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Conferences are the enrichment-focused summer camps of the business world—an opportunity for people to come together to fully immerse themselves in their craft, while meeting new people and (hopefully) having a little fun in the process. Attendees return home a little wiser, inspired. A truly memorable conference delivers a multifaceted, intensive experience. A strong conference brand and identity will underscore all that the attendees are taking in, highlight conference aims, and bring all aspects of the meeting together into one cohesive world.
Let’s separate the terms branding and identity, so we can talk about why they are each important and how they contribute to the conference experience. Branding refers to the experience that an attendee anticipates having, also known as a “brand promise”. This involves not only the visual aspect of the conference, but also the tone and language of conference materials, advertisements, the flow of the conference itself, and the unspoken messaging that an attendee gets. Branding is the way the conference “feels”. Branding is incredibly important for any company, and equally so for an annual conference. Just as buying a product or participating in a company’s services is an experience, a conference is without a doubt an experience, and it’s important to get clear on what that should feel like. This makes for a targeted message that attendees will be bringing home with them and sharing with other potential future attendees.
The role of the design firm in the branding process is to create the visual aspect of that feeling, the conference “look and feel”, which is based on the overall conference messaging and theme. The first step in this process is to create the conference logo, often the very first visual representation of the conference that people will see. This logo serves as the compelling symbol for the conference itself and communicates that conference “feel” visually.
Along with the logo, the conference look is established—the photography and colors and general style of the design of any conference-related piece. Together, this logo and this look will inform the identity of the conference. The identity is all the visual pieces that go into a conference: ads, registration kickoff mailers, brochures, onsite guides and program books, signage, name badges, etc. These items are designed to work together as a set of materials to create a visual framework that stays with the attendee throughout the conference, supporting the message and feel of the conference.
Using this approach to conferences and harnessing the power of design to work in concert with all the other components of conference planning results in a fully experiential conference package—a 360 degree conference that is experienced visually and sensorily and will stay with attendees long after they’ve removed their name badge and gone home.
For more about why a conference brand is important, check out this article by Velvet Chainsaw: http://velvetchainsaw.com/2014/08/05/yes-your-conference-is-a-brand/