UPDATED 2/27/2018: This piece has been updated with recent review numbers, revised features lists, and new screenshots.
Now that everything has gone digital, it’s time for event businesses to bring their signage up to speed. As the use of paper/non-animated advertising continues to taper off, digital signage is on the rise due to its ease of use and benefits over static signage. You’ve got the event management software angle covered; now it’s time for your signage to move into the 21st century.
Digital signage gives event planners new ways to deliver content, and allows faster transitions than traditional signs. It can up your event’s visual aesthetic game, taking you from tried and boring to innovative and engaging.
Use digital signage to advertise your sponsors and display an event schedule all on one screen, notify your attendees of event changes in real time, display an event map, and reduce your event’s environmental impact.
These benefits are just a small segment of the robust return on investment you can achieve by adopting digital signage.
Free digital signage software lets you be creative on a budget
Transitioning your event signage from static to digital is realistic for even the smallest of event businesses due to the availability of free and open source software options.
You don’t have to shell out a ton of money to make the switch; if you have access to TVs/monitors and computers with internet access, digital signage is within your reach.
I’ve compiled a list of seven free digital signage software options for you to explore and use at your next event. Most of the below systems are open source, and each offers a media library and remote deployment functionality.
Software options listed in alphabetical order.
Seven free and open source digital signage options
Screen management dashboard (via Concerto)
Concerto is downloadable, open source, digital signage software created in 2008. The system is under constant development by its creators at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
While this software was originally developed for students and college campuses, Concerto works well for small businesses and organizations.
To run Concerto, you need a web server capable of running Ruby on Rails (ROR) applications, as well as a database. If you have an IT team at your disposal, personal technical know-how, and meet the ROR/database requirements, this system offers content scheduling and multi-screen support features.
Signage creation (via DigitalSignage.com)
Digital Signage offers a free version that includes core features such as access to its SignageStudio (digital signage creator), SignagePlayer (manages and pushes your signage to the display), and hundreds of pre-made templates. This system can run signs on multiple screens, letting you seamlessly manage signage across your event floor.
Access to the software’s application programming interface (API) is only available to enterprise subscribers. You won’t be able to make any alterations to Digital Signage’s source code unless you buy the enterprise version.
The free version limits cloud storage to one gigabyte, and is best suited for small events with limited signage needs.
Digital Signage is available on Windows, MacOS, and Linux/Ubuntu systems.
Signage playlist management screen (via ScreenHub)
ScreenHub brands itself as “all-in-one” free digital signage software, complete with content design, management, and player features. The web-based software lets you control your signs from anywhere, schedule signage ahead of time, and display signs on multiple screens.
While some digital signage software options recommend specific display types and sizes, ScreenHub’s system can adjust to any display size.
ScreenHub is available on Windows, MacOS, Linux/Ubuntu, Android, and iOS.
Signage schedule overview (via Screenly)
Screenly Open Source Edition is the free version of digital signage software Screenly, developed and backed by its user community and maintained by WireLoad.
Screenly can be used to create live dashboards, advertisements, info screens, event maps, and digital menu boards. The program automatically detects TV and monitor dimensions to render your signs in the highest resolution possible. Screenly’s management features also let you schedule signage to display in specified time blocks.
Screenly’s display player solely runs through Raspberry Pi devices (small, single-board devices used for a variety of unique computing tasks) and will display anything you throw at it, including videos, images, and web pages.
Signage developer (via ViewNeo)
ViewNeo is web-based digital signage software that offers a free starter tier and the option to upgrade to a more robust system. The free option has a few limitations, including five gigabytes of free cloud storage and a one display at a time restriction.
The software offers a sign studio for designing new materials and sign scheduling functionality.
ViewNeo is available on Windows, MacOS, Linux/Ubuntu, iOS, and Android.
Display management dashboard (via Xibo)
Xibo is a fully stocked, open source content management system made for digital signage. The software offers layout design features, scheduling, display management, analytics reporting, user permissions, and support for most media file types. Additional features and source code information is available on the software’s GitHub page.
Xibo began as a university project in 2004, and has been developed and supported by Spring Signage since then. The system offers cloud-based versions as well as app access for Android.
Xibo’s content management system is available on Windows and Linux/Ubuntu. Its player software—which renders content on displays—is available for Windows and Android (Linux/Ubuntu support is on the way).
Looking for other ways to upgrade your events?
Taking your events to the next level shouldn’t stop at digital signage. Keep an eye on new tech trends influencing the industry by following Capterra’s event management blog, which is full of tips, news, and information on event technology and software.
Here are a few posts to get you started:
- The Top 3 Beacon Technology Apps for Event Planners
- How to Promote Your Event on Instagram
- Top 5 Free Tools to Live Stream Your Event Online
- 8 Free and Open Source Event Management Software
Looking for Event Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Event Management software solutions.