Posted by Orinoco, 2012-07-01 15:19 BST
At BJC 2012 one of the things I helped out with was putting up signs. I thought it would take a couple of hours but it ended up taking 2 of us most of the day. I told Mini about my estimate & he just burst out laughing. However, if we were a bit more organised I'm certain that we could have got the job done in a couple of hours.
Sign posting at a juggling festival is important for many reasons. If people can easily find things for themselves it reduces the workload for the people on the information desk. People dithering or stopping in the middle of corridors because they are lost is extremely irritating (I am all for the pedestrian fast lane idea). For events held at leisure centres which are generally still open to the public this is a big problem. Their customers are paying extortionate amounts of money & have limited time to get in their stress relieving workout & will get very stressed if they can't get through the knot of jugglers. They will then take this out on the staff who in turn may then not be so predisposed to help out the festival. More seriously people blocking corridors is a fire hazard & makes health & safety managers very sad.
So a few tips for festival organisers to cut the time spent on this job:
& I would walk 500 more
The biggest waste of time for us was the sheer distance we covered. It was a <5 minute walk from one side of the site to the other but we made that walk dozens of times. Part of that was because we kept going back & forth to print more signs which could've been avoided if we had known what signs we needed to put up in the first place.
Signs you will need:
Signs you generally won't need (possibly UK centric):
By the time you are ready to think about sign posting you will have a map of the site & will have decided where everything will be going. Print out a copy of the map, mark on all the major areas where people will gather to do stuff - campsite, main hall, beer tent etc. to keep the map clear mark these with letters & draw up a key on another page (unless your map is at 1:1 scale you will just clutter it up & have to print it out again). In a different colour mark all the other minor places where people will be going to (showers, toilets).
Look at the map & think about what people will be doing, then visualise the routes they will need to take to do it. Mark all points where a sign would help that person with a cross. Obvious points will be junctions in corridors, but also include halfway points on long routes. If someone is unsure where to go & has to walk for more than ~30 seconds they will start to doubt they are going the wrong way & will appreciate another sign to confirm that they are going the right way (I've heard these called reassurance signs). Also don't forget signs to go on closed doors. A door is a barrier & in unfamiliar places people can be unsure whether they are allowed through or not.
Number all the crosses working from one side of the map to the other. The order will be the route taken across the site when it comes to putting up the signs. Then on your key go through each sign point in turn, write the number & note whether it is inside or outside, then list all the signs required at that point including the direction eg:
Info desk left
Count up all the signs you will need (taking care that Showers left is not the same as Showers right). Now go through the totals & double them. No matter how many you print you will always need more, there will be something that you missed & site layout can change as problems arise during build up.
Keep your map & your key safe to use when you or your volunteers put the signs up. Having this map & key will make getting a volunteer to do this job for you easier. "Please put up these signs listed here at the corresponding points marked on this map" is a considerably less daunting request than, "Please put up signs to everything on site".
Have you tried switching it off & on again?
The easiest way to create a lot of signs quickly is obviously to print them from a computer. If you know what & how many signs you need it is much quicker & cheaper (ahem) to print them through a photocopier at someone's place of work than from a desktop inkjet printer. Time on site for build up is generally limited so any work that you can do before hand is a bonus.
In the office at BJC 2012 we had a laptop & a wireless printer which was all working fine but then for some reason it decided to stop printing. Not to worry there were three of us who were all tech savvy, this shouldn't be a problem, let's just dip into the control panel... There was much embarrassment as we each passed the laptop to the next person. Then relief when it was passed on again. Kev joked that I was supposed to be good with computers, to which I replied with the wisdom, "I am good with my computer" which is a very important distinction. After a very long time it started working again, I still don't know what I did to fix it.
Then I spent ages manually fiddling with font sizes in Wordpad to scale the signs we needed onto 1 page. After the festival I thought there must be an online tool for quickly making signs, but I couldn't find any so I made one myself which auto scales text into A4 landscape with a choice of arrow directions:
It's still a work in progress, I've got it working fine in Opera, but other browsers have differing interpretations of the CSS print module.
I've made a better one that produces signs as pdfs which will be more consistent regardless of platform/browser:
Don't waste time laminating signs going up inside. They don't need protection from the elements & laminated plastic doesn't like Blu-Tack very much either.
Signs going up outside ideally do need to be laminated. I've heard a rumour that a previous BJC went through 2 laminators by feeding dozens of pages through one after the other causing the machines to overheat & die. Again, try to get as much laminating done prior to the event as you can when you will have more time.
Fixing signs in place
For indoor signs Blu-Tack is a very good option (I've also seen White-Tack which is possibly better at not marking walls). We went through an entire pack at BJC 2012 with the later signs affixed using pin head sized lumps. I did have to pick up & refix several signs towards the end of the festival so you might want to buy 2 packs.
For outdoor signs we mostly used cable ties threaded through holes made with an office hole-punch (do the hole-punching on all 4 sides before you set off round the site, it is surprising how many hands free you need to put up signs). Using cable ties is a very secure but quite expensive way to do it. I think a ball of string & a pen knife would've done the job just as well. To save money on string just ask all the diaboloists you know to save their old hairy diabolo strings.
Where we didn't have anything to tie the signs to (on doors, side of marquees etc.) we used gaffer tape. Tape on all 4 sides from corner to corner, if you want them to stay up for the whole festival.
Always try to fix signs above eye level (if delegating this task try to bear in mind what height 'eye level' means to your volunteer! I can also confirm that a paper sign will not survive many rounds of the very hit & miss flying-leap-&-slap-it-in-place technique). When people are lost & looking for somewhere they will generally scan the horizon. Also signs below head height will get obscured by people & damaged by clubs & devilsticks sticking out of back packs.
Before you or your volunteer set out, take the map & key that was used to plan the signs. Use the key to put the signs in order so you don't have to keep shuffling the pile while it is blowing a gale. Make sure all the laminated outdoor signs are hole punched on all 4 sides.
Go through all the points on the map in order, using the key as a checklist crossing off the signs as they are put up. While going round write down any extra signs that you think of (remember directional arrows) on the key against the point they are needed.
Take the time to check that the signs are visible & that they make sense as you put them up.
Don't throw the map away! It will be useful when it comes to...
Taking it all down again
At the end of the festival "Please take down all the signs at the points marked on the map & bring all the good signs back to reception" is an easy instruction for a volunteer to follow. Perhaps next year could reuse the signs, especially the laminated ones. It may only save a few quid in materials but it will more importantly save a lot of time.