Welcoming All With Conference Radical Hospitality

I stood at the door and welcomed people into the room.

It was a simple act. One of profound importance.

“Welcome and thanks for being here. I appreciate your time.”

Many smiled and shook my hand. Some were shocked. Some exclaimed I was the only presenter that had done that.

Setting The Space With Welcoming

I believe that welcoming people into a conference space is one of the most important things I can do. I also lead and guide as a speaker.

I believe that welcoming people into any space, any family, any organization, any meeting, any event is critical. Too frequently we forget to welcome people. We come across as if they are unwanted, unsolicited, uninvited.

Welcoming all is important.

Welcoming addresses fundamental questions: Do I belong here? Am I accepted or rejected? Am I welcomed but expected to change? Is it safe here? Will I be humiliated or appreciated?

Until those questions are answered, my presentation cannot be effective. Until others feel safe and accepted, they cannot learn or relate during the conference.

Welcoming As Part Of Radical Hospitality

You can’t script radical hospitality. It’s not something that you can fake or spin.

People who demonstrate radical hospitality don’t look down on others. They don’t judge them. They look past invisible differences (attitudes, beliefs, lifestyles, values) and visible differences (age, dress, economic status, race, religion).

Conference radical hospitality really does welcome people just as they are.

We all need radical hospitality. There is a razor-thin edge between what makes each of us the least, lonely, foreigner, outcast, unknown in a conference setting, to paraphrase Barbara Huisman.

Attributes Of Conference Welcoming Radical Hospitality

Conference radical hospitality accepts everyone that walks through the door. It practices acceptance. We accept the differences as they are.

Conference radical hospitality is:

1. Authentically welcoming others.

The greeter at the door is actually glad to be with the person entering the room. It’s an opportunity to expand the conversation and include diverse views. True radical and welcoming hospitality relishes the time with a variety of opinions without judgment.

2. Embracing a caring curiosity.

Your conference team keeps the conversation around the other person, rather than their selves. It’s not an awkward, fake discussion. The welcoming person is truly interested in the other.

3. Adopting a profoundly relational mindset.

It’s truly taking the time to understand what makes another tick. To getting to know them, their challenges, their successes and their needs.

4. Time consuming.

Practicing a welcoming radical hospitality in your conference is not just about making a great first impression. It’s more than remembering someone’s name. It is a gift that you can give to your conference attendees.

5. Not just greeters at the door.

Too often, conference greeters and living directional are just completing a task they’ve been assigned. They know they are to smile, nod and shake hands. There is nothing sincere, relational or welcoming about a checklist duty. It’s much, much more than that. It’s a conference culture that you cultivate with all your leaders.

Hat tips to authors and researchers Thom & Joani Schultz for their insights about people’s expectations for experiences today.

What are some additional attributes of a welcoming radical hospitality for conferences? What tips do you have for creating a welcoming conference culture that is contagious?

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  1. Ian Cleary says:

    Hey Jeff,

    I love this because I do exactly the same.

    Talk about warming up an audience! Meet them at the door and show you are friendly and human and they are already warmed up!


    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      It’s such a simple act that has amazing consequences–meeting and greeting. It puts an audience in a great place open and curious.

      Thanks for reading, sharing and for creating a welcoming, radical hospitality. We need more people like you.

  2. Thom Singer says:

    Jeff- this is awesome. I always walk around and meet the audience before a talk and it has a huge impact on how they relate to my presentation and how open they are to learn. But you are right about it is about being more than a greeter.

    This goes back to the idea of the speaker as a peer to the audience- and part of the conference community vs being a “sage on the stage”. You write about that often in how people learn (and I listened).


    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Yes, it is so much more than just being a greeter. It’s having an authentic attitude that really cares for people.

      You do that very well Thom!

      Thanks for reading and commenting too.

  3. Sylvia says:

    Spot on thank you

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