You’re Welcome! How to Create a Welcoming Event
Creating the perfect event is a challenge met by event planners every day. Epic product launches, fairy-tale weddings, themed baby showers and large-scale trade shows; all in a day’s work for a professional planner. In order to create an event that brings a client’s vision to life, an event planner needs to utilize a variety of skills. Similar to creating a perfect slice of apple pie, a successful event requires many ingredients. If you have ever planned a party, either at your home or at a chosen venue, you will understand the intricacies involved in professionally planning an event. For amateurs and professionals alike though, the goal of any function is to ensure that every guest feels welcomed. Whether the occasion is geared towards networking, strictly fun, or is educational in nature, an event planner always aims to make every event, a welcoming event.
But what makes an event welcoming? Is it the same for everyone? Once we have baked that delicious apple pie, will everybody enjoy it with equal measure? Probably not, after all some people enjoy tart apples, some prefer a crumble crust. In other words, every person is unique and what constitutes a welcoming event is not the same for everyone. An event planner needs to utilize skills and training in order to create an occasion that makes every guest feel included, relaxed, focused, accepted and comfortable; a tall order indeed. So what can an event planner incorporate into the planning, that will ensure the occasion is a welcoming event for every attendee?
#1. Perhaps the most basic of welcoming gestures is bodily comfort; ensuring that the guests are neither hot nor cold. Unfortunately, the main cause of this is out of our control. Weather, no matter the season, can be a very large inconvenience and can make attendees at any event feel uncomfortable. However, with fore-thought and planning, an event planner has the ability to prevent weather-related irritation. The simple introduction of fans placed strategically around a venue will provide welcome relief in warm conditions. The fans can even be incorporated into the event theme or décor. Don’t want large, intrusive appliances? Provide guests with a welcoming gift upon entry to the event; individual hand-held spritzer fans. Similarly, winter’s cold can be battled by providing purposefully placed heat lamps; especially important where guests might gather. Do attendees need to wait for the valet on a rainy evening? Provide staff with umbrellas in order to ensure every guest remains dry. With a bit of planning, guests will find a welcoming event no matter what weather occurs.
#2. A universal way of welcoming guests is to provide food that they will enjoy. Professional events are no different. In fact, great food has the ability to take a professional function from good to absolutely unforgettable. Providing gastronomic choices that address the attendees’ taste is an excellent way to create a welcoming atmosphere. By exploring the guests’ demographic, consideration can be given to specific culinary preferences. For instance, millennials might feel welcomed with a meal of plant-based, healthy options. The thought and care that is evident in the food choice, will help to create the feeling of welcome for the guests.
#3. Professional events such as trade shows and conferences can be a source of excessive sights and sounds. Some guests might become uncomfortable with this extreme stimulation. One method of addressing the needs of these attendees is to offer purposefully placed areas where guests can unplug and enjoy a quiet, tech-free zone. Staff can also be provided to assist with meditation and massages, helping the guests to refocus on the business at hand.
#4. Being mindful of personal challenges is a key to creating a welcoming event. As many as 1 in 5 individuals have some type of sensory issue. Unfortunately, these concerns can be exacerbated by the heightened stimulation. For the excessive noise, planners can address the needs of these guests by providing noise cancelling headphones. For any attendee requiring a method of calming the over-stimulation, planners can provide fidgets, which are small items that can keep a person’s hands busy. If the event requires long periods of sitting, weighted lap pads can be distributed among attendees. These act similar to a weighted blanket and have a calming effect.
#5. Audience participation can transform a mediocre event into a great event. However, when asked a question by a presenter, not everyone is comfortable raising their hand and speaking into a microphone in front of hundreds of other attendees. In order for these guests to feel welcome, planners must provide a method for inclusivity. Thankfully, there are now tools available that will allow everyone to participate. Presenter software exists that will integrate with a guest’s phone, enabling everyone to respond to questions, participate in live polling, and contribute in real time to the event.
#6. By creating a gender neutral event, planners will ensure that all guests feel included, accepted, and welcome. Beginning with the registration form, planners can provide a variety of options for attendees to choose from in regards to gender such as: male, female, non-binary, and prefer not to say. Additionally, a blank space can be provided that will allow participants to write in their own choice of wording. For any transgender or gender non-conforming attendees, asking registrants to include a preferred name in addition to their legal name, will prevent any misunderstandings at the event door.
At the event, pronouns can be added to name tags in order to avoid any guest from being misgendered. Furthermore, by adhering custom signage onto a single-occupancy washroom door, planners can ensure the inclusion of a gender neutral bathroom. Planners should also avoid using gendered language whenever addressing the event attendees. Choosing gender-inclusive language such as “friends”, “folks” and “everyone”, “respects and acknowledges the gender identities of all people and removes assumption”. Finally, by promoting the event as “LGBTQ+ Welcoming”, this “sends a clear message to all attendees that your event will be welcoming and thoughtful”.
As a Certified Ultimate Event Planner™, creating an event that welcomes everyone, is paramount. In fact, planning a function in which all attendees might not feel included, accepted and comfortable, is comparable to making our perfect apple pie without the fruit. A planner must always consider the diversity of the guests attending the event, and plan for methods of inclusion. In this way, an event planner can, by utilizing skills and training, ensure every event is a welcoming event.