18-wheelers and giant dump trucks careen over the hill and then rumble by just 20 feet away from our house. Because we live in a home with a blind-driveway on a country highway my husband and I have learned how to back into the road and then get heck out of there (think a Dukes-of-Hazard-style-pullout without all the flying dirt!).
Partly because guests seem to take their lives into their own hands when they come to visit us, but mostly because we like having visitors, we work hard to be welcoming. We head out to meet our guests at their car and help them carry their stuff in. My young son usually asks if they want to play with his favorite toy; even our 78 year old neighbor (she does). After everyone has something to drink we settle in for some serious catching up. When having house guests, we all greet our guests, invite them in, and do what we can to make them feel at home.
Where’s the Hello from Your Association?
So far I’ve attended, exhibited at, or helped host nearly 80 conferences. Big or small, I’m constantly surprised how few and far between the greetings are. Generally registration is far more transactional than welcoming. Put yourself in your attendee’s shoes. First you have to find registration. Then you register. Now you are left on your own to navigate a multi-day, choice-rich, stranger-filled conference. How do you think most attendees feel? Resigned, overwhelmed, or outright panicked? These are not at all the emotions we are going for when we plan a conference.
Imagine instead how it would feel to be greeted and welcomed before you got to registration. You pick up your badge, with no mistakes and then, if you like, you join an orientation that gives you the inside scoop to navigating the conference. After the orientation, where you already made a few new friends, you feel confident that you are ready to tackle the next few days.
Goodbyes Matter Too
Back to our blind-driveway which is booby-trapped on both sides. On one side there is a telephone pole and on the other our mailbox. Swinging wide my father-in-law managed to crack up his front fender on the telephone pole. Another time a friend backed into our mailbox. There was no harm to the mailbox, which is stubbornly sturdy, but his car did not look so good.
Not wanting our guests to discover the telephone pole or mailbox, at the end of each visit we pile out of the house. We give our visitors the usual dire warnings, “watch out for the mailbox on your right and the telephone pole on your left. Better to back out on the right side of the driveway but keep the mailbox in your side mirror. We’ll look over the hill to see if anyone is coming and wave you on out. Thanks for coming! Have a safe trip home! Of course, we think, just getting out of our driveway is more than half the battle.
You would never visit someone’s house and leave without saying goodbye. If you did it would feel wrong and incomplete. I feel that way leaving conferences sometimes. I feel like I should check in with someone to say, “thanks for the new contacts and ideas! I’m taking off now. Until next time, bye!”
Imagine if someone manned the exit and caught attendees as they were heading out. How would they feel if someone asked how their visit was? What did they like best? Some conference follow-ups will be in your inbox soon. I hope you have a great trip home!
How can you give better hellos and goodbyes at your conference, events and for your association overall?
Many associations are marketing in a way that doesn’t resonate with members but a very few have figured out how to create marketing that matters. Find out about modern member marketing on http://www.smooththepath.net where Amanda Kaiser also discusses story telling for members, innovation and member insights. Follow her on Twitter at @SmoothThePath.