Experts tell us that impressions are made within the first thirty seconds to two minutes of a new experience.
This natural instinct all of us share makes check-in a key element to the success of a fundraising event.
Creating a great first impression tests your understanding of what your guests expect the moment they walk through the venue’s front doors at your event. They want to feel welcome; to be excited about the event to come, and to get through the check-in process quickly so they can join the party! Excelling above their expectations with an inviting and efficient start to the event can take their experience to a higher level and put them in the right frame of mind for giving.
To make your check-in the best it can be, we suggest relying on the 3 Rules for an Inviting, Efficient Check-in:
Rule #1: Get Social
Check-in isn’t only about getting updated information into the database. It’s also about greeting your guests and ensuring they are in the right mood to enjoy themselves while they contribute to a great cause.
Create an atmosphere in the lobby that is part business, part social. Consider creating a check-in area that offers appetizers and drinks for people who have arrived hungry and still have a wait to get checked in. Set up bar height tables to encourage people to mingle and get the conversation started with fun trivia, pictures, or bits of information that relate to your organization or the theme of the night.
Along with the necessary signage, consider posting knowledgeable people in key spots for a more personal connection for your guests when they have a question. Your team will be able to solve problems quickly and provide the personal attention that will make every guest feel like a V.I.P!
When setting up your check-in stations use tables that will keep your team at eye level, so your guests won’t have to bend down to speak with them. Make sure they address each guest by their name at some point in their interaction and keep team leaders nearby to answer any obscure questions that might come up.
Rule #2: Technical Rules
Getting your guests through check-in quickly is ideal but you don’t want to overlook the importance of data collection. Work with your technical advisor to conduct several test runs with the system once the equipment is operable prior to the event. Pay attention to the time it takes to get all the information entered and calculate how many team members will be able to man the needed check-in stations. Compare those numbers with the number of guests that will be coming through the door and make sure you have enough people to keep the lines moving smoothly along. A standard rule of thumb is the 100:1 rule—assign one team member per 100 guests to reach a goal of check-in times that are under 5 seconds.
Consider how the check-in area is arranged. Does the floorplan make sense to get guests comfortably through the process? Is there a place for people to mingle while waiting for help? Do you have the WiFi equipment needed to allow roving team members to help with checking-in guests? Would a two-step check-in process make sense, with data management at one site and material handouts at a second? Perhaps are expecting enough guests that it would be best to have them sign in at one station, then move onto another to get their bid numbers. There are multiple factors that can help you determine which check-in set up is best for you.
Rule #3: Culinary Rules
If a cocktail hour is part of your event plan, make sure you are offering your guests easy to handle finger foods, so they can mingle without causing accidents. Wait staff offering a tray of goodies and taking away used plates will elevate the experience. Bar service is nice but keep in mind that it can also encourage bottlenecks and a slow progression into other areas of the venue. And, always help your guests pace themselves by offering food and plenty of other activities for them to participate in throughout the event.
Keep the energy turned up with a team that is well-fortified and happy. Offer snacks like granola bars and fruit before the evening kicks off, and a meal during. And, don’t forget to have plenty of water available to keep them hydrated while talking with guests!