As an event professional, many times, you are depended on to push beyond the limits when you plan. One area that event planners focus on is delivering top-notch hospitality. In events, hospitality is uniquely intertwined. From the moment that you interact with your guests from their invitation to your event, to when they are journeying home, hospitality is the thread that connects it all. The unspoken truth in the event industry is that you are expected to show up and deliver spectacular hospitality for each and every event that you plan.
Our book club called the Pop-Up Book Club is a community that gathers around books that we read to help us show up and be better event professionals. One of the books we read was Unreasonable Hospitality, by Will Guidara. This book promoted some fantastic discussion on what it takes in order to show phenomenal hospitality in your meetings and events. Here are some of the highlights:
Focus on the feeling
The feeling that our clients and attendees get when they walk into our event and interact with the experience that was planned for them matters. It tells a lot about you and your team as a planner. It also showcases the brand of the organization which you are planning for. As event planners, we have to focus on the feeling that our customers will receive. When we focus on feelings, then we can create meaningful connections that last well beyond our events. Think for a moment about the current event that you are planning, and consider these few questions:
- How do you want your customers to feel?
- What can you change or add to your event that promotes this feeling?
- In what way can you ensure that this feeling lasts well beyond the completion of your event?
These questions are only to get you started in pushing yourself a little further when creating your event. Keep these questions in mind when looking at new ways to excite and inspire your attendees. Consider focusing more on the feeling of your attendees so you can create a meaningful outcome that they will remember.
A warm welcome
Unreasonable Hospitality brought an unexpected yet appreciated amount of emotion. Will Guidara was very open and transparent about his journey and shared much about his youth. A very heartwarming part of the book was in his reflection of his mother. How although she struggled with her deteriorating health, she always made it a point to welcome him home from school. This was something that stuck with Will as he expressed how you welcome someone, is one of the first ways to show hospitality. First impressions do matter.
So how can you bring this over into the event planning world? By enhancing different touchpoints during the event process to welcome your attendees. Will Guidara knew this and threw out all sorts of obstacles that prevented his customers from making a true connection when dining at Eleven Madison Park. This was delivered by his team in many ways. One way is by remembering guests by face so that they can be welcomed into the restaurant easily. Another is taking away the hints of transactions during the welcoming process by removing the podium and the computer screen. Doing this allowed the hostess to greet guests by name, and promptly seat the guests without phones or interruption. It was a more personable and genuine welcome and it worked.
A genuine welcome considers all of the possibilities to make it easy for the attendee to connect with you and with your event. Consider your welcome process and how you can enhance it to promote this feeling of a genuine welcome. Here are a few questions that will help:
- How do attendees feel when they find out about my event?
- What do attendees see and hear from me or my team when they first arrive?
- Is the process of welcoming simple and easy to use?
Go above and beyond
Event professionals are always encouraged to surprise and delight their clients and attendees. And we do just that, we always are looking for new ways to make an impact. When we find an example of what works, then as author Will Guidara says, it primes us to “seek out new ways to make our guests’ experiences a little more seamless, relaxing, and delightful.”
This pushes us to be hyper-intentional about hospitality. Engaging in extraordinary hospitality on the spot. Push the limits to how we can please our customers by listening to their wants and needs. We even change our daily to-do lists in order to accommodate a micro-experience within a larger one. Here are some questions to consider:
- How can you push the bar to go over and beyond for your guests
- What are some gestures that you have done for your customers to show that you care?
- Have you created a culture of hospitality on your team?
Going over and beyond can be shown in many ways. It can mean staying with a guest while they go through an emergency situation at a hospital. It can also mean remembering the names of a client’s child, or sending their favorite snacks are to their sleeping room to make their stay feel more comfortable. These are little glimpses of what you can do to go over and above while having an amazing impact on your guests.
Teamwork makes the dream work
We all have dreams for our event and our attendees. Or perhaps you are trying to put in place what your client has dreamed. Yet in order to make this dream work you do need to have an effective team that works amazingly together. It takes more than just you, to go over and beyond for your attendees. So what does this mean? This means that your team needs to have the right communication, the right process, and the right camaraderie in order to pull off amazing, creative, exciting experiences for your guests.
This means finding the strengths within your team and how amazing they are at things that aren’t always on the surface. It means you have to create a team culture that wants to go above and beyond. It means that your team doesn’t question the little things, that are willing to take risks over rules, in order of ensuring the customer is taken care of. This is showing unreasonable hospitality, and having a whole team exuding that type of culture is important. Maybe you are seeing this and think, that perhaps your team needs a bit of work. Then it could be time to look at your team and start working on what needs to be put in place for your team to go from good to great so they can handle big dreams.
Empower your team
Going next level requires teamwork and empowerment. It is important to let your team know that they are empowered to make decisions. If there are limits, then those need to be expressed so that everyone is aware and your needs are transparent. Let your team know that they are empowered to delight a guest. Eliminate all the obstacles of approval that it would take in order for them to surprise a customer with something amazing. If this means you have to budget for this unexpected expense, then it is simple as creating some space for it. It can be impactful for attendees to see that your full team can be empowered to showcase hospitality at a high level, but this means you have to ensure you and your team are on the same page.
Excellence, not perfection
Yes, there is a difference between excellence and perfection. Many event professions fall into the category of a perfectionist, I’m a recovering perfectionist as well. However when it comes to excellence, “it may not be possible to do everything perfectly, but it is possible to do many things perfectly.”
This is a definition of excellence in that you only have to get as many details right as you can. You have to realize that no one is perfect and even the most perceived perfect moments often when you look at them have hints of imperfection. As an event planner, it is important to know the difference. To be able to deliver countless perfect moments, but having grace for those moments that smaller details are missed. An event planner always strives to be perfect, but the damage can be done when you are too hard on yourself or your team.
Ensure your team knows the difference between delivering excellence versus being perfect. This way they can avoid the burnout and health challenges that can come with the expectation of perfection. When you are able to understand both, then you can march towards becoming more unreasonable in your hospitality.
Leave room to deliver the unexpected
There is a hidden theme in Unreasonable Hospitality, and that is one of leaving room to deliver the unexpected. Yes, we need to be amazing in the service that we give. And although your customers may have expectations of your standard level of service, you want to leave room for delivering the unexpected by means of unreasonable hospitality in any given situation.
So allow yourself and your team that room and that space in order to create those amazing experiences that your customer never really expected. Typically it is in the unexpected where the goodness lies and those areas can be leveraged to make more memorable moments. Here are a few questions to help you deliver the unexpected:
- How can I show up differently in this situation?
- What do I know that gives me leverage to create a welcomed memorable moment?
- What will it take to make this unexpected moment happen?
It’s the thought that counts
Of course, everyone at your event should be treated as a VIP. Showing up, having care, and demonstrating thoughtfulness are what hospitality truly is. When you give a gift, not only should you give a gift – you should give a thoughtful gift that creates an impression that will be long-lasting.
Identify moments that reoccur in your business and see how you can deploy some thoughtfulness to these experiences. At times this takes minimal effort and you and your team can show your attendees and clients that you care. When you do this and integrate this level of hospitality into your business, it helps you to scale and the domino effect will spread throughout your company. This creates a culture of unreasonable hospitality.
Unreasonable Hospitality was a great read, and shed light on how to care for and treat people extraordinarily. The book also detailed the expressions of the customers when they received this type of hospitality and how they truly felt appreciated. In the end, everyone should show this type of kindness because if we all do, then we have an opportunity to change countless lives in one moment. When you look at your work as an event professional, don’t forget what your purpose is in choosing this area of service. Take note and really shine and strive to help people feel good. Because everyone you come in contact with in this business matters, and people truly feel like they are a part of something super special when they walk into your event.
Do you have any examples of unreasonable hospitality that you can share? I would love to hear and read all of them below. Also, if you’d like to join us in reading the next book club book, come on over!