Every so often we dip our toes into a series called Danny Recommends:, posts that tip you off to the stuff that I…you know. The recommendations might be products for use in your ministry, resources that will help you develop leaders around you, or just fun stuff that you need. Want. Whatever. You can also see a full list of recommended books and such over at the Reading List. For other posts in the series, check out the link at the bottom.
Here on Ye Olde Guest Services Bloge, we tend to focus less on superfluous old English “e’s” and more on the nuts and bolts of how to make your guest services team function like a well-oiled machine. That means that we’ve discussed things like your seating team in great detail, including how to get people to move down front and ten ways to make your seating team more effective.
But there’s one practical seating tool that we’ve danced around without ever really discussing. That, my friends, ends today.
If there is a faithful friend to guest services practitioners, it is the long-suffering pipe and drape. P&D covers a multitude of sins. Your church meets in an ugly middle school cafeteria? Boom: pipe and drape the walls. You need to section off a classroom? Pow: throw a run of pipe and drape across the middle. Want to create an artificial backstage area without breaking out the sheetrock? Blam: toss up that 12 foot section and get yourself a green room (just keep it down while slurping your coffee, because fabric ain’t sheetrock, kids).
But my favorite use of pipe and drape actually separates the dynamic duo. Yes, we’re talking Batman without Robin, Laurel without Hardy, and Mac without Cheese. Let’s talk about piping your seating area.
If you struggle with (a) filling your auditorium, (b) filling your auditorium unevenly, or (c) leaving space for late arrivers, piping off an area is an easy way to section seating and help your volunteers keep their sanity. We’ve run the gamut of tools over the years: nylon ropes, signage, retractable stanchions, even eight feet tall pipe and drape that actually felt more like a haunted house.
But my favorite go-to is the three feet high pipe, sans drape.
Here’s what that looks like at one of our campuses, before people show up:
And here’s an “after” shot at another campus, once the room has hit capacity:
Here’s why I love the three feet high option: unlike rope or retractable barriers, you can’t easily step over or duck under those metal pipes. They’re by no means heavy, but they’re quite unwieldy for a ne’er-do-well who might want to sit in a no-no zone. Both the uprights and the horizontal supports are lightweight and easy to remove when a section is ready to be seated. The bases are necessarily heavy, but have a handy notch that fits snugly around the leg of an auditorium chair, thereby preventing tripping hazards. All in all, it’s a clean, slick look that helps naturally funnel people where you want them to go, rather than allowing a Lord of the Flies-style seat yourself free for all.
And who is our preferred vendor? I’m so glad you asked. We’ve been working with the great team at Georgia Expo for over a decade now. They have a wide selection of products and are increasingly innovative with design. For seating specifically, we use the following products:
- Slip-fit base, 14″ x 16″ (technically, you can use their 8″ x 14″ model with the 3′ high pipe, but I like the stability of the bigger base)
- 3′ high, 1.5″ fixed height uprights, slip fit system
- Telescoping drape support (we use the 6′-10′ length, which usually covers three rows of seating, depending on distance between rows)
If you struggle with a serious seating situation, get yourself some pipe and see where that takes you…and your people.
Disclaimer: FTC watchdogs will probably want to know that the companies listed / linked above did not ask for this endorsement, nor did they provide me with free swag in order to do so. I’m just a really satisfied customer who wants to let you know where you can get some great products. So there.