How you are wasting money putting up posters for your events

Using posters and flyers is still an important part of the marketing mix for live events. Many folks tend to get their information on things to do from online sources, however, a poster or flyer still creates a valuable impression to a potential event attendee.

Most people that flyer/poster are throwing there money away, however. First off, they are spending too much per print. Secondly, they are putting them up in low-visibility areas or places where they are almost immediately removed and thrown away.  Putting up posters and flyers is an important part of the grass roots marketing mix, however, it could be done in a much more effective manner. For those using flyers/handbills, they are just leaving stacks of them in places hoping the right person will pick them up. They won’t…

Before we go any further, let me differentiate between a flyer and a poster for the purposes of this article. When I say flyer, I mean one that can be handed directly to someone or is posted with the purpose of being removed and kept. You get a flyer under your windshield wiper at the grocery store. People commonly refer to these as ‘handbills’. A poster is typically large or at least more professionally designed. Posters can be various sizes, but they are typically higher quality and meant to remain in a fixed location for viewing.

First things first: Do you know your target audience?
It is important to know who you are targeting to come to your event.  The more you know about the type of person you want at your event, the more likely you are to be able to figure out the behavioral pattern of this type of person.  Where do these folks get their info about shows?  What shows do these folks go to currently?  If you haven’t thought about this part of your promo, you are literally throwing your money away on flyers and posters.

The Role of Posters
Posters are are not going to generate direct sales.  Word of mouth generates direct sales.  Posters help show people that you are actively promoting your event. The level of quality of the design and print of the poster conveys how professional the event is and in turn creates an image in that persons mind that is stored subconsciously. When that person then hears someone talk about your event or reads text from someone they trust about your event, they will recall this image and it will become more of a real ‘thing’ to them.  Various marketing books say that it takes at least “x” number of impressions for something to stick in someone’s mind.  I believe this to an extent.  However, I also believe that information about your event delivered during a connection with another human being is when the real image is cast in someone’s mind about the event you are doing.  That being said, JUST postering for your event is completely ineffective. Posters are simply tiny billboards.

2015_1025_FlyeringThe Role of Flyers

Flyers should be used in conjunction with posters and other marketing efforts. Again, modern promotion is all about figuring out the most effective marketing mix for your area and event type.  Flyers allow you to hand your information directly to someone and briefly discuss the event and present the opportunity, in some cases, for the person on the receiving end to ask questions about your event.  Flyer are for folks to refer back to at later time to refresh themselves about the general info for the event.

Where you can put up posters is different from city to city. In Knoxville, where I currently live as of the posting of this article, posters are not permitted to be put on public utility polls, or anywhere that is not designated. It doesn’t mean people don’t do it, it just means sometimes the life span of prohibited postings is very limited. For the most part, shop windows and designated bulletin boards are the only places where posters can be displayed in my city. In our city, like many others, space for posters is disappearing. Making postering more and more difficult and time consuming.

Quite often, when you go to the bulletin boards and other places where posters are displayed, you find theses spaces flooded with other posters and bulletins. Ugh. This sucks, but it is your duty as a promoter of your event NOT to destroy valid bulletins or posters. Yes, it’s a pain in the ass that the local big theatre puts an 11×17 poster up four months before their event, but that is what they do sometimes. Taking their poster down and putting yours up will not go unnoticed. So just don’t do it. In fact, don’t remove any poster unless it has expired. When you remove it, dispose of it. Be a steward to the art of postering, not a nemesis.

Poster Sizes
Typically posters are 11×17 for non-venue display. Does this size work in areas with limited display space? No, it doesn’t. If you can fit your poster on a bulletin board or store window because their isn’t enough space, start making different size posters. Consider splitting an 11×17 in half and making a tall poster that is half the width. Try making 8 1/2x 11 inch versions of the poster. Just remember, it is best to have your graphics person (probably you) design the original poster with various size versions in mind.

Flyers and Handbills are typically more effective for getting the word out about events. This is because they are typically distributed directly to the person you are trying to get information about your show to.  The physical connection of handing a flyer/handbill to someone makes that person at least take a brief look at your flyer.  If you made it small enough to put in their pocket, they often will.  They then will see it again when they remove the content from their pockets.

Pro Tip: Include detailed information on the back of your flyers/handbills. The #1 action you will see from someone when they get a handbill from you is to turn it over and look at the back. Why not give them what they are looking for? MORE INFORMATION! Don’t just give them an web site URL and hope they go there.  Likely, they are done with your event once they look at the blank back of the flyer.

Timing is everything

Are you hanging your poster months and months before the event? Probably too soon.  Waiting until the week of?  Probably too late.  You are somewhat at the mercy of available space in your area for when you can put up posters.  You want posters in the venue you are using for the event as soon as possible.  This means if you booked the gig out of town you want to get those posters made as soon as you finalize the booking. Then you need to get them to the person that will be taking them to the venue to put them up.  Learn timing, don’t wait until it’s too late.

How to save $$ on Printing
Printing is super expensive.  It is the largest major cost for smaller show producers. An 11×17 poster at your local print shop is going to cost you about $1 if it is full color.  That is quite the investment to be hanging them on telephones poles.  How can you save money?  Shop around online. Two sources I use for printing that size of poster are Best Value Copy and Copies In Color.  The more posters you order at once the cheaper it is for you. This means if you promote regular events and book them far enough in advance you can spend pennies getting your posters made and shipped to you. If you use either of these printing companies, mention me, because I STILL use them!


What is the #1 Mistake of Postering?
This one is shocking. Most people don’t effectively make posters for the venues where they are doing their events. They create a poster that has the address and general info about the event, but then don’t even make sure those posters are up in the venue leading up to the event. Remember you can’t mail poster to a venue and expect them to put them up in a timely fashion. 90% of the time they just don’t.  Do it yourself, have someone helping you do it, OR if the show is out of town, mail them to a local and have them make sure they get put up when they need to be. Also, if you are local, check back to make sure your posters are still hanging up in the venue. Often if their poster nazi wasn’t the one that put them up then that person will take them down as punishment for you doing it yourself.  Counterproductive for the venue?  Yes, it sure is. But it is the reality of the situation.  In the future make sure to clearly define how postering works with the venue before finalizing a booking for the event and stick to the way they say they prefer it done.

Some things to keep in mind when postering

  • Will my target audience see this poster?
    • Are you putting a poster in a antiques shop? Unless those are some pretty hip ass antiques you probably are barking up the wrong tree, that is, unless the store has a great walk by rate (foot traffic like a downtown area)
  • Is this the person that conceivably would attend and enjoy this event?
    • If you put a poster in a Vape Lounge, will that person be likely to attend the event? Quite Possibly! If you put up a poster at burger joint, maybe not so much (just too general). It all starts to make sense after you think about it for a while. Don’t think about where you go, think as if you were the person you are marketing to. Where would they go?
  • How many people will see this because I put this here?
    • This is all about foot traffic. If it doesn’t get eyes on it every hour it is a wasted poster. That is for externally displayed posters in shop windows. If the poster is displayed inside the shop it should have eyes on it at least every two hours or so. You will kinda be able to tell by how perpetually busy or dead the business is when you have gone in.  Is the spot dead all the time with posters for really old event still hanging? Skip it.
  • Is putting this poster in this location tacky or an eye sore?
    • Don’t ever be a dick with your poster. I have tried this and it simply diminishes the professional image of your event you are promoting. You have seen this done, posters slapped one after another on top of each other on a pole or building. It looks awful and tacky and shitty.
  • Will the poster stay up until the event?
    • Did they say “I will give it to the manager and if they approve it they will put it up..” Then don’t give them a fucking poster. They might as well say, “I can read it maybe before the manager throws it away”…
Matt Ward Written by:


  1. October 25, 2015

    Matt, really well written article with exceptional detail and walkthrough. I used to overspend on posters and waste a bunch of time, energy, and gas money getting them up anywhere and everywhere. I started noticing that my postering efforts were having zero impact on show attendance. So I reduced my printing to about 1/4 the money and effort. The money I saved I spent elsewhere: Facebook targeted ads or local radio. I saved a lot of time and energy by placing posters and flyers only with businesses where I had an “in” (know the employee or manager). They made sure my stuff stayed up and even helped promote it word of mouth. Another suggestion I’d contribute to save money is see if you can team up with a local print shop or beer distributor as a sponsor to cover your printing costs. These places might give you free or discounted printing if you put their logo on the poster and promote them at your event. It’s generally as easy as walking in, introducing yourself, and letting them know what you’re seeking (50 posters, 100 flyers, for example) and what you’re offering (their logo on the printed materials, 8 tickets to the events, and live mentions at the show, etc.) The print shops can be tough because they won’t want to eat the cost if they don’t see the advertising value (be sure to be clear and honest about the size and scope of the event). Beer distributors are a little easier because if they can slap a beer promo on the poster they can pass the cost onto the beer company and sell more beer at that venue. I’d start by asking the venue what distributor they use and then reach out to them. I’ve been able to secure a ton of free printing including table tents and banners this way. Also having a “beer sponsor” can help your event look bigger and more legit.

    • Matt Ward
      October 26, 2015

      Thanks, Great information!

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