Navigation planning may not be the most exciting part of event planning, but it is one of the most crucial. If you event design doesn't have an easy-to-navigate layout, attendees will inevitably get lost, be late for sessions, and have a generally lower quality experience. So don't leave this detail to the last minute or overlook it altogether.
Today's event navigation isn't just about signage, programs, and other print material. To optimize attendees' experience, virtually all events use multiple forms of technology to keep track of and assist attendees throughout the duration of an event. Some navigation technology may include AI, art, mobile apps, and more. And the larger the event, the more accessible and easy to use digital resources need to be.
Here are the top ten navigation trends you need to tap into in 2020!
Videography is helpful because it gives attendees something like a virtual tour prior to the event. Create a YouTube video that walks attendees through the agenda and from session to session as it would be on the day of the event. Keep it short and sweet- don't linger too long in one area or go on tangents about what will be happening during each session or at each vendor booth. As you reach different key areas, just explain what will be happening there and highlight key locations where speakers, entertainment, or other main features will be happening.
We realize it takes time to set up the venue the way it will appear on the day of the event. Still, you don't want to take attendees on a virtual tour through a bare-bones warehouse or venue that appears void of character or decor. Of course, the appearance of the venue prior to your event varies depending on which one you choose. For example, a spacious loft or rustic cottage will likely look charming on the day of your event- but beforehand, it may not look as inviting as a more traditional space (such as a restaurant) might.
What to do? Get a little creative. Set a mood that matches your event with music and infographics that point viewers in the right direction. You can also go the comedic route and create funny infographic characters that lead the way. If a well-loved local band or favorite performer is playing at your event, include a soundbite of a popular song when you reach the concert area. Including your logo will make your attendees will feel at ease as they virtually navigate the event beforehand.
These days, it's easy to create quality infographics within minutes for free. Apps like Venngage will help you choose a template and add charts and visuals that can be very helpful for navigation. The app guides you through the easy process of making a custom design to add to your video and various other content. Adobe Chart and Picktochart are two other popular apps people use to create infographics. A simple Google search will yield many more options to choose from.
Post your video on social media in the weeks prior to your event, but also send it to everyone on your email list so you're sure they receive it. Because most people are inundated with emails and only click on top priority ones throughout the day, make sure the subject line tells them exactly what's inside: a navigation guide to use on the day of your event. You may also want to include a video on transportation modes and how to navigate them, too. In this video, you could briefly flash on some popular local attractions that your attendees might enjoy. If people are traveling from substantial distances to get to your event, then include convenience stores, gas stations, and other travel necessity resources.
Videography comes in handy live, too. If you have the technology, posting your navigation video live can be a helpful starting point for attendees. It can also serve as a reference point if they should need to check back in at some point during the event. If you have access to multiple screens, post the video live in various different areas. This way, attendees will have a point of reference wherever they are. Well-placed print signage can augment these digital directions as well.
2. Voice Assistants and Chatboxes
Event navigation? Yeah, there's an app for that. But quick disclaimer: Not everyone is necessarily going to be inclined to download such an app. You know your audience. If they're all pretty tech-savvy and think using an app for navigation will be second nature to them, go for it. After all, AI caters to most of us on a daily basis, and we tend to take it for granted. For example, many people may not have even took conscious note of the fact that voice assistants have recently ramped up their game. Instead of just providing yes or no questions, voice assistants can answer more complex questions and make suggestions based on them.
That's especially useful at events. When attendees as voice assistants and chatboxes how to get to their next session, the technology can actually make suggestions about features they may enjoy during that session. They might also suggest other similar sessions the attendee could be interested in. A tad on the creepy side? Er, depends on who you ask. Regardless of opinion, voice assistants are a part of life that most of us take for granted. So why not use them to enhance navigation and marketing at events?
If attendees have previously signed themselves up for several specific sessions, they can simply ask the app, "What is on my schedule today?" and a schedule with a map will pop on their screens. If the map has navigation capabilities, you can possibly avoid print signage altogether at your event.
That said, people like options. It's reasonable to avoid assuming that every single attendee at your event will download the app. As mentioned above, a walk-through video can be very useful. You can also offer the option of using an interactive map or even wearable beacon technology. Which leads us to the next two suggestions on our list.
3. Interactive Maps
The average large event has multiple exhibits, session areas, and rooms that may or may not be mirror images of each other. Interactive maps can make it much easier to navigate a crowded, complex space. Sometimes just looking at a map doesn't do it- we need prompts, we need information on the spot, we need to be kept abreast of last-minute changes. We need highlighted bathrooms! That's where interactive maps come in, and they're easy to build into your event app.
Another trick of this clever trade? You can easily add relevant links. For example, when an attendee clicks on a link to one of the sponsors or exhibits, or speakers at your event, they'll be linked directly to that sponsor, vendor, or speaker. Sometimes attendees want more information on the spot without taking the time and effort to Google it as they try to make it to their next session. Interactive maps make this easy, but they don't flood users with pop-ups. An attendee has to actually click on a vendor, sponsor, etc. to be linked to related information.
Or if they're browsing through a list of sessions, exhibits, etc., they can go to the map and see where they're located. The less work attendees have to do to find the content they want, the more they enjoy your event.
4. Beacon Technology
If you're unfamiliar with the term, beacon technology emits signals to an event app, smartphone, or a wearable. It has the capability to alert people to valuable information in contextual situations. For example, someone walking by a breakout room can be alerted that the fact that the session will begin in 15 minutes, and then happen again in 2 hours.
However, you want to avoid inundating your attendees with unnecessary, distraction alerts that sound off every time they reach a new location. So save alerts for pertinent information that informs the way attendees navigate the event. For example, people can be alerted about the waiting time for a seat at the on-site cafe. This is relevant information that directly impacts the attendee experience. When crowds collectively know where the shortest and longest wait times are, they can opt for the shorter ones. This helps manage the crowd flow a lot more smoothly. The marketing benefits of beacon technology are invaluable. If your event features a really popular vendor or sponsor, beacon technology can invite attendees to stop by when they're within close proximity.
Depending on the nature of your event, you can also use it to facilitate fun games such as scavenger hunts or other contests that drive sales. For example, let's say you own a retail company or sell eclectic furniture and novelty household items. Different items in the scavenger hunt can represent different prizes or amounts of store credit for a grand opening or sale. Festivals and fairs with lots of activities, vendors, and workshops are also ideal for scavenger hunts that can be facilitated using an event app and beacon technology. You can even let attendees know when they are hot, cold, or warm as they search for hidden treasures!
It should also be noted that beacons are excellent trackers! Not only can they check off vendors, sessions, and exhibits that guests have already visited, but they let you store that information as well. There's no more direct way to digitally track event performance.
5. Staff Your Event with Competent Guides
Despite the many near-heroic capabilities of today's event technology, it's always a good idea to station staff members in crowded areas. No matter how interactive your event app may be, it has its limits. Namely, it's not a live human being with unsynthesized intelligence and the ability to comprehend your questions without prompt words. So position your staff in heavily trafficked or intersectional areas where people tend to be moving from one place to another.
Some people don't feel comfortable looking down at their phones often while they navigate an event. Maybe they don't feel fully present with their phones in hand, and would rather turn them off at the door. Maybe they just aren't great at or don't like navigating apps; some people understand directions better by hearing than reading them. Also, people with vision or cognitive impairments may be overwhelmed by processing information on a screen.
But even people who feel at home using apps just might need some more in-depth information than an app can provide. Or they may not understand the directions the app is giving them, and need some clarification. Make sure some of your staff is available to physically walk with your attendees if they need guidance or have a question about an onsite vendor, conference area, etc. Staff should be wearing bright colors and/or company logo that make them stand out from the bustling crowd.
6. Interactive Kiosks
Videos that walk attendees through the event before it goes live are great- but what happens when they get lost in the middle of it? Despite well-placed signage and all kinds of interactive apps, people can still find themselves disoriented at larger events. First of all, not everyone chooses to use the apps. Secondly, what if the app malfunctions or takes too long to load? Yes, we do everything we can prior to events to make sure our technology is at its peak performance. But sometimes glitches happen despite our best-laid plans. What to do?
Distribute interactive kiosks throughout your event space. Depending on your event design, they may be placed in remote or high-traffic locations. Obviously, placing them remotely assures that people who have wandered off can easily make it back into the main space, and get where they want to go next. Kiosks are especially useful when you consider modern event design. Many events feature isolated or sectioned-off spaces where people can go to recharge, be alone, or talk intimately with smaller groups in a quiet setting. Placing kiosks in these areas helps ensure that they won't get stuck on the sidelines for too long!