When you design your conference or event, you want to design it as an experience to enhance learning … you already know that.
You might also know that one element to consider when creating an experience is the experience sphere, which consists of the room/setting, the other attendees, and the hosts.
In this blog post I look into how to be the perfect host – a very important part of creating an experience.
So, let’s get to it:
1. Plan the event according to your audience, not your own interests
You probably plan lots and lots of events every year and you might be sick and tired of having chicken for dinner or going to Berlin for the annual general meeting, but if chickens goes better than beef with your participants, or Berlin is easier for everybody to reach, you have to accept this.
Of course, you shouldn’t go to Berlin every time if it is not necessary, but that is a whole other story.
2. Involve the participants
The era of sitting in theater style rows of chairs listening to endless presentations for hour upon hour has passed. Participants today want to be … participants! They want to take part in the game and have room for giving their input. Being a good host is about listening. What are their interests and needs, and how can you support this at your event – be it by arranging activities and group work, designing an app, or having them draw pictures of their input.
3. Plan the logistics to match the event
Logistics are a huge part of designing an event, and event professionals have to be aware of so many details when it comes to the logistics. Food allergies, shared rooms, airport pickups, room sizes, AV equipment, and so on and so forth. But do you remember to arrange for transportation by train, pedi cab, or the like when your delegates arrive for your event about saving our planet (and not pick-ups by car)? Or how about serving finger foods when an important part of the lunch break is the networking aspect?
Sometimes you can get so caught up in an event that you live and breathe it … but your attendees don’t. Remember to communicate every detail to them: Time and place is a given (though I often see invites where it’s almost impossible to find the date for the event!), but don’t forget things like dress code, information about parking/other means of transportation, program, and your expectations to them (do they need to prepare anything, pick something up before entering, pay for incidentals, etc. etc.).
This does not mean that you can’t have secrets and arrange surprises during the event, but there are practical details that are necessary for your attendees to know in time. And remember to make these readily available – maybe in an E-mail to them a day or two before the beginning of your event.
5. Be a good host onsite
Once at the event, make sure you and your colleagues are all on the same page when it comes to ‘what makes a good host’. I have seen MANY examples of employees from the hosting company sitting at the same table for dinner or standing in groups talking to each other. You talk to your colleagues every day, so go out and meet new people/clients/potential clients/etc. during the event. This way you can also include those hiding alone in the corner in conversations by introducing them to other people – and that is the work of a good host.
Of course, there are times when it is more appropriate for the employees from the hosting company to sit together (like in situations where they have tasks during the dinner which means that they might not be present for the entire dinner … in this case, leaving the table would be ‘un-host-like’), but in most cases, it is better to seat one employee at each table.
After all, our industry is also called the hospitality business, so let’s be hospitable.