We know there’s a lot to do leading up to an event. Getting guests onto your guest list, adding last-minute packages, making sure everyone has a bid number.
All necessary stuff! Good data integrity can literally make or break an event.
But don’t neglect the physical and logistical elements of the guest experience!
As an event service professional, I find many clients get sucked into dealing with data integrity—and forget about setting a sensible schedule, or figuring out how guests will move physically through their event.
This “flow” is a big part of how guests enjoy the night ahead. A well-organized flow can affect how much they give, and how satisfied they are when they leave (which can be a big factor in whether or not they’ll attend again next year). Forgetting to attend to even one aspect of the overall guest experience can make an event feel disorganized and confusing for your attendees.
In this post, I’ll bring my experience as an event professional to help you design your space better—so guests can move easily and quickly through your venue—and create a program that avoids the dreaded guest fatigue.
Start by asking yourself these simple questions:
1. Where will people arrive from? Assign volunteers to each place where guests might enter the venue, so they can direct guests to registration. This is especially important at venues where guests have to go to another level of the venue or navigate hallways to find registration.
2. Have you printed and arranged signage to help guests get around? While it’s still important to have actual human volunteers on hand to answer questions, good signage can do the work of a hundred volunteers. This is a short, basic list of places where you should have signs:
- Post signs at each venue entrance with your event name, “registration,” and an arrow pointing in the direction of check-in. (Your organization logo is a huge plus for quick visual recognition.)
- Indicate with a sign where your line for check-in starts, so people know where to queue up.
- Just past check-in, post a sign showing how to get to the silent auction room/area.
- Label your ballroom, bathrooms, your help desk (for online bidding events), device charging station, and any additional points of interest such as raffle, contests/games, or general donations.
- Have “check-out” and “item pickup” signs ready to wheel out after the paddle raise is over.
3. Have you made a schedule of events? Even if you don’t include it in the program, it’s key for all of your event personnel to know what’s supposed to happen, when, and what to say. Decide as a team when to announce each transition, and what you want your emcee to say over the PA.
4. Do you have transitions planned? How will the guests move from one part of the evening to the next? Ensure you have a method for communicating to guests, such as a text message and/or PA—especially when it’s time for everyone to leave the silent auction area and get into the ballroom for dinner.
5. Have you figured out traffic control? Crowd management is key when you have a few hundred people all trying to do the same things at once. Bring in stanchions and rope to mark off clear lines at registration and checkout, so people know where to go and don’t find themselves milling around while they wait. Number your registration stations/item pickup stations, and have a volunteer standing at the front of the line to send guests to the next available station.
6. Do you have scripts ready for telling guests when the silent auction closes? If you decide to extend the silent auction? How about the paddle raise? Or when checkout opens?
Guests only have so many “bidding hours.”
The latest trend I’ve seen, particularly since the introduction of bidding via mobile devices, is to draw out silent auctions for hours.
A longer silent auction can indeed mean more money raised—but like anything, there’s a limit. Eventually guests will get tired. It can be a pain to continue managing your silent auction bids all throughout dinner, when you’d rather be eating and socializing.
Don’t extend your silent auction indefinitely. Let your guests have a moment to enjoy their table company and the event you’ve worked so hard to put on. End your silent auction at the moment of the most excitement, just before fatigue sets in.
The same goes for check-out time.
Read your audience! Are they the “early to bed” type? Or do they like to stay late and party? Plan the end of your program and check-out time around when the majority of your guests will try to leave.
Remember: as exciting as your event may be, your attendees are still people. They get bored and tired as much as anyone else. Programs that last too long in the hopes of raising more money may give you sleepy guests who are too fatigued to raise their paddles during the live auction or paddle raise. You’ll have folks trying to check-out early and not being able to—which leads to grumpy guests.
Timing is everything. Your live auction and paddle raise should come at the moment when guests are the most excited and energetic. It’s a careful balance, specific to every audience, that may take a few trial-and-errors to figure out.