How to be a great receptionist
Being a pretty good receptionist is easy. You're basically a low-tech security guard in nice clothes. Sit at the desk and make sure that visitors don't steal the furniture or go behind the magic door unescorted.
But what if you wanted to be a great receptionist?
I'd start with understanding that in addition to keeping unescorted guests away from the magic door, a receptionist can have a huge impact on the marketing of an organization. If someone is visiting your office, they've come for a reason. To sell something, to buy something, to interview or be interviewed. No matter what, there's some sort of negotiation involved. If the receptionist can change the mindset of the guest, good things happen (or, if it goes poorly, bad things).
Think the job acceptance rate goes up if the first impression is a memorable one? Think the tax auditor might be a little more friendly if her greeting was cheerful?
So, a great receptionist starts by acting like Vice President, Reception. I'd argue for a small budget to be spent on a bowl of M&Ms or the occasional Heath Bar for a grumpy visitor. If you wanted to be really amazing, how about baking a batch of cookies every few days? I'd ask the entire organization for updates as to who is coming in each day... "Welcome Mr. Mitchell. How was your flight in from Tucson?"
Is there a TV in reception? Why not hook up some old Three Stooges DVDs?
Why do I need to ask where to find the men's room? Perhaps you could have a little sign.
And in the downtime between visitors, what a great chance to surf the web for recent positive news about your company. You can print it out in a little binder that I can read while I'm waiting. Or consider the idea of creating a collage of local organizations your fellow employees have helped with their volunteer work.
One amazing receptionist I met specialized in giving sotto voce commentary on the person you were going to meet. She'd tell you inside dope that would make you feel prepared before you walked in. "Did you know that Don had a new grandchild enter the family last week? She's adorable. Her name is Betty."
In addition to greeting guests, internal marketing can be a focus as well. Every single employee who passes your desk on the way in can learn something about a fellow worker--if you're willing to spend the time to do it, they'll spend the time to read it.
Either that, or you could just work on being grumpy and barking, "name and ID please."