We all know how important first impressions are. Your event entrance is your guests' first impression of what's to come. It sets the tone, so you want it to engage, excite, and fill them with anticipation. You want to wow 'em.
You can do that in big and small ways, limited only by your imagination and budget. The secret is to make it a multi-sensory experience to trigger maximum engagement. Here are some of our favorite ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
- Start out front. A color wash on the exterior walls, a sidewalk chalk hopscotch outline, faux searchlights – do something eye-catching and fun to let folks know they’re in the right place and about to enter your Event Zone.
- Give ‘em a ride. Chauffeur folks to the entrance via horse-drawn carriage, hay wagon, or a fleet of Ferraris to get them in the mood. This is especially great as a shuttle service, if your venue has a huge parking lot.
- Roll out the – not red! – carpet. Trite says zzzzzz, not excitement, so pick a different color or stick dinosaur footprints on the floor. Better yet, use projection imaging to create a faux carpet pathway with images and/or text that reinforce your theme, welcome guests, and lead them into the main event space. Or line the entryway with twinkly lights or luminarias to show the way.
- Build a bridge. A bridge signifies crossing over – in this case into the unique and unexpected world of your event. No room for a bridge? Use an arch or trellis to create that same crossing-over (or under) effect.
- Create a tunnel. Dress up an event entrance corridor (or create one) with rows of theme-appropriate or location-specific artwork, banks of trees or flowers, etc. Go whole-hog with a 360o surround that looks like a jungle, the inside of the International Space Station, or a haunted house. Or build a maze. (Be sure to keep these spaces simple enough retain the fun aspect.) Don’t forget the ceiling. Project images, if you can, or hang lights, stars, or banners with images, welcoming notes or event factoids.
- Welcome them personally. Use thematic cartoon or movie characters, your brand’s own mascot, or the rarely-seen-in-person corporate CEO to greet folks as they enter. Or make a life-size cutout or huge themed props. Have a photographer on hand to take pics in front of a fun backdrop (remember your prom?), then post the photos during your event or share them online.
- Give ‘em swag. Conferences always have swag bags, but everybody likes free stuff and goodie bags are a great way to reinforce your brand and promote sponsors, so why not hand out swag bags at every type of event?
- Make it interactive. Hands-on activities immediately engage multiple senses, and games add fun. Give each entrant a key they can use to try and unlock a series of treasure chests, boxes, car trunks, etc. along the entry, to win small prizes or extra raffle tickets. Another game idea? Hand out scavenger hunt lists as people enter, with tempting end-of event prizes for winners. Encourage folks to work together, or pre-assign groups to facilitate networking.
- Entertain them. Big crowds can mean waiting in line, but you can start getting folks engaged with strolling musicians or a magician, or a small stage with a string quartet or bluegrass duo. Show a short video with a welcome message or amusing or informative content about your event or its “cause.” (If your entrance will be noisy, consider silent video or using digital signage.)
- Pass hors-d'oeuvres. Why wait till later for the reception? The very word means “to receive,” so your event entrance is the ideal place to hand out a tasty welcome.
- Use facial recognition sign-in. If Facebook can do it, so can you (if you have the budget). Totally top-tech, instantly branding your event is with-it in the extreme. What will be next?
By now your brain is really fizzing, right? Once you start contemplating how to create a memorable event entrance, the hardest part is choosing which ideas to use.