7 Tips for Small Stages With Big Impact

Setting up a small stage? Keep these tips in mind—and check out how five events created eye-popping small stage designs.

By Jenny Berg December 3, 2013, 7:00 AM EST

Photo: Jaka Vinsek

Not every event warrants a big-budget, stadium-worthy setup. Keep these tips in mind to create a small stage with considerable impact.

1. Consider your audience size. “For a small stage and a large audience, make stage elements large, impactful, and easy to see and understand,” says Melissa Kirby of Event Creative. For a small stage and a small audience, “details are critical,” she says. “Propping makes a big difference.”

2. If you can’t go up, go wide. Hotel conference rooms often have low ceilings. “Make an impact by extending the set out to the sides,” Kirby says. “Or, bring in additional [decor] elements throughout the room to make the stage feel bigger than it is.”

3. Be conscious of space. Matt Stoelt of Stoelt Productions notes that even small stages can have a large footprint, due to backline support equipment. “Be sure to place the stage in a corner or against a wall if possible to reduce the amount of space [the entire setup] will take up,” he says.

4. Skip heavy lighting fixtures. “Using lightweight LED fixtures will help to create a large impact in a small space,” Stoelt says. “These fixtures are great for creating abstract looks and generally weigh a lot less than traditional luminaries, allowing them to be rigged to points in the venue rather than ­using an overhead truss.”

5. Raise the stage. To leave room for subwoofer cabinets, Stoelt advises raising small stages to at least 24 inches. Another audio tip: “Using smaller line array systems can typically save space by putting them directly on the downstage edge and off the floor,” he says.

6. Look for preexisting backdrops. Whenever possible, place a small stage in front of preexisting video walls or other visually rich elements within an event space. This can “save on costs while raising production value overall,” Stoelt says.

7. Cover it up. “Always cover the stage to match the venue design or theme of the event,” Stoelt says. “Rental decks are used often, so [they] are typically in poor condition. Low-pile carpet will give a fresh new look to any small stage, and Duvateen fabric can be stapled directly onto the decks.”

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