Author: Matthew Payne
“A good first impression can work wonders.” – J.K. Rowling.
Let’s look at a few ways you can create a great first impression for your attendees, particularly first-timers. Make them feel welcome and part of the event experience and they’ll be back again, year after year. As you know, most event check-in these days is technology based, so we came up with some suggestions that are mostly old-school, but have the potential to help you stand out when they check in.
Bring out the Banners – What better way to arrive after a long journey and being instantly reassured you’re in the right place by seeing event banners in the hotel lobby? Better yet, see if you can staff a desk to facilitate express event registration, or even just welcome and provide information about the event and nearby amenities.
First-Timer Reception – Think about your first time attending a conference, particularly if it was a large one in a different city. Was it overwhelming? Did you have issues deciding which sessions to attend? Not know anyone? Some event planners organize events like first-timer receptions to offer a lay of the land to newcomers, connect them with volunteers that have previously attended and give an overview of what to expect from various sessions. Talk to your hotels about hosting these gatherings, as you may be able to negotiate and lessen any potential impact from attrition based on the hotel hosting rather than a local bar or restaurant.
Pass Notes – In the age of hand-held devices, a note slipped under the door to welcome/farewell your attendees will typically not go unnoticed. You could even take a leaf out of the golden days of cruise ships by slipping schedules or a daily newsletter highlighting key parts of your event under their doors.
Play Games – Encourage participation and friendly competition between attendees by gamifying your event through scavenger hunts, networking bingo or other similar challenges and offer prizes to those who complete them successfully. Post progress updates across your social media channels for challenges that go across the span of your event.
Follow Up – Okay, technically it’s not a welcome as it occurs at the tail end/after your event, but it’s important to reach out and connect with your attendees by inviting their feedback, and first timers have the added bonus of being able to see your event with a pair of fresh eyes. You can also incentivise their feedback by offering discounts on next year’s event for completing surveys or if they register to attend next year’s event within a certain time-frame after the end of the current one.