Making Large Events Easier to Navigate

Ensure attendees make the most of your event by providing easy-to-use wayfinding resources.

Designing an event-venue layout and accurately directing attendees to where they need to go can make or break the success of a large meeting. If navigation planning is overlooked, lacking or left to the last minute, attendees might arrive late to sessions or leave having had a less-than-ideal experience.

Today's wayfinding resources go beyond paper signage and maps, and can typically include technology, art, mobile apps and other engagement tools. Following, we explore various way you can better point your attendees in the right direction.

Walk the Route

First and foremost, brand experience agency Sparks suggests that planners walk all possible routes attendees might take, both forward and in reverse, during the site visit and selection process. That way, you can document every location where signage will be necessary and determine which way directions should be oriented.

Using the cardinal directions of north, south, east and west when providing guidance tends to confuse a lot of people. Instead, use icons, color-coding and graphical elements, especially in printed materials, as much as possible to mark key locations, help people orient themselves and confirm they're on the right path. Determine which information will be essential to attendees when navigating an event and stick to those core instructions.

Use Different Media

Ask a diverse group of people how they get directions and you'll likely get a number of answers -- maps, GPS, apps, word-of-mouth, trial and error, and so on. Don't rely on just posting a few signs. Even if your event is paper-free, there are a number of channels through which you can provide wayfinding resources. Add an interactive facility map to your event app, which could allow you to push out real-time location or schedule-change notifications to attendees.

Other potential options include providing a walk-through video to attendees in premeeting communications, setting up wayfinding kiosks in remote locations and incorporating beacon technology via wearables. Remember that people like options and if you can afford to invest in several, you should.

Enlist Human Help

Having real people to ask for help instantly makes your meeting more personable. Volunteers, staff and ambassadors not only provide assistance with directions and information, they set a friendly, welcoming and approachable tone for your event. Add "Ask me" staff to key entry points and intersections in your event venue. Help them stand out in the crowd using t-shirts, flags or colorful umbrellas. Equip them with the event mobile app so they have all the information they might need at their fingertips. 

Add a Gamification Aspect

Keeping your attendees entertained (as opposed to frustrated) as they look for their next directional sign has become an increasingly popular approach, and for good reason. Engaging wayfinding challenges offer participants a more memorable experience — while helping them get to where they need to be.

Graphics media company Jessup suggests adding real-time progress updates to signage and event app maps to entice attendees. If attendees are walking from a hotel to the convention center, for example, consider adding "estimated walking time" markers on floor decals and providing updates on the ground along the route.

In the event app, you can have attendees "check in" to various event landmarks. You might provide prizes for attendees who visit the most booths or sessions, while also helping them keep track of what have have already seen and have yet to see. 

Light it Up

Projections are ideal for wayfinding in crowded spaces; consider lighting high-walled spaces to mark the location of restrooms, food stations, coat checks or any such spaces that all attendees will need to access. Sparks suggests mounting visual navigation aids high overhead if they're meant to be viewed from a distance and at eye-level when visibility is only needed at closer range. Add interest by mixing images, graphics and video with light projections. Keep all visuals consistent in design and style.

Don't Forget Exhibitors

Attendees aren't the only ones in need of directions. The Consumer Electronics Show estimates more than 175,000 people passed by its more than 4,500 booths during CES 2020, which took place in Las Vegas Jan. 7-10. It's just as easy for the exhibitors to get lost among the masses.

CES provides an exhibitor dashboard, as well as color-coded floor plans, to exhibitors for easier moving in and about the show floor. They provide multiple navigation plans covering areas of all 2.9 million square feet of exhibit space

Tap Sponsors

For large events, there is generally ample opportunity to have partners sponsor signage and other wayfinding materials. Parking signage in the convention-venue garage is a sponsorship opportunity that shouldn't be overlooked, suggests the H&H Signage Group. Or you might pitch navigational sponsorship opportunities such as pamphlet maps or schedules within the elevator of a convention hotel, or any other area that you expect to receive a lot of traffic.