A Successful SAS Global Forum, Highlighted with LEDs and Audience Engagement

A Successful SAS Global Forum, Highlighted with LEDs and Audience Engagement

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The SAS Global Forum is a yearly high point for the provider of analytics software, offering a chance for users the world over to engage with colleagues, develop their skills, network and much more. The SAS Global Forum 2017 iteration, which took place April 2-5 at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida, was a major success.

Alford Media’s long-term association with the SAS conference and its producers, Bill Marriott, Jeff Hudgins, and Tom Oates stretches back nearly 20 years, with the show growing and evolving – and ultimately becoming more impressive for the audience – over that time. This year’s event saw the highest attendance levels in the history of the conference. With SAS’s focus on serving the individual through its made-to-order solutions, the challenge of a personalized approach in a room of 4,000 attendees became a primary emphasis for Alford during planning and execution.

The general session
The general session, produced by Bill Marriot and Jeff Hudgins, was the centerpiece of the event, with especially high attendance and a number of elements incorporated to make the experience more engaging for attendees. The combination of an expansive array of LED screens, atmospheric lighting and room filling, naturally clear sound gave guests a unique experience – whether or not they had attended the Global Forum in the past.

Bill and Jeff wanted a general session that would be memorable and effective while presenting an experience in line with its brand values. They worked with Alford’s Dan Thompson, Director of National Accounts, and Pat Reed, Project Manager and Director of Show Solutions, to make this happen. One major piece of that presentation was the two hundred linear feet of high resolution LED screens used to immerse attendees into the general session experience.

3 LED screens at SAS GF General Session

The general session LED screens were impressive, to say the least.

LEDs throughout the general session
The overall appearance of the general session space was accomplished through a combination of mood-setting atmospheric lighting and eye-catching visuals whose message conveyed both the importance and purpose of the Global Forum. To that end, Alford with the help of Matrix Visual deployed a total of 1,268 19.69-square-inch LED tiles on the main stage to create 3 large LED screens. Vivid graphics and unimpeded visibility throughout the room were the priorities, and a major reason why 2.6 mm LED tiles were employed. Driven by 48 processors. The entire image output equaled 120 million pixels – the equivalent of 15 4K bandwidths.

The logistics, setup, and structural support required for displays of this size is a very serious undertaking. One of the most important considerations to manage was the sheer weight of the panels, which meant ground support and rigging had to work in tandem to ensure a safe and effective presentation, this is where Kevin Leckey, Rigging Designer, was a huge asset to the Alford team. The panels weighed 1,278 lbs. altogether. The result was crisp, clear graphics that wowed the audience and created a visually impressive display throughout the three-day event.


LEDs Side of Stage

Beyond the main LED screen were support lighting and ceiling-hung LED tiles, supplementing the graphics and further setting a mood. Additionally, custom-built scenic walls created a trapezoid stage space in which the three large LED screens intersected. The theme included overhead LED strips and LED up lights to enhance an already dynamic environment. The ultimate effect of all these pieces put together was a beautiful visual experience that dazzled the eye and engaged the attendees’ minds.

Audience engagement
Audience engagement also played a huge role in the general session and overall three-day event. SAS’s tradition of developing an event-specific app, with this year’s iteration called SAS Lights, furthered the goal of immersing guests in the opening night. SAS Lights kept the phones of every single attendee who downloaded it flashing in sync with the beat of the opening night’s entertainment segment held at the general session, making sure everyone was involved.

Social Media Lounge

One especially effective method of making attendees feel closer to the center of the action was the use of remote cameras throughout the crowd as SAS company leaders introduced conference highlights on the first night of the Global Forum. Introducing the leaders from within the audience and with their regional groups highlighted the focus of the event, the attendees. With the night themed around data personalization, these experiences made each attendee feel like a participant instead of an observer.

Throughout the venue, there were continued elements of personalization and engagement. Social media presence and sharing is now a hallmark of all events and the leaders at SAS want their attendees to capitalize on this as much as they can. Not only do they want their attendees to share their experience, but also see what everyone else is talking about, what speaker to see next, or workshop to attend. This is why a Social Media station was set up with real-time feeds on monitors in front of the Upper Quad entrance.

Webcast Set

In addition, live-streaming plays an important role at every large SAS event, documenting the highlights and allowing global attendees who could not make the trip be a part of the experience. A set was constructed to relay live updates, interviews and important information to all participants through a webcast and because this event took place on such a large scale remote video carts were put out to capture all the high points.

A major event like the SAS Global Forum is always a large undertaking, and the ambitious project and increased size of 2017’s event presented some unique challenges along with those Alford faces at each and every conference and show. However, with a combination of organizational knowledge and experience, the right equipment and careful, cooperative planning ahead of time, Alford made sure all the audiovisual elements of the SAS Global Forum were executed without a hitch.



Alford Media