As nonprofit professionals, we host a lot of networking events, award banquets, and annual galas. Most of the events require working with outside venues, catering companies, and hired staff. How do you, as the face of the event, control the expectations that your attendees have?
Below are a few ideas that will help you and your vendors create the best experience possible for your members.
Set specific requests upfront while contracting.
Special touches cost extra. Your best bet to getting the most out of your budget is to be prepared during negotiations. If you know what you want going in, you have a much better chance of getting it during the early contracting process.
Have preconference meetings with the event location and caterers and set clear expectations.
You can only ever be sure that your vendors will know what you want and what you expect of them if you tell them. Make sure you visit the location at least once, preferably around the same time of day that your event will be taking place. If your event is at night, does it feel safe? If it’s in a large building or a busy city center, is it easy to find? Will you need more signage than you thought?
Have a pre-event meeting with venue staff.
The day of the event, take a few minutes to speak with the staff of the event. (Pro tip: Run this by your banquet captain first.) Make sure they know what level of service you are expecting of them. This is also a great chance to let them know a little bit more about the event, who the attendees are, why the event is happening, and result you’d like to see.
Confirm food/event knowledge.
Ask that any staff who is in contact with the food and attendees be able to explain what the item is, what ingredients are in it, and if there are any potential allergy-related concerns. I recently heard of a great idea where servers were given a piece of paper that had the ingredients of what they were serving. So when people had questions they could easily provide the information. Ideally, the servers would have read the paper first and would be able to explain it as well.
Speak kindly and respectfully to all staff.
Events can be a little crazy and people can become overwhelmed. Take a moment to realize that you are not the only one feeling that way when speaking with others. Calmly communicate any needs or worries that you are experiencing.
Keep your eyes and ears open.
If you see something happening that shouldn’t be happening, step in. Don’t wait until the event is over for damage control.
Do you have any tips for keeping your organization’s best face forward while hosting events?