Like the medical profession, familiarity is a crime that many event organisers are guilty of. Not in the sense of being over-friendly, but forgetting that the visitor does not experience an event every day, nor do they spend many waking hours planning, discussing or thinking about every minute detail of how the spectacle is created and produced.
Often our only communication with the visitor is via their credit card or post event survey. In the latter we are frequently more interested in creating statistics that look good on the sales brochure than actually finding out how the experience matched up to their expectations or what they would suggest to make things better. After months of preparation, it’s all to easy to hide away in the organiser’s office during the live period, safely out of reach.
Events are unique in that there are very few jobs where staff come face to face with every single one of their customers. And, because of our tendency to hide ourselves away, it means that more often or not it is the ones with grumbles who force their way through. Sometimes it can feel like a constant barrage of complaints, and more often than not it is a junior member of the team with little or no customer relations training or experience left to deal with it.
Success comes with knowledge, and experience tells me that the best way to get this is by making yourself available. Interacting with visitors and exhibitors throughout the opening hours, making small talk and asking them what their motivation for attending is. It also gives you the opportunity to explain areas where they believe there are shortcomings. Nine times out of ten there are clear explanations for perceived issues which the visitor has not considered and is happy to accept.
But perhaps one of the key benefits of this approach is that you get to speak to happy people, those who are thoroughly enjoying every moment, who feel like they are getting value for money and an experience they will savour.