What does it mean to be a hostess?

July 2 2016 (updated September 9 2020)
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A hostess supports marketing operations of companies by promoting their products or services in markets and shopping centres, operating stalls at trade fairs and conferences, taking care of the guests at banquets and business events. The key traits of a hostess are an endearing appearance, confidence, and openness towards other people. 

The word hostess has numerous uses in the English language. It applies to a woman that invites and cares for guests, but that definition is so broad that it allows for a hostess to, well, host a TV show or an entertainment event. It also includes women serving passengers during a journey. While many countries use the word or its derivatives to refer to any promotional staff, the established English usage in the event business usually means a woman who meets and greets the guests, gives directions, gathers and passes on requests and performs other event management-related duties.

A classic image of a hostess is that of a young woman, usually a university student or high school pupil. There’s an economic advantage in hiring them in Poland – their contracts aren’t burdened with insurance contributions until they turn 26 years old. What’s more, the job grants flexibility, it’s easy to manage alongside school or university work – hence its popularity among young people. There’s work for male students as well – hosts have their own place in the event business.

In the Polish classification of occupations, a hostess is, surprisingly, far better defined than in the international classification ISCO-88 (which describes a hostess as a dancer and nightclub worker). Some offers of trainings and courses for hostesses occasionally surface on the market, but a certificate is not a strong ground to base the evaluation of a hostess on. There are natural predispositions for this job, and you can only get better with experience.

People often overestimate the importance of appearance in the work of a hostess. While many young girls fit into the common idea of attractiveness, it is worth little without an honest smile, openness in contacts with people and flexibility to work in changing circumstances. A good hostess values competence over appearance, and that allows her to achieve the key goal of the job – to improve the sales of a product, brand awareness, or the comfort of guests. This can’t be achieved with good looks alone, and it can’t be taught in a course. Depending on the specifics of a job, you might need other skills, like proper pronunciation, knowledge of foreign languages and savoir-vivre.

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