Effective Event Signs

By Darcy Campion Devney
From Organizing Special Events and Conferences: A Practical Guide for Busy Volunteers and Staff, Pineapple Press, 1990

Signs posted in strategic locations are an important element of good organization. Use signs wherever possible to prevent intrusion or eliminate confusion--outdoors and indoors, both en route and at the site. Signs and programs should contain as much information as possible to keep loudspeaker announcements to a minimum.

Making Signs
Hotels may supply industrial signage; all you decide is what to say where. At less commercial sites, you'll need to make your own signs. Don't use a professional artist if money is tight. Just print the information in a legible hand, or use large stencils. If you want a fancy border, you can do a lot with the cut-and-paste method. (See Chapter 8, Publicity.)

Or, "blow up" (photocopy and enlarge) a poster, handout, or speaker biography. Use rubber cement to mount the blowup on stiff cardboard. Display this placard on an easel outside the session room or hall. In multi-seminar, multi-meeting situations, project a title slide or graphic (of the upcoming speaker or subject) during the break between presentations. This allows audience members to identify the right room and seat themselves confidently, avoiding the projection path.

Carol Pierson, an artist for Blue Cross and Blue Shield advises: "Sturdy signs can be constructed of corrugated cardboard or railroad board (which comes in colors). Be prepared for damp weather; use waterproof paint such as enamel or acrylic. Use colors that make good contrast. For example, on dark blue, dark green, or dark red, use a yellow or white paint; on yellow, orange, or white, use a black, brown, or dark blue paint. For after-dark arrivals, use fluorescent tape for your letters." (See Illustration 13A, Signs, in this chapter.) Make all your directional signs the same colors so they will be easier to spot.

Make a master copy of your sign in black on white paper and then make copies on colored paper. Larger signs can be made on railroad board. Letter them with a flat brush (1" to 1 1/2" wide) using poster paint or ink, or use large felt-tip markers. All of these publicity and poster supplies are available at art stores.

Placing outdoor signs
You may need to obtain permission from the police or city officials in order to post signs. In some cities, putting signs on utility poles is prohibited by law.

Before the site opens, see that someone goes over the various routes and posts signs at intersections, confusing forks, and at one or two points along long, unmarked stretches. The signs need only say the organization or event name and show an arrow pointing in the right direction. Use large, oddly shaped signs; triangles and circles are good. Drivers must be able to quickly spot them, read them, and act on the information. Inspect a sample sign from across the street to see if it does the job.

If there are several routes to the site, consider having several of your helpers each travel a different route to put up and take down signs along the way. This will prevent one person from spending all morning traveling different routes to the site in order to place signs. If the take-down person is different from the one who put them up, he or she may need a diagram or map in order to find all the signs.

Outdoor events spread over large expanses must post several location maps of the site with YOU ARE HERE prominently marked. You'll also probably need PARKING, SHUTTLE BUS STOP, and TO THE (NAME OF EVENT) signs with arrows pointing in the appropriate direction.

Punch holes in the corners of signs and tie them to poles, trees, or fences with thin rope or strong cord. (See Illustration 13B, Signs, in this chapter.) If you don't know exactly where the signs are to be placed, make the arrows on a separate piece of cardboard and tie or tape the pieces together on the spot in the correct position. (See Illustration 13C, Signs, in this chapter.) This also makes it easier to use signs again for your next event. But remember, tape does not stick in the rain.

Placing Indoor Signs
Signs for the hall should be made in advance and posted before the event opens. Post copies of the day's scheduled activities at the registration table and on the grounds; this keeps people from wandering away when you most want them to stick around.

Don't forget nameplates for panelists. Prominently mark the men's and women's restrooms and the room for national officers (if there is one). Be sure to post large and legible KEEP OUT or STAFF ONLY signs if there are restricted areas at the site. If there is a private telephone which is not to be used, put a sign on it. There may be places at the site where people should not take food or drink; again, use a sign. A well-placed and tasteful sign can eliminate many problem situations. Some events may require specialized signs for special-interest groups, craftspeople, or information booths, as well as concession signs that include price lists for food.

Boggled at the vast number of signs you will need? Throw a poster party and get them all done at once!

Related Topics:
Permission is granted to download and reprint this material. Reprints must include all citations and the statement: "Found in the Energize online library at http://www.energizeinc.com/a-z"