Unique Informational and Directional Signs For Your Next Event

As event planners, we know the value of a well placed sign. They can keep guests from ending up in the wrong place, asking the same question 1,023 times “What’s on the menu for dinner?”, or missing a breakout session when it changes location at the last moment.

Unfortunately, most of the directional/info signs that I see look like an afterthought. A beat up dry erase board on a wobbly stand, with a quick note jotted in smeared black marker. If this sounds all too familiar, then it’s time to update.  Dry erase markers work on a number of different surfaces, what if you used:


  • A big mirror in a beautiful frame. Find a very secure stand.
  • A wipe-off board with a solid, nicely painted, wooden frame.
  • A beautiful, brightly colored frame. Put a piece of nice fabric or paper where the picture would normally go.
  • Old windows with four or six different frames. These are perfect for group or table assignments.

If you’d like to see lots of examples and DIY instructions, just click over to www.pinterest.com , you’ll find more than you need!

So, think about the style and theme of your upcoming event and get creative with your signs! Share tips and photos with us of things you’ve done in the past, we’d love to see them.

How To Set Up A Simple Video Interview

A content rich video can be gold for your event website or large group sessions. If you have the resources, I recommend finding a local videographer and hiring them. They’ll have the equipment and expertise, not only to capture excellent material, but also to produce a professional looking video. That said, this post is to help you get your toes wet if you’re just beginning to take video yourself.

You should already have a digital video camera, a computer, and some type of video editing software.

To set up a simple video interview consider:

  • The audio: All the experts advise that you not rely on your camera to pick up and record the audio on your video. You need either a lapel or boom microphone. For a beginning operation a lapel mic will require less investment and less crew. Here’s a video that compares several different wireless lapel mic systems: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGuBCyt-KOs
  • The background: If you can, place your interview subject against an interesting but not distracting background. And, let the background emphasize the topic or expertise of your expert. For example, if I were interviewing a pastor on marriage, it might be appropriate to have him sitting in his study, or in a chapel where he has conducting the marriage ceremony of hundreds of couples. Carefully check what will be in the shot before you record the entire interview.
  • The lighting: I like to use outdoor shade, indirect lighting from large windows, and, in a pinch, lamps with their shades removed. Yes, there are much more professional ways to light a shot, but these are free. Again, record a minute or so of video as a test, and look at the lighting. Are there distracting shadows? Can you clearly see your subject’s face?

If you’ve never conducted a video interview before, try your first one on a friend or family member. This will allow you some practice without any pressure. The more you do, the better you will become.

Do you set up, capture and edit your own video interviews? Share your tips with the group!

Hiring Event Security

Safety for your event guests and presenters is on your short-list of top priorities. If you’ve decided to establish a security team for an upcoming event, here are a few things to consider.

A close up of the word security from a dictionaryDoes the event venue provide security? Do you need to request it or is it included in the rental price? How many security officers will be on site? Who do they report to? Whom should you contact in the event of an emergency?

What are you hoping a security team will do? Crowd control? A pre-event security assessment? Patrols? Emergency response? Think carefully about what you are hoping your security team will undertake, so that you’re ready to discuss these expectations with whomever you hire.

Will you go through a private security company, or find local people on your own? “Ted’s a big guy, let’s ask him what he’s doing Friday night.” Have you ever heard of someone hiring security this way? Professional security officers have received specialized training, and many states require that they be registered and or licensed.  You should familiarize yourself with the requirements for guards or security officers in the state where your event will be taking place. A private security company might be a great option for your event, www.guardstogo.com has officers all over the US. If you’re in North or South Carolina, you might check out www.pssprotection.com.

Contact your local police force as a resource. If you’re not able to find a private security firm that serves your area, give your local police station a call.  Perhaps there are off-duty police officers that are interested in doing a little freelance work. The major advantage to off-duty police officers is their depth of training, and their powers of arrest. This company http://offdutyservices.com specializes in matching off-duty police officers with clients.

Hiring event security is a big decision, take time to investigate several options, call references and think through emergency procedures with your team. Hopefully you will find a solution that fits, and use it again and again.

Creating a Great Stage Design, Part Two

In continuation of our last blog post about creating great stage designs, Jordon Rudesill, Director of Service Programming at The Journey Church, shares insights into designing effective, portable stages for your next retreat.  Here are the last four key points I learned from our discussion.

studio in old wooden room

  1. Utilize various materials for different stage sets.  Coroplast sheets are a good option.  They come in different colors, are lightweight and are extremely durable.  Recyclable materials are also a good choice – pallets, construction materials, cardboard tubes, etc.  If you have the ability to use lighting, find material that reflects light well or that allows light to shine through, almost giving it a glow.
  2. Keep it local. Don’t think you have to do everything on your own.  There are people around you who love to design and build things.  Allow them to use their gifts in a different sort of outlet than how they typically employ their skills.
  3. Consider a generic stage set.  If you will need your set for more than one event, want to put a little more money into creating something “bigger” for your stage or have a small budget for a number of events, consider something you can use over and over again.  By doing this, you can tweak little parts of it to go with different event themes.
  4. If you can’t build it, why not print it?  Banners, posters and pop-up displays are an easy way to bring your theme to life as you plan your set.  They can be a focal point or can serve as space fillers on the stage.  These can be as generic or as event-specific as you desire.  In addition, if you want to print large posters yourself, you can do this with free online programs such as Block Posters and PosteRazor.  These programs allow you to print large size images by breaking them into smaller sheets of paper and then adhering them together.  While this requires a bit of hands-on work, the result can be quite remarkable.

Designing a set can be a bit of a daunting task if it’s something out of your usual routine. However, there are great online resources to help you as you brainstorm for your next event.  These include churchstagedesignideas.com and journeybackstage.com.

Thanks to Jordon Rudesill for his insight on creating great stage designs!  If you have any tips of your own, please share them in the comments section.

Creating a Great Stage Design, Part One

Paint CanIt was supposed to be an awesome stage set complementing our camp theme, “Under Construction.”  Aesthetically, it looked great!  Practically, it was an absolute nightmare!  The set depicted a wall of a house undergoing construction.  There were exposed wall studs, a few hanging wires, unfinished sheetrock, etc.  This part was easily portable.  The problem came when I thought it would be a grand idea to stack empty paint cans (at least 50 of them) on the sides of the wall to add a little “extra” to the set.  Our camp was going to be smaller than we had anticipated, so in order to create a more intimate environment our set was on the floor and not elevated on a stage.  We needed this same floor space for other activities; thus, several times each day my staff had to move the set.  Moving the set included unstacking and restacking every single paint can.  Every.  Single.  Paint.  Can.  What was supposed to be a great design turned into a programming disaster!

Recently I spoke with Jordon Rudesill, Director of Service Programming at The Journey Church in Murray, KY.  The Journey holds its weekly services on the campus of Murray State University, meaning the stage set has to be set up and taken down each week.  Here are four of eight key points I learned from Jordon on creating a great stage design.

  1. Adapt your design to the audience you will be reaching.  Kids love elaborate stage designs, such as the ones often seen during VBS.  Most adults don’t need a set like this to stay engaged.   Know your audience.
  2. Create something to enhance the service but not take away from the speaker and message.  If your set is a distraction to your group, you have not designed your stage well.  Sometimes simple is better.
  3. Make your stage lightweight.   Ask yourself, “Will those setting up and tearing down be able to easily lift the set?  How is this going to fit together on stage?  How will we store this?  How will we transport this?”
  4. Don’t allow your stage design to break your event budget.  Sometimes being restricted by money makes you become even more creative!  You can often find materials to “recycle” for use in your set.

Stay tuned for part two of this blog post where I will share the last four points I learned from Jordon, including great online resources for design ideas, recommendations for construction materials and more!

Highlight What You're Not Telling Them

A wrapped package. Plane tickets to an unknown destination. A video of a returning soldier arriving unexpectedly at a family meal.  Secrecy.  Surprise.  We love it, don’t we?

Le Diner en Blanc is an event currently in demand all over the world. The guest list is hard to make, and even then attendees are only given a list of requirements, a city and a date.  You must wear all white, you bring your own meal, beverage, table, chairs, and dinnerware.  Just an hour or so before the event, guests are given a location, where they are met by leaders who say “follow me.” They are then led to an outdoor, landmark location where they set up and dine with thousands of other guests dressed in white.

Two elements of this dinner surprise me, given its popularity. One, the commitment people have to make to being there, dressing a certain way, providing all their own food and furniture, and the secrecy they maintain up until the last minute.  All that work to attend a dinner, and you don’t even know where it is being held?

But people love it, and honestly, I think I would too!  What fun. What a difference from our everyday experience.

NPR did a story on the dinner last September and they quote attendee Sandy Jarrett, “It’s all about the adventure,” she says. “It’s about lugging all the accoutrements to some unknown destination, and then getting there and seeing all these adventurers in white. It’s magical.”

So how might we add a little adventure via secrecy to our next event?  First, you’ll need to plan something, and then you’ll need to highlight what you’re not telling your guests.

You could plan something as big as an outing, like a dinner, hike, or landmark tour, or something smaller like a special surprise guest, or a hotel amenity you’ll be covering for everyone.  Wouldn’t it be fun if you’re registration packet included instructions like “We’re planning a surprise for our guests, bring comfortable walking shoes and a camera.” The bigger the surprise, the more you should highlight it in your promotional and registration materials.  Adding wonder, excitement and anticipation through planned surprises is a great way to catch guest attention and make your next event unique. Have you ever included a surprise in a planned event?

Fantastic Name Badge Design

Have you ever attended a conference and found the name badges were poorly designed? The names were unreadable, or too little information on each attendee was given. This can cause major problems at an event.  It’s awkward to forget the name of someone you know you spoke with earlier, and frustrating to make a great connection and then be unable to contact them later.

So here’s a few tips for designing fantastic name badges.

  1. Make the name the largest thing on the badge.  Test out the font size by printing it out and having someone else wear it.  How far away can you read their name? Several designers recommend that the first name be on one line, and the last name on the next.
  2. Limit the ad information included.  Multiple logos can especially confuse a badge! You could include a main event sponsor, but not three or four.  (If you use a lanyard consider including a sponsor logo or name there instead of on the name badge itself.)  First and last name, job title, company name and twitter handle are my favorite pieces of information to see on a badge, not lots of logos.
  3. Stay away from peel off badges.  Unless your event is limited to a one hour meet and greet, these peel and stick labels are not very useful.  They’re too easy for guests to take off, and don’t ever make it to “day two.” Invest in something more substantial- like plastic badges with a lanyard.
  4. Here’s an example of an excellent badge design.  It shows that readable badges do not need to be boring or colorless. Thanks to Katelin Baker for letting us showcase this badge she designed.
  5. Don’t forget the back. If you do use a lanyard, you might notice that they have a tendency to flip- and then a percentage of your guests are wearing a blank white square around their neck.  Use that white space!  I enjoy it when planners put relevant information on the back, a map if the event is spread over multiple buildings, or a schedule of main events.  Why not put the person’s first and last name at the top of this? That way, even if the badge gets flipped, you’ll still be able to see a name.

Share an image of your favorite name badges with us!  We’d love to see what you have designed, or had created for your recent events.

Saving Time and Confusion with a Flow Chart

Yes, I did say flow chart.  No, this is not 10th grade math class.  Are your attendees coming to you, and your employees with a similar question over and over? One that involves you asking quite a few “yes” or “no” questions? Is the information you have to provide something that could be concentrated and turned into a visual chart? You might save lots of time, and provide great information for them with a flow chart!

Here’s a fun example of a flow chart from www.slate.com on what type of apple to buy.

Don’t you know that employees at apple orchards wish they had this hanging up?  I wonder how many times they answer the “what type of apple should I buy?” question every season.

So, maybe you’ve got a great idea for a flow chart that you’d like to create.  It’s creative, helpful, fantastic!!!  So, how do you do it? Gulp. Microsoft Word? (That sounds like long hours of work and frustration).

Flow charts fall into a larger category of communication called infographics.  An infographic is “a visual image such as a chart or diagram used to represent information or data.”

Here is a great list of more than 20 tools you can use to create the infographic your next event has been languishing without! Some of the services here are free, others are paid; often you can try a trial or use minimal features for free.  You could also consider hiring a graphic designer to create a flowchart of infographic for you, their fees usually start at $50 per hour.

Have you ever used an infographic or flow chart at an event? For organizing or to clarify things for your guests?  Share, we’d love to see what you’ve used with success.

Registration: Directing Guests Through Multiple Tasks

Sometimes registration for your guests is as simple as showing up, grabbing a room key and dropping off their bags. But maybe you have an event coming up that will be much, MUCH more complicated.  You need them to go through a veritable gauntlet of tasks, without getting confused or giving up.  Fortunately, college campuses have faced this problem for years.  So we’ll be taking a taking a page from their book.  Let’s get started.

  1. Make a list of everything you need your guest to do during registration.
  2. Record those tasks on a sheet that you will provide for them.
  3. Require that they get a stamp or signature at each location.
  4. Decide on a treat they will receive once they have completed the sheet. (Example: It  can be turned in for a meal ticket.)

When registration day arrives, be sure that each station is well labeled, and if you need to, provide a map. Also make sure that station labels and the terms on your guest’s papers match.  It would be extremely frustrating if the station labels and the labels on the papers needing signatures did not correspond.

When we took my daughter for her kindergarten registration the K-12 school had also modeled it’s registration process after freshman orientation.  The large auditorium was set up with about twenty booths and we were funneled past a table where we received a blue piece of paper that required seven signatures. (Some of the booths were just for middle and upper school) We had to have seven station signatures, from ID photo card to parent volunteer sign up signed BEFORE we were allowed to go and visit her classroom.  It kept us motivated.  Instead of us feeling overwhelmed and milling around for five minutes before giving up and wandering off to her classroom- we stuck with it and made it to all the places they needed to see us.

registrationformHere’s a photo of the form they gave us at the first table.

Moving people through a multiple step registration doesn’t need to be a disaster, but it does need to be well organized! So think through the process and then give your guests a road-map to the finish line.

Surprising Info: The Importance of Visual Input

The BBC reported last month on the surprising results of a scientific study published in the PNAS journal.  The study showed that, in a classical piano competition, judges use their sense of vision more than their sense of hearing in choosing a winner.  This occurred even as all of them asserted that they would rely on the auditory input over the visual.

They BBC article goes on to state “the findings had implications for other areas in life that rely heavily on visual cues, such as hiring employees or selecting political leaders.” (Sight Dominates Sound in Music Competition Judging, Hogenboom)  If even professional musical judges are leaning heavily on their sense of vision, I would imagine that your guests will as well.  So how can you provide a pleasing and appropriate visual impression at your next event?

Be intentional, consistent, and professional.

Be Intentional: Plan your visual representation, from lighting to banners to table placement.  Don’t think of this as a “tack-on” to your planning, as this study suggests this is of vital importance to the overall impression that you make.

Be consistent: choose a color scheme and use it throughout the event.  Your logo and fonts and marketing material should all present a united front.

Be professional: Hold yourself and your employees to a high standard. If dress or room setup looks sloppy, it reflects poorly on you.  It also says to a guest “We don’t know what we are doing” or “you don’t matter enough to us to get this done correctly”.  Neither a desired impression!

Areas that I often see lacking in the area of visual presentation are table setting, PowerPoint presentations and break out room set up.  I’m not sure why these three areas seem to suffer at many events, but they do.

Guests will spend a good deal of time eating, why not put some nice table cloths and fresh flowers on a table?  It says a great deal more than a plain top brown table!

PowerPoint presentations with no graphics and tiny font do not help communicate information, they just frustrate the user.  And finally, a breakout room half full of old equipment and stacked up chairs does not communicate good planning or intentionality.

You can help troubleshoot these areas by delegating someone to make sure that they are not overlooked.  How can you improve the visual experience for your guests?