Tell them where to go: signage at its best

October 27, 2017

 Dana’s Meeting Minutes is based on the Meeting Planning Triangle©. Click here for a link.


Signage can affect participants’ experiences. Done well, it guides them throughout the event. Done poorly, it frustrates them. Do it well by planning and designing for three key functions:

  1. Direct participants from where they are to where they want to be. (directional signage)

  2. Recognize key supporters. (sponsor signage)

  3. Identify meeting room schedules. (meeting room signage


Tip #1

Be recognizable and clear

  • Include your logo for attendee recognition, but don’t use it as your primary focus. The message is your primary focus and should be the most prominent.

Be as big as possible. It’s difficult to design a sign with lettering that is too big. It’s very easy to design a sign with lettering that is too small. Create mock signs and put them to the test before you leave the office—especially if the designer still has good eyes; a lot of us don’t

Tip #2

Pretend you’re a participant

  • Walk the venue from the main entrance to every point a participant will go. On a venue map, sketch what signage is needed where.

  • Leverage venue-supplied signage if it is clearly visible, accurate, and fulfills your objectives.

  • You know the venue, but participants do not, so they need more directions than you might realize. Ideally, your walk-through will include someone who does not know the facility.

Tip #3

Keep it simple

  • Overloading a sign with messages or graphics is wasteful—none of it will be read.

  • Identify your key message for each sign and convey it in the fewest words possible.

  • Session signage should list events for a full day, not just for that hour. Abbreviate session titles if needed. List speaker names only if your audience bases attendance decisions on speakers, as well as titles.


Think outside of the wall

Signage installed in unique locations will get people’s attention. It is especially helpful if you are moving a lot of people or through space with many twists and turns. Plus, it’s fun!

  1. On the floor.

  2. From the ceiling.

  3. In the bathrooms. (agenda-at-a-glance; announcements)

  4. On columns, elevators, glass doors, stair risers, etc.

  5. Over escalators (prime space; frequently overlooked).

  6. Freestanding.

  7. On people—in the form of wayfinding ambassadors who are identifiable by their attire and/or hand-held signs saying, “Can I help you?


Exhibitor Magazine offers a detailed description of the 5 Steps to Successful Signage that includes messaging hierarchy, color theory, fonts, and density.


Read 11 Creative Ideas for Event Wayfinding by Shawna McKinley for Eventbrite. She describes how to use technology, music, furniture, and art as directional tools. Read the section near the end, Tips for Good Directions.


Check out How to Create Useful Event Signage for Your Next Conference or Trade Show by Ginger Peak for Aloha Print Group. Look at the section, Forget What You Know.


Excel Decorators photo gallery features a variety of signage.


Information disclaimer: WANT MORE? references do not imply an endorsement for any company, product, or service.





Dana L. Saal, CMP, CAE, has been planning meetings for associations for more than 30 years. She recently decided that coaching meeting planners is now more fun than proofing BEOs, counting coffee cups and writing scripts. If you think a bit of coaching could improve your meeting, send a message via her website.

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