When you decide to host an event, it says a lot about your organization and your brand. Every aspect—from the planning through to the execution—should be a reflection of all of the elements of your brand. How will you bring your brand values to life? How will your personality be reflected in your event communications? Staying focused and dedicated to your brand is a must for a successful event.
Too often we see organizations get carried away with events. Understandably—it takes precious time and valuable resources to host a successful event, so you naturally give it your all. Yet, your event shouldn’t overshadow or compete with the larger purpose of the work that you do. It should be seen as a way your brand has come to life, not as something with a life of its own.
Your brand strategy should inform everything—the way you look, the way you sound, and the way you act. A strong brand is a yardstick by which you measure your progress and a compass with which to guide your decision-making. One signal of a solid brand is a powerful visual identity, and maintaining the look and feel you’re known for will ensure your attendees have a deeper appreciation for your work and the benefit you alone provide.
So a great way to make sure your event stays on brand is to send visual cues that guide your audiences to see your event as an expression of your brand, not as a separate initiative. If your event looks like you and is visually representative of what your attendees have come to expect from you, it can go a long way in stewarding both your audiences and your brand.
Here are four tips to make sure your visual presence stays focused so your event inspires, instead of isolates:
1. Don’t compete with your existing visual identity—look like you.
Your brand holds a lot of reputational equity, and your visual identity in and of itself carries a ton of weight. For your event, don’t veer too far off course—let your current look and feel steer your decision-making.
Make sure the visual identity of your organization isn’t compromised by the visual identity of the event. If your color palette is comprised of muted earth tones and sophisticated fonts, don’t introduce neon colors and cartoonish caricature at your fundraiser.
The last thing you want is for an attendee to think of your organization and your event as separate entities—if you throw a benefit to raise money for tutors for underprivileged children, but you also work year round to support healthy eating in rural schools, you want your audiences to know you for both efforts. Not just the fun fundraiser you throw every year. An event is an opportunity for your audiences to connect more deeply with your overall mission, so make sure the visual cues that represent you year round are compatible with the ones front and center for your event.
2. Keep design simple and cohesive.
Events are multi-faceted and it can be tempting to introduce new visual elements to the many different pieces, but resist the temptation. You don’t need to differentiate nametags from placecards by making one blue and one red—it’s more important that they work as part of a flexible system than to experiment with too many creative details.
Focus on design and visuals that are easy to digest with information that’s easy to absorb. Aim for fresh, clean, and unified design—doing so will allow you to connect with your audiences without asking them to work too hard. Make it as easy as possible for them to attend and participate in your event with direct, clear design that keeps your collateral focused.
Keeping your visual cues simple and straightforward will also make it easier for your team to represent your event consistently across all of your communications pieces, from the flyers sent out months in advance to the banner across the speaker’s podium.
3. Have guidelines and stick to them. Start with your logo, fonts, and colors. Then introduce known design elements.
Begin with the basics. Define and commit to your logo, fonts, and colors. Once you set guidelines, it will make decisions about your event collateral easier and prevent you from using too many competing visuals. Mirroring your event guidelines to your existing ones will guarantee your event is easily identifiable and recognizable as yours.
Think back to your existing brand guidelines, and be inspired by what you have in place. Does every newsletter you send feature a donor profile with a headshot? Is your annual report filled with infographics? When you do add visual variables to your event, make sure the design elements you introduce are in line with what your audiences have seen from you in the past. For example, if your collateral is known for personal, intimate portraiture of clients and staff, you don’t need signage at your event that shows breathtaking landscapes or aerial photography. Much as you follow rules for your brand’s visual identity, keep the style of your event design contained.
4. Reuse your visual motif on all of your collateral, from print to online.
When you commit to a simple system, it makes things easier for both you and your audiences. With your invitations, acknowledgments, and web registration page in visual alignment, it reinforces both your event and your brand. Use your event’s visuals as another way to repeat, repeat, repeat.
With a unified presence across all of your touch points, your audiences will instantly register your event, what it is, and why they should attend. One visual motif used consistently eliminates opportunities for distraction, making it easier for your event to be a solid, strong presence, instead of a confusing conglomerate of mixed messages.
Events bring a variety of audiences together in pursuit of a common cause. Don’t dwell on the variety of audiences you need to reach, but focus on the common cause that unites them—after all, that’s why they’ll take time from their schedules to support your work.
Remember: Your attendees aren’t there because they’re particularly attached to this year’s theme—they made the commitment to attend your event because they care about your organization and the benefits of your work. Events are a great opportunity to build upon what you have in place, creating and reinforcing connections with those who will ensure not just the success of your event, but of your organization over time.
Carrie Tilmann serves Mission Minded’s clients as Art Director and Senior Graphic Designer, with over a decade of design and creative experience.
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