[submitted via the 2018 blog survey]
Ahhh…45,000 square feet. As you prepare to double your space (and then some), you no doubt have grandiose visions of plenty of elbow room, lots of flex space, and pockets of people gathering for impromptu conversations before and after service…all sans the “cattle drive” feel in your current packed environment.
45,000 square feet is the size of the average grocery store in America. 45,000 square feet is just over an acre, all under one roof. (And yes, I had to Google both of those facts, because why would anyone know that.) 45,000 square feet is nothing to sneeze at, but it is something to be wary of, especially when it comes adding multiple entrances and managing the guest experience.
As the question-asker, you know the reason behind the wariness. But to catch everyone else up, here’s a quick rundown: multiple entrances are convenient, but confusing. A first-time guest can just as easily wander into the back of the building as they can the front. Oh sure, we know that this door leads you straight to volunteer headquarters or the middle school space. But that curse of knowledge means we don’t often think of the impact to those who don’t know. What is familiar to us can become frustrating to our guests.What is familiar to us can become frustrating to our guests. Click To Tweet
Here are a few things to consider as you get ready for the move:
1. Talk about “forced experience.”
As a leadership team, discuss what you want your guests to see and where you want them to go. I’m guessing you don’t want your first timers to wind up in volunteer headquarters. Make sure that entrance isn’t obvious, and make sure that the prime parking spots don’t lead you there. Arrange your signage and parking team and even the times you open particular lots so that cars most likely to contain first time guests get to where you intend for them to be.
2. Think outside in.
Most of the time we think inside out when planning the weekend. As long as the sermon and worship is on point, that’ll make guests happy, right? The problem is that the sermon and worship aren’t the first things our guests experience. We have to think about the first touch in their first seconds on campus. If you are submitting to the “forced experience” perspective above, where are you leading your guests? [related post: Why Outside Greeters Are More Important Than Inside Greeters]
3. Have a first-time guest lot.
A dedicated parking area for FTGs takes care of a lot of your “which entrance is mine?” questions. Decide on your main entrance, and give priority access to your first timers. Accent that with signs and volunteers that will get guests there. Have people in the lot to answer guests’ questions or walk them in.
4. Provide a neutral zone.
Someone showing up for the first time doesn’t know what’s on the other side of your front door. So take what’s on the inside and move it outside. Provide a first-time guest tent or some other visual draw that help a guest feel comfortable about what is to come.
5. Plan for the inevitable.
I get it. We’re five headers in, and I still haven’t answered the “But what about when they show up at the wrong entrance?” Fear not…here we are. Some of our campuses do have more than one entrance. But those entrances are still on the same side of the building, and the First Time Guest Tent is positioned in such a way that you still have to walk past it to get from your car to the door. At one campus, we have an entrance to the front of the lobby, and an entrance to the back. We’ve arranged our signage, volunteers, and parking spaces so that our first timers are “forced” to the front. But that doesn’t mean they all get there. So we decided to put up a second First Time Guest Tent at the rear entrance…the one we don’t expect first timers to come to. And it’s true that on most weekends, 97% of our FTG traffic comes through the front door. But for those 3% that wandered around back, we’re ready for them too.
The point: greeters at all of your entrances are a non-negotiable. Don’t just put them inside the doors, move them 18 inches outside so that guests never have to wonder what’s on the other side.
(bonus!) 6. Revisit your plan in six months.
I’ve heard it said that colleges will often pour a sidewalk in areas where students have made paths. In other words, they didn’t plan for a student to walk there originally, but they responded to students natural traffic patterns. In the same way, you should observe where guests are going, and respond appropriately. Do you need to double down and revisit “forced experience”? Maybe. Or maybe you can watch the places your guests naturally gravitate to, and meet them there.
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