The First Impression Matters

When you’re planning an event, it is often times the little details that set the stage for what is coming next.

Yes things like the food and venue impact the experience, but so do smaller details like the first impression upon arrival, the music, the service experience, and so much more!

Hallowed First Ground

Hallowed First Ground is something I learned in a class about influence through storytelling that is 100% applicable in the event planning world. It is the first impression you get of something or someone that really sticks with you no matter what comes after.

When planning an event that first moment is often what shapes the experience your attendees are going to have. And often times it starts before the person even steps food in the venue.

  • How was the invite? Did it clearly set the tone for the type of experience you want to create?

  • What happens when guests first get to the event? Do you have a way to greet your guests in a fun and welcoming way?

    • Did you think about signage? Staff?

    • What about music? Is it silent and awkward when people walk in?

The first touch points of an event tell people what to expect and can either cause them to shut off or re-engage with the experience. What is the best way to do that? Do something creative to welcome your guests to the event!

We pay so much attention it whats inside, it’s easy to miss things like is there a welcome experience and even simply a person or sign to greet guests so they aren’t lost. It doesn’t matter how amazing your keynote speaker is if none of the guests can find their way to the keynote room and thus miss the session!

Setting Expectations

When you arrive at a five star hotel you expect to be greeted with a glass of champagne. When you go to an airbnb (for instance), that same level of services isn’t expected but imagine it as an opportunity to surprise and delight each guest if there’s a bottle of champagne waiting on arrival?

A Real Life Example

I planned a day event for a corporate offsite - for this event it was important to set the stage for what to expect from the day. The first thing to decide was the venue and initial touch points for the entrance.

  • We took over the beautiful Cavallo Point resort in Sausalito, California, to create an elevated experience for CXO’s that was grounded in the natural surroundings.

  • Upon entrance there was a bright, playful lemonade bar with all the fixings to make people feel refreshed and delighted when they arrived at the registration desk.

  • Nearby was also a cart of Champagne with butler service to create a high level, luxury experience for those guests more accustomed to that elevated experience (personalize by creating preferences for various attendee types!).

  • To create a fun, playful tone, a donut tree displaying freshly made donuts and cronuts gave guests a smile and a chance to taste the new hybrid pasty that was going viral at the time.

While these may seem like small details, most of these CEOs and CTOs are used to arriving at registration where they’re greeted with simply a name badge and maybe a bottle of water. By creating a thoughtful first impression for something as basic as badge pick-up, we were sending the message to attendees that they could relax, all their needs would be taken care of, and they were in for an experience like no other.