15 Tips for Welcoming Unexpected Meeting and Corporate Event Guests

Welcome DeskUnexpected arrivals usually fall into 2 categories:

  • Guests arriving at an unexpected time (early or late arrivals).
    Flights get delayed, major thunderstorms of blizzards can wreak havoc with traffic, and at times there are even unexpected delays on subway systems.
  • Attendees who did not RSVP (including onsite registrations).
    There are a number of reasons why guests don't RSVP. If their schedule suddenly clears up, they may decide to join the group at the last minute.

    I recall one small corporate event for which there were 5 unexpected dinner guests. Attendees had so much fun the night before that  they decided to go home, change, and return for the evening event. A couple of them shared their experience with colleagues who also decided to join the event at the last minute. It was a bit of a scramble but everyone was seated and fed, Now an extra table is always part of the plan.

Today our focus is on unexpected arrivals for internal meetings and corporate events.

  1. Select a function room with space to accommodate more guests.
  2. Open the hospitality suite early to give early arrivals a place to relax until their rooms are ready.
  3. Give participants someone to contact if they are running late.

    This will help you prepare to accommodate their needs upon arrival.
  4. Place reserved signs on some tables near door so that late arrivals can slip into the meeting or event discretely.

    If late arrivals are seated near the rear door, it will be easier to accommodate their needs without disrupting the meeting.

    You may experience some resistance to this as some attendees prefer to sit near the door. Always have at least one table near the door that is not reserved to accommodate the needs of these guests.
  5. Set up an extra table and place a reserved sign on it to accommodate additional attendees and late arrivals without scrambling. (For large events, that should read extra tables.)
  6. To free up more space near the door, ask the person giving welcome remarks to let people know that there are seats at the front and invite them to move forward.
  7. Ask the front desk to contact the designated member of the event team when they start to check in a guest arriving late.
  8. Offer luggage transfer for late arrivals.

    Arrange with the front desk to let late arrivals know where the meeting or event is taking place. Give them the option of having their baggage transferred directly to their rooms so that they can join the meeting or event immediately.
  9. Greet late arrivals and quickly and quietly show the guests to their seats.

    Respond graciously and ensure that attendees feel welcome.

  10. Keep an extra set of handouts and name tags handy for unexpected guests and late arrivals.
  11. Minimize disruptions by having a signal for the end of breaks and working lunches to encourage guests to return to the meeting on time (e.g. a gong, xylophone, train whistle, chimes, start or end of music).
    Get creative. For some events my company has used lion dancers and capoeira dancers to lead participants back into the function space and taiko drummers to signal the resumption of the meeting.
  12. Be proactive.

    At the beginning of the mid-afternoon break, let attendees know that you can still accommodate additional guests for dinner.  Ask participants to inform you right away if their plans have changed so that you can notify the chef.

  13. Ask the member of the event team greeting late arrivals who are checking in at the hotel to determine if they will be joining the group for dinner.
  14. Arrange a back-up plan for food and beverage service for attendees who are too tired to join the group.

    Arrange for their dinner to be delivered to the rooms.
  15. Hold back some hors d'oeuvres for late arrivals.

    Late arrivals are likely to be hungry and hot after rushing to an event. Offer a cool beverage and hors d'oeuvres.

Keep these tips in mind to minimize disruptions due to latecomers.

Photo Credits: Tassoman

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