When I worked in newsrooms, people often came in to take tours of the station: potential new employees, elementary school classes, local business groups. Of course, that didn’t mean our work stopped. We sometimes cleaned our desks in advance, but we didn’t often look up from them during the actual visit. We were all on deadline, and that came first.
I later learned that office visits in the corporate world are taken much more seriously. I interned at a corporate office for about six months, and during that time, major potential clients came to the office. A mass e-mail was sent out notifying everyone, telling them to clean their desks and wear their suits. I could handle this task with no problem, but as a video intern for the company, I was surprised when the visitors were actually brought to my desk and introduced to me. I was admittedly thrown off when I was asked to explain what I did for the company, and to give an outline of all my recent projects. After that first awkward moment, I learned that I had to have a pitch prepared. And, by watching the whole process, I learned what it takes to actually entertain a potential client.
I recently came across on article on Inc.com from contributor Paul Spiegelman: “10 Ways to Make Visits to Your Office Memorable.” He makes several great points about entertaining guests. If you want to impress, keep these a priority:
- Prepare in advance. You would think this would be a no-brainer, but many companies might be pressed for time and not really sure what all of this entails. As Spiegelman says, make sure you know how the client is getting to you. If they’re flying in, make sure they’re picked up from the airport by a car or a staff member.
- A big part of your preparations should be prepping your staff members. I was completely unprepared for my first corporate visit because no one told me much about the client or what they were looking to achieve. Make sure your employees know enough about the company and client so that they, too, can ask questions and offer personalized attention.
- Your receptionist is not just a receptionist. Spiegelman says his company has a “Director of First Impressions” — not a receptionist. This person handles all visitors and makes them feel comfortable. Visitors are served water, coffee, or tea, and given nametags. They should feel welcome the moment they walk in.
- Always have food available and ready to serve. Spiegelman suggests you serve food, since you are never sure if someone has eaten. If they just got off a flight, there’s a good chance they might want a snack. Don’t just have lunch ready for them an hour later — make sure there’s always something available.
These are just highlights of the many great tips Spiegelman provides, so be sure to read the rest here. And remember to think of what you would feel like as a visitor. What would you want, and what would make you feel more welcome and comfortable? This is a good guide for how you should entertain office visitors. Even if you aren’t a manager, you can help your company make a better impression — and that’s a win for everyone.