By Lynn Edwards, Proper Planning
After 30 years in the event planning business I am often asked what is the #1 tip you would give 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…fromstart to finish put themselves in the fancy shoes of the guest and consider all the senses.
Where the guests would park (would their feet be hurting by the time they got to us at check-in) and how they would find the meeting space (way-finding signage), what they would see when they arrived (a wow entrance moment), what they would do with their coats upon arrival (coat check location, costs, etc.), how long they would have to wait in line (reg. queue plan), how long it would take them to settle in and get a drink (welcome beverage plan), where they should sit (greeters/table #’s vs open seating), what they did if they were gluten free (special meal tickets), how dark the room was (lighting/lighting/lighting), could they see the presentations, how long they would have to wait to be fed (meal service timing), how could we surprise and delight them (décor), how engaged they were in the event (activations such as photo booths, activities) what they heard (music plan/entertainment, volume, energy in the room), could they see well (sight lines from seated areas/screen placement/lighting), could they hear (volume controls/ambient noise), could they find the restrooms, do they know anyone at event (networking opportunities)…you get the gist.
I’m often 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, clear what they are supposed to do, 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) but really understand how they will experience your event. This perspective has often times uncovered critical issues and creative solutions with the guest being our 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 guests despite his/her content goals. Worse yet, a 5 min break to walk the 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…is it too hot/cold in the space, is the Front Desk backed-up and what can you do to make that long wait less painful? We assign a GUEST ADVOCATE to stay heads up onsite to anticipate any guests pain points and bring 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 are as comfortable as possible while in your spaceship. Think like a guest, plan like a pro!