Check-In Flow and Guest Experience
It all comes down to one place: doors at the venue. Good team management and tool selection is half the battle, but the other very real half is prepping on-site.
Equipping your team
Prepare your devices: We recommend one tablet device per 150 expected guests to keep wait times low. Make sure devices are tested, check-in apps updated, charged, and you have backups available. For cloud-based check-in, it’s also worth stress-testing the wifi available to you at the venue to make sure it’s reliable enough to handle check-in (and if you use an app with offline mode like zkipster, brush up on how it works beforehand to save stress in case the wifi goes down at a crucial moment).
Designate an event captain: Choose one person to be event captain, who will oversee the check-in crew, spot bottlenecks, reallocate resources, and jump in to alleviate confusion. If you have a large event, consider designating an event captain for each guest group, so each captain focuses on general admission, VIPs, media, and so on.
Lay down rules for the rest of the team: Make sure no clients, inhouse C-level event sponsors, or other stakeholders can interfere with the check-in process. There’s no quicker way to throw off a well-oiled machine than to introduce an unexpected new decision-maker. Instead, make sure they are all aware of the event captain, who they can address issues with and let the check-in staff focus on the guests.
Give security a clearly defined role: If you need to include security for your event, make sure they are clearly passive and embedded in the background of the check-in area unless needed. Give clear instructions on how, and when, they contribute, to both make it easier for them and the rest of your team, but also to smooth out the experience for any guests who can get nervous around over-eager security details. As with the rest of your team selection, work with professionals like off-duty police officers, and do thorough background research to avoid shady security contractors. The worst time to find out your background check wasn’t good enough is through an upset guest.
Designing the right environment
Celebrity event planner Colin Cowie put it simply: “You have a couple seconds to make an impression, and it’s produced by all five senses in harmony.”
Walk through the space from beginning to the end as though you were a guest arriving. Visualize where they will go, what they will do. Ask questions: where will guests arrive? How is the ﬂow of the room? Are there any arresting sounds or smells that influence other senses? And most importantly, where will there be bottlenecks and how can you keep them to a minimum?
Evaluate the placement of hotspots like coat check, a help desk, the check-in attendant closest to the entrance, and so on. Pile-ups in any of these areas, even if the rest of check-in is moving slowly, can cause people to block the entrance and force movement to a crawl.
You have a couple seconds to make an impression, and it’s produced by all five senses in harmony.
Many zkipster clients swear by having their check-in staff standing on eye level with arriving guests. Table-seated staff subtly downplays the human element of greeting and being greeted, and steals an opportunity from the host to be excellent. Larry Abel, of Abel + McAllister + Abel, shares a useful rule of thumb here: “Anything lower than five feet may look good and neat for a picture, but is irrelevant to an event.”
Creating first impressions through proper welcoming
Rachel Gross, former event leader at Univision, is one of the first to sing the praises of a good welcome. “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.” and she adds “It’s a simple principle that I think is so important.”
Across the board, top event producers and planners we’ve worked with and talked to emphasize the power of first impressions. We even created an entire interview series just on that topic, which is filled with more insights from some of the best in the business.
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.
Even the welcome itself can be planned well in advance of check-in starting. The Nobel Peace Prize event team shared an inside look at the exhaustive detail that goes into planning the proper welcome for their celebration:
Different guests are greeted at the airport before the event even begins, and taken to their hotels. Every member of the team knows how each plus-one is related to their primary guest. At the event itself, each guest who checks in receives a personalized name badge, and is then seamlessly guided by hosts to their places. Even the police bomb squad is greeted with biscuits and coffee to make their experience that much more pleasant.
Though the specifics of your event and its unique DNA will dictate many of the ‘correct’ approaches, don’t be afraid to take cues from events in very different industries that have demonstrated a successful approach.