July 01, 1998
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio July 1998 Current Issue
July 1998 Back to BasicsPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

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First-Class Treatment

Keeping VIPs happy means arranging every little detail

They come in all shapes, sizes, titles, temperaments and levels of neediness, and there's at least one at every meeting. I'm referring to those very important people who must be catered to and pampered while attending a meeting.

The care and feeding of VIPs, whether they're CEOs, keynote speakers or your bosses, is a critical component to any successful meeting. And making a VIP feel special is limited only by corporate culture, budget, the personality of the VIP and your ability to do the impossible.

Below are some creative (and not so creative) ways to treat VIPs that have worked for me.

First impressions and personal touches mean everything. Don't notify VIPs about the meeting the same way you notify others. Personally handle their reservations and registration. Then make a follow-up call or a personal visit to ask if they received all of the meeting materials.

Be sure to arrange every moment of the VIPs' transportation to and from the airport, hotel and meeting venue. Having them picked up by a chauffeur in a shiny new car and helped with their luggage sets the right tone.

If air travel is required, your VIPs should be upgraded to the highest class of service possible. (If you have the resources, think of the impression a private jet would make.) Reconfirm all reservations, make sure that the proper seats have been assigned and that all travel documents - including passports and visas - are accurate and delivered on time. Keep your VIPs informed, in advance, of any cancellations or delays, and make them aware that alternative travel arrangements are in place, in the event they are required.

Contact the airline your VIPs will be flying and arrange to have people from the special services group meet them when they arrive. These people can whisk the VIPs through check-in and settle them into the airline club. Have your VIPs escorted onto the plane and greeted by the captain.

Equal treatment should be visible on their arrival. Special services representatives can meet your VIPs as they deplane, help them collect their bags and ensure that they are met by their transportation for the trip to the hotel.

At minimum, top-notch treatment requires a room upgrade. Inspect and select the room yourself during the site inspection. Your VIPs should have the best room according to their tastes. Size may not be the key - the requirements might be darkness, access to elevators or another esoteric preference.

There are some basic and not so basic things you can do to make the accommodations truly special. Find out individual likes and dislikes - from pillow type to favorite breakfast cereals - from an assistant, colleague or significant other, and use this information to design an experience that will astonish your VIPs. Besides the correct type of pillow, check personally that:

  • The room is clean and ready.
  • The minibar is stocked with favorite refreshments and snacks.
  • The flowers are the varieties they like.
  • The in-room gifts are top of the line.
  • The electronic equipment is working.
  • Extras you may want to consider:

  • Install an extra phone line in a place they can actually reach. Going a step further, have a PC and printer already set up and waiting in the room.
  • If they need fax machines, install them and clearly identify the fax number.
  • Have a piece of exercise equipment placed in their rooms.
  • Put the VIPs' company stationery in their rooms. Don't forget other basic office supplies.
  • If the hotel has a business center, set up an account for your VIPs.
  • Arrange for their favorite newspaper(s), stock quote(s) and other news needs to be available each morning or throughout the day.
  • Rent them cellular phones.
  • Arrange for a "personal assistant" if the hotel does not have a qualified concierge.
  • Prepare a list of key phone numbers and extensions with your number at the top of the list.
  • Have a car on call for your VIPs in case they want to do some sightseeing or shopping.
  • Finally, when you think you have every angle covered and every conceivable amenity secured, ask your VIPs if there's anything they need. Getting feedback and acting on it quickly and professionally is, after all, the ultimate VIP treatment.

    Mike Kabo is president of Solutions Inc., a New York City-based consulting firm specializing in travel and meeting management.

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