As rewarding as hosting an experience can be, sometimes the logistics can be challenging! As the host you are expected to juggle many things at once: managing time, navigating group dynamics, catering to individual guest needs, handling unforeseen developments, expertly executing the activity itself, and all with a smile. It’s part of what makes hosting both very challenging and incredibly rewarding.
In this article, we’ll share some tips on handling unexpected situations and managing group dynamics, based on what we’ve heard from successful hosts and feedback from guests.
Communicating clearly and effectively
Many hosts say they have learned the importance of sending a detailed message before their experience. It helps them remind guests of essential information that can reduce confusion or mismatched expectations during the experience.
The message can include information like directions to the meeting point, as well as things to bring with them (i.e. sunscreen, comfortable shoes), re-emphasizing things that can help them arrive in the right state (i.e. “Come hungry, we’ll be eating a lot!”), and even checking about special needs.
My first step, after a guest signs up, is to send a detailed message, describing logistics and asking if they have any food preferences or special needs. It’s important to me that everyone is able to enjoy the tour, so I accommodate their needs to the best of my ability. – Jan, food tour host in San Francisco
Good communication isn’t limited to just sending messages through the Airbnb app. It also means being as transparent as possible with your guests during the experience. Guests appreciate when hosts “think out loud” by narrating what they do. Keep in mind that although you’ve done this activity many times, it may be your guest’s first time and they may really appreciate understanding more of the backstory or context on why you’re doing what you’re doing.
You never know who will turn up, and never make assumptions on someone’s ability or interest. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and get to know your group! – Alesha, yoga host in Barcelona
Navigating group dynamics
Whether you have only one guest or ten at a time, it’s important to deliver personal attention to each guest in order to make them feel a sense of belonging during your experience. One of the key differences between Airbnb Experiences and a traditional tour or workshop is the way guests and hosts feel like friends during an experience.
We have heard from hosts that many prefer setting a relatively small group size when they first start hosting and then increase that maximum group size over time as they feel more confident.
It can be helpful to kick-off the experience with an icebreaker so that the guests get acquainted with you and with each other. An icebreaker doesn’t have to be a very involved or time-consuming “game”, it can be as simple as going around the circle to have guests introduce themselves and say why they booked the experience or maybe what they’re looking forward to.
An ice-breaker exercise is a must. This definitely helps me get to know them well and helps them get to know each other well. It is important to create a friendly atmosphere for everyone. – Tenshin, calligraphy host in Tokyo
It’s a cliche among hosts that “every group is different” but it’s really true! Guests can be very diverse and the way different personalities combine within a given group can result in very different experiences. Plus, the ability or familiarity levels related to the activity among guests can vary drastically within the same group. It’s important to leave space for all levels to feel comfortable and co-exist. It helps to plan ahead different options so that each type of guest can still have a good time.
Balancing different fitness levels on a group, even [in a small] group as ours usually are, is something very challenging and difficult… This kind of situation taught us to to divide the running tour into two sections: the first one, during the first half of the tour, we intercalate lots of pauses for pictures and stories about the monuments with running, so it’s not really tiring. The second half, where we run along the docks, a pedestrian area with no traffic at all, is the training section. There we usually split the groups into two: those who can go faster speed up until a meeting point we set before, and we stay with the less fast ones. That way, everyone can enjoy the tour at their own pace and still have the impression that they could learn something new… – Andrea, running host in Paris
Adapting to unexpected situations
Unplanned situations are inevitable while hosting since there are so many variables at play. Staying flexible and upbeat in the face of these changes can help keep guests happy. In fact, we’ve heard stories of hosts actually earning more high reviews when things went wrong because guests were impressed by how well the host rose to the occasion and kept things fun.
The most challenging moment was when I had an Experience booked on a day that ended up being very cold (it was actually an ice storm!)… Since my Experience is primarily outdoors, I worked in some hot coffee stops, and found warm-up spots throughout to make sure they were comfortable. My guests were such troopers! I learned that when you’re working with the elements, you have to be flexible and adjust your route accordingly, even if your initial plan is perfectly timed. – Jess, photography host in Toronto
Thinking through some potential difficult scenarios ahead of time. How will you handle poor weather conditions, language barriers, food allergies, equipment malfunctions, etc? Being prepared can help you feel confident when unexpected situations inevitably arise.
I learned very quickly… that I need to be adaptable for the group, and to be sure to ask ahead of time the comfort level of the participants and gauge options. We have several hiking paths available to us, so I am able to adjust based on ability, and comfort. – Alesha, yoga host in Barcelona
To read more tips on how to prepare for the unexpected, check out this article.
We hope the tips included here have helped you think through some strategies and approaches to try. Remember that everyone has their own unique hosting style, so it’s important to find what works best for you while also ensuring a high-quality, positive experience for your guests.
For more tips related to juggling logistics, in particular related to the schedule and flow of your experience, check out this article.