How the 10-5 Rule Creates Kinder, More Welcoming Event Experiences

event experiencesPost authored by Donna Kastner, Founder, Retirepreneur

The 8-Phases of a Successful Event is an outstanding blueprint for mapping out steps (large & small) you can take to improve event experiences across their entire event journey – before, during, and after the live event.

For this post, I’d like to focus on one make-or-break phase that happens mid-way through the event journey – the ENTERING phase.

This stage follows the taxing ARRIVING phase, where guests travel to your event destination. Let’s face it – many won’t enjoy the comforts of Pre-TSA status or cocktails on their first-class flight.

Nope, instead, they’re waiting in long lines, juggling baggage, looking for a place to recharge their devices, and longing for this travel phase to end, which makes their ENTERING phase even more critical.

And the good news – ENTERING is one phase you can improve considerably.

event experiences

Introducing the 10-5 Rule

In a recent Pinkcast 2-minute video, Dan Pink interviewed Christine Porath, Professor of Management at Georgetown University and author of Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace.

Before we dig into the 10-5 Rule, let’s explore this concept of civility. I don’t know about you, but I’m noticing this word mentioned more often these days. I also see it added to titles, usually within higher ed circles.

Why is civility so important today?

“It’s really just that people feel respected, they feel valued, they feel a sense of belonging,” says Porath. As we nurture civility in the workplace, studies show that people are more productive, they’re able to focus more intently, and they’re more creative.

That sure sounds like a dynamic we’d want to unleash at events.

Porath shared a simple tip to spark more civility in any environment – the 10-5 Rule:

  • If you’re within 10 feet of someone, make eye contact and smile
  • If you’re within 5 feet of someone, say, “Hello.”

Sounds simple, right? Read on, because it’s not happening as much as you’d think in today’s busy world.

My Experiment with the 10-5 Rule

I caught this Pinkcast video on a flight to a conference, so as I entered the event venue, I was more attuned to eye contact, smiles, and warm welcomes, and I can tell you, mileage varied.

Some who worked the registration desk were adept at applying the 10-5 rule – many others were not. I continued to observe these interactions throughout the event, and it was fascinating watching how eye contact and smiles dramatically improved peer-to-peer exchanges.

While I’d like to think that I have a good handle on civility, truth be told, as the event unfolds and exhaustion sets in, I tend to retreat to the safe confines of my device cocoon.

Eye contact diminishes, smiles fade a bit more, and an otherwise stellar event experience starts to unravel.

“Candidly, I smiled so much, my cheeks hurt, but guess what?

The more I initiated eye contact, smiled, and greeted others, the more they followed suit.”

But hey – self-awareness is the first step, right?

Experimenting a bit more, I decided to push myself to apply the 10-5 rule at the airport as I waited for my flight home.

By the way, it’s surprising how little eye contact happens in this hectic environment.

Candidly, I smiled so much, my cheeks hurt, but guess what? The more I initiated eye contact, smiled, and greeted others, the more they followed suit.

Okay, not everyone, but it was amazing to see how quickly people mirrored these behaviors. Yes, the 10-5 Rule is contagious.

There’s more evidence supporting the impact of the 10-5 Rule. Customer satisfaction scores and referrals skyrocket when staff consistently apply these simple rules.

While doubling down on rockstar keynotes and other main stage event experiences still matters, let’s not forget the little things that can make a significant impact on event guest experiences.


About Donna

Donna Kastner has spent a good portion of her career as an event experience design consultant and is now building a dynamic collaboration community for executives age 50+ who are striving to make a smooth segue from full-time job to part-time consulting gig.

As the founder of Retirepreneur, Donna’s championing a movement to help others design flexible and fulfilling encore career opportunities.


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