Beyond the destination, venue, and speaker topics, the service and attention guests receive can make or break an event. Whether you’re planning an event for 50 people or 500, you should want it to be memorable—in the best way possible. Here are some tips that every event planner can use to make their event stand out and make their guests feel special.
“The equation always has to have great service,” says Don Mooney, President of Les Clefs d’Or Canada and the Guest
Relations Manager & VIP Concierge at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. With great service comes great responsibility, which is why it’s important to know what options you have to make your event exceptional.
Identify the VIPs
Noting particular guests and groups can help personalize—and thus elevate—experiences. Although it ultimately depends on the event, what your client or you as an event planner consider a VIP guest can usually be boiled down to the following.
1. Internal VIPs (including, but not limited to, company CEOs, board members, sponsors, top clients, top sellers, and partners)
2. Guest speakers (invited specifically for their expertise)
3. Celebrities, royalty, government officials (usually have their own teams)
4. All other attendees (because isn’t everyone very important?)
Start Before the Event
The royal treatment can start well before your VIPs arrive. The most effective way to personalize is to gather that
information well ahead of time, such as food preferences, dietary concerns, and special requests. Would they appreciate a designated workspace? Will they have guests or family accompanying them? Any children? For guest speakers especially, prepare bios and share them with the hotel.
“Let the hotel know who your guest speakers are,” says Mooney. “A lot of times, hotels want to go out of their way
to recognize those people. It doesn’t even have to be a big name, but we can personalize the amenities sometimes.”
Speakers are often travelling from out of town, sometimes internationally, invited specifically for their expertise. An easy way to make those guests feel exceptional is to do something special with their reservation. “A lot of the time, they’re booked into a regular room because the company usually looks at it like, ‘We already spent a lot of money to get them here.’ But at the end of the day, that person is still an influencer,” says Mooney. “Make sure they’re taken care of.”
Think of what your VIPs have going on during the conference or event that is different from everyone else. Those questions will help you in using the services available at the hotel and/or event venue.
Use Venue Amenities
Whether you (or someone else) chose an event space with the amenities in mind, there are often amenities available—and what’s better is that they’re included in the price. Having amenity information in an easily accessible welcome package can be beneficial, including basic amenities like WiFi and recreation—and the concierge.
If your event is taking place in a hotel or you are arranging accommodations for VIP guests, Mooney recommends
touching base with the hotel concierge: “The concierge, at the end of the day, is an amenity of the hotel. It’s the difference between 3-star and 5-star. It can make all the difference in the world because you have an extra resource there that can solve a problem.”
According to him, opening the relationship with the concierge not only frees up your time, but will also allow you
to make a greater impact without needing to be everywhere at once. Think of the concierge as another resource if a guest requires or deserves special attention. It allows event planners to have a moment to consider what more they could be doing.
“As concierges, we have meetings every month. We meet with vendors. We get educated about the resources out there,” explains Mooney, who has helped arrange many unique last-minute requests, including getting presentation materials printed through the night, finding giant ice sculptures, and booking emergency dentist appointments.
Consider Outside the Event
If a guest will have any free time during their stay, this is another opportunity to provide VIP service. It’s outside the scope of their normal expectations but can be a memorable and positive experience. Provide recommendations for dinner, tours, activities, sightseeing—all areas which are within the expertise of a concierge.
“They’re an ambassador not just for the hotel, but for the area,” says Mooney. “By using the concierge, you get a
competitive advantage because you’re able to offer experiences outside the realm of a meeting planner, whether it’s
special seats, dinner at the chef’s table, or a great reservation.”
And if there isn’t a concierge available? You can still supply this information to your VIP guests. Be prepared with suggestions for dinner (or arrange a reservation for them) and a few ideas for what they can see and
do in the area.
Find Other Small Touches
Even with a small team and/or budget, you can still offer VIP service. Something as simple as ensuring that proper signage and event information are available can help put your guests at ease. Give the venue necessary information like schedules and dress codes so any staff member can answer questions confidently and accurately.
Many events also include gift bags, which can be personalized to some extent. “If it’s something like a winter
conference, go buy toques and mittens and give them to your guests. A branded flag is always great,” says Mooney. “Those little things make the difference. And they’re mementos, too… Who doesn’t like some free swag, right?”
It all comes down to great service. Find the big and small ways to make your event memorable and make your guests feel welcome, comfortable, and cared for.
Les Clefs d’Or
Translated as “The Golden Keys,” Les Clefs d’Or Concierges have been opening doors for hotel guests in Canada since 1976, and today there are more than 150 members from coast to coast, and more than 3,500 members worldwide. You can find Don Mooney at the Fairmont Banff Springs.
Concierges are the ultimate insiders, able to get you a table at the perfect restaurant, recommend the best boutiques, and tell you what’s worth seeing. Best of all, that expansive knowledge is available absolutely free.
~ Tamara Aschenbrenner