What to say at reception to save time and project certainty

 In Message creation, Stories

Imagine this situation. You enter into a business premises, reception area and walk to the reception desk. The receptionist acknowledges you. Now, think of what you usually say, from this point on in the interaction. Handling this situation well might come easily to you, but many business people I observe, mishandle this encounter.

Here’s how to handle the reception desk interaction. 1. Make eye contact with the receptionist and while you hold eye contact, and, in an easily heard voice say, for example, ‘Hi, I’m here to see Phillip Vorhauser (then pause) 2. The receptionist will write down the name. As she/he looks back up at you and begins to speak to ask for your name, you can save her asking, by saying your name. 3. Sign the register and get a name badge if you need one. 4. Take a seat in the reception area.

Now, this might seem straightforward but many people give the information in the wrong sequence. They say their name first, and then the name of the person they are meeting with. This will often cause the receptionist to ask for their name again.

From the receptionist’s point of view, she/he first wants, the name of the person you’re meeting with. Then having written down the person’s name she/he is ready to receive your name. Then she/he will phone the person.

Now, you might be thinking that how you sequence this information is trivial and not something to care about. However, if you agree with the concept that ‘every interaction forms an impression and potential for loss or gain’, and you want to maximize the number of positive impressions you leave – then, your behaviour in this situation matters.

And if you are like most business people, having several reception desk encounters in a week, why not handle them in a way that omits needless words and helps the receptionist do her/his job?

The how to apply for this post: In your reception desk interactions in the next week, use the four step process above – and reflect on the impression it leaves.


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  • Kent Johnson

    Micheal thanks for pearls and gems.
    Your reception tip was interseting it is the way I approach receptionist to disarm them, then I ususally sit and watch as others get blocked and make them frustrated.

    It made me think though on the phone I usually introduce myself first then my agenda, returning a phone call to, following up with etc, then ask if they would mind putting me (and say my name again) through to them. Shold I be stating my objective first in this situation as with the face to face of a receptionist?

    • michael

      Thanks Kent. I’d suggest, regarding your ‘returning a call’ scenario, that you use the same their name/ your name sequence. The verbiage could be as follows ‘Hi, I’m ringing for John Jones . . . it’s Kent Johnson . . . I’m returning his call’. For situations where you’re not returning a call or the person doesn’t know you, I find it best to reverse the sequence. For example, when I’m making a sales call to a prospective customer (often after sending him three to four mailing pieces/media articles about my work) I’ll say my name and company name first, to establish my authority with the receptionist. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. I’d trial different sequences of giving information and see what delivers the best results.

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