RT hasn't officially started yet, but I was here today to speak at the Mid-American Library Alliance conference on romance. Today, after having breakfast, I noticed the preparations had begun in the Sheraton lobby: EPIC SIGNAGE. Everywhere!
And these signs are not easy to put up, either. Have a look:
Everywhere, there are signs going up. Walls, elevator doors, windows. Seriously, everywhere. If it's not moving, you can stick a sign on it.
I'm not sure what Avon Impulse has to do with finding out who you are and doing so on purpose, but regardless, these panels are so brightly colored you can see them clear across the lobby – which is pretty freaking huge.
ETA: I have learned! That's a line from a country song. The More You Know!
The elevator door banners are really neat – and the application process is a tricky one. The back of the image is adhesive, so the person applying it shuts the elevator doors, turns off that elevator, and smoothes it on to the doors in about 12-18″ lateral sections using a flat blade and then a pin to prick any air bubbles. The goal is not to have any bubbles, though. Then, the image is sliced to allow the doors to open – that's the crucial part, I imagine.
Some of the banner ads, like this one for Samhain, are really eyecatching. And hey, what better captive audience than conference attendees waiting for elevators, right? We wait for elevators a lot! Let's book shop while we do it!
I talked to the gentleman applying the Sylvia Day banners to the escalators, and he told me a lot about the application process, which is time consuming and requires a good amount of patience and skill. He was popping any tiny air bubbles out of the escalator banners for a long while, since he has to bend over the railing to apply the image then work any tiny pockets of air out.
I thought this aspect of the conference preparation was really cool, so I interviewed both the gentleman doing the application, and Kathy Hamilton-Dix, who runs Print Surfaces, based in Fairway, Kansas. Here they are:
If you're not into the behind-the-scenes prep stuff, this probably won't be of much interest, but I found the process, which was very slowly unfolding while I ate breakfast and caffeinated, completely fascinating.
PrintSurfaces, Ms. Hamilton-Dix's company, does the signage for many conferences at the Sheraton, and has done work at the Westin, too. She did the signage for the 2012 All-Star Game, and does other events and vehicle signage wraps, as well. She showed me a picture of a sign that went all the way up the main escalators with images of storms, lightining, rain and clouds going down the side, and it was SO cool looking.
The gentleman who was applying the signs – and I didn't get his name down correctly and don't want to quote him without firm permission to use his name (Sir, you were awesome and thank you) told me that the clings all take about 1.5 to 2 days to apply to different lobby surfaces, and after the conference they're disposed of. They aren't really meant for multiple usage. The signage areas for RT includes the escalators, the elevator doors, and the windows on the second level of the lobby, and they had a lot of work ahead of them.
Ms. Hamilton-Dix told me that the signage is important to conferences because the goal is the make the client feel that the hotel is branded with their name and image. So not only do attendees see the Sheraton name in the lobby, and see the RT signs, but they'll see Sylvia Day's name, Avon's name, Avon Impulse, Heather Graham, Lora Leigh, Samhain, and many other author-branded elevator signs (some of which weren't up yet).
The degree to which attendees of other conferences mention the signage to the hotel indicates to Ms. Hamilton-Dix the success of the placement of all the images. The signage, especially on elevators and escalators, makes a big impression. It's a pretty specialized printing process from what I could tell, too.
What I found most fascinating was that there is no expectation of quantifying the use and success of the signs. There's no way to tell if the signs create sales, or translate into copies sold. They're about brand recognition and brand identity, and the very important repeat impression. Much like there's no way of knowing how many people see a car wrapped in a company's advertisement and do something, there's no way to tell how many people will see the signs and go chase more information. There's no way absolute way of knowing if a sign creates a sale. It's an interesting contrast to, for example, web advertisements, where impressions, click throughs and percentages are all part of the statistical reporting.
Yet the presence of so many romance author and romance publisher brands on visible surfaces where people are walking and waiting not only makes a visible impression for those brands, but also unifies the presence of the conference. Not only is RT a presence here, but the publishers and major authors attending are hugely visible elements of the lobby. The more the signs went up, the more it seemed that RT was taking over the Sheraton lobby.
And come tomorrow night and Wednesday, we literally will take over the lobby (and the bar), and the signs go a long way to demonstrating that this is Our Space. This is our conference, and our turf for the week.
I'll be posting more about the conference, but I hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes peek at some of the preparatory work. If you're coming to RT, this is clearly our lobby – and I hope you have a terrific time at the conference. Thanks to Ms. Hamilton-Dix for answering my completely n00bish questions, and to her contractors who were equally patient with me.