An Interview with IBM’s Leslie Benway on Staging

Posted on February 28, 2016 in News

We were lucky to have some time to interview Leslie Benway, Director, Global Events, Systems Group at IBM last week, to get her thoughts on staging in this new world where staging sets the backdrop for not only the event, but also event video and event content presentations on social media. “The presentation of content from our events extending past the event is not really a new thing for us. We have had a Virtual Event Center at IBM for years where we upload content from events for decision makers to view our presentations, so we have taken staging backdrops into consideration for much longer than this new social media expansion. That said, it’s always an integral part of our planning for customer events.”

“When we are doing customer events, we know the value of strong staging.” Benway commented that staging design elements ebb and flow like fashion and she is particularly enjoying the curved staging design that has taken off recently. “I like the way it presents large screen video, how it shows well from every seat in the house, and how it allows us to present a strong creative for the backdrop.” The IBM team often runs a ticker tape of the comments running on social media during the event, with individuals backstage monitoring comments and hashtags for upload. “It allows us to expand the messaging in the moment it’s happening and present it when video shows later as well. It creates the largest reach possible.” We asked her about images and flash going on during the speaker’s presentation and concern around the audience’s focus on more than the words of the speaker. “We go dark during the speaker’s comments. Clean background and podium with the slides and the speaker taking center stage. Nothing else interferes with the message. The fun stuff runs during walk in, intros, and walk out.”

Years ago when attending a BizBash event, Ms Benway said she saw a stage that made her stop in her tracks. “The stage opened to reveal the solution center for people to go into, and it was really dramatic. It was one of my favorite staging creations.”

IBM stages some of the largest and most forward thinking events in the world. Remember the chess match between Deep Blue the computer and Garry Kasparov in the late nineties? Imagine that today with social media what it is. And recently their IBM InterConnect 2016 was an event that set the bar just a bit higher for Cloud and Mobile conferences.