Monday, February 19, 2018

Run Your Next Welcome Reception Like an Apple Store

This week I reviewed the free e-book, Fueling Exceptional New Member Experiences, from Amanda Kaiser at Kaiser Insights and the Smooth the Path blog. My favorite part was the section that talked about the importance of making a positive first impression with new members.

These first impressions can be very positive and assure the new member that they did not make a mistake in joining. ... It is no accident that staff at the Apple Store greets you as soon as you walk in the door. They inquire about what you need; they alert the person you need to see, they tell you how long it will take to get served and where to meet your contact. They actively orchestrate each and every first impression. The message is: you are being taken care of, you are in good hands, and you matter to us.

It got me thinking. Apple isn't the only retailer that treats its customers this way. Indeed, when I went to the internet to find an appropriate photo to accompany this post -- and was so turned off by all photos of mindlessly happy people mobbed inside of Apple stores -- I decided to use the more iconic shot of the Wal-Mart greeter with his mission of engagement clearly spelled out on the back of his blue vest.

What if, as I suggest in my post title, an association ran the welcome reception at its Annual Conference like that? Station a group of staff people near the entrance -- blue vests optional -- with the express purpose of greeting every member that enters the room. But not just greeting them. Engaging them. Asking them what it is they need and then doing the best they can to deliver it.

I firmly believe that one of the best services a staff person could perform in such a situation is to make an introduction that would otherwise be difficult for the member -- especially for a new member in the association.

We talk about the value of networking in our associations -- indeed, we pitch it as one of our most valuable member benefits -- but our approach to facilitating it is frequently haphazard at best. We book a room, put bars in the far corners, and vegetable and cheese platters in the middle, and then we step out of the way. The member, especially the member who is new, who doesn't know people, has to initiate conversation and navigate the cliques all by herself.

I, on the other hand, know practically everyone in the room. I would be happy to introduce a new member to the most senior individual present -- perhaps the president of a company she has always wanted to do business or otherwise get to know. The member may not realize it, but all she has to do to get that introduction is ask.

But here's the point. The greeters at Wal-Mart or the Apple Store don't wait for you to tell them what they need. They step right up and ask you.

How may I help you?

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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