Your facility’s special events can either be a great example, or a horrible warning. Learn how to manage special events that sparkle.

Special events are a terrific way to make a difference for corporate groups, sports teams, charitable organizations,  individuals or really anyone looking to celebrate or come together—but only if you do it right! As the saying goes, you can either be a great example, or a horrible warning. To be a great example and nail your events, read about our real life experience and check out the tips below to learn how to create special events that excite guests.

Why Guest Experience Matters

I recently had the opportunity to attend a friend’s wedding at a boutique hotel in the UK. So much of what I have learned about sales and service early on came from when I coordinated weddings for a local wedding venue and inn, so I was excited to see what the property would do to wow the guests and their families—all of whom traveled to the event.

With favors, bags, cupcakes and a wide-eyed bride-to-be in tow, we arrived at the hotel the day before the wedding and were met with—nothing. At guest service, the bride had to spell her name three times for the representative to locate her reservation and had to explain repeatedly that she was getting married onsite the following day. After what felt like an eternity, the staff was convinced enough to help situate the cake and other supplies. 

Over the next two days, the bride and her guests had to insist multiple times to different team members that, yes, there would be a wedding on the property and to please check their records again to locate guest rooms or reservations.

In contrast, I had reserved a room at a neighboring hotel. Prior to my arrival, I received an email from the guest services manager asking for my upcoming arrival time. I arrived three hours early, gave my name and the representative exclaimed, “Oh, that’s wonderful. We’ve been expecting you and have your room ready. Here’s your key, Wi-Fi code, and breakfast information. We hope you enjoy your stay.”

The entire process was completed in less than three minutes and I was on my way. It was so different than the welcome my friend—the bride—a true VIP, had experienced. I was just your average guest, but I felt amazing with the service I’d received. And sure, throughout the wedding day, there were a handful of team members at the host hotel that were lovely, but it just goes to show the impact on your guest experience if even one piece of the puzzle is out of place. 

In your facility, what kind of guest experience do you offer? Do you treat your VIPs like nobodies, or do you welcome every guest as if you’ve been eagerly anticipating their arrival all day? Special events offer your facility a terrific way to show what your team is made of. Here are 10 steps to help you avoid the pitfalls of a painful experience.

No. 1: Build a smart plan.

Use an event project plan to systematize key milestone planning for an event once it’s booked. Include important dates for when you need final head counts, food orders, special linens or other decorations and when final payments are due. Create auto-email templates from your facility management system to send important email reminders to guests, or use customizable event type milestones relative to an event’s date to alert staff of necessary actions to take onsite with guests or vendors, for example.

No. 2: Conduct a party prep call.

Be sure to include a party prep call in your milestone plan to contact a party planner a few days prior to the event to set (and confirm) expectations for the day of the event. Include things like where guests should park, who will be the manager on duty, their onsite point of contact and where a meeting point will be when they arrive.

No. 3: Get the team on the same page.

In your weekly BEO meeting between sales and operations, review any important highlights of the week’s events. No one likes to have the same conversation multiple times, so make sure everyone working the event knows important information like guest allergies, the occasion being celebrated, and, of course, any food and fun that’s planned to show that you have a competent team that knows what they’re doing. In fact, when possible, confirm who will be working the event and provide their name to the event planner. Small moves like this can go a long way in making a guest feel like your facility has their event under control.

No. 4: Prepare in advance.

One to three days prior, do any small tasks that can be done ahead of time, like preparing welcome signage, testing A/V equipment not regularly used and preparing attraction tickets, wristbands, player cards, etc. Time flies the day of an event, and there will always be last minute tasks that pop up, so save yourself some stress by prepping anything you can in advance.

No. 5: Perform a daily shift huddle.

Do a quick shift huddle with your teams to review any last-minute changes, how food will be handled, and who will be stationed to welcome event planners and attendees. Notify party check in and frontline team members of important groups arriving, the facility point of contact and who is working events that day so they can be knowledgeable when asked questions.

No. 6: Manage the details of the day.

It’s in the small details that the wheels can fall off, so leave your team enough time to manage them effectively. Keep all event details in one central place so the team can quickly reference them. Use radios to efficiently communicate between team members when things get chaotic throughout the day.

No. 7: Take in the scene.

Survey your facility and event space for things that shouldn’t be there. Are you putting your facility’s best foot forward? Are all scissors, mop buckets, A/V wires or duct tape tucked out of the way? Are the fingerprints cleaned off the door? Details matter and paint a picture of your facility’s experience.

No. 8: Make the magic happen.

It’s showtime! Meet your guest(s) of honor or party planner and immediately take control. Introduce yourself, take packages or decorations, show guests to the staging area or party rooms and engage them in conversation. A good event host can quickly judge the party planner’s mood and determine how to approach the situation. Is the planner excited? Stressed? Annoyed? Do they have questions or concerns? Dive in and start helping.

For example, minimize their stress by going over the details your expert staff has already taken care of so they can now sit back and relax. Get them some water (or wine, as the case may be), and show your concern, confidence and competence to take care of the details for them. How you handle these first few moments can set the stage for how the entire event will unfold.

No. 9: Be present and accessible.

Event hosts should be present throughout an event, but it’s also a good idea for managers on duty to check in periodically throughout the event to show an engaged management staff and gauge how the event is going. 

Prepare invoices and double check accuracy before presenting the invoice to make check out as quick and painless as possible. Thank them for their business, solicit guest feedback on-the-spot and let them know you’ll reach out in a few days for any additional thoughts (read: referral opportunity!).

No. 10: Lather, Rinse, Learn from your mistakes and challenges. And then repeat what works!

Have other must have tips? Share them with us in the comments or on Twitter!

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