Custom builds and productions are the next frontier for events

Sometimes an event calls for something truly outside the box. A great brainstorming session leads to a big idea, yet you’re stumped as to how you’re going to pull it off. Whether it’s transforming an exhibit hall entrance into a ship or creating a 10-foot 3D prop in the shape of an event logo, it is key to approach a custom production using best practices in order to have the best possible outcome.

Understanding the Need 

A custom production is when a design team can interpret a client’s brand, theme and event goals to create an end product to amaze, inspire and establish a connection between event attendees and organizers. For example, one metroConnections client’s theme, “Shifting into High Gear,” was brought to life with the creation of a working gear structure, tabletops with gear designs and a “Yellow Brick Road”-inspired walkway of gears. Another conference had the metroConnections creative team building floating dragonflies, designing garden-inspired table décor and creating a stunning light display.

Picking an existing cookie-cutter stage, set or prop design sometimes seems like the only cost effective use of your team’s budget. But is it truly cost effective if the event, props and branding are subpar? If the goal is to wow at your events, research all your options. There are certainly companies with in-house artists, craftsmen and production assistants that can interpret your budget, theme, site and needs while being able to provide a unique attendee experience. Specialized production companies, including metroConnections, are able to adapt to one-of-a-kind designs, big or small, so never fret that your event isn’t big enough to warrant a custom production.

Production companies are also trained experts in A/V or have close-knit connections in the A/V world. It’s their job to get you the best gear and deal while also creating an amazing visual experience. If meeting planners go straight to an A/V supplier, they run the risk of not getting what they want, simply because the supplier doesn’t know the whole story behind the event.

Getting Started

So you’ve decided to do a custom build for your next event—where to start? The first step is to look at a list of production companies and study past work and previous clients. This will help you easily weed out the less experienced companies from the established ones. Once you’ve got a list of contenders, arrange meetings with each of them so you can get to know the company and its workflow process better. A good company will show its potential clients examples of the planning tools they will provide, such as renderings, diagrams, on-site schedules, content list, show calls and more. At this initial meeting, event planners should come with a budget and a list of questions to ask each company that focus on areas of importance for the program. Be sure to make your budget clear; a good company will respect your budget, proposing ideas that are both impactful and manageable within the parameters given. If the company keeps trying to sell more than you are comfortable spending, move on.

Once you’ve settled on a production company and have shared your ideas, the process ought to begin with the company providing renderings, pictures and storyboards to make sure the interpretation of your vision is accurate. Provide information such as what you’ve done for previous programs, what has worked in the past and what can be improved, the event agenda, any overall theme or identity, and the presentation style of the speakers.

Avoiding Common Mistakes

To keep the production process as smooth as possible, there are particular pitfalls to avoid. Once initial creative documents are provided, it’s crucial to share those materials with all levels that need to give approval before signing off with the production company. You don’t want to get the stamp of approval from a meeting manager, then months into the design and build send an emergency email to the production company asking them to stop because one of the C-levels wants to adjust something with the set. This costs money and can easily set the production planning process behind schedule.

Another mistake often made is not rehearsing after putting a lot of money into a beautiful production. Your production company provides you all the tools you need to make your show a success, but they can go to waste if rehearsing is ignored. Production teams often discover new information from speakers during rehearsals, allowing them to adjust things accordingly—for example, they might find out that a speaker wants his or her notes displayed in one of the confidence monitors, and the extra time they have allows them to provide the proper equipment for his or her presentation rather than having to scramble the day of the event.

Lastly, you want to avoid cutting the budget on your own without input from the production company. If you need to hit a budget number (such as cutting $5,000 from the total), discuss this with the production team—they may be able to suggest the best areas to cut with the least impact on the show. Next Steps By following these best practices in hiring and working with a production company, you can offer an amazing and engaging event for your customers or employees. Interested in finding out more? Contact the metroConnections production team. 


When I first started in the industry as a corporate event planner, budgets were hefty and guest experiences were top-notch until they weren’t once the market crashed. Thankfully it seems as though now organizations are investing budget dollars back into events to boost customer and employee morale.



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