Creating a Hosting Mindset is Actually Easy


On a recent visit to a nice resort in Santa Barbara, I was struck by how friendly and helpful the staff was.

It was evident from the moment I stepped out of the car and encountered the first employee in the parking lot. He welcomed me and asked how he could help.

Being An Ambassador Of Goodwill

After several hours of experiencing this amazing feeling of being welcomed by long lost friends, I asked a young chipper 24-year-old bellman what motivated him and his coworkers to provide such exceptional service.

“It’s actually a walk in the park for me, I just love to serve people and make them happy. It’s a choice I make every day to be an ambassador of goodwill here at the resort.”

I was intrigued and also dumbfounded by how easy and effortless he made it sound. This resort was training their employees to act as hosts and ambassadors and everyone was empowered to do so.

Make Hostmanship Part of Your Conference Culture

Hostmanship is the art of making people feel welcome. It’s personal. It’s caring. Attendees aren’t treated like a number or cattle to be herded.

It can’t be a game face that you put on. It must be authentic, sincere and focused on helping conference participants quickly plug into the conference experience and community. Hostmanship done right, grows trust. Trust leads to engagement and loyalty.

Consider the principle of Hostmanship on every single touch-point of the conference participant’s journey. From arrival to general session walk-in to departure and all points in between.

Hostmanship is a mindset that can be taught and made part of your organization’s culture. If you adopt and practice this in dealings with your internal customers, it becomes much easier to plan and practice this with your conference participants.

It’s a Team Sport

Imagine if each of your veteran conference participants, staff and volunteer leadership took the responsibility of being the host of the conference and viewed all the attendees as their guests. When you refer to your participants as guests it automatically triggers a different set of behaviors if you’re the host. The title of host implies a person who has great responsibility. It’s tough to scale, but can be done when called out as a priority.

A host is expected to welcome guests, introduce people to each other and serve them. As a host, you’re actively aware of other people’s needs and put them before your own. Nothing makes you happier as a host than when you know your guests have had a wonderful time and made lots of new connections.

Sounds like a recipe for a perfect conference experience.

Four Ideas to Jumpstart Conference Hostmanship

Here are four ideas to ignite your conference culture of hostmanship.

1. From Customers To Guests To Participants To Co-Creators

Stop using the word attendee or customer and start referring to all your participants as guests who you must transform into participants. Once your participants catch the hospitality bug, they will become co-creators with you spreading hostmanship to others. Refer to your volunteers, staff and speakers as hosts who have great responsibility. Use these terms in all of your communications. This will trigger a shift that will kick-start a movement.

2. Diagram Your Attendee Journey

Map out your conference attendee journey and touch-points. Consider how the principles of hostmanship can be incorporated into the experience design of each.

3. Lead With Your Hosts

Don’t hide your hosts in war rooms, committee meetings or behind the scenes. Get them out in front and empower them to welcome, connect and earn the trust of each participant. If you were hosting a party, you wouldn’t even think of ditching the party for an hour or two.

4. Examine Your Culture

Take a hard look at how you’re treating each other. Creating Hostmanship starts internally with your culture. If your staff and volunteer leadership don’t feel loved and respected, it will be nearly impossible for them to make this shift.

Practice Authentic Welcoming

Conference participants are collectors of experiences. With all the competing learning opportunities available today, what will set your conference apart is practicing the authentic art of welcoming and earning trust.

How do you think your participants would respond to an authentic hostmanship conference experience? What other ideas do you have for embracing hostmanship as part of your conference design priorities?

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  1. Tricia says:

    These guidelines are also useful for everyone in the nonprofit sector. When all employees of the nonprofit become hosts and ambassadors, then the NPO creates engagement of the heart as well as mind in the community. Of course, this leads to long-term donor commitment, as well as volunteer involvement.

    1. Sarah Michel says:

      Thanks Tricia for pointing that out!

  2. Loved this post and concept! It’s an excellent reminder for event planners, no matter the industry. Attendees remember whether they felt welcomed – or ignored. I wrote a longer response about what it means to be a better host:

    Thanks for the great thoughts.

    1. Sarah Michel says:

      Thanks Crysta for your post and extending the conversation. It is a simple but profound way to move the needle.

  3. […] encountered the term yesterday in a Sarah Michel post on the Velvet Chainsaw blog, and I quickly found myself nodding in […]

  4. […] going the extra mile, helping to introduce attendees to others they’d like to meet? Is Hostmanship embraced by staff and volunteers? Do attendees feel welcomed, appreciated and understood? Or are […]

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