How to Keep Your VIP Attendees Happy—and Returning to Your Events

VIPs drive revenue for your events. Whether they’re frequent attendees or people who’ve paid extra for workshops or exclusive networking opportunities, you’ll want to make a lasting impression upon them so they’ll re-register next year. Follow these steps to reward VIPs in ways that go beyond the standard swag and tell your most valuable customers that they’re getting the best ROI out of your event.

 

Do your homework: Start with an in-depth look at the VIPs themselves. This is where data about past events comes in handy: What special sessions or workshops have VIPs signed up for in the past? Did they attend working breakfasts, or were they more excited about evening cocktail parties or entertainment? What experiences and rewards will they respond to? This analysis will provide a starting point for planning VIP-friendly perks.

Go first class: People who are regulars on the event trail, or who shell out extra for in-depth training, may look for the chance to experience the finer things in life when they’re on the road. While attendees may not be at your event for the cuisine, subpar meals can give your event a bad reputation. Plan an outing that offers an experience attendees won’t get at home, like a networking dinner at a favorite local restaurant. Once you’ve found an appealing locale, consider inviting spouses or family members who are traveling with attendees.

Respect their time: VIPs are busy people and likely still need to do business while running in and out of sessions. They’ll appreciate places to work that don’t require them to balance laptops on their knees or run back and forth to hotel rooms. Offer quiet areas close to session and keynote rooms where they can have meetings or take phone calls. Add reserved seating so VIPs don’t have to worry about finding chairs at popular keynotes. And for VIPs trying to attend as many sessions as possible, share a cloud-based folder containing all session slide decks (and audio/video files if available) as soon as possible when the event’s over.

Ditch the crystal paperweight: If VIP attendees are going to devote precious suitcase room to gifts, they’d better be worth the hassle. Consider something with a tie-in to event speakers and themes, like gourmet food specialties from a local shop.

“The best way to tie in swag is making it a useful and memorable part of the event,” says Woody Kaye, CEO at Corporate Values, a branded merchandise company. “An effective giveaway will be used regularly and remind the recipient of the person who gave it to them, as well as what you did for them at your event.”

Or, consider skipping gifts: During registration, ask VIP attendees if they’d like you to make a small donation to a charity of their choice.

Deliver substance, not swag: For most event attendees, whether newcomers or VIP regulars, experiences matter more than stuff. VIPs want to gain knowledge that makes their jobs easier, they want to make new connections, and they want new business leads. A big reason that VIPs come to your event is to mix with other VIPs. To encourage beyond-the-ordinary networking, consider an alternative space, like a tour of a local landmark or museum exhibition.

“Create a special memorable experience by hosting a VIP-only welcome session or fun exclusive mixer event with a celebrity, entertainer or high-profile speaker,” says Lucy Gnazzo, founder of LM Gnazzo Promotion Strategies. “Offer things like photo opportunities, a signed book or CD, and one-on-one time.”

These are content-rich experiences that participants won’t get anywhere else—and have more lasting value than a water bottle.

Without VIPs, your events might not have staying power. Make sure their investments receive more of a payoff than branded swag. By delivering experiences of real value, you’ll see your VIPs return over and over and over again.