Rachel Gross, seasoned event leader at Univision, is animated, witty, and a pro at converting industry events into sales. For her, positive first impressions mean important brand dollars.
As networks are competing for the same declining TV budgets and the hearts and minds of the same decision makers, Rachel and her team occupy a challenging position.
Her job is to turn an Upfront event, the industry’s high-stakes affair in which TV networks make their bid for brand dollars, into a must-go destination for advertisers and media executives. To get there, the storytelling needs to stick, and every touchpoint needs to be seamless. As Rachel says, “Registration needs to happen fast, like one click fast. It needs to be simple, animated, and intriguing.”
She acknowledges the changes in the marketplace and how guests navigate: “Real time is absolutely happening right now. On one side people are more flexible than ever and on the other side it is extremely hard to get them to commit. It’s about seizing the moment and creating opportunities for people to jump in and go for it.”
During the photo shoot for our First Impressions art project in New York this summer, we asked Rachel Gross to share her top rules for making good first impressions that last.
Rule 1: Hello and goodbye are where you make the biggest impressions
For Rachel, it all starts with a seamless guest check-in. First rule: “The minute guests come in, everything has to be easy for them.”
As she explains, guests need to feel appreciated for dedicating their time to your event, especially in a world of fierce competition for time and attention. “At the end, they may not recall what you have said or showed them, but they will remember how you made them feel. Feelings and impressions go hand-in-hand.”
If you make guests feel comfortable at the entry and at the exit, they will remember you.
It’s not just the first impression that matters. The last one is equally important, and a clever way to make your event stand out where others might fall short. As she says, “Hosts are often focused on the event itself so they don’t think about the exit.” So what’s the solution? It can be simple – a friendly good-bye and an appropriate gift that’s practical and compelling, like a cup of hot chocolate as you send them into the cold night can do the trick.
Whether these touchpoints are simple or extravagant, they contribute to one clear point for Rachel. “If you make guests feel comfortable at the entry and at the exit, they will remember you.”
Rule 2: Find each event’s unique flavor to do it justice
Rachel and her team at Univision know their market, their audience and their ad buyers. The network’s DNA is ingrained in her events and activations. The interesting balance is between finding a successful narrative that works, and then not using it so much that it loses its authenticity.
In her event work, a key part of the process is finding each event’s unique flavor, as she puts it, to understand how it fits in to the overall brand narrative. Successfully doing that not only makes an individual event successful, it helps dictate the success of an entire events program for the brand.
All these things really matter and are a piece of the puzzle.
Finding the flavor happens in ways big and small. “How does it sound and look like to watch European soccer on different devices?” Rachel and her team love to play with all senses of their guests. “When I smell cropped grass, that says soccer to me, and makes me think I cannot wait to have my soccer experience start! All these things really matter and are a piece of the puzzle.”
Rule 3: Make guests feel appreciated
“I really do believe in the basics of hospitality”, says Rachel. “If someone greets me with my name, a good handshake and a nice look in the eyes – it gives me the feeling of being at the right place. It’s a simple principle that I think is so important.”
That’s why choosing the right event staff matters. They’re not just hired help, they’re your brand ambassadors. For Rachel, picking the right people is a key element of creating perfect impressions.
It’s something people either have or they don’t. It’s about being yourself in a genuine way.
“It’s something people either have or they don’t. It’s about being yourself in a genuine way. Some people are sassy, others are sweet. What matters is that everybody brings along a unique personality. They need to be trained really well, but ultimately? It’s about personality.”
And when it comes to creating lasting impressions, Rachel knows what makes the difference.
Want to hear more from Rachel? Listen to the full podcast with her we recorded in collaboration with GatherGeeks, and check out the rest of the First Impressions project.