I’ve stumbled into several conversations over the past few weeks that have forced me to focus on one primary question:
Do we greet guests the way they want to be greeted?
The question started bouncing around in my mind during a meeting with our campus First Impressions directors, most of whom are younger than me (heck, most of them are younger than my socks). We were reviewing our onboarding process for our first time guests (which includes a tent that stands obnoxiously in the way of all of our main entrances), and one of them said, “Well you know, Millennials avoid our tents like the plague.”
I’ll admit that I’m not exactly a native of the Millennial generation. I’m part of Generation X, which means that we yell at the Millennials to get off our lawns. But the statement struck me to the point that – weeks later – I’m still processing it. According to our staff in that meeting, a tent doesn’t scream “welcome” to a Millennial. Many of them see it as a cover, a way to bait and switch them to get information and put them on a mailing list. And while I don’t have an answer quite yet on how we target a Millennial welcome, I think I know what we’re not ready to do.
Our best greeting strategies are added, not subtracted.
We can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just because something doesn’t speak to one generation doesn’t mean it won’t speak to another. (Caveat: I still despise the petri dish “shake the hand of 72 people around you and play Russian Roulette with the stomach bug.” If you’re doing that, Jesus wants you to stop.) Across our campuses we still have dozens of people who show up at the tents every weekend. It’s a low-pressure, high-delight, neutral zone that helps them connect to a person before they walk in the door. So we don’t necessarily fix the problem by getting rid of something that doesn’t connect to a particular demographic. Rather, we’re looking at providing other means: text your information? Maybe. Webpage where you can remain anonymous but find a next step? Perhaps. I’m not advocating adding layers of confusion, but rather a menu of options that will meet a guest right where they are.
(Can you tell I’m thinking out loud and I have no idea where this conversation will lead? Good.)
I do know one thing for sure. The point is not the specific method, the point is the message: we’re ready when you’re ready. When you want to introduce yourself, we’re here. When you want to be known, here’s how. When you feel like it’s time to take a next step or put down roots or ask a question, here are the more-than-obvious on-ramps to help you do so. We promote those on-ramps, highlight those on-ramps, and talk about those on-ramps all the time so that when our guests are ready, we’re ready.
But writing about this has me curious, campers: what methods do you use to help your guests identify themselves? What works? What doesn’t? I’d love to hear your process. Comment below.