This summer I got to spend a week in one of my favorite vacation spots – Newport, RI. In our many years visiting the city, I’ve always enjoyed its welcoming spirit and sense of hospitality. In walking around, you can’t help but notice pineapples – as décor inside and outside buildings, on flags, house signs and welcome mats. Pineapples have been a symbol of welcome & hospitality since colonial times when sea captains returning to Newport from trade voyages placed fresh pineapples outside their homes to encourage visitors and welcome guests.
Being in the hospitality industry, this symbol means a lot to me and it made me think about the many touchpoints that can be used to make meetings welcoming.
The first touchpoint would be your invitation – is it welcoming? What about it makes people want to attend? Are you focusing on your audience and meeting their needs/helping them solve a problem/rise to a challenge?
When someone decides to attend, how user-friendly is your registration site? Is it easy to navigate and understand? Does someone have to click around to find what they need?
What information do you share in your “Know Before You Go” communication? What’s the tone of the letter/email – is it friendly and informational or does it spark additional questions?
Your attendees are now onsite – how welcoming is your registration area? Are the staff smiling and ready to help and smiling or are they on their phones/laptops? Do they greet each attendee? Are they prepared to answer questions or triage concerns? Is the reg desk easy to locate? Have you proofed the badges (if using them) to make sure all names are spelled correctly?
New members and first timers need extra love and welcoming at meetings. Assigning a veteran to greet them always helps. Adding the “new member” or “first timer” ribbon on badges is helpful as a conversation starter. How about a reception or mixer just for these folks – it helps them get the lay of the land and gives them a group of people that they can bond with. Remember when you were new at school/work/a meeting? How helpful was it to have a short orientation to explain what to expect and introduce you to others?
Cliques are the opposite of welcoming – they discourage new members and encourage folks to leave and not want to come back. Yes, it’s important to greet old friends/colleagues – just make sure that your circle is open to invite others in.
Are your meetings genuinely welcoming? Do you help to foster lasting connections?
Before I left for home, I bought myself a new pineapple bangle bracelet & here’s the information that came on the card – how appropriate: “Expressing a sense of welcome and good cheer, the pineapple signifies hospitality. New England sea captains traditionally placed a pineapple outside their homes as a symbol of a safe return. Home and hospitality warmly embrace friends. Genuine welcome makes lasting connections.”