Here's How to Make a Success of Your Facility Open House

You say you’re not selling your facility? In an importance sense, yes you are. So take a few tips from people who hold open houses for a living.

So you’re holding an open house at your plant. You’ve never done it before. Or you’ve tried but had a less-than-great experience. Or it went fine, but you want this one to go even better.

Where can you turn for advice? How about real estate agents? Sure, your open house is different from the ones they routinely hold. But just like them, you have something to sell. If your guests go away thinking, “What a great facility — it’s worth every penny I pay,” then you have closed the deal.

To get open-house tips, you don’t have to call on local home sellers. You can search for their advice online. I did, and I found that what makes an open house successful at a home for sale can do the same at treatment plants. So, in no particular order, here goes.

Schedule smart. Pick a date and time that your target attendees will find the most convenient. Steer clear of major sports contests, busy weekends, high school graduation days and any other high-profile events.

Get the word out. Mail invitations to VIPs. Put notices in the newspaper, on your website and social media, on the radio — everywhere you can. Put a sign out on the road past your driveway with the date and time. Embellish it with a flag or balloons.

Make a great first impression. The saying is true: You only get one chance. So mow the grass. Freshen up the flowers. Touch up the paint. Spruce up the sign. Sweep the walk. Make sure any vehicles are neatly parked.

Clean house. Inside, swab the deck. Give the paint a once-over. And give the whole place a thorough cleaning and dusting. Visitors won’t expect your plant to be immaculate. When it is, they’ll be impressed. Fix little items that may be broken.

Clear the clutter. This is part of what real estate agents call staging. Put everything in its place — no hoses to trip over, no machinery to step around. Stow things in places where visitors won’t go. Let them focus on your process.

Lights on! Keep building interiors well lit. It’s more inviting, not to mention safer.

Bake (or buy) cookies. Real estate agents do it. Why not you? Cookies, soft drinks, water — a few basic refreshments can help guests feel comfortable and welcome. 

Create a “property sheet.” Use an existing brochure if you have one. Otherwise, you know the drill. Not bedrooms, bathrooms, and heating costs, but basic statistics: flows, treatment steps, receiving water, compliance record, and so on.

Think safety and security. A homeowner’s nightmare is to have a guest fall or otherwise get injured. Your plant has more hazards than a house. Avoid pitfalls like wet floors and stairways, loose mats, or exposed electric tools. Also make sure team members’ personal items are safety tucked or locked away.

Keep an ear peeled. Pay close attention to what guests say. You may pick up valuable information: a compliment to pass along to your team, a helpful suggestion. A complaint you should address.

Follow up. Ask visitors to sign a guest book with their name and address. Send a thank-you note a few days later. A little touch like that can go a long way.

There’s one real estate agent tip you won’t want to follow. Homeowners are told to be elsewhere for an open house. At the plant, you’re the star. Be ready to make the best presentation you possibly can.


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