Event planners are well aware of the anxiety they feel just as the doors open on their event.
It comes with the work. But, have you ever thought about the anxiety your guests feel as they walk through your venue’s doors?
Your guests arrive expecting a fun night of fundraising for their favorite nonprofit. They want to relax and enjoy themselves, and they don’t want to have to guess what they should be doing next. These tips can help you alleviate the confusion guests feel from check-in to check-out.
1. Pre-Event Publicizing
Answer questions prior to event night using a comprehensive, multi-layered advertising strategy. Integrated communication plans tell your overall story through all your media channels.
Advertise basic information in newspapers, flyers, and on television and radio, if appropriate.
Use your nonprofit’s newsletter for a more comprehensive overview and provide more details on your website, such as a list of auction items.
Social media networks are the place to regularly post snippets of information, photos, and useful quotes that can build enthusiasm. Use links to your website and other related sites and hashtags to lead them to more information. Use specific keywords to feed search engines and drive people to your website.
Create blog posts that can offer a comprehensive look at this year’s event, as well as previous ones. Use photos, quotes, and information to talk about past successes and tell the stories that make your event special. Providing a sneak preview of what your guests should expect will attract people who are interested in your mission and get them ready to contribute.
2. Logical Logistics
We’re told to “think like a guest” when planning an event. Go beyond that old adage by thinking ahead for your guests.
During the planning period, walk through your event mentally with a blind eye. Ask yourself questions as if you have never been to a fundraising event before. Where do you go? What do you do? What do you want to get out of the evening? This will help you set up your event in a way that answers your guests’ questions before they are asked.
Make sure you’re doing everything to make your check-out as efficient as possible. “Event Check-out and Item Pick Up Best Practices” offers more ideas to get your guests through the last few moments of your silent auction.
3. A Smoothly Run Check-in
Simplify the check-in process with a floor plan that’s configured in an easily understood way. Have clear directions or an obvious traffic flow to move them quickly from one station to the next, with all the information they need within arm’s reach.
Check-in is about data gathering. Your IT people should always run several tests prior to check-in to ensure all the equipment is ready. If guests are to receive, position volunteers nearby to help guests learn how to use them.
Make sure to have volunteers in place to assist guests when needed. Credit card machines are a huge benefit for large silent auctions and simplifies the process to gather important information for those guests that are going to be bidding.
4. Clear Communication
Prior to the event create a clearly defined line of communication throughout your team and make sure everyone knows who to turn to with questions.
Provide regularly updated information on big screens, signs, and notice boards throughout the venue and place them in areas where people gather. Have a few volunteers ready to update them when necessary.
If it is a large event, employ a good emcee to convey messages over a loudspeaker, whether it’s someone on your team or a professional. From announcements of upcoming program changes, to silent auction updates; an emcee is the fastest way to communicate with guests.
Place information in prominent places around the room, like check-in, check-out, and at the entrance to rooms. Include basic information about silent auctions on the bid cards and offer an event schedule, pamphlet or information packet to guests at check-in with specifics about the venue, such as where bathrooms are located. If you are hosting a meal, offer notes on the menu concerning questionable ingredients for people with special dietary requirements.
Connect directly with guests by texting and emailing during the event. A good event management software program will allow you to easily stay in touch with updated phone numbers and email addresses that are automatically available throughout the system.
5. Helping Your Volunteers Helps Your Guests
Keep your volunteers’ tasks to a minimum so they have time to focus on your guests’ needs. Encourage pre-event check-in so guests can update their information on their own time, rather than during check-in.
If your event includes a silent auction, consider delivering bid number cards to the table. This will free up more time at check-in and lessen the chance of making a mistake.
Look for new technologies that will streamline your processes and make your guest experience intuitive, so there is less need for volunteers to step in to help.
Set up an information station where guests can go with questions. This will keep them from interrupting volunteers when they are in the middle of carrying out a task.
6. An Easy and Stress-free Check-out
Decide on a firm time and place for your check-out. Communicate the details to your guests in multiple ways; on notice boards, in your program, over text, in emails, and through announcements from your emcee.
Keep your check-out station and your pick-up stations separated. This will minimize backup in two areas. Consider keeping those activities out of sight to keep guests from pausing to look for their items as they are getting sorted out.
Create a traffic flow strategy that will bring the proper amount of people to the proper places, at the proper time. Keep the space small to eliminate huddling and make sure there is proper management of the space to keep people from leaving with their items without paying.
Be prepared with enough volunteers, the appropriate equipment, and a well-organized pickup room. Make sure all items and packages are clearly marked and arranged by bidder numbers.
7. More Avenues to Give
Giving doesn’t have to end at the close of a silent auction. Provide other ways for your guests to give easily as they exit the venue.
Set up a table to sell your nonprofit’s merchandise, and prominently display mementos from the event they’ve just attended.
Offer any items that were part of your event that are now unusable, like centerpieces. Guests will leave with a bouquet they can enjoy in their homes, while feeling good that they made an extra contribution to the night’s fundraising.
Send your guests out the door with a swag bag that contains all the information they need to further contribute. Get them interested in your next event and provide them with information about why they are important to your mission.