created an exciting visual for eager fans far up in the stands anticipating the start of the game.
Event Props Create a Feeling
Event props are an excellent way to reinforce the event’s theme, and are often an iconic part of a scenic environment. They can be playful and whimsical, like the giant faux vine we built for Pixar’s Wall-E wrap party. Brand-centric props, like an oversized dimensional logo, are an excellent way to emphasize brand personality. And stage props, when used strategically, reinforce the message of the presenting speaker. Using event props provides subliminal messaging to the attendees, influencing the subconscious in a way that is felt as much as seen.
Event Props Make Good Photo Ops
In the world of social media, a photo opportunity is a must for events. Not only are your attendees happy to take a selfie for their own personal keepsake, in posting that image on their social media accounts, the event and its sponsors are getting free marketing to a wide audience. Step & Repeats on the red carpet have long been used this way. Today, oversized logos or props with a dedicated space and interesting background need very little to become a high touch point area at an event. They also lend to the feel of the environment. Oversized elements, like the logo we created for the Bacon & Beer festival, make for excellent selfies. And life size celebrity cutouts like the one we created for the Beringer & Bublé event are fun for the guests, and their social media accounts.
How Event Props Effect the Event Plan
Event Props Used for Wayfinding
Given the benefits for the attendees listed above, event producers often include event props in their budget from the get go. But from a strategic standpoint, large scale event props can also aid in wayfinding. Think of the giant entry arch at San Francisco’s annual Outside Lands Festival. This iconic windmill gate not only makes a great photo op, its visibility from anywhere on the event grounds helps the guests orient themselves within a rather large event space. We built a large indoor swing set for the Global Climate Action Summit. The interactive prop served as a unique resting spot, and its accompanying circular overhead graphic and monitor display made it easy to see within Moscone Center, one of the largest venues in San Francisco. Strategically placed next to the restrooms, the prop became a key wayfinding device for guests navigating the event space.
Impact, But on a Budget
One of the challenges for any event producer is the cost benefit analysis of the event’s key elements. Event props should be high impact, but they cannot blow the budget. In turn, fabricators are mindful of the materials they use. This is where the art of faux finishing becomes quite valuable. For a video game experiential marketing event, we turned an old federal bank into a spooky environment in theme with the game. Inspired by old stone crypts, we built six stone coffins using foam, an 8′ tall replica of the mask worn by the game’s key character, and faux marble skull wall sconces, some of which we used for a second event. Our talented faux finishing team provided these elements rather quickly and at a cost the client could easily afford. They were key in creating the entertaining environment for these marketing events.
Event Props Used to Reinvent Spaces
With experiential marketing firms constantly looking for ideas to keep events new and fresh, we have seen a trend toward reinventing traditional event spaces. Our client, the California Nurses Association, decided to create a temporary art gallery at one of their events. Showcasing activist art inspired conference attendees to deepen their own activism. And for the Xerocon conference in San Diego, an adult sized playground complete with a swing set and see-saw replaced traditional networking spaces. Using event props to transform the common event format is a great way to keep guests excited and engaged.
Perhaps the most important consideration when designing event props is the safety of the guests. Rigging requirements, fire safety, and exit routes are some of the variables that go into the design and fabrication. Any reputable venue has strict fire codes monitored by fire marshals. And venues designed to hold lighting and sound equipment use rigging points in the ceiling with weight restrictions, as event props flown overhead are most concerning. Just think of the Hong Kong concert where a falling LED screen crushed one of the band members mid performance. For the Roblox Developers Conference held at Fort Mason, we designed a welcome treatment featuring six 4′ floating cubes. With very strict weight limits in mind, we built them out of 3mm foamed PVC, a strong but lightweight material that reliably holds it structure. Rigged with 1/8″ aircraft cable by our experienced rigging staff, they appeared to be floating in mid air in the large industrial space. Fortunately, they were doing so very safely.
As you can see, event props are a great way to create an entertaining environment. After careful consideration of your budget, audience and venue you will have a better sense of what works for your event. And when you are ready to build them, contact us.