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Events as Experiences

August 15th, 2019
What's the difference between the best events and those that fail? The best events focus on the guest experience. Unlike some organizers think, this experience is not limited to the event itself, but it covers the whole journey from the first moment the guest hears about the event until the journey concludes after the event. So in order to have the most optional guest experience you should view all aspects of your event also through the eyes of your guests. What will he or she experience and think?

 

Pre-event: draw their attention

Crafting an experience starts long before the event begins. Even if not all details (e.g. location, venue or the like) are known yet, you can already draw the attention of your potential audience by sending them a "save the date". Throughout the process you can keep them engaged by sending them new announcements every once in a while or even involve them in the planning by having them vote on possible subjects and/or speakers. Forget the standard e-mail invitation! Instead, capture your guests' attention in a meaningful and creative way. Why not send your guests personalized postcards from the destination to get them excited for their upcoming experience?



Congratulations! Your guests got excited about your invitation and want to register. If the communication is great but the online registration form does not work properly or is asking for too much details, chances are that that they will opt out before completing the registration. When discussing the design of your registration form, do not only keep in mind what output would be necessary for you as an organizer, but also how you would experience the registration process as a potential guest. You can send an open link to have them complete all details themselves, but if you have a mailing list already, why not import the personal details directly so they are in place when they click on the link in the personalized invitation? It is also good to manage expectations by informing them at the start how long the process will take and what information they need to have handy (e.g. passport when applicable). Also make sure you have a dedicated e-mail address (and/or phone number) for them to reach out to when they have challenges registering and/or any further questions about the event so they can get a quick response on their questions.

Once registered, this does not mean communication stops there, especially with longer lead times. Before sending them the official confirmation shortly before the event, you can keep sending "teasers" every once in a while to reveal further information about the event bit by bit.
 

 
 


 

 

To the event: woo your audience

Your event is ready to go, but how do your guests get there? In all cases make sure the communication contains accurate information on how to get to the event location. For guests arriving by car put signage in place for the last part of the route and have hosts coordinate the parking onsite. If your venue is a bit further from public transportation you can accommodate your guests by arranging a shuttle service for them. Have a hostess coordinate this onsite, so your guests have a point of contact they can go to if they have questions.

For guests flying in you can enhance the experience of the airport transfer. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so also here you can surprise and delight your guests. Have someone that personally welcomes them at the airport and connects them with their driver, so their transfer starts as smoothly as possible. Think of a small (branded) refreshment package in the vehicle to positively surprise them. Some water, mints and a refreshment towel can be much appreciated after a long flight in. Want to go the extra mile? You can even put live entertainment in the car to have the guest enjoy some live background music during the ride.

 
Onsite: a meaningful experience

And then the moment has finally arrived, the guests step into the event venue. Is it clear where they need to go? Make sure they can leave their luggage and/or coats somewhere before they come to the registration desk. Instead of handing out an extensive package with letters and binders it is better to leave this in their rooms as a room drop where possible. Make sure the guests are informed about where they are in the program and where to go next. You can create a "facebook" with pictures of your VIP guests, so your staff can recognize them and welcome them by name, which will positively surprise them. Also it is good to have at least one person of the organization at the desk that knows the majority of the guests to not only personally welcome but also troubleshoot where needed. This helps guests forget their travel stress, feel welcome and focus on the event ahead.

Now your guests are here, the focus is on providing the experience that you've been setting expectations for. Make sure guests have a clear program and it is clear where to go. Plan regular breaks in your program to allow for a cup of coffee, but also to go to the toilet and/or send that urgent e-mail. Keep in mind that if you yourself stand up and leave the room this will go quickly, but if hundreds of guests all do this at the same time it takes some time until all of them have a cup of coffee.

Many times, we tend to focus on the hello rather than the goodbye. However, as the goodbye is the final thing a guest will remember about your event, the goodbye is just as important. Make sure your guests leave on a high note. Give them a preview of next edition's event so they have something to look forward to, or you can go beyond by handing out a farewell gift or souvenir as guests leave.
 

Post-event: a lasting memory

The event might be over, but not the guest experience... Don't forget to follow up after your event. Thank your guests for attending and share content from the event to prolong the positive experience. The most successful events are those which have inspired your guests to do something with the content provided. During your event ask your guests to write down the most interesting thing they've experienced on a postcard. A couple of weeks later send these postcards to them to remind them of their experience and thoughts for that moment.

 

Each phase of the guest experience is important and you should ensure your guests have a positive experience from start to finish. If you follow these ideas and think carefully about the experience through your guests' eyes, you have the best chance to deliver a flawless experience!

At The Meetings Group we love brainstorming with you about creating the best customized experience for your guests and it's our passion to deliver a WOW implementation by our onsite team!