The Joy Of Six

The Joy Of Six

CTI's new Wichita office set up projection and sound in two large auditorium's and a seminar room for Cessna's Customer Conference.Often it isn't the very latest technique or technology that impresses audiences, but the way you combine the tried and true to get smooth, error-free results. Such was the case at Cessna Aircraft's 2007 Citation Customer Conference in April, where staging and AV integration firm Conference Technologies, Inc. (CTI) helped Cessna stage their largest user event ever.

Though CTI did use the latest and greatest equipment, including 12,000 lumen Christie projectors, Cessna supervisor of events & media communications, Shane McCormick, says six AV 'finishing touches' made all the difference. "It's surprising how rarely I see these techniques used when I go to other corporate conferences," he said.

The 2007 user conference
Cessna Aircraft has offered a users conference in and near its Wichita headquarters for more than 30 years. The show offers customers a mix of education and pleasure, with company and guest speakers, maintenance and operation seminars, exhibits, and two large evening social events for customers and their wives or husbands. Audiences are large and the AV setups impressive.

For the first time, Cessna brought in St. Louis-based CTI, who handled all the show's AV from its new Wichita office. CTI set up projection and sound in two large auditoriums at Wichita's Century II Performing Arts Center, plus a seminar room in the Hyatt Hotel next door. They also helped set up a vendor area in the Century II Convention Center and a social event at Cessna's Citation Service Center.

"The show gives Cessna a chance to educate their customers and show off their new products," says Steve Maulin, one of the managers of CTI's new Wichita branch. More importantly, adds McCormick, "it provides a good platform for Cessna to listen to our customers' concerns about their Citations and also their success stories."

At this year's event, Cessna's used an RF cuing device and laser pointer in nearly all of
Dual screen presentations
The first of the Cessna/CTI 'finishing touches' was side-by-side projection, which Cessna has made a standard for many years. On the left they will show PowerPoint text, on the right, graphics, photos or video. At the users' conference, according to Maulin, "We basically had separate laptops, one for each screen, with an operator backstage bringing up the slides and video."

The advantage of the setup is simple, though perhaps not obvious to every event manager. Instead of inserting a technical illustration into a PowerPoint word slide, Cessna can show it full-screen. "Some of the auditoriums we use can seat 1,000 people," McCormick says. "We want to make sure that anyone in any seat can see what we're trying to get across."

Backup equipment
Cessna did not stop with one extra projector for each of the two auditoriums it used this year. "If something can go wrong, you'd better be prepared for it," says CTI's James Burgardt, who manages the Wichita office with Maulin. Instead, Cessna brought two extra laptops into each auditorium for backup, and CTI set up one more backup projector. Maulin tied everything together with a Folsom Research matrix switcher, so that technicians could send any signal from any of the four laptops to any or all of the projectors.

In the smaller meeting room, where Cessna used just a single 5,000-lumen projector, CTI still set up an extra projector and an extra laptop, with a smaller Extron switcher in case of any problems.

McCormick says Cessna used a setup called a presidential teleprompter at the users' conference. The system consists of two flat-screen monitors sitting face up on the floor in front of each podium, each with its image reversed left-to-right. CTI mounts two tempered panes of glass at eye level above the monitors, angled in such a way that the teleprompter text reflects onto the glass for the presenter to see. Audience members can't see the monitors, can't see the text and generally pay little attention to the glass. "We'll often get comments like, 'I can't believe your guys can memorize a speech that long,'" says McCormick.

In addition to the teleprompters, CTI supplied a 17 inch confidence monitor for each podium and fed it the same dual signals going to the projectors. With this setup, presenters never forget their lines and never have to look behind them to see which slides are being projected.

For Cessna Aircraft's 2007 Citation Customer Conference, Conference Technologies, Inc. provided side-by-side projection. On the left they will show PowerPoint text, on the right, graphics, photos or video.
Banners and stage lighting
CTI's role in the Cessna show didn't stop with the presentation rooms. Burgardt and CTI technician Adam Bacon flew and professionally lit 29 banners, 30 enlarged aircraft posters and a 20 x 50 foot graphic in the show's exhibit hall and Cessna's Wichita service center, which were the sites of a Monday night customer/vendor and Tuesday night customer/staff social gathering.

The Tuesday night function took place in a hanger, so Cessna was able to bring in a number of historical aircraft as well as a mockup of their newest Citation jet for guests to view. "These are really nice social gatherings," says Burgardt, "with food, drink and a lot for airplane enthusiasts to get excited about. The banners gave them a tremendous look. When you walked into each room, you knew you would have a great time."

Post-show website
"We always provide a recap website," says McCormick, "for people who don't remember everything and for those who want to share something with colleagues who didn't get to go to the conference." CTI helped the effort this year, digitally recording each speech and seminar and delivering the files to Cessna, who converted them to Flash for use on the site.

McCormick says the combination of proven techniques and a first-rate supplier made all the difference this year. "You can get the latest and greatest equipment anywhere," he says, "but if you don't have the right people to help support you or a company with the capability to supply your demands on short notice, it doesn't matter." For more information visit