For online experiences, connection is key. As a host, it’s important to design an interactive experience that encourages participation between you and your guests. With everyone physically apart, you want guests to feel like you’re bringing your world to them, wherever they are.
Our research even shows that the ability to interact with hosts in real time is the number one reason guests will pay for an experience over choosing a free alternative. To help make the most out of your time together, here are some tips for how to best interact with guests—and help them to connect with one another—before, during, and after your online experience.
Before your experience
Being a proactive host goes a long way in making people feel special. Prior to “meeting” your guests:
- Send a welcome message. A warm note that lets guests know you’re looking forward to hosting them, gives them an overview of what to expect, outlines what to bring, and confirms logistics will help them feel prepared. You can also consider attaching a photo to catch their eye.
Example: “I’m so excited to bring you into my cozy Tuscan kitchen. Before we meet, please make sure to have all-purpose flour, 4 eggs, and a clear table to work on. We’ll need those things to make my family’s 100-year-old pasta recipe. Once we’re done, you’ll know how to make pasta like an Italian! If you have any food allergies, let me know, and I’ll be happy to adjust the ingredients to accommodate. I’m looking forward to meeting you! P.S. Please, please arrive on time, otherwise you’ll miss the surprise I have planned.”
- Do your homework. Look over your guest list and consider reading each person’s profile in advance. This can help you memorize names, faces, and even where they’re from—details you can also reference if you message individual guests before the experience.
During your experience
When it comes to welcoming guests and getting them engaged, preparation is key! The day of your experience:
- Get there early. Log into Zoom at least 10 minutes before your start time to make sure there are no issues with your internet connection, audio, video, or backdrop. What will guests see and hear when they join the Zoom link? Have your space ready for virtual visitors the same way you would if they were coming into your house. Keep everything nice and tidy and make sure what’s on-screen is a great representation of who you are and what this experience is about.
- Start on time. The first 60 seconds of your experience are key and you want to make a great first impression. As guests join, welcome each person by name and introduce yourself so they know you’re the host. Consider mentioning where guests are from and set any ground rules prior to kicking off the experience. How do you want guests to use the chat? Do you want them to be muted? Let them know from the beginning.
- Make eye contact. During video calls, it’s instinctual to look at what’s on the screen. As a host, it’s important to look directly into the camera lens instead—this will make guests feel like you’re looking them in the eye and not down at something else.
- Establish your credibility. Guests want to know why you’re the perfect person to host this experience. Don’t be shy—tell them what makes you an expert, why you love hosting, and what you have planned to get them excited to spend their time with you.
Example: “I’ve been doing magic since I was 6 years old and hold various Guinness World Records. I can’t wait to bring you into my whimsical world and show you some of my favorite tricks. I’ll teach you 4 different tricks, and with your help, I’m going to try to break another world record!”
- Break the ice. To put guests at ease and help them connect with one another other, consider introducing a fun icebreaker. For example, ask each of them to show the view from their window, why they decided to take this experience, or something relevant to what you have planned. For example, if you’re hosting an Italian food workshop, ask everyone to share their favorite pasta dish.
- Build teamwork. Research shows that when people work together to overcome a challenge, they become closer. Introduce a challenge, brainstorm, or riddle that guests can solve together as part of the experience. You can use the breakout feature to let them work on it.
- Keep the conversation going. Throughout the experience, check in with your guests and make time to ask and answer questions to keep them engaged. If you’re doing an activity, have each person show their work in progress.
- Surprise and delight. Hospitality is all about setting expectations…and then surpassing them. Try adding something totally unexpected and unforgettable to your experience. For example, tell your guests you’ll share your grandma’s dumpling recipe, but send that AND your favorite noodle recipe so they can create a full meal.
After your experience
Just because your experience has to come to an end doesn’t mean your connections with guests do, too. To continue the conversation:
- Tell guests where to find you. People like to support hosts they enjoy, so encourage guests to connect with you on social media. To make sure your passion shines through, make sure you do so in a way that doesn’t feel promotional.
- Follow up with a note. This is your opportunity to close the arc, say thank you, and potentially share a photo or a recipe. It’s also a great way to gently ask for feedback.
Want to learn more about online experiences? Read these related articles: