Needless to say, it’s important that all of your guests are made to feel welcome as soon as they set foot inside your country. The following are some tips to make sure everyone is smiling by the time they enter their room.
On arrivals day, there should be a small welcoming team posted at the airport, train station or other port of entry. (If it’s possible to also provide this service a day or more before the official arrivals day, so much the better.)
Your volunteers should:
- Remain at the airport (i.e. they shouldn’t be the same people as those driving the transfer minibuses).
- Have a roster of expected arrivals.
- Have mobile phone contact with the convenor and whoever is manning the registration desk. That way, they can give and receive updates on changing travel plans throughout the day.
If you can get permission to set up a small desk, that’s great. At the very least your volunteers need to be clearly visible, with tournament t-shirts or other recognisable clothing or badges.
(For guidance on transporting your participants, see Transport.)
When people arrive at the hotel/hostel, you need to be ready for them. There’s no absolute requirement to set up a registration area before official arrivals day, but if you can then you might find it helps to process arrivals more efficiently. As soon as a party arrives, it should be obvious what they need to do; you might want to post a volunteer or two just inside the lobby. In a hotel, people will normally want to get their key and settle into their room first, but you should encourage them to come back down to the registration desk soon.
Your registration area should be manned by a number of volunteers, and must enable participants to:
- Pick up their name badge and welcome pack (see below)
- Sign up to any optional activities taking place in the first couple of days of the tournament (and ideally later activities too)
- Get answers to important questions
- Pay any outstanding registration fees in cash
You could also provide extras such as fresh water or other refreshments, and access to computers for checking e-mail.
Best of all, persuade the hotel/hostel to let you have a room throughout the tournament to use as an office. You’ll need somewhere for your staff/volunteers to do their work anyway, so combining this space with your registration area could be a sensible option.
These are essential for any big conference, let alone a 10-day international event. You can go for either laminated badges (tough) or badge holders into which you slip a piece of paper/card (easy to rectify errors). If you need to choose between badges with lanyards (i.e. attached to ribbons which go around your neck) or with pins, go with lanyards to avoid damage to cherished items of clothing. The badge should state the person’s name, country and status (debater, coach, judge, observer, staff member, volunteer). You can also make it serve other functions, e.g. add a symbol to indicate whether the person is of legal age to drink alcohol.
- Download: Sample name badges (PDF, 66Kb)
The welcome pack is what you give all participants on arrival. As an absolute minimum, it must contain the tournament schedule and the official guidelines mentioned in Materials to be provided. It’s also highly recommended that you provide a souvenir brochure for the tournament, with welcome messages, profiles of competing teams, and acknowledgement of all your sponsors (you can ask a previous convenor for an example of such a brochure). There’s no limit to the other stuff that you can provide in the welcome pack, although if you have a lot then you’ll need a good team of volunteers just to fill 300 packs with the stuff.
Appropriate information/freebies might include the following:
- T-shirt/other clothing depending on weather (although not essential, clothing has been provided at just about every tournament; you might be able to get them donated by a clothing company or, if money is tight, sell them rather than giving them away)
- Practical local information such as bus/rail timetables, directory of useful phone numbers, maps, tourist guides, money-off vouchers, details of nearest shops/restaurants/cafes/laundry
- Corporate gifts: pens, pencils, highlighters, coasters, mouse mats, free samples etc. (ask big companies or government departments – some of them will be overflowing with this sort of stuff)
- A pad of paper
- A calculator for each judge (if you don’t have the resources to provide these, remember to ask judges to bring calculators with them)
- Document folders/wallets
- Invitations to events that require a formal invitation
- Information about hotel/hostel facilities, including internet access (and, if necessary, instructions on behaviour in the hotel/hostel)
All of the above can be provided in a simple cardboard folder. But if you can provide a branded bag for your participants to carry all their stuff around in - perhaps in exchange for putting in promotional material for a bank/telecommunications company - so much the better.