Nov 21, 2018 by Celia Hardick

Kathryn Arce and Rebecca Grinnals Explain How to Make Everyone Feel Included at Events

Kathryn Arce and Rebecca Grinnals, founders of Engaging Concepts, offer strategic consulting services to the wedding industry. As former employees of Disney, both women have used their experience from the magical world of weddings to speak and consult around the world.

“Everything we do is about engaging with other people,” says Rebecca of hers and Kathryn’s duties as consultants in the event industry. The two have built successful careers by focusing their efforts on creating an instant communication between guests, clients, and themselves.

Their company, Engaging Concepts, has created a series called Engage! Summits. These innovative events aim to bring people in the industry together through networking and exchanging of ideas. “It’s a community and a family,” says Rebecca while explaining the duo’s view about making a positive first impression. By staying true to the idea of human interaction, they strive to create a sense of belonging for all those involved in these events.

During the photo shoot for our First Impressions art project in New York this summer, Kathryn and Rebecca shared their strategies for encouraging and implementing human connection in the event industry.

Create an atmosphere of warmth

Many times there is a pressure among event planners to make a night feel fancy for their client’s special occasion. While it’s important to Kathryn and Rebecca that the atmosphere and details be aesthetically pleasing, they also put a considerable amount of thought into making sure an event feels real and authentic.

For example, it may be assumed that every guest knows someone at an event they’re walking into, causing “the welcome” to be more or less breezed over. “I think sometimes the welcome is under appreciated,” says Rebecca.

The best first impression you can make is making someone feel comfortable and welcome.

Giving guests a sense of belonging, whether it’s their first event or their fiftieth, is the epitome of a positive first impression according to the two. “The best first impression you can make is making someone feel comfortable and welcome,” explains Rebecca. Instead of making an event feel like an event, Kathryn and Rebecca envision each production as more of a family gathering.

The two strategically plan the welcome to avoid any kinks or moments that could potentially feel awkward or intimidating for a guest. They walk through each moment step by step, asking questions like, “Are there moments that could potentially be awkward or uncomfortable? And how do we solve that?”

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Make personal connections with clients and guests

For Kathryn and Rebecca, creating a sense of warmth and connection doesn’t only apply to the guests. “The first impression from us goes all the way back to our website and the communication we provide leading up to the event,” explains Kathryn. The two work especially hard to respond to emails personally instead of dispersing that responsibility to their team members.

Once people begin to arrive at the event, Rebecca and Kathryn keep the personal connection going. “Eye contact is so important,” says Kathryn. “We set up our registration bar, so that when an attendee walks up, they’re not looking down at someone sitting at a six foot table.” This tactic combats the potentially awkward situation of attendee and greeter being on different levels during an interaction. It makes for a more authentic and comfortable connection.

Keeping everything on a first name basis makes them feel part of the group immediately.

To further the personal connection, Kathryn and Rebecca use a trick they attribute to their Disney days. “Everyone registers by their first name, not their last name,” spills Kathryn. “That’s one of those tips we picked up from being Disney girls.” According to the two, this tactic is a focal point in creating a sense of belonging for guests and clients alike. “Keeping everything on a first name basis,” says Rebecca, “makes them feel a part of the group immediately.”

Encourage attendees to connect on a deeper level

Today, people are easily connected through social media and the Internet. And while this is good for Kathryn and Rebecca’s theme of connection, they work hard to discover ways to bring attendees even closer together.

The two make an effort to place people in situations that they aren’t accustomed to as a way to deepen their connection. “We try to look at a spectrum of things that are mildly uncomfortable,” says Rebecca. “Feeling that same discomfort comes the opportunity to bond with people.”

One example stems from an Engage! Summit where attendees were encouraged to travel up a mountain together in Banff. “In a live experience it’s about how to connect people that already know one another on a deeper level,” explains Rebecca, “And to connect strangers in a really short period of time.” That, she says, is what makes a lasting impression.

You want your attendees to talk, be proud to be somewhere, and feel like they’re part of something special.

The two have mastered the art of bringing people together and connecting them on different levels through inclusion and sharing of experiences. “That’s a big piece for anyone in the live event business,” says Kathryn. “You want your attendees to talk, be proud to be somewhere, and feel like they’re part of something special.”


Want to hear more from Kathryn and Rebecca? Listen to the full podcast with them we recorded in collaboration with GatherGeeks, and check out the rest of the First Impressions project.