HOW TO DESIGN THE GUEST EXPERIENCE AT YOUR EVENT? – By Asif Zaidi

“Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.” 

Albert Einstein

A good event is the one where the organizer has surpassed the basic expectations by investing extra thought into making everyone’s experience better than they expected. That happens because event management is more than meeting the basic requirements like lighting, seating, food etc. It is about making sure that your guests have a memorable and stimulating experience at your event and requires more ingenuity than dealing with the production necessities. Regardless of the type of event you are hosting, some aspects of the guest experience are common to most events. Start by considering what measures you can implement to make each guest’s day a bit easier from the moment their interaction with your event begins.

FACILITATING THE VISITOR JOURNEY

The earliest moments of interaction after the guest arrival usually are:

Guest Accreditation:

HOW TO DESIGN THE GUEST EXPERIENCE AT YOUR EVENT? By Asif ZaidiDoes your event require guest registration and accreditation? Accreditation generally plays a positive role as it enhances a guest’s feeling of being a part of your event. Make sure the accreditation desk is adequately manned and is easy to find for your guests on arrival. You may consider having a separately reserved area for the VIPs’ accreditation and giving them a different colour lanyard so that your staff can easily recognize and look after them throughout the event. Accreditation also makes it easier for you to control different people’s access to different areas. You can also send your guests a confirmation email with a barcode so that they scan their smartphones or printed copies under the barcode reader on arrival at the event. By assigning a unique barcode or RFID, you can offer each guest a truly personalized experience.

Cloakroom: It is particularly important for the events in winter or for those corporate events where the people are coming in direct from the office and have their bags with them. If the facility does not already have a cloakroom, then you have to find a solution by arranging for rails and hangers. Make sure enough people are available to handle the rush at the end of the event.

Signage: Basic signage, helping your guests to find their way around, at your event can make a huge difference to your guests’ experience. You can either have your staff directing the people or you can also provide printed signage. Human signage is more expensive but can make a great difference in bigger events where at different times of the day your guests need directions to different places. The choice of printed signage depends on the nature of your event. for example, if it is an outdoor venue then you will need signage that is wind-resistant and, often, waterproof. At conferences in large complexes, you will need signage with floor plans. At a festival, the signage can consist of flags that also serve to embellish the venue. Make sure that, as often as possible, your signage is reusable. You can also opt for digital signage, which is made of screens displaying information around the place. By using screens, you are also able to include other messages such as tickers of tweets or the ensuing agenda.

Lost Items: Some guests at your event are bound to lose or misplace some of their items. Hence, it makes sense to designate a place for the lost items and make your staff handling the event aware of the process. For larger events it can also be handled by the event control office responsible for making the announcements.

Using Event Apps: There are some 10 billion smartphones on earth now. Almost every one of your guests having a smartphone can be of great help in communication at your event. An event-specific app is a now a common feature. They can be used as networking tools as well as helping guests plan their day at the event. Apps are excellent for:    

  • Conveying real-time information.
  • Making the entry system easier.
  • Allowing conversations while the room should stay quiet.
  • Helping visitors find their way around by updating floorplans.
  • Empowering targeted networking.
  • Raising additional advertisement revenue by offering sponsors space in the app.
  • Capture data and information.
  • Saving the hassle of massive print-outs.
  • Being eco-friendly.

The End: After the event goes well, you have to make sure that your guests depart as happy as the event has made them. Make sure you alert your staff a few minutes before the event ends. Ensure that the cloakroom is sufficiently crewed. Ensure that giveaways, if any, are ready for being handed to your guests. Make sure all the logistics to be provided by you are in place.

MINDING THE SETTING FOR YOUR EVENT

The most important thing for an event next to the content is the atmosphere in which that content is delivered. Once you have selected the venue, you need to think hard how best your content can feature in it.  Think of the following to make your visitors’ journey around the space efficient and pleasurable:

Visualize the Space: Use computer-aided designs to develop the plan that matches your vision of the site on the event day.

Room and Seating Plans: HOW TO DESIGN THE GUEST EXPERIENCE AT YOUR EVENT? By Asif ZaidiHow you decide to use a room can transform the space available. Layouts can help you focus the audience’s attention where you want. It may help to involve a designer as they are highly skilful in how best to use a room. If you are constrained to use the same room for more than one purposes, consider altering the layout in between when your guests are away so that it appears a new room. The most popular seating schemes comprise: Theatre Seating,Banquet Seating, Crescent Seating, and Classroom Seating.

Exhibition layouts, however, are entirely different and can constitute a huge job for bigger exhibitions. Be very mindful of the visitor journey when planning the design of exhibition space. It is better to split the space into zones grouping similar themes or businesses. Make them identifiable through branding or by using simple techniques such as using a different carpet colour for each zone. Put the most appealing things at the back of the exhibition to encourage guests to explore the entire site and hopefully find more things of interest to them.

Setting the Stage: Depending on its nature type, your event may require a stage. If you have speakers, find out what type of set they prefer. Do they like to walk around or need a lectern? Also check what microphones are needed on the stage. Think about the kind of surface the stage should have. For example, a dance performance will need a hard surface whereas VIP seating goes better with a carpet. Design the stage in a manner that requires minimum furniture movement during the show.

Finishing Touches: These include the final details -like decorations or branding- added to the room to accentuate the theme. Leave enough time for this stage when planning the timings of planning an event.

ENTERTAINMENT  

Appropriate entertainment, from soft background music to live performances, generally does good to events. To consider options you need to understand the nature of the event as well as what the audience will be like.

Host of the Program: It is usually a good idea to have a host or an MC to bring together all the parts of an event’s content. Skilled hosts are very adept at connecting content and keeping an audience interested.

Star of the Show: The star performer of your show is likely to be someone who your audience are already familiar with and like. It can be a showbiz personality or a sportsman or someone else. Your audience will generally like having someone famous among them.

Music: If you go for live music, make sure the musicians have everything they need for performing. This could include sound systems, backline requirements, amp requirements, lighting etc. Carry out sound checks before the show.

FOOD & BEVERAGES

HOW TO DESIGN THE GUEST EXPERIENCE AT YOUR EVENT? By Asif ZaidiFood and beverages are usually a big part of planning an event. These are needed not just to entertain but also help your audience network or freshen up. You have to think deeply what best suits your event in terms of food & beverages.

Menu: You can design the menu to suit the type of the event, style of serving, time of the day, and the season. You can also add a theme to your menu, to make sure it reflects the identity of your event. When it comes to food & beverages, people generally welcome the attention to detail. Be heedful of the dietary constraints of your guests.

Service Style: It is important to choose the right style of catering service in accordance with the nature of your event. The style of service can vary from Canape, Bowl food, Buffet, Plated, to Street food. You can also make use of adding some additional features -like cocktail bars, champagne fountains, chocolate fountains, and special effects- to add cache to your catering.

Alcohol: If you serve alcohol at your event then as the organizer you have a duty of care towards your guests. Also make sure that you comply with all applicable laws and rules. Like food, think carefully what is appropriate for the occasion.

MAKING THE MEMORIES LAST

You can use various methods to record the happenings at your event.

Taking pictures: A picture is still worth a thousand words as taking photos remains the most common method of recording memories, made even more ubiquitous by the smartphones. If you use a designated photographer, make sure that you brief the person in detail. Great pictures from an event can also make a significant selling point for the event next year.

Filming: While photos are the most useful way to preserve memories, videos are far more effective when you want someone to understand the happenings at an event. Normally, a professional should make a video. However, some extempore moments can also be recorded using smartphones.

Social Media: Be mindful that almost every memory is now shared on the social media. You can harness the popularity of social media to make it a marketing platform for your event.

Online Streaming: Online streaming of content from your event is a great tool for widening the reach of your event. Access to online streaming can also be made more exclusive by implementing login requirements.

(For help with your event please write to us at info@meadowvalepartyrentals.com)

Asif Zaidi

Asif is a proven business leader, a business leadership advisor, and an entrepreneur. Asif lives in Toronto and owns and runs Meadowvale Events Management Group - a full service group for planning and managing events of all sizes and styles to create memorable occasions for the hosts and participants alike. He is a Managing Partner of http://www.virtuoso-propertygroup.com/ and is also an owner and director at Cortleigh Properties Inc, a reputable property development firm in Toronto. Previously, as a Managing Director with Citibank, Asif fulfilled leadership assignments across a number of world regions. Asif is a powerful communicator and keynote speaker and has taught at a business school. His personal blog (masrif.net) is widely followed and his book ‘The Stuff of Life’ is due to be released in the US in January 2017.

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