This is the last in a multi-part series on using events as an avenue for marketing your brand, product, or industry. For part one in the series, start here.

conference registration and check-in table

First impressions: they happen in a moment, yet can last for a lifetime. For an event planner, the importance of the first impression is both a challenge and an opportunity. From the moment your guests step foot into your venue, a picture will start to form. A picture of professionalism or haphazardness, quality or thrift, and expectation or dread. While partly out of your control, your attendees’ first impressions are not to be ignored. Instead, they are to be nurtured. Now, roll out the red carpet and follow our tips for a event that communicates “you matter, and we thought of you.”

The Registration Table

The most tangible purpose of the event registration table is to act as a gatekeeper, an access grantor. Guests arrive, spell their names, and retrieve their credentials. But more important than any piece of paper is the sense of welcome they feel. This is the moment when an attendee will get a sense of her importance to you and your agenda. Really want to knock it out of the park? If the crowd is small enough, have your staff review names and faces, perhaps from LinkedIn, welcoming guests by name and reaching for their credentials before they say a word.

Table Etiquette

The first rule in staffing a registration table? Have a lot of staff. When guests finally arrive at your check-in table, they’ve likely spent an entire day in lines: a line to check in at the airport, a line at security, a line to get on the plane, and a line at the cab stand. Do everything in your power not to add another line to their day. Communicate in advance when registration will be open. We recommend having registration tables staffed on the arrival day and the morning of the first full day. Ensure guests that they will still be taken care of if they miss registration, and give them the contact information of who they should get in touch with when they arrive. Also, make sure you notify hotel staff of where registration is located. Guests are likely to ask the front desk for the information when they arrive, so it’s important that they have the answer.

Second, be prepared to act as a concierge for more than your conference agenda. Registration table staff is often the first to hear questions like, “where should I go for dinner?” and “who can I talk to about shipping boxes home?” Think of these questions as part of the job, not a distraction from it. Then ask some questions of your own: is there anything else they need? What can you do to make this event a win for them?

Name Badges

Dale Carnegie said, “a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” It goes without saying, then, that an accurate name badge has more significance to an individual than is perhaps practical or logical. A name is emotional. For that reason, it is tantamount that you have your staff double-check that all attendees have name badges ready. In the chance that a guest’s credentials are missing, have a simple system for printing one on the spot. A handwritten credential, to many, communicates that they’re second class. Instead, have a portable printer and laptop dedicated to remedying missing or inaccurate names. In addition to names, include a guest’s city and state, company name, and a designation for vendor or sponsor. Your basic task: answer as many routine cocktail party questions as possible, right on the face of their nametag.

Info Packets

While you may have already emailed a giant PDF of information to your attendees in the last week, don’t expect that they’ve read through it. If there’s something your attendees need to know in order to have a satisfying and productive event experience, tell them again now. Whether a bound booklet or a folder of printed handouts, provide a packet of information that includes the following:

  • Session Schedules
  • Venue Map
  • Meal Schedule & Information
  • Emergency/First Aid Availability
  • Lost & Found
  • Contact Information
  • Attendee List
  • Local Attractions

Swag Bags

There’s nothing like a fabulous bag of freebies to make a guest feel welcome and wanted. In the months leading up to your event, contact your sponsors to ask for additions to your goodie bags. For sponsors, this is another opportunity to make an impression on your guests; for them, it’s a gift. Make an effort to coach sponsors into providing quality giveaways. Among the most popular conference giveaways are backpacks. Your guests will collect a lot of materials over the course of the day or week. Having a quality backpack to collect them all will provide relief to your guests and great brand exposure to its provider.

Social Media

The power of social media is rarely on better display than at a conference. In a moment, hundreds of people from different regions and spheres can instantly connect around a common digital “water cooler” to share their insights and enhance the conversation. We recommend spearheading a few major initiatives on your social channels to drive conversation.

Let Your Guests be the Stars

First, record a welcome video by interviewing attendees as they arrive. Ask them where they’re from, what they do, and why they came. What are they hoping to learn? How are they wanting to grow? Then, edit the clips together with speed and publish the video for all to see. You can also repurpose the video as background footage during breaks, and even to promote next year’s event.

Incentive Sharing

Second, throw a contest! The more attendees you can get to use your hashtag, the more the conversation will grow in influence. If thousands of posts begin to use the same hashtag, it could begin trending and earn free brand exposure. First, establish an event-specific hashtag, such as #CookieCon17, and publish it everywhere. Then, offer a great prize as a raffle to all who use the hashtag on social media.

Strike a Pose

Finally, give attendees an excuse to post some pics. Let’s face it: most professional networking events don’t exactly make for fabulous photos. People talking in clusters isn’t Instagram gold. But you can do something about that. Create an entertaining themed backdrop area, complete with a treasure chest of props. Essentially a guest-run photo booth, the more humorous or attractive the setup, the better. Then watch as your attendees play with props and strike a pose.


Two things should be very clear: who is on staff, and where registration is located. The easiest way to achieve this is to make clear signage for both. For staff, that may be a flourescent colored t-shirt, logo-emblazoned vest, or bright name tag. For your registration table, make signs at every entrance that guide guests to the floor and space where they can retrieve their name badge and collect their info packets.

The bottom line: give guests a first impression that communicates your event is well-organized, well-staffed, and welcoming. Then watch as smile-inducing first impressions take hold.