VIPs are often a key presence at many kinds of events, including both industry events, like trade shows; corporate events; and public-facing events, like fundraisers and receptions. And while all attendees and guests are important to an event’s success, VIPs are even more so. For many events, it’s the VIPs and special guests who help sell tickets and increase attendance. The status of VIPs and their importance to the event generally earns them the right to preferential treatment. With the right VIP protocol, you can make your most important guests feel like stars—and ensure they’ll be happy to come back for future events.
Plan Ahead to Make the Most of VIP Guests
Do Your Homework
When inviting VIPs to attend an event, the first step is to find out as much relevant information as possible about your special guests. This typically involves talking to one or more people associated with them, such as their assistant, manager, or agent, or to the VIP themselves. Find out background information on their preferences and expectations, so you can determine in advance what they expect from a VIP appearance. For instance:
- Some VIPs like to be treated with deference, but some are more down to earth and just want to feel like everyone else.
- When it comes to travel, do they have a seat preference for air travel or prefer a specific kind of car for traveling between the hotel and the event venue?
- For their accommodations, do they prefer a specific hotel? Do they have a preferred room type or room location?
- Do they have any dietary restrictions or preferred beverages?
- Will anyone else accompany them on this trip, such as a spouse or children? If so, it’s important to make sure those additional guests are also cared for.
Let Them Know What to Expect
Celebrity VIPs have certain expectations when they attend events, but you do too! As the event organizer, setting your own expectations is also part of the job of developing VIP protocol. This means talking with the VIP or their agent in advance and letting them know what’s required of them when they attend your event.
For instance, a VIP guest at a conference or trade show may be a keynote speaker. For celebrity VIP events, different kinds of activities are involved. Do they need to walk the red carpet, pose for photographs, or do a meet-and-greet session with event attendees? There may be some negotiations, but coming to an agreement before the event helps prevent last-minute confusion or problems.
Note that if your VIP guests are ticket-purchasers who have paid a premium for a VIP experience, this aspect of the event doesn’t necessarily apply. When your VIPs are people who’ve paid to upgrade their event experience, they don’t have obligations to fulfil, as they’ve already done so by paying for a premium ticket.
14 Ways to Impress Your VIP Event Guests
- Give them the true VIP treatment by making their event experience more convenient and comfortable: upgrade their seat on the plane, arrange for a private car to take them to the hotel, and make sure their registration and check-in at the event is fast and hassle-free. Make sure they never have to wait in line for a drink, and give them access to a private restroom.
- Upgrade their accommodations by arranging for private VIP concierge service and other hotel perks. Book their hotel stay starting the day before their arrival, just to make sure they don’t have to spend any time waiting to check-in.
- Assign your VIPs their own assistant who can help them get from place to place and make sure they have everything they need.
- Make sure they have access to free Wi-Fi at the hotel and during the event, and pop a portable charger into their gift basket.
- Invite them to a VIP-only networking group on LinkedIn or any other social media platform where your event has strong community reach, and provide exclusive access to special content.
- Provide free spa services, such as skin treatments, massage, or grooming appointments. If your VIP is flying in the day before the event, this can give them a chance to relax before their appearance. Or add a spa gift card to their gift basket or swag bag so they can choose when to use it.
- Talk to your event sponsors and find out if they’re willing to add something to the list of perks for VIP attendees. For instance, they might help fund the green room in exchange for additional advertising or provide some of their own products for VIP gift baskets. This can be great exposure for them, especially if a VIP with lots of online followers chooses to tweet about or tag their business.
- Provide complimentary tickets for your headlining attraction. Once your event schedule is finalized, you should have a good idea of what the most popular sessions or experiences are, so offer your VIPs free tickets and great seats.
- Add some special perks to the private green room at the event, such as favorite snacks and drinks. If you have several VIP guests, a private chef may be a great option.
- Add a VIP-only networking or social meet-up to your event schedule. A dinner or cocktail hour just for the VIPs can help make the event feel special, especially if you line up a gourmet menu or hire a private bartender.
- Invite speakers and other guests to enjoy some VIP perks too, such as the VIP green room or VIP-only networking and social events. This way, your VIPs also have the bonus of getting to meet and mingle with special guests.
- Arrange for a special VIP experience, such as a city tour, a special culinary experience, or a visit to a local craft brewery or winery.
- Personalize their gift baskets or swag bags with handwritten messages. If they have a history with your company or event, mention your appreciation of that in your note. Otherwise, try to reference something they’ve said to you during the event. This helps personalize the message.
- Create a VIP-only newsletter with bonus event content and giveaways. After the event, offer a VIP ticket for next year’s event at early-bird pricing.
A Great VIP Experience Makes Your Event One They’ll Want to Return To
Having VIP guests at a corporate event can pay off in more than one way. Your VIP guests might be paying more for the experience, of course, but, more importantly, offering a VIP experience gives you another way to make and maintain relationships between the host company and its client base. Adding the creation of a great VIP experience to your event planning ensures your VIP ticketholders will be happy to repeat the experience next year.