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12 Ways to make a delegate feel special

Tuesday, 02 June 2015

deleagtes clappingEffective delegate management is highly important for any function. Your attendees are all special – without them there would be no event.

We know from experience that often it’s the small things that make a huge difference to the delegate journey. Those thoughtful gestures that people remember will bring them back to you again next time. So here are 12 top tips on how to make delegates feel valued, engaged and positive at your next event.

1. Don't wait for first impressions.  The days when your first interaction with a delegate was at the check-in desk are long gone. If you haven’t reached out and established a connection with them before that, you are already on the back foot. You could choose to have a customised event app, to share advance information and interact with attendees. Or you might simply build an effective email campaign to keep delegates informed and build anticipation.

2. Address them by name.  It’s a simple thing but it makes a huge difference. And better yet, it’s easy to do! With guest lists and name badges, there’s no need to memorise names. Just encourage all team members to use delegates’ names when interacting with them. Make a person feel like an individual, not like another attendee to be dealt with.

3. Don’t overwhelm them with information.  We've all been there. All too often, on arrival a guest is greeted with a barrage of well-meaning but frankly overwhelming information. Not only will they probably forget much of it, it also makes them feel they’re going through a process, reducing the personal touch. Instead, focus on giving a friendly welcome, provide the vital facts, and let them know where or from whom to get help or information throughout the event.

4. Give them a choice.  The self-select agenda seems to be all the rage at the moment. And there’s a reason: people like to be able to personalise and tailor their experience. Even if your event is small or quite fixed, building in some level of personalisation will increase delegate engagement. Put on a few alternative sessions and allow delegates to choose and plan their time according to their interests.

5. Treat everyone as a VIP.  It’s a fundamental mistake to dole out a lower standard of service for anyone for whatever reason, be that their position or the amount of money they have paid to be there. While different tiers of delegates may have access to different things, no-one should feel short-changed when it comes to being welcomed and catered for.

6. Know about individual requirements.  Many people have needs that you should find out about upfront and be prepared to cater for. For example, some delegates may need wheelchair access, while others might need a gluten-free lunch. The key thing is to have the information well ahead of the event so you can ensure the venue, caterer and whomever else is fully briefed and prepared.

7. Cater to different cultural needs.  This is especially vital when dealing with international events, where delegates may have arrived from around the world. For example, Middle-Eastern visitors might appreciate a quiet area for praying during the day, while many people from India will want to avoid refreshments containing beef or even any meat altogether. Do your research and make sure everything is in place to make guests feel accommodated and at home.

8. Be prepared for unusual requests.  Despite your best-laid plans, there will often be things you simply can’t be prepared for! Those unusual or last-minute requests can be stress-inducing, but don’t panic. Half the battle is showing that you’re willing to help, and making every possible effort within reason to deliver. Sometimes you simply won’t be able to meet the request, but being seen to do your best really does count for a lot.

9. Help them to make new connections.  Often delegates come to events on their own, so a great way to help them settle in is to facilitate meetings and interactions. There should always be time for networking, but why not consider some kind of buddy scheme or even simply making informal introductions between delegates in similar fields or roles? It’s a special touch that will be remembered.

10. Give them a gift Who doesn't like presents?  Your delegates should come away from your event with more than a sheaf of papers or ballpoint pens. Give them something they will use in future, and help your event to stay front-of-mind. For example, if you've invited journalists, give them a USB stick loaded with information and images of the event. This will make their lives easier!

11. Say goodbye properly.  You've put all your time and effort into creating a memorable and exciting event. So don’t fall at the final hurdle. Instead of fizzling out as people finish their respective sessions and leave, the event should include a final farewell address to thank and re-engage the delegates, leaving them with a great impression.

12. Get them involved in the next event.  Feedback is vital. You need to know what your delegates thought and how you could improve or change the event to make it better. But feedback also serves another purpose: when used properly it makes delegates feel involved and integral to events, making them more likely to come again. So to boost your delegate retention, show how their tips are translating into actions.

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