how to create a welcoming environment and why it’s important

how to make your event more welcoming and why it's important

Have you ever gone to an event – a party, a wedding, a conference – even just a meeting? – where you didn’t know anyone? Depending on your personality, you could feel anything from a slight nervousness through sheer terror.  That’s why it’s so important for event planners to make sure the event is as welcoming as possible. Good hostesses know this – part of the art of hosting a dinner party is putting guests at ease and making introductions.

While some events have strategic networking plans or buddy programs to help introduce guests to one another, that might not be an option for your event. But the good news is that there are some simple (and often inexpensive) ways that you can make your event more welcoming, especially when it comes to first impressions.

Clear Signage

This might seem like a no-brainer, but I can’t count how many times I’ve been to an event and haven’t been able to find the right place to be – especially at a larger facility where they might be multiple groups at the same time, or if a venue is tucked away and difficult to find. Make sure you walk the various points of entry that your guests may use and make sure each is covered with a sign or a greeter (more on them later). If possible, make sure the sign has the same logo or branding that the invitation has, or the same color or theme.

Greeters

While signs are great and very important, you can’t ask a sign a question. Having greeters is a great way to welcome people and put them at ease if they have questions. For some events, I like to have my greeters hold a sign (usually a small sign, around 8 x 10 or so, with a “handle” so it’s easy to hold). Alternatively, for certain events it might make sense for greeters to be dressed a certain way, or have an “Ask Me” button.

Not everyone is cut out to be a greeter! Greeters should be friendly and warm, but professional and accommodating.

Registration

If your event has a simple registration desk (I’m not talking about huge conventions with registration booths – I mean a 6 foot table or two with boxes of nametags – that sort of thing), the people working registration need to be on their A-Game even more so than the Greeters. So many times this job is given to the lowest man on the totem pole, but it’s so important. At my day job at the nonprofit, we have “registration desk training” where we go over what is expected, how to dress, how to greet guests, and how to address problems that may arise. We take it very seriously. The registration desk will offer your guests one of their first impressions of your event.

Here are a few more of my tips for friendly, welcoming registration desks:

  • Registration attendants should always be standing when guests are arriving. That way they can meet and address guests at eye level and they look more engaged.
  • If nametags are pre-printed, I prefer to have them facing toward the attendants so the attendant can ask the guests name, find the nametag (why should the guest have to search!), then hand the nametag and preferably thank the guest for coming by name.

 

Fresh Flowers and other light decor

Since the registration desk is meant to be a welcoming place, make sure it’s skirted if possible and looks professional, but add a little color, such as a small floral arrangement, to brighten it up. It just looks so much friendlier!

 

The art of conversation

This goes back to the dinner party trick, but all good hostesses know how to strike up a conversation, and how to then pass off that conversation by making introductions. I know event planners are so often in the background of our events trying to make sure everything is going smoothly, but we also need to mindful of our guests. That sometimes means being the one to offer help if a guest looks lost, or starting a brief conversation with a guest who is standing by himself.

Those are just a few simple tips, but the most important one is to remember the human factor. Events are about bringing people together, and it’s unlikely that the goals of your event will be achieved if your guests are ill at ease. Creating a welcoming environment might not seem all that important, but helping to make sure your guests find their way and are comfortable really make a difference.

Photo Credit: { Ohio Bar }

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