Everyone has a phone or tablet with them all the time anyway, why would you need to print out an agenda or schedule for your upcoming event, right? Except, maybe you should.

You still need a handout

Some time back I attended a pretty fantastic conference. It was amazing and full of oodles of informational sessions. The organizers had clearly put in a lot of work planning dozens of workshop leaders while organizing dozens of sessions across four or five different topic tracks all over two very full days.

As this was a conference aimed at digital users, all conference material was available online through their website. With the aim of zero waste, no print materials were created for attendees. While I am a print-designer at heart, this is something I fully support. All workshops, agenda and event details were available through a website created specifically for this event. I thought it required a lot of clicking back and forth around the site to figure out what sessions I wanted to attend, when they were and where to go, but I like to pre-plan where I’m going so I spent a few hours before the event creating my plan and copying it over to a document on my phone.

This event was planned and led by volunteers and as is sometimes the case with volunteers, some workshops were changed immediately before the event or even during the event. This meant attendees had to scramble to the website at the event to make changes. At the same time, attendees were on their devices tracking the schedule and simply being on their devices (remember, this was a conference of people who made their living online). The event space provided WiFi access for attendees but with everyone trying to get online at one time, it was spotty at best. And of course, my own cell access was questionable as I wandered through the insides of a solid brick building. This struggle with no agenda or master workshop list made a fantastic conference harder for me as an attendee.

Do you need more paper?

Even though I love finding conservation-friendly ways to share information, I’ve designed materials for enough events over the years to know that you still must put something together for attendees. I know the planners had access to graphic designers (the site was beautiful and there were banners and signs throughout the event space). Taking the additional step of creating a simple, well-designed (and on-event-brand) PDF would have tipped the event even more towards successful than it already was. And by making it available digitally, you don’t have to push out more paper (though a few attendees will print it themselves).

With a PDF housed on the website—or even better, one emailed to all registered attendees a few days before the event—people have access to easily digestible information. Include an agenda, workshop names and times, a map and even your sponsor logos and you have seriously increased the accessibility of your event.

Elevate your event

Some reasons why a simple PDF will elevate your event:

  • Simple documentation is easy to skim as attendees are walking to the next session.
  • A basic agenda tells everyone where to be and when. And when they can plan for coffee and bathroom breaks!
  • People who have registered ahead of time can download the PDF and have it on their digital device making it accessible even in WiFi deserts.
  • Some people still prefer paper information for whatever reason. Perhaps they like to make notes on the schedule, have limited device battery life, find it easier to read a full sheet of paper over a phone screen or maybe they simply don’t have access to the proper portable technology. By offering a PDF they can print out, you are making your event accessible to everyone without making assumptions.

Sure, your information might be out of date as soon as you’ve sent it out. But your event is never going to change right before the event so much as to make that document unusable. And with a PDF, it’s a snap to update it, replace it online and have up-to-date event information. It’s easy to announce a workshop has been changed, moved or canceled during the event. It’s difficult to have that change and not have provided an easy way for your attendees to be agile in their own changes and still expect your event to be accessible and as successful as it could be.

What are things you wish event planners knew that would make events even more successful? Let me know in the comments.

Photo by Kym Ellis on Unsplash


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