When you are planning a corporate event, try to make it unique. I say this because I am often invited to attend seminars and cocktail parties that could easily be mistaken for any other event in the business community. It seems as though companies want to reach out to clients and prospects and have them attend their sponsored events, but they do not want to push the envelope by creating an event like no other. It is risky to host an event that is different, but the pay off can be huge.
I have two examples of event I have hosted for clients and prospects that I would like to share with you. Both of these took place over four years ago, and yet those who attended still talk about these gatherings. I do not recommend that you copy these events (as that would not make them unique, but rather just another copy-cat party), but rather, let the stories inspire you to come up with your own one-of-a-kind client parties.
A Little Wine. Several years ago my co-workers and I decided to host a VIP reception to say "thank you" to all of our clients. We had the local office open for one year, and wanted to create a special event to honor those who had done business with our company. Rather than simply host a dinner, we created a wine tasting event at a local "hot spot". At the time, Sullivan's Steakhouse was (and still is) a top place for business dinners. On any given night the "whose-who" of the business community in Austin, Texas could be found dining on some very good steaks. We rented the largest private room and enlisted the assistance of the restaurants sommelier to create a memorable experience for our guests. We had room for eighty people, so we invited only one or two executives (and their spouses) from each client we had worked with during the previous year. The sommelier selected six phenominal wines to sample, but he also delivered a great presentation on how to order wine at a business dinner. The food was superb, and the wine amazing, but having one of the city's top wine experts spend an hour with our guests made it unique and memorable.
At the end of the evening, each couple was able to select a bottle of one of the wines they had sampled in an beautiful wine bag to take home. Five years later I still hear compliments about that evening from people who attended. It was a true "stand-out" event.
Whose on First? The other event I would like to share with you was a trip to a baseball game. While taking clients and prospects to major league sporting events is not unique (large and small companies spend tens of thousands of dollars on box seats and luxury sky boxes every year), this outing to the ballpark had a bit of a twist. First, Austin does not have a major league sports team (well, the University of Texas certainly counts in the minds of Longhorn fans around the world). However, we do have a few minor league teams in a variety of sports. I purchased a block of thirty tickets to a Round Rock Express baseball game and invited my clients, and others in my network, who had four-year-old children to be my guest at the Dell Diamond. My own daughter had just turned four, and I knew that the minor league teams put a big focus on other events in the stadium that make it a true family venue. Fourteen busy, career focused men had a great time taking their kids to the game. For many of the children it was their first professional baseball game. The wife of one of my clients shared with me later that while she herself had been invited along to many business events, her son Nicholas had never before been invited to join his dad at a networking function. For the record, NO....I did not have my daughter handing my business card to the other children!!!
If you want to stand out from your competition, look for unique ways to reach out to your clients and prospects. Be creative, have fun, and host events that are remembered forever.
Have a great day.