Event budgets can often be tight so cutting professional design out of the event budget is sometimes seen as an easy way to save some money. There are dozens of free online design tools that promise to make anyone design like a professional. While these programs can often be useful, in the end they are just tools, and there is more to design than just making something look good.

You may not always notice good design, however you have likely noticed bad design in the past. Have you ever been frustrated struggling to find your way through a large hotel or conference center, trying to find which room your association meeting is in? Or missed an event because you misread a schedule, or you didn’t see the email reminder telling you the time changed?

Hello design flaw.

Not Having A Consistent Visual Identity For Your Event

A consistent brand means having a logo or visual identity for your conference that can go on all materials, using the same fonts, colours, and images on all your materials. Failure to do so can have the following detrimental effects:

  • Reminder emails or messages may not be recognized as part of the event and ignored.
  • It can make your event look like it was thrown together at the last minute. You want your event to look like it was put together by a professional organization, not like a school bake sale.
  • Locations often have multiple events occurring at the same time. If your directional signage doesn’t look like the rest of your material, it may be missed, or confused with another event.

Frustrated Attendees

I mentioned at the start of this article how frustrating it can be trying to find a specific room especially if you happen to be running late. Missing a speaker/session because the schedule wasn’t as clear as it should have been can ruin an event for an attendee. You want it to be effortless for your attendees to find what they are looking for.

If there are multiple events at your location, having well branded signage will make finding your event easier, as a professionally printed sign will be much more visible than a sheet of paper that has an arrow with the event name with in 24pt Times New Roman.

Professionalism For Potential Sponsors

Sponsorship is one of the major ways to generate a profit for association events. If you make it easy and obvious for potential sponsors to see what they are getting for their money, it can help make acquiring future sponsors much easier.

A sponsor’s first impression of you will often be your website, or your sponsorship package. If your website looks out of date, is hard to navigate, or your sponsorship package is a dense word document, it won’t inspire a lot of confidence from potential sponsors.

Sponsor recognition, is often the main benefit to sponsors. If they see your website and promotional materials are executed well, they will have confidence that their recognition will also be well executed.

Presentations And Screens

Screens are everywhere, and are so engrained in our everyday life we don’t often give them a second thought – but when planning an event you should. When your keynote speaker hooks up their computer to the projector, that isn’t the time to find out that their PowerPoint is in 4:3 format and the projector uses 16:9. This will stretch the presentation to fit the screen and can be very distracting.

The same thing goes to display screens you may have throughout the event space. You want to make sure all the graphics fit the screens properly, and have the correct resolution. If a screen has rotating images or logos on it, it will be very obvious if one of the screens isn’t formatted correctly.

I’m Sorry Sir, But I Think You’re At The Wrong Show

Bad design has actually had me enter the wrong event. I was renovating my kitchen and was looking to get some inspiration, so I went to the local bathroom and kitchen renovation show. As I entered the building I saw a simple 8.5 x 11 paper sign with an arrow pointing left saying “tickets and entrance”. It pointed towards a booth with the word “TICKETS” in large bold letters on the sign. I bought the tickets then walked into the show.

I entered and saw a sea of spa tubs. I thought to myself, I know this is a bathroom and kitchen show, but this is a lot of spas. I went down another few isles and starting seeing some hot tubs, still nothing kitchen related. I’ve been through about one third of the room when I asked someone at a booth if they knew where the kitchen section was and he looked confused and told me this was a pool, spa and hot tub show.

It turns out there were two events happening at the same time – one was a kitchen & bathroom renovation show, the other one was an outdoor pool & spa show. I was able to get a refund, and eventually went to the correct show on a different floor, but it still struck me how far I got before I even noticed I wasn’t in the right place. Sure I probably could have paid more attention, but I had no idea there were multiple shows happening, and each show seemed to forget the fact that they weren’t the only event happening that day. It goes to show how easy it can be to end up in the wrong area.

Good Design Makes A Difference

My story above wouldn’t have happened if the event had more consistent branding. The “Tickets and Entrance” sign should have had the logo/visual identity of the show on that sign, and the same for the ticket booth. The tickets themselves looked great, but I only had them in my hand for 30 seconds before I entered.

You want to make getting to and around your event as easy as possible for attendees. You want to keep your sponsors happy, and make sure they are recognized properly and will sponsor your next show. Unless multiple attendees tell you they had a hard time finding places, or they didn’t get all the information they were expecting, you may never know how bad design impacted your event.