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Five Ways to Connect Your Attendees & Create Better Attendee Experiences

It’s only February and somehow, I’m already on my 5th plane trip of the year. This morning at the airport, there was construction in the terminal, which cut off access to some of the gates. It was very unclear where to go and how to line up. The Group 1/Group 2 signs were still out, but there wasn’t room for two lines. Everyone crowded up into one big mob, and space got more and more packed as people pushed through the crowd, thinking they were still getting into their appropriate line, only to be disappointed and told to move to the back. The mood got grumpier and grumpier as the space became more crowded and no one seemed to be in charge. It was a situation that could have been easily remedied by a host.

The Importance of a Host

In The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker writes about the importance of the job of a host. It is more than just event planning, opening the doors to your venue, putting some food out, and hoping attendees find their way and enjoy their experience. The host serves as the main contact, the greeter, the answerer of questions, and the rule enforcer. Being a host takes the pressure off of your guests to navigate their way through these situations and allows them to enjoy the experience and focus on what they’ve come to accomplish.

Imagine the airport situation with a host stationed by the narrow line by the gate. Instead of people crowded in, they would have been greeted, it would have been explained that there was only room for one group at a time, and they should make themselves comfortable in a seat until we board. The host would have prevented those who weren’t in Group 1 from getting in line, relieving the passengers from enforcing this themselves. The overall mood would have been less grumpy, if not somewhat cheerful from a friendly greeting. Everyone would have the information they needed, and the experience would have been drastically improved.

What if we thought less about planning events and more about hosting them?

What if we brought this level of intention and customer service to our events? When you step into the venue for the first time, there is someone there with a friendly smile, pointing you towards registration. After receiving your badge, another friendly face appears and helps to direct you to your next session. When entering the meeting room, your badge isn’t just scanned, like you are a product in a checkout line, but you are greeted and directed to the open seats, or invited to stand in the back if that is what you prefer. At the reception, you are pointed to the bars with the shortest line. These little touches can make a big difference in the perception of experience.

Experience design goes beyond making it easy to attend. Part of a host’s job is to connect people. So instead of letting our guests randomly find their seats, how can we better connect them? Here are five ideas:

1. Create zones in your general session designated to topics and invite people to sit in the areas to talk to others who are interested in the same issues they are.

2. Post questions on the back of the bus seats, to make small talk in the shuttle a little less painful.

3. Put out a conversation menu along with your menu cards, inviting people to discuss topics or answer questions during different meal courses.

4. Ask a few simple questions during registration and then give attendees buttons based on their answers. These questions allow like-minded people to find each other easily, and everyone feels like they are part of something special.

5. As people come into a session room, give them a red dot or a green dot to wear. Those who don’t wish to interact wear the red dot, and those who are ready to network wear the green dot. This gives everyone permission to interact in a way that they feel most comfortable at that moment in time.

Try taking on more of a host role at your next event and see how your attendees respond.

Please share your best-hosting strategies in the comments below.


Beth Surmont, CAE, CMP

Director of Experience Design

360 Live Media

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