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The art of smooth event check-in: It's all in the details


Check-ins shape first impressions. We've revamped it, considering wait psychology and cultural punctuality, ensuring guests feel valued from the start. Events are fleeting, but impressions last.

Check-ins shape first impressions. We've revamped it, considering wait psychology and cultural punctuality, ensuring guests feel valued from the start. Events are fleeting, but impressions last.

Event design
by Brendan Shelper
23. October 2023

Event planning is a multifaceted discipline, with each element demanding its unique focus. One such often-overlooked element is the check-in process, a pivotal touchpoint that can set the tone for the entire event experience. In a recent project, I deep dived into the nitty-gritty of optimizing this procedure, and the results were eye-opening.

An overview of our basic calculation

Our challenge was to facilitate a seamless check-in for a large crowd arriving within an hour of each other. Here’s what we envisioned:

- 500 VIPs: Pre-registrated and fast tracked

- 3000 guests: We planned for 200 guests checking in at 30 booths per hour. This meant a rate of about 1.6 guests per booth per minute.

- Procedure: Showing QR code, ID, receiving wristbands and some event giveaways

Our ultimate objective? To streamline transport, queuing, and check-in, giving our guests the premium experience they deserve.

The subtleties matter

While this might sound straightforward, it's astonishing how many times such details get lost in the larger scheme of things. A smooth check-in can be the difference between an excited guest and a frustrated one. Think about the last time you stood in a long, confusing queue - be it at an event or an airport. The pain of waiting, the uncertainty of the procedure, it all culminates in a less-than-stellar experience.

Having turned into somewhat of a 'check-in aficionado' during this project, I took charge to ensure that the experience was nothing short of stellar.

The Psychology of waiting is a fascinating topic that delves into how individuals perceive, react to, and handle waiting in various situations. Here are some key points I unearthed on this journey:

- Perceived vs. actual wait time: Often, the actual time spent waiting can feel longer based on certain factors. For example, unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time. That's why some places provide magazines, television, or music to distract and entertain individuals during the wait.

- Fairness matters: People want the waiting process to be just. They become agitated if someone else who arrived after them is served before them.

- Unexplained waits feel longer: When people don’t know why they're waiting or how long it might take, the uncertainty makes the wait feel longer.

- Start vs. end: Waits at the beginning of an experience are perceived as longer than waits at the end. For instance, people might tolerate longer waits after finishing a meal at a restaurant than before being seated.

- Memory of waiting: Our memories of waiting are not perfect recordings of the event. Two main moments define our memory of an experience: the peak (best or worst moment) and the end. If a long wait finishes on a positive note (like a friendly server or a discount), we might remember the experience more positively.

Success in the making

To my delight, our event’s queuing results were fantastic. With meticulous planning and an exceptionally briefed execution team, we witnessed negligible queues and a throng of pleased guests.

An essential part of our success was being on the ground when the setup was underway. It meant actively participating, tweaking, and even manually rearranging the queuing system at times. The hands-on approach was crucial to ensure everything went as per the detailed plan.

Security – Partners in guest experience

Often sidelined in such discussions, security personnel play a pivotal role in the guest experience. We ensured they were not just briefed but also empowered with a clear mission. Their role was not just about 'security' but about facilitating a positive guest experience. The result? The security team operated the system efficiently and interacted with guests warmly. When guests are happy, there's reduced friction, making everyone’s job easier and more enjoyable.

Rethinking the norms

The next time you're planning an event, I urge you to pay special attention to the check-in process and every touchpoint in the consumer's journey. Resist the temptation of the "we've always done it like that" mindset. That's often the first sign that a process is ripe for reinvention.

Consider some of the following points when designing your next check-in process:

- Anticipation effect: The end goal of waiting can affect our perception. If we're waiting for something we're excited about (like a concert or movie), we might be more tolerant of the wait compared to waiting for something neutral or negative.

- Setting expectations: When people have an estimate of how long they will wait, even if it's a long time, they tend to be more patient. This is why many customer service phone lines inform you of your expected wait time.

- Progress matters: Seeing progress can reduce the stress of waiting. This is why some queues have markers, or software installations show progress bars.

- Lack of control increases anxiety: When individuals feel they have no control over the waiting situation, they're more likely to feel anxious and frustrated.

- Cultural differences: If you’re working globally, like us, you need to consider attitudes toward waiting can vary across cultures. In some cultures, punctuality and efficiency are highly valued, while in others, time is seen as more fluid, and waiting is expected and accepted. And this helps calculate the peak time of arrival for your guests after an advertised start time. Very important!

Remember, the devil is in the details. With a bit of forethought and willingness to question the status quo, you can provide an unmatched experience for your guests. After all, no one likes to wait.

Why make them?

Credits ©
Photography - Marcus Zumbansen

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