By Samantha Stallard, Director of Marketing & Business Development
When you're so caught up in the logistics of event production, planning the perfect guest experience can be at the bottom of your to do list. It's hard to focus on brainstorming cute, creative, yet inexpensive favors when you have a truck filled with construction equipment to unload and set up!
Consider this your guest experience checklist, one to save a return to for each event you manage. We've detailed 20 of our most tried and true guest experience tactics to turn your beautiful space into a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those in attendance...
- Include surprises: There are so few true surprises left in this world, so make sure your event delivers on a selection of special ones. Of course, communicate as much as you can with guests pre-event to induce interest and excitement, but give them something extra onsite
- Invest in corporate sponsorships: These partnerships raise the brand equity of both partners and introduce an already-loyal audience to a new brand at a relevant time. Partnerships are best when approached like a long-term commitment, rather than a one-and-done association
- Serve a signature welcome drink: Offer a light and beautiful signature welcome drink once guests arrive. This eliminates the need for guests to visit the bar as soon as they step through the door, and makes for an easier transition into the event
- Help guests outfit plan: Any direction you can provide as to the formality, location (indoor/outdoor), or forecasted weather of an event will be appreciated. Feature photos from last years’ attendees or inspiration from influencers
- Engage with and share attendee posts: If your event has the ability, have a designated social media manager onsite tasked with monitoring the event hashtag across social channels, liking and sharing posts, answering direct messages and questions, and posting on behalf of the event
- Book extra hotel rooms: Whether the front desk employee looks up the guest’s name incorrectly or the reservation was lost, the last thing you want is a guest standing in the hotel lobby with no room and no plan
- Be wary of sending out surveys during your event: Yes, it’s nice to get feedback when the content or event is still fresh on guests’ minds, but this also falls into the category of unnecessary communication during an event
- Don't underestimate exclusivity: We all love a little something extra, don’t we? A complimentary upgrade we didn’t expect, a personal tasting of a new dish the chef is trying out, or early access to, well, anything. Even if those exclusive pieces are paid for, that is what sets their experience apart from everyone else’s
- Have a second transportation company on call: Have the numbers of at least two or three other transportation companies on hand so you can call right away if your shuttle bus gets caught behind a pile-up on the way to the airport
- Share itinerary changes: Anytime there is an update to guests’ itineraries, whether its a venue, time, or speaker change, it helps to get in touch with them as quickly as possible so they aren’t left feeling lost. Additionally, if you’re aware of traffic or transportation concerns (like an accident on the highway), a heads up to guests is always appreciated
- Host social contests with VIP prizes: Social media contests are an easy and inexpensive way to interact with guests in the weeks leading up to an event. Be sure to target both registered attendees and those that are interested, but not committed, in your contests. Offer attendees free, VIP upgrades, access to meet-and-greets, or swag onsite
- Hire a best-in-the-world videographer and photographer: Having professionals in attendance to document the event will instantly elevate the experience. Plus, guests can look back on the occasion and share imagery with their networks on social media
- Manage expectations: Events are synonymous with last minute changes. The right communication at the right time is everything. No one likes to be surprised (aka disappointed) when things change and they weren’t given a heads up
- Get as much information for your contacts as possible: Phone number(s) and email are a bare minimum. Also gather their Twitter handle, phone and address of where they are staying (if you didn’t book it yourself), and the names and numbers of any people with whom they’ll be traveling
- Tell guests what to bring: What’s worse than showing up somewhere and realizing you need a photo ID or a venue-approved bag? A description or list of items to bring (or not bring) is extremely useful and avoids attendee frustration
- Don't be too behind schedule: We’re all for allowing a 5-10 minute delay to accommodate traffic and unforeseen issues, but when the guest experience is put on hold, it doesn’t matter how wonderful the event is, all they will remember is being left waiting
- Design with brand messaging: Use event descriptions as an opportunity to reinforce your messaging. Give guests some history, reinforce your tagline, and share facts and statistics about why your event is the best event. The more they are exposed to it in a relevant place, the more likely they are to recall it when it’s time to use it.
- Know names and show excitement: Personalize greetings and mementos and prep your team members about guests before their arrival. If guests feel welcome (AKA important) from the start, they will be more excited about the rest of the event and eager to share their experience on social media
- Serve food if you're decorating with food: Decorating with food can create an elevated and unique look to your event. Though we’ve all seen a guest trying to eat a garnish. Remember, nothing makes people hungrier than being surrounded by food they can’t eat, so counterbalance the decor with passed trays and smile bites
- Always offer to-and-from transportation or valet parking options: Guests want to have a good time, so make the transportation aspect easy for them. Transportation to and from the event also safeguards against drunk driving