SUPPLIER SOLUTIONS: Pointers to sign success - Getting people to an event and then getting them round the site requires good signage. Patti Drohan shows how this can be done

Every year companies organise special events to meet clients on a personal level. However, you may want to begin with directions to the venue itself. If you want visitors to wander around your exciting exhibition then you have to ensure they won't be wandering around town baffled.

Every year companies organise special events to meet clients on a personal level. However, you may want to begin with directions to the venue itself. If you want visitors to wander around your exciting exhibition then you have to ensure they won't be wandering around town baffled.

'Road signs are an essential tool to get visitors to an event quickly and safely,' says RAC sales manager Doug Watt.

In many cases the use of signs is valuable to the overall success of an event. The RAC is working on an event called the Network Q Rally and as it is a car event it is necessary to have road signs.

The event takes place in Wales; the catch is that local authorities in Wales require signs to be printed in English and Welsh. This creates the need for bigger signs, more lettering and essentially more money for the organiser.



Minimum wording

The Department of Environment, Transport and Regions (DETR) produced an advisory leaflet in 1993 which displays guidelines for temporary traffic signs (see box, over). These signs are not permitted to display brand names or logos. It's important to keep wording to a minimum, because the longer the message the more time the driver's attention is not on the road.

Road sign companies such as RAC and the AA know the sign regulations.

Therefore, organisers must provide road sign companies with information such as the type of event, the date, and how many visitors are expected.

With this information they can determine first if the signs are permissible then the size needed, location, and how many will be needed. A formal application for road signs to an event must be submitted to the traffic authorities four weeks before the event. This application is the ultimate deciding factor of permitted signs.

Although the process seems complicated it is necessary to make sure visitors arrive safely and with as few problems as possible. People do not want to be tired and frustrated before the event begins. AA sales manager Andrew Banyard provides signs for many events and stresses the significance of road signs. 'It's important for people to arrive at the event in the right state of mind so they can enjoy the show,' he says. This can be assured by providing visitors with the proper directional signs.

Once visitors have found their way to the venue, more signs are needed to direct people around the event site.

'Organisers should try to put themselves in the shoes of the visitors and imagine that they are unfamiliar with their surroundings. This will help with the placement of signs,' suggests an NEC spokesman. Because visitors have different destinations the signs should be clear and point them to their area of interest. Jon Sellins from Earls Court and Olympia agrees: 'When planning internal signs venue managers must take a step back and look at the building from a stranger's perspective.'



Internal signs

As the vast majority of visitors attending have never been to the exhibition hall they will need directions to toilets and other basic areas. At venues such as Wembley basic internal signs have already been placed and they offer assistance with the planning of additional signs.

'Don't overload people with too much information at once. Signs should be short and provide the core information,' says Wembley (London) marketing manager Mark Almond. In large exhibition halls signs should be kept as simple and distinct as possible. It may be helpful to place 'You are here' signs throughout hallways.

There are several important aspects to keep in mind when planning signage for your event. Most importantly, you want your company to stand out and be recognised, especially at an event with 200 other companies. Therefore, you will want to create an image that will be remembered. Particular banners can do this or sign displays designed to show off your company's logo.

However, companies vary with what they are looking for. Some want a traditional and corporate look and some want new and unique.

No matter what you are looking for 'image is everything', according to Photobition Bristol telesales executive Dan Lowman. For a creative and fresh look you may want to consider digital printing which gives signs more colour and definition. Some events need bold and bright signs to make a statement.



Efficient arrangement

Although it is critical to stand out, it's also essential to make sure signs are arranged efficiently. One must consider the distance between signs and make sure that these signs are legible and that the information is correct. 'Signs should be clear, easy to read and placed in a position that everyone can read them,' says London Arena marketing manager Angela Ivey. 'It's fine to have elaborate and pretty signs but there is no use having them if they are not clear.'

When planning signage it is important to work with an experienced production team who can think all aspects through and place signs strategically.

So, your visitors have arrived safe, on time and they have successfully navigated their way through the crowds and to you (thanks to your fantastic signs). Now you can relax and mingle with the people who came to learn more about you. Everyone always says first impressions last and your signs are the first things people will see.

One final tip from ECO's Sellins: 'Don't forget to take your signs down promptly after the event. It is the courteous and professional thing to do.'



INFO FILE

Road signs

Road signs should be used as an aid for motorists and should not be a distraction. Therefore it is important to make sure your signs are regulatory.

Signs vary depending on the type and the size of event taking place.

The larger the signs the higher the cost and again these signs do need to be approved by authorities. Both the AA and RAC offer roadsigns as well as assistance with submitting applications and the creation and placement of signs.

Prices for road signs vary considerably and depend on the nature of work the company does, the type of signs used, their size and the number of signs required.

RAC offers packages with prices starting at just under pounds 300. In addition, Wembley is introducing an exhibition package, which includes shuttle buses to the event as well as directional signs for roads approaching Wembley.



Exhibition signs

Today's graphics allow organisers and creators of signs to be free and imaginative with their choices for signage. There are many options with signs, which range from banners and panels to floor tiles, which can lead visitors directly to your event. You can choose from screen printing to digital printing.

'There is no such thing as a standard price,' says Dan Lowman from Photobition.

The company offers many signs and prices vary according to the type of signs as well as the choice of graphics. Signs can be small posters or custom-built displays.



CONTACTS

- RAC Signs Service, 1 Forest Road, Feltham, TW13 7BR. Tel: 0845

601 0000 www.racsigns.co.uk

- AA Signs, Lambert House, Stockport Road, Cheadle, Cheshire, SK8 2DY. Tel: 0800 731 7003

- Photobition Bristol, Great Weston House, 6 Kings Park Avenue, Bristol, BS2 0TZ. Tel: 01179 721000

- Perton Signs, Unit 3, Hammersmith Industrial Estate, Winslow Road, London W6 9SF. Tel: 020 8741 4422



FURTHER INFORMATION

The Department of Transport has an advisory leaflet, The Provision of Temporary Traffic signs To Special Events, which is designed to ensure that event organisers are aware of rules and regulations for signs placed on roads. These guidelines are also important to the road sign companies because it helps them to know their boundaries in the creation of these signs. For example, signs must follow particular colour combinations: black on white, white on blue, blue on white or black on yellow.

The leaflet includes Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD), which is written for the safety of motorists. The idea is to get people to their destination safely and efficiently. The use of road signs should decrease the amount of danger on the roads. It was published in 1993 and is due to be revised. The Department of Environment, Transport and Regions hopes the new copy will be published sometime this year.

- DETR 020 7676 2982.




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