Deliver Happiness To Your Guests

I’ve been reading Delivering Happiness by Zappos founder Tony Hsieh. I highly recommend it as an inspirational story about sacrifice, drive, perseverance, and personal mission.
One of the things Hsieh stresses repeatedly is how much more interested he is in experiences than in acquiring things. It’s no wonder that Zappos has become known for its superior customer service.
This got me to thinking about how artists and arts organizations treat their guests at openings. Here's what I came up with.

Artist Karen McLain
Artist Karen McLain addresses a standing-room only and overflow crowd at the fundraiser for The Cloud Foundation, which she worked on for over a year.

When you host an opening and invite people, you are the host.
The people who attend, whether they pay or not, are your guests. They have gone out of their way to show up for you.
It’s to your advantage, and hopefully to your delight, to deliver happiness to them – not just with your art, but also in the way you treat them. How should your guests feel when they arrive? How would you like for them to remember the event?
Even if the opening is hosted by the venue, the guests are often coming because of you. Instead of thinking about it as just another opening, consider creating a memorable experience for your guests. Here are a few ways you can do this.

Tips for Delivering Happiness To Your Guests

1. Inform your guests ahead of time about directions and parking.
Let them know about any road construction or other events that might be occurring that would result in more traffic.
2. Set the scene.
See that the bathrooms are clean, put out a coat rack, and bring in extra seating. I realize you might not think of these things as your job, but who else cares more about your guests than you?
Designate a table for your promotional material: business cards, brochures, postcards, and other handouts. If appropriate, put together a notebook of information about your work.

art opening
Great turnout for The Cloud Foundation fundraiser, evidenced by the empty platters.

3. Arrive early.
Hosts are not permitted to be fashionably late. If you tell your guests that the event is from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., you should be there by 5:45 at the latest.
4. Wear a name tag and greet people.
You can’t be the greeter at the door because you must be mingling with your guests. If you're the only artist, ask your closest friends or family to help you with this task.
Make an effort to remember names. When you meet someone, repeat his name out loud: “It's so nice to meet you, David.” Then repeat the name silently to yourself several times.
5. Introduce your guests to other guests, particularly when they arrive alone.
You are probably the only person in the room who knows everyone. What does Jane have in common with Jeff? How could Susan and Debbie benefit from knowing one another?
The Cloud Foundation
Tracy Miller, Karen McLain, Me, and Carol McIntyre at the opening event for The Cloud Foundation fundraiser.

6. Limit your liquor.
All eyes will be on you as the featured artist. Be an example of restraint and sip on a single glass of wine all evening or forego the booze altogether.
People probably won’t buy your art if you’re tipsy and spill wine on them.
7. Stay for the duration.
Whether it’s a solo show or group exhibition, you are still obligated to be present for the entire event.
8. Send your guests home with a small gift.
Of course, you can’t always do this with a huge crowd, but what if each guest received a packet of your note cards or a small inkjet print of your work? You’d be getting more of your images out into the world and treating each person like royalty.
How do you deliver happiness at your openings and through your customer service?

Share this post

Does your digital presence do justice to the quality of your art?

A comprehensive checklist to do a quick review of everywhere you show up online. FREE with opt-in.

16 thoughts on “Deliver Happiness To Your Guests”

  1. Thanks so much for this valuable info. I am about to do my first open studio this Fall and expect some good people to attend. I love the idea of treating them so well and making them happy. Happiness breeds happiness and why else are we here? Thanks for all you do – I appreciate all your hard work on part of us artists.
    I may be moving West next year… who knows, I may get to meet you yet!

  2. Thank you very much for the article Alyson!!… I am yet to do shows here…but now will be well prepared… 🙂

  3. Hi Alyson… wonderful article about treating your guests as royalty. This has me thinking that this could extend to other ways that people might interact with us and our art… like on our website and blog… how can we make our visitors feel at ease, comfortable, engaged, and have a happy experience.

  4. Thanks Alyson! I always love creating a warm and welcoming environment at openings. I really think having some sort of music (my choice would be soft Brazilian jazz) playing in the background is an effective ice-breaker. Music creates an underlying atmosphere that makes people feel more comfortable and lets them talk without feeling everyone can hear them!
    I also do feng shui and so, if possible, like to use those concepts when hanging my work.
    Of course, providing some nice munchies also helps get people there. 😉

  5. Susan Purney Mark

    Thanks for the information, as always, very useful. I like the idea of the small gift. Easy to do and not expensive. I’ll be doing a Studio Tour again this November so a small gift is great idea leading up to the holidays.

  6. I host an annual open house/wayzgoose every fall. The studio is a separate building behind the house. But we empty out the living room, front bedroom and dining room of the house and turn them into a gallery. Folks enter at the front, find someone to talk to and are given time to read the work on the walls since I do literary/visual broadsides. I am totally on during the time of the event which is limited to 3 hours. There is plenty of food, good wine (I don’t buy the cheapest wine, I buy wine I want to drink but drink only water during the event), desserts, etc. Attendees are invited to pass through the house and out to the studio where the printing press is set up with someone coaching each individual to pull a broadside/print for themselves. Each year we design something new to be printed. We also give out a specially designed simple keepsake that is given freely. The format of that is the same each year so some folks have a complete set. It is a lot of work, but also lots of fun and I have found that the sales are very good. I consider it a community service and educational event as well. It is now an event that folks ask about and in those 3 hours we host almost 300 folks.

  7. Alyson, Thank you for the help and guidance you gave during the planning process. Being part of the Gold Mastermind Group, and The Art Biz Makeover helped establish and form my goals and timeline.
    I strongly encourage fellow artists to attend and get the help that will make the difference in a successful Exhibit.
    Thank you for helping and believing in my goals since 2009!
    Karen McLain

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top

Are you presenting yourself in the most professional manner online?

Get The Artist’s
Online Presence Audit

48 places to check to make sure you are ready when someone runs into you online. Free with optin.

*You will also receive updates about new podcasts, blog posts, and programs. You can opt out at any time.

Privacy + Terms