Imagine the shift that would occur if event coordinators stopped thinking in terms of “conference attendees” and began to see them as guests to welcome and host. One of the qualities of a great host is extending an enthusiastic and generous welcome. Follow these steps to creating a welcome team that will give participants the ultimate guest experience.
Bring in Knowledgeable Staff
Staff the welcome booth or lounge with people who are friendly, helpful and customer service-oriented. Members of the team should be knowledgeable about the host city, as their role will be to help first-time visitors navigate their new surroundings. Inviting representatives from the local CVB to help staff a welcome booth is a smart option.
“We often use our wonderful group of CVB volunteers to provide information in the welcome areas at large conferences,” says Kathy Reak, senior director of convention sales at the Colorado Springs CVB. “[Doing so] provides the guests a place to stop and find out where the locals eat, drink and play, especially if they have some extra time during or after an event to enjoy the area.” Some CVBs may also provide complimentary welcome bags and visitors guides to help guests enjoy the city.
Along with city experts, you should also have experts on the event itself at the welcome booth who can direct guests to restrooms, main sessions, breakout sessions, vendor booths, banquet rooms, transportation to off-site events and more.
Put Guests First
Train the welcome team to turn their focus completely to guests as they walk up to the designated welcome area. With a big smile and steady eye contact, they should confidently extend a hand and introduce themselves, asking for the guest’s name and using it repeatedly throughout the conversation.
Compile a list of anticipated FAQs and educate the team on how to respond. The phrase “I don’t know,” should be eliminated from their vocabulary (alternative: “Give me a minute to me find out”). Equip the team with contact information of someone who can answer any questions beyond their expertise. Train staff to go the extra mile to meet guests’ needs by walking them to their location instead of simply pointing toward the direction they should go. This requires staffing the booth or lounge with enough team members so if a few are off guiding guests, there are enough to continue greeting new faces.
Another way the welcome team can take customer service to the next level: Instead of simply recommending a restaurant, why not offer to make reservations for the guest? This goes for calling taxis, arranging tours of local attractions and helping guests get their hands on coveted theater tickets.
Entice With Swag
Most people love the prospect of getting a surprise. Why not use that premise to draw guests into the welcome booth? Consider providing a small gift or swag bag to first-time guests as an incentive to visit the booth or lounge. Branded ideas include mobile device chargers, mint tins or reusable water bottles. Nonbranded ideas include snacks and beverages local to the area, local gift cards, or a coupon to the on-site bookstore or coffee shop.
Adjust as Needed
Lead a debriefing with the welcome team at the end of each day. Find out which questions were asked most frequently and make a plan for increasing communication around those subjects. Compare the list of anticipated FAQs with the questions asked and adjust accordingly.