Hospitality. It’s a broad word with a couple of meanings. Specifically, Merriam-Webster defines hospitality as:
1. Hospitable treatment, reception or disposition
2. The activity or business of providing services to guests in hotels, restaurants, etc.
As an event planner, you need to address both, but let’s focus on the first definition for now. How do you provide exceptional hospitality and make your guests feel seen and cared for?
1. Walk through the guest experience.
At your next site visit, walk the literal path your attendees will take from the parking lot to their seats. Consider what directional signage is needed along the way, beginning with the road leading to the venue. Think about traffic flow—do you need to hire a police officer to direct traffic? Where will you need volunteers giving directions? Consider what questions attendees will have at each step along the way.
Then think about their experience at the front doors. Consider what kind of health check you will have in place, and what registration credentials attendees will need to present to get inside. Aim to maximize your number of check-in stations in order to prevent bottlenecks at the door, which can frustrate attendees before they even step inside.
2. Think about creature comforts.
If your event begins in the morning, make sure coffee is available. If your venue doesn’t already have a contract with a vendor, find your own or even hire a couple of coffee carts to set up shop outside before doors open. A caffeinated guest is a happier guest! Similarly, have a plan for meals. Serve boxed meals as efficiently as possible. If you break for lunch and attendees are expected to go off-site, equip attendees with a list of quick-serve options in close proximity.
And, don’t forget about the weather. If you anticipate guests waiting outside in a line at any point, make a rain plan. If the temperatures are low, install patio heaters. Also think through how you can make downtimes a part of the experience by hiring a band to play outside, a comedian or some kind of performance artist who can engage your guests as they linger.
3. Remember that knowledge is power.
And confusion is the enemy! Equip your attendees with everything you’d want to know if you were attending the event. This applies to directions, schedules and any requirements they should know, like if only clear bags are allowed in the venue or their temperature will be taken at the door. Have a solid pre-, during and post-event communication plan so they feel informed, which instills a sense of value and care.
To create a memorable hospitality experience, keep your attendees at the center and remember these three things.