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Learning from the Jimmy Fallon Experience

by Nils Smith


Living in New York, I’ve gotten to experience some pretty unique things over the past year or so.  We’ve run into celebrities, attended several parades, and gone to Broadway shows, but one experience has topped them all: attending the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

This is probably the hottest ticket in New York as it’s free, but you essentially have to enter a live lottery system and hope for the best.  After 9 tries, we got in and attended a live recording.  I’ll be honest, we were already big Jimmy Fallon fans, but being there in person and seeing how the show is actually recorded blew us away.

The Tonight Show offered us a free experience with VIP service. It is clear that hospitality has become a part of who they are and what they do.  From the moment we arrived to the moment we stepped off the elevator after the show, the experience was well orchestrated.  They thought through seemingly every detail in the check-in process, the lounge area, the studio experience, and most importantly whom we interacted with.  Jimmy Fallon was amazing, but the people and the processes at the Tonight Show were just as impressive in creating this VIP hospitality experience.

Here’s what I learned in the process: The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon creates a very intentional experience, and they think through every detail of their guests’ experience.  While the goals of the church might be different from the Tonight Show, I believe the intentionality should very much be the same.

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As I’ve attended churches around the country, here are some of the things I’ve experienced:

  • Cluttered lobbies that are confusing to navigate
  • Old coffee that was prepared days before
  • Awkward waiting times before services that often start late
  • Unplanned service transitions
  • Uncomfortable meet and greet times
  • High pressure offering plates
  • Somber closings

What if we spent a little more time thinking about a first time guest and their experience?  Here are some questions to help you do this:

  • How can you better communicate what to expect, where to park, where to walk, kids check-in, etc. on your website before a guest attends?
  • Is your lobby clean, welcoming, and inviting? Are your bathrooms easy to find? (this is a bigger deal than you might think!)
  • Can you plan out your worship experience more effectively with clearly defined transitions that are immediate and seamless?
  • What is the best way that you can end your service that will lead to high fives on the way out rather than bowed heads?

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