A recent trend in company town halls and employee meetings is presenting in the round, where the stage is set in the middle of the conference room flanked by audience members (usually split into four sections).
In the spirit of lessening the distance between the executive team and rank-and-file employees, the format allows for a more congenial presentation style. As the main stage is centred there is a much broader face of the audience to address and the most distant row is only a few layers back. In presentations, as in any relationship, proximity is power and the closer one stands physically to the audience, the greater the impact.
When photographing this style of meeting, there are some advantages. In most cases, the presenter/s will effectively provide four opportunities for full frontal shots as they rotate around the stage, addressing each section of the audience. This gives the shooter an increased number of openings for shooting not just head on portrait style images, but also some interesting side angles and wider angle views that take in a front-facing section of the audience as well.
There is, of course, the other side of the formula that means that 3/4s of the time your speaker has his or her back turned to you, but if you are nimble and ready to move, you can simply circulate around the stage from the outer periphery and stay facing your subject as she or she moves through the presentation.
Another upside is the greater number of audience engagement shots that clients typically request. As the main purpose of these events is to elicit engagement from employees and to strengthen company culture, images showing the audience rapt with attention, smiling, laughing or otherwise reacting to what is taking place on stage are important to capture. With a presentation-in-the-round style format, there is not one, but four faces to the audience to shoot into, all reasonably well lit from the stage lighting. As well, there will likely be four aisles to move through between each section, affording additional chances for down the aisle type shots and more close ups with a deep background of faces to fill up the image.
If you’re shooting a lot of conferences or corporate meetings, it’s likely you’ll encounter this type of presentation format soon, if you haven’t already. If you’ve shot more standard presentations than you can keep track of (ahem), this format can be a nice change and can be a new stimulus to your creativity. You’ll want to have a few lenses on hand (telephoto, wide, 50mm) to take full advantage of the shooting opportunities but you’ll find that this style of presentation is easier and generally more fun to shoot than a traditional conference style format.