Event basics: welcoming attendees

ChalkWelcomeAt any event, from a dinner party to a multinational festival, guests need to feel welcome, and to have some way to orient themselves in the space. Speed is a factor here: the more quickly guests feel at ease, the quicker they can immerse themselves in your event.

You might have experienced a common example of a bad welcome: you might have waited a long time to get your ticket at the window, then in another long line for coat check, and yet a third long line for drinks — and maybe had to bail because by then it was getting close to showtime and the line to get seated is long as well. It’s a frustrating experience, and probably distracted you from the opening scenes of the performance.

In a seamless welcome, attendees are greeted by a friendly face, quickly offered a name badge or tag if necessary, and shown where they can lay down purses, coats or other accessories. From there, they should know exactly where to go to get to the main event, be it dinner, a show, a reception, a wedding … anything.

In my experience, the larger the event, the more difficult this process becomes. Hopefully, at a dinner party, this is pretty straightforward: you or someone close to you is welcoming guests, offering to hang up their coats, and they are easily guided to a comfortable seat for a drink or to the table if it’s close to meal time.

But as events scale, this gets harder. If you’re hosting a gathering of thousands, a face-to-face greeting is nearly impossible, and since registration will be held in larger and larger rooms, it runs the risk of becoming increasingly sterile.

I’ve found a few things help combat the sterility of a large-event welcome. Again, in this post I’m only aiming to cover basic items, but they go a long way toward helping people feel more comfortable at your event.

  • make sure reception staff or volunteers are well trained, and great people with a smile, a welcome and a thank you
  • have some basic materials about the event handy for attendees to learn a little more, such as a schedule-at-a-glance or clear directions on where to be at a given time
  • make sure your event logo and colors are everywhere, from the walkway to the entry doors to the registration desk, to help guide people where they need to be
  • organize some kind of welcome event, whether it’s a reception, a dinner, or just a happy hour at a nearby bar; people will want to meet others and start building connections as soon as they arrive

As you can see, covering a few simple elements of your event will go a long way toward getting people past the initial strangeness of being in a new environment with new people. Soon, they’ll feel connected both to the event and to one another, all thanks to considering how welcome they feel when they arrive.

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