As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. The same holds true for last impressions. Religious meeting planners must not only make a good impression, but also a memorable one — from the moment the attendees arrive until the moment they depart. Meet-and-greet services can be part of the solution.
Whether you are planning a convention for thousands or a meeting of hundreds, attendees will arrive by plane, train, or automobile. Regardless of the mode of transportation, a warm welcome and assistance to the next destination are critical to setting the tone for your event.
Destination management companies are experts at meet-and-greet services. They assist meeting planners and take the burden of transportation off the minds of attendees.
What is Meet-and-Greet?
Meet-and-greet services are more than merely a taxi service. They are the “welcome wagon” for your meeting or convention. When done right, meet-and-greet does more than provide a helpful service: It can create your meeting's mood — a simple gesture that will be remembered long after your event is over.
In its simplest form, meet-and-greet services move your group from point A to point B throughout the course of your conference or meeting. Typically, this involves picking up your attendees at the airport and bringing them to the facility for the meeting or to their hotels for check-in. After a long flight, a greeter can put a smile on a weary traveler's face.
Meet-and-greet services typically incorporate a “terminal welcome.” When guests arrive in a new city, they are anxious and unsure of how to get to their hotel or the next destination. Ease their minds by having uniformed workers in the airport terminal with welcome signs. This sets a welcoming tone from the moment guests step off the plane.
Depending on your budget and clientele, greeters can provide a number of additional services that go above and beyond the traditional. These include:
Luggage assistance. Direct guests to the airport's baggage claim area and help them get their luggage onto the waiting hotel transportation. DMCs can also track down lost luggage and deliver it to a guest's hotel room.
Beverage and snacks. You can be sure that many of your guests will walk off the plane hungry and thirsty. Surprise them with refreshments! Supply each greeter with a portable cooler of drinks and snacks that can be offered to guests while they wait for their baggage.
“Welcome to the City” package. Orient your guests to a new city with a welcome packet. This could contain conference itineraries as well as general information about the city's museums, restaurants, art galleries, and more.
Tailored to Fit Your Audience
Make an even better impression on your attendees by tailoring your meet-and-greet services to your audience or the specific event.
Consider these questions:
Who are you transporting? Exceed the expectations of your event's VIPs, event guests, and keynote speakers by arranging “important” or unusual transportation. Once again, this extra effort goes a long way. For example, instead of arranging the usual shuttle transfer service for VIPs, have key members of your organization meet the VIPs as they arrive and accompany them to their hotel. This special attention helps to build and strengthen the relationship between your organization and the key guests.
Are you transporting individuals or groups? Once again, the size of your audience will greatly affect the mode of transportation. Carefully evaluate the group's size to best determine which type of vehicle — cars, shuttles, or full-size buses — will best meet your needs.
What is your budget? Budget restrictions don't have to limit the “wow” factor of your meet-and-greet service. Consider integrating at least one high-impact option to your plan, such as a horse-drawn carriage between the hotel and event site.
A Lasting Impression and Immediate Impact
Meet-and-greet services will leave a lasting impression on your guests, but there are several short-term benefits that can also affect the success of your meeting:
Attendees arrive on time. Your special guests and attendees will be where you need them, when you need them, because you arranged to get them there.
Transportation costs are controlled. Organization transportation costs are pre-arranged with theand, therefore, controlled internally. Furthermore, employee expense paperwork is minimized.
Attendance increases. With transportation hassles eliminated for attendees, one barrier to attendance is minimized. And remember: Tell attendees about the meet-and-greet services in your meeting marketing literature.
Save time and worries. Time is no longer wasted in an airport or bus terminal searching for luggage. DMCs are responsible for locating and delivering lost luggage.
Maureen Kelly-Kinsella is the sales and logistics manager for Absolutely Atlanta. She is a Destination Management Certified Professional and has been active in the industry for more than eight years.
Tips for Working with DMCs
Destination management companies provide a vital service. When DMCs and religious meeting planners work hand-in-hand, flawless execution is an expectation. Here are tips that will ensure that your meet-and-greet services run smoothly:
Provide the DMC with the client/attendee manifests in chronological order by arrival times and in an electronic format (e.g. a spreadsheet). This minimizes the possibility of errors. Support the chronological listing with an alphabetical listing.
Forward attendee manifests early, even if they are not finalized. However, be sure to update your DMC on a regular basis, dating each version to avoid confusion.
Inform the meet-and-greet service provider of any special client requests — the sooner the better.
Establish an emergency or “after hours” phone number.
Budget for an on-site “standby” vehicle to accommodate flight changes/cancellations.
There are many ways to make a lasting impression on your event guests and VIPs throughout every part of your conference or meeting. Remember, what you do at the first moment of contact can influence a guest's impression of your event.