Event Signage: What It is and Why You Need It
Ok, we’ll go ahead and get something out of the way. We know this isn’t a sexy topic like decor or picking the perfect venue. When it comes to planning an event, few people get excited about creating the on-site communication plan. We get it, but we’re focusing on this topic today because we’re really good at doing it well—and because it’s so critical to event success.
What is Signage?
Signage at an event can include everything from written to in-person to digital communication. It’s how attendees know where to be and when, how to get around, and more. Doing it right is critical to an event’s success.
When thinking about signage, we always ask ourselves (and our clients), “What information does an attendee need to know to make their day successful?” We look at it both from a client’s perspective and from the guest’s perspective to decide how to best organize and present the mass of information that guests need during an event.
Should Signage Be Branded?
Well, it depends. Some clients don’t want their name anywhere and prefer to be a bit more “hush-hush” about branding for events. Others don’t want to waste an inch of space that could be branded. We always start with the client’s goals and go from there.
Forms of Signage
Signage can come in all kinds of forms so it’s important to use a variety of styles in order for attendees to digest the information in multiple ways.
For example, signage can include:
Tri-folds on tables
Electronic signs; on phone, apps, etc.
Step and repeat banners
Slide deck and video needs
Programs and nametags
“Wayfinders,” aka, people with “ask me!” signs
What kinds of signs do you need? (Hint: You need a sign for anything that guests will interact with.)
Check-in (Speakers? VIPs? Sponsors? Solutions Desk? Alphabetized letters?)
Food and beverage?
Activities (puppy break area..)
Thank you for coming?
Green room, event office, video or media room?
So with all of these options, where do you start?
First, consider the question from earlier: “What do attendees need to know to make their day successful?” That likely involves knowing locations, timing, and lists of all sessions. Additional information might include a map of the venue, rules, food options (especially ingredients and nutritional information), and ways to connect, such as sharing on social media and communicating with brands and other attendees after the event.
When to Start Working on Signage
Different signage assets have different timing. For example, we know that a stage backdrop (like a show stopping one from John Murray Productions) might take a month, and a nametag might take two days from CopyMat (our rockstar printer in San Francisco!).
To create a healthy timeline, we consider the list of assets and the time needed to create each then back into when we need them and when the designer needs the information so we can create a timeline from there.
Digital assets are usually the last thing we do, because other forms of signage allow guests to stay off their phones and be more present in the event. While digital communication is important and useful (such as an event app), it’s never the only thing we use for an event.
Signs don’t live on their own. They need other assets like easels, hang points from the ceiling, and lanyards. When we create a signage plan for an event, we always include these supporting assets into the plan then triple check to make sure that we have all the supplies we need for load-in day.
For good reason, people tend to have strong feeling about nametags. There are so many varieties at a wide range of price points, so we always start with the client’s goals and preferences in mind when choosing. Having the right kind of nametag setup makes a big difference in communication at an event, so we work to get it right. Most important? The person’s first name printed nice and large for easy reading from five feet away.
The registration/check-in area is the first experience guests have at an event, so it should be great. Signage is what makes the difference in having a smooth registration process. There are lots of possible signage options for registration. For example: Do you separate VIPs/speakers when registering? How do you distribute nametags efficiently? What about people who registered for the event at the last minute? There are a surprising number of details that go into making this process run smoothly, so we always plan ahead.
At the end of a conference or event, it can be disheartening to see all this once useful signage just get tossed into the trash. So we were quite happy when we discovered Ecoboard, an alternative to foam core boards. It’s 15-20% more expensive than foam core, but it’s 100% recyclable. For us, and many of our clients, that’s well worth it.
When Signs Just Don’t Cut It
Even though we have a deep love for well thought-out signage, there is just no substitute for human interaction. That’s why we always make sure to have what we call “wayfinders” at events. Wayfinders are people (either volunteers or event staff) holding directional signs, wearing buttons that say “Ask Me!”, or other helpful interactions that give guests a person-to-person way to know what they need to know. While apps are great, people don’t want to be on their phones the entire time, so we find ways to minimize needing an app (although we still recommend them) and use people instead.
What’s Your Next Event?
We’d love to put our expertise to work and help make your next event a success. Let us know what you have on the horizon! Drop us a note to tell us all about it.
Maggie Kennedy is the co-owner of Kennedy Events is a large-scale event management company based in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City. Our team creates stress-free conferences and events with a positive impact, which allow our clients to resonate with their audience. Kennedy Events specializes in producing flawless product launches, award ceremonies, fundraisers and multi-day conferences while keeping our eye on retention and engagement goals.
About Kennedy Events
Kennedy Events began with one goal in mind—to produce high-level corporate events with just as much strategy as style. Maggie founded the company in 2000, found her match in Paige, and in 2011 the two became official partners. Since then, these two resourceful and brilliant creatives have pooled their strengths to build one one of the most the most sought after corporate event companies in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles.
Make sure that your event is as valuable to your company as it is meaningful to your attendee.
We’ve (nearly) done it all when it comes to large scale events.