The big day is here and everything is ready. All your hard work has paid off; the venue is perfect and now the real work starts. It’s show time!! Whether you’re planning a book signing and short talk, a business conference or a big trade show, you want to make sure that with all your preparation, you haven’t forgotten the most important thing of all-making a real connection with the people who attend your event.
You have promoted your event thoroughly up to the very day of your event. Your easels with advance posters have been set up for several days and all your promotional signage looks great. Everything that can be set up before the event begins is in place, the audiovisual equipment is present and tested, the catering stations are in place, the chairs are set up and waiting and the flowers look perfect.
You’ve called people on the phone right up to the day before and even the day of the event, telling them how much you want them to come to see them at the program. You review the benefits of attending: a quality speaker, networking with their peers and meeting new contacts. You emphasize the value and benefits, and you know from your focus groups that you’re offering something they want.
All that work-and it can be for naught if attendees don’t get personal attention from the moment they walk through the door.
If you have ever arrived at an event and been left to find you own way around, walked into an event and not been greeted or spoken to by anyone or had to ask someone where the food and drinks were, you know how important it is to be greeted the minute you get close to the event. When attendees are left on their own, after all the warm-and-friendly lead-up, they can feel abandoned. After all, you had plenty of love for them until they paid for their ticket and walked through the door but now that they’re at the event, if they don’t continue to feel that personal connection, disappointment can set in before anyone sets foot on the stage.
No one likes to feel lost. No matter how accomplished, mature, well-educated or wealthy a person is, there’s a basic insecurity walking into a strange place where you don’t know anyone. It’s uncomfortable-and totally unnecessary. A little planning and effort can eliminate that discomfort and put your attendees in the mood to have a fantastic experience.
Here are ten tips to help ensure that your guests enjoy your event and look forward to your next invitation!
1. It’s almost impossible to have too many greeters posted at and around your event. Have people right inside the door or in the building lobby. Don’t just put up signs and expect people to find their way. Have people in the elevator lobbies to greet people when they come in from the parking garage and to direct them to the floor where the meeting is being held. Be prepared to direct attendees to bathrooms and coat-check as well.
2. Make sure your greeters are enthusiastic! Help each guest feel that everyone involved with the event is sincerely happy they are attending. (This is a great place for your most extroverted volunteers or colleagues.)
3. Station greeters all along the path to the meeting room, especially anywhere an attendee might take a wrong turn. Don’t skimp on the signs, either. In an unfamiliar setting, some people will focus on visual cues, while others will look for someone to ask for directions. Have plenty of both!
4. Treat everyone like a VIP. Speed them through the check-in to get their badges, take coats, offer a drink, and make it easy to enter any drawings/raffles. If it’s a visual event like an art show or if you have live pre-event entertainment, have people who can guide newcomers to where the action is. If there’s food and drink, cue the wait staff to make sure newcomers are approached soon after they clear the badge station, so they don’t have to wander around looking for refreshments.
5. If there will be customers/colleagues you or your firm have done business with among the attendees, have staffers who will recognize them on hand to greet people by name and steer them into the thick of things. Think in advance who might want to be introduced to whom, and be ready to make that happen.
6. Make sure every guest gets some of your time. Treat first-timers as warmly as your very best clients.
7. Thank them for coming. Appreciation can’t be overdone. Let them know how glad you are they came, and make sure your team knows that people are their first priority.
8. Inevitably, there will be some confused people wandering around looking lost, or some wallflowers standing to the side. Be inclusive. Assign a few people to make the rounds of the room’s perimeter, and train them to begin conversations or offer to help wallflowers find a seat, get refreshments or meet people.
9. Regardless of their other tasks, everyone’s job should be to make invited guests feel included, welcomed and taken care of. Let your people know that taking care of a guest is top priority, even if it causes a delay with other tasks.
10. Thank people for coming. Let them know their presence mattered and made a difference. Listen to them talk about what they got out of the event. Don’t be in a hurry to go somewhere else. Make them feel like they are the most important person in the world. Ask for and appreciate their feedback-good and bad-because it will help you create a better next event.
Paying attention to the guests you worked so hard to invite seems like common sense, but in the hustle and bustle of putting on an event, it can be easy to get too task-oriented and forget about the people. Tasks can be delegated. People need to feel welcomed and appreciated. Take care of the people, and the event will be a success!