You work hard enough to win your meeting and conference business, so it makes sense to leave a positive lasting impression and an incentive for them to return. A lot of effort goes into first impressions, but what sort of lasting impression are you leaving on your meeting and conference delegates?
In my line of work I see a lot of meeting and conference venues, sometimes as a mentor, but frequently also as the client or a delegate. Normally the first impression is alright, you get a warm welcome and asked at the outset if everything is okay. But it's what happens after this that invariably leaves you let down.
The room setup
The appearance of the room is of course important, but the first impression goes beyond how the room looks.
Is best to use made of natural light, or is this blocked off with a dependence on artificial light (which is far more tiring on the eye, as well as wasting energy)? Where artificial lighting is a must, is this logically positioned so that delegates are not sitting in their own shadows, and there is good light on the presenters and props?
The setup of the room requires logic. I often get the impression that porters have had no training and that the room has not been checked. For example:
Whereas the room setup will be more of a concern to the presenters than the delegates, the quality and timing of refreshments are a key factor for presenters and delegates alike.
Check the room temperatures and respond quickly to organisers’ requests to adjust this. The bane of my life is air conditioning. Invariably it blows too hot or too cold. Half the time I question whether it's adds anything, particularly in a room where the windows open, but there are times when it's needed. But nobody wants to be sat right beneath a blast of cold air, and adjusting it to suit everyone's requirements is a fine line.
Having a system that can be turned off if required to my mind is vital. Having a system that keeps every room at the same temperature is sheer madness. If you have a room with just two people in it sitting still compared to a room with 30 people doing group activities letting off all that body heat, you’re obviously going to want them at different temperatures. So be prepared for organisers to ask for the temperature changed or for the air conditioning to be turned off altogether. I sometimes feel as if I've asked for the moon when I make this request; is it too much to ask? But then please, please, respond and check that the adjustments have worked rather than going to the extreme.
What’s the last impression?
Last week at one venue when we came out of our meeting at 5 pm all our lunch dishes were still there, and not a sole in site – not very conducive to leaving a positive last impression.
And do you know what would be really memorable? Everyone wants to get off as quickly as possible, so just a few minutes of your time to help with the packing up and to get the organiser on their way just a couple of minutes earlier would always be welcome. And provides the perfect opportunity to gather that all important feedback.
I hardly ever get asked for feedback at the end of an event at a meeting or conference venue. I often feel that at the end of the day all the conference staff have knocked off and we’ve been left to it. This is such a wasted opportunity. Not only does it give valuable data, but what a great opportunity to build the relationship with the client. You’ve worked hard enough for the business; surely you’d want to do everything in your power to leave a positive lasting impression and leave the door open for a repeat booking?
Caroline Cooper is a business coach with over 25 years’ experience in business and leadership development, and founder of Zeal Coaching, specializing in working with hospitality businesses, and is author of the 'Hotel Success Handbook'. You can access free downloads and further articles at http://www.zealcoaching.com/products-resources/
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