Throughout my professional career as a graphic designer, I have seen it all (or lack thereof) when it comes to branding an event. Banners that are too small for the space they are in, booth graphics with WAY too much information, excessively stretching the event logo, general disregard for corporate brand standards, the need for the owner’s cat to be present on all collateral… the list could go on forever and that is no exaggeration.
Before I dive into the details, it is important for you to understand the four perspectives that will produce and receive all the branding efforts for an event:
The Hosts – These are the people that are working behind the scenes to create the structure of an event and see to it that it is executed professionally and timely. For the hosts, branding is arguably the most important part of the event as it is how their corporate message and direction will be conveyed to the audience.
The Participants – In most cases, your speakers, vendors, exhibitors, sponsors and special guests fall into this category. They will have a small hand in the execution of your event but not from a strategic standpoint. The way they brand themselves should be well thought out to capture the attention of the audience and leave a lasting impression. This group will need and try to differentiate themselves from each other.
The Audience – Made up of all the event attendees and VIPs, the audience is undoubtedly the most important group of the four. They are the target of all the branding efforts compiled by the hosts and participants and the reason why the event is being held in the first place.
Everyone Else – These are the individuals that have nothing to do with your event, walk past your space and have no stock at all in what is going on, right?
The people exposed to your event, attending or not, may still be aware of your visual brand. Who knows if a potential client not at the event is looking at a photo in your ballroom or of your tradeshow booth? What if your event received local or national attention? Every facet of your brand’s personality should be on display at all times.
So what makes for ideal event branding?
Well first, you have to be open to the fact that branding is not just throwing your logo on a stress ball and having a retractable banner with your services on it for the audience to read. That’s assuming they want to read it at all. Event branding is so much more than meets the eye, literally. The interaction between the hosts and the other three groups is the key component in delivering your brand with a cohesive message. If the audience has a bad experience at an event, the graphics that display the positive and upbeat message are moot and rendered completely useless. No one will care. Ultimately the success of an event will be decided by the engagement of the audience, how dynamic the participants are and how accessible and hospitable the hosts are.
By following the above train of thought, all the graphics and signage of the event provided by the hosts should support the desired experience of the audience. It’s important to remember they are human and susceptible to sensory overload. That being said, keep the design of your material clean, less wordy and consistent from piece to piece, medium to medium.
You should always be direct with your message and not clutter the meaning with useless copy that will deter the audience from reading and absorbing it. If you feel your efforts have produced fantastic visual aesthetics, I suggest you take a step back and look again. Simplify it down as much as possible. In other words, stay true to the KISS principle and Keep It Simple Stupid!