After 30 years in the event planning business I am often asked what is the #1 tip you would give to beginning planners. That one’s easy…put your guest goggles on. Seeing the event through the eyes of the guest is the easiest way to ensure a great guest experience and to identify any issues in your event plan.
We recently did a site visit to a potential venue and my staff had their checklists in hand but I
encouraged them to look up from the checklists and THINK LIKE A GUEST, from start to finish. I encouraged them to put themselves in the fancy shoes of the guest and consider all the senses.
Where would the guests park? Would their feet be hurting by the time they got to us at check-in? How would they find the meeting space? (way-finding signage) What would they see when they arrived? (a wow entrance moment) What would they do with their coats upon arrival? (coat check location, costs, etc.) How long would they have to wait in line? (reg. queue plan) How long would it take them to settle in and get a drink? (welcome beverage plan) Where should they sit (greeters/table #’s vs open seating) What would they do if they were gluten free? (special meal tickets) How dark will the room be? (lighting, lighting, lighting!) Could they see the presentations? How long would they have to wait to be fed? (meal service timing) How could we surprise and delight them? (décor) How engaged would they be in the event? (activations such as photo booths, activities) What would they hear? (music plan/entertainment, volume, energy in the room) Could they see well? (sight lines from seated areas/screen placement) Could they find the restrooms? Do they know anyone at the event? (networking opportunities)…you get the gist.
I’m told event planning is not brain surgery. True, my degree did not include those credentials. But what you learn after watching guests at so many events is guest behavior. They want it to be easy, fun, productive, seamless; they want it to be clear what they are supposed to do and when. In this day of social media, they want it to be memorable, postable and social! They want to know the hashtag so they can let everyone know they were at your amazing event (where is that promoted/published?)
Walk a mile in their shoes (hopefully the parking garage isn’t that far from your ballroom) and really understand how they will experience your event. This perspective can uncover critical issues and creative solutions with the guest being top priority.
Often times the owner of the meeting/event is not the guest, and cramming 4 straight hours into the agenda without a break is tough on attendees despite the owner's content goals. Worse yet is a 5 minute break to walk a mile to the other session room. The boss doesn’t always think like the attendee - help them see it from the guest perspective and plan accordingly.
When the big day arrives, sharpen those guest goggles. Assign a GUEST ADVOCATE to stay heads-up onsite, anticipating any guests pain points and bringing those concerns to the event lead. Someone dedicated to being “out front,” not bogged down in the back of house troubleshooting venue issues when your coat check line is out the front door. This advocate should also be checking event social channels throughout the event. You want to know first if the restrooms have a problem.
It’s not rocket science but it’s your job to make the astronauts as comfortable as possible while in your spaceship.
1. THINK like a guest.
2. ASSIGN a Guest Advocate on site.
3. HELP the event owner consider attendee needs.
Questions? Email Me! firstname.lastname@example.org