There’s No such Thing as “Just Checking In”

Whether you’re hosting a corporate press event, a nonprofit benefit or a milestone family celebration, welcoming guests is never “just checking in”. The way your guests are greeted and how smoothly the process goes are critical elements to the success of an event. In the same way that an invite is the first indication of the tone and style of a gathering, the check-in process can signal to guests whether an event is a professional affair worthy of their time or not worth their presence.

A smooth check-in process is seamless and effortless, and therefore is typically unnoticed, which ensures that your guests are relaxed and receptive to whatever message you hope to communicate. A problematic check-in process irritates guests from the beginning, leaving them distracted at best and irritated or angry in a worst-case scenario.

I like to think that we’ve improved the check-in process we use at our events by incorporating both technology and a more intuitive, personal touch.

For years, guests have gathered around long tables, searching for the section of the alphabet that includes the first letter of their last name and have tried to check in with a seated staff member.

That method is not used as often now, thanks to iPads and digital tablets. This technology has revolutionized the check-in process. Gone are clipboards and endless flipping through hard copy pages. Now devices can be linked with each other as well as to the back of the house, and are updated in real time, so when a guest checks in, that information is available to all staff. Additionally, helpful stats such as the number of guests that have arrived or the check-in of a VIP are instantly available for the reference of the production team or the client. This enables you to find answers at any time to questions like, “Should we hold the first speaker?” “Is a key VIP in the house?” “Have 90% of the guests arrived?” We use an app called Zkipster and love how it has helped us work.

But that’s only part of the process for a great check-in experience.

A more subtle but very effective change we’ve implemented is to put event staff and guests on the same level rather than have the staff seated at tables while guests tower over them awkwardly. We set up check-in stations with stools and highboys, or simply have guests greeted by standing event staff. Elimination of the barricades between the staff and the customer underscores the personal service and individual attention you want all guests to experience.

Of course, one of the most irritating things that can happen to a guest during check-in is being forced to wait. So, for starters, make sure you have enough greeters checking people in. But any kind of discord at the entrance is distracting, and it sets a negative tone, and you don’t want that to flow to other guests.

This is why, in the event of any kind of confusion or issue with admitting someone into an event, you need to have a “help desk” that is a little separated from the main check-in area. This ensures that guests feel they are receiving immediate assistance to resolve any issue and enables any potential disruption to be isolated should the guest become agitated. (Of course, the people who like to make a scene at check-in are typically people who are not on your guest list!)

The help desk can be as subtle or obvious as your event merits; in some cases, you may want a visible security presence to send a signal to potential party-crashers; in others, the desk should be nearly invisible until needed. Finally, in addition to a separate help area, it’s always prudent to have a floating staff member who can step in to assist with any questions or issues that come up, and at all times, someone should have a direct line to the client should they need to verify information or make a quick decision.

Ultimately, your check-in setup should be elegant, not too extravagant, and, above all, effortless!