April 1, 2011

Backstage design: LDS general conference edition

The LDS Church (of which I am a member) is hosting its semi-annual world wide General Conference this weekend.  The conference is broadcast from Salt Lake City, UT to 13 million members of the church around the globe.  The conference mostly includes talks given by the leaders of the church given in the Conference Center, a building designed and built primarily for this one purpose:

With 21,200 seats, the Conference Center is considered to be the largest theater auditorium in the world; the next nearest holds only about half as many people. But the months of careful planning and preparation create an unmistakable atmosphere of a house of worship as more than 100,000 Saints gather in the Conference Center twice a year to hear the counsel of living prophets and sing the hymns of Zion.
Last week the Church released a news brief describing some of details that take place in preparation of the conference:
An extraordinary amount of work requiring the coordination of many Church departments and hundreds of people around the world goes into preparing for general conference. The five sessions of conference draw a total of about 100,000 people to the Conference Center every six months and are broadcast to millions more around the world. 

The article provides some details about the building of the rostrum, the floral arrangements, the camera, sound, lighting, satellite broadcasting, translation, teleprompting and others aspects that happen behind the scenes to make the conference successful.  But success from the perspective of the "behind-the-scene" design is defined in an interesting way:
“Our goal is to be totally transparent,” said Russ Crabb, a producer for general conference. “We want to come away from conference with a message that’s clean and clear to everyone who’s listening or watching, and we want to support the First Presidency and Church leaders at a level that does that.”
“I think the overall level of preparation lends itself to the importance of conference,” said Thomas Smith, safety manager for the Church Media Services Department. “There is planning so this experience is not one that detracts from the spirit of conference. . . . We’re trying to make it something that will touch people’s hearts and bring them to Christ.”
The idea of transparency of service design is not a new one, it's what makes the backstage preparation difficult;  if transparency in the preparation fails the delivery of the core service is compromised or at least sub-optimal.

Check out the videos on the link about the preparation that goes in to producing a weekend of spiritual enrichment. 


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