The great thing about being an event manager is that apart from the painful logistic issues and the sleepless nights, we also get the chance to design unique experiences for our international guests.
What could be better than to craft special hospitality packs for your attendees to make their travel and accommodation as enjoyable as possible? And what else could be more important if one wants to run a truly successful event?
As Julia Rutherford Silvers notes in her book Professional Event Coordination, "The treatment each individual receives will determine the level of success for the event, because those individual experiences add up to a collective experience that the audience either enjoys or endures."
Silvers continues by highlighting that "the professional event coordinator must view the event experience from threshold to threshold and make certain the customer’s experience meets (and exceeds) his or her expectations." And what could be more efficient than crafting a good hospitality plan to make your attendees feel warmly welcomed and guided throughout the entire event?
But let's start by defining what a hospitality plan is. According to the dictionary, hospitality refers to "the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers". Thus, a hospitality plan defines a series of deliberate actions that help the guests navigate easily and pleasantly through the experience of being somewhere else. In what circumstances should you be thinking about setting up a hospitality plan for your event attendees? Whenever you deal with international guests. Of course, if your event aims at local attendees, you should also take these hospitality practices into account, although not as extensively.
So what are the steps to set up an excellent hospitality plan for your attendees?
Step #1. Provide access to easy travel, effortless transit, and immediate accommodation
Think about your international attendees as if they were friends coming to visit you. Wouldn’t you want to give them all the necessary information to facilitate the journey? As Julia Rutherford Silvers indicates, "Local guests may need simple directions. Travelers may need extensive instructions regarding anything from travel routes to cultural customs of the host country." To do so, you should be able to provide your guests with all the data necessary for traveling. Publish the information on your event website and encourage attendees to ask for details if they need more guidance. Also, don’t forget that some of the attendees may also ask you for official documentation. They may need it to apply for a visa.
Also be sure to provide easy transit arrangements from the airport to the hotel. You have several options. You can inform the attendees about the taxi fees and the bus schedules. You can also send taxi cars for the speakers. Another alternative is to organize a bus shuttle for the attendees. Regarding the accommodation, provide a list of hotels near the event venue. Don’t forget to specify the fees and how the attendees can book rooms. Of course, nowadays it’s easy to find and book a hotel, but it’s still a good business practice to take care of your attendees and maybe offer them discounts if they decide to stay at a hotel you recommend (you can have an initial agreement with the hotel).
Another option is to book an entire hotel for your guests. Usually, in medium or big cities, several events can happen simultaneously; thus, it could be difficult for the attendees to find a room. By booking an entire hotel, you’ll ensure that your guests have a place to stay.
Step #2. Craft a powerful social program
One of the perks of attending international events is the possibility of trying new food and seeing new places. Don't deprive your guests of these moments. According to Tony Rogers, "The social program should allow delegates to mix informally and network (for many this is often the most worthwhile part of the event), but also to experience something of the destination in which the conference is being staged."
In other words, you should design a powerful social program that includes different activities that will help your attendees truly experience their new environment. For example, you could organize a gastronomic tour in the old town of the city or set up a special cocktail evening in the hall of a famous museum. As Rogers notes, social programs are "an ideal opportunity for organizers to bring something distinctive and memorable to an event", so make sure you add a well-selected set of experiences.
Step #3. Keep an open line of friendly communication
Your international attendees' experience starts with the first email or notification they receive from the event organizers. Make sure this communication is friendly and adequately addresses their needs. Sometimes the amount of attendee requests or questions may be overwhelming; however, don’t forget that your responsibility is to deliver all the information they need. Be friendly with your guests from the beginning of the event to the end. This will have a positive impact on the attendees and greatly enhance their experience.
As event managers, we may find ourselves lost in daily tasks and logistic challenges. Yet, let’s not forget about crafting a friendly and warm hospitality plan to help the attendees have a positive event experience. First, take care of the basics, such as travel and accommodation. Provide all the information your attendees may need. Secondly, design a powerful and culturally rich social program to engage your attendees with the local customs. And finally, don’t forget to smile and build a friendly connection with the guests. Make their experience truly unique.