Creative Ways To Wow Clients with Corporate Hospitality

Chelsea Flower show

The days when a box at Twickenham was the epitome of corporate hospitality are behind us. Today there are endless, creative ways to engage with clients and customers through in-person events and corporate hospitality.

The golden rule of corporate hospitality is that it should be designed around the interests of your guests and reflect your organisation.  Like a great date, it should show clients and customers how well you understand them and how much you appreciate them. To continue the dating analogy, keep things fun, light and don’t come on too strong!  Inviting clients to an event is a brilliant way to get to know them better, develop lasting relationships and drive new business.  Wow them with an imaginative and thoughtful experience and you’ll build loyalty more effectively than any sales pitch.

Broadly speaking, there are four main types of corporate hospitality – sports, music, arts and food.  At Octopus Events we’ve got tried and tested ideas in each area to inspire you when planning your next corporate hospitality experience.  If you need support, get in touch and we’d be delighted to use our expertise and our bursting little black book to help you.

Sporting Events

Sporting events are exciting, bringing people together to get swept up in the nail-biting action. Corporate hospitality at events like Wimbledon, Henley Regatta or Ascot should provide the whole package. This would include excellent seats,   fantastic catering including drinks and a sit down meal, and an engaging entertainment host for a talk and Q&A. This might be a retired sportsperson who once competed at the venue. 

Make sure every detail of the experience is taken care of. Clients want ease and access in order to feel relaxed. They’ll need a parking space (or travel provided), a safe base to leave their belongings, nice bathroom facilities and high-quality food and drink.

Other sporting corporate hospitality options could include Formula 1, polo at Coworth Park, Queen’s Club tennis, rugby and football.  For a leftfield option, what about NFL at Tottenham Hotspurs?  It’s unlikely that many people will have been before and it’s a fun, quirky experience to talk about afterwards.

To build relationships before the main event, it can be helpful to tie in a more intimate pre-event.  We once arranged a millinery workshop for a few high-profile clients of a London law firm, a couple of months before their corporate hospitality event at Royal Ascot.  Eight guests spent the afternoon in a beautiful London hotel drinking champagne, enjoying canapes and learning how to make fascinators. They came away with a new skill, having had fun and connected with each other in a relaxed environment. 

Music Events

From pop concerts to opera, music is an uplifting way to entertain clients and we’re blessed with a huge range of options in the UK. For a cultured crowd, consider hosting a table at the Garsington Opera at Wormsley or at Covent Garden Dance Company’s world-class outdoor ballet at Hatch House that takes place in July.   

Al-fresco theatre is another lovely summer option. Regent’s Park open air theatre hosts Shakespeare plays and literary classics in fairy lit surroundings, while in Oxford there’s a packed programme of events in the University college grounds.  Keep an eye on The Oxford Magazine to find out what’s on. At chillier times of year, consider a private box at the Royal Albert Hall or dinner and a private concert at the unique and gorgeous Violin Factory.

If a major pop or rock event would go down a storm with your clients, the O2 offers premium VIP experiences with private hospitality services but make sure that the event you choose represents your company and what you stand for. 

Art

Art might be subjective but it’s enormously special to experience dinner and a private tour of a renowned venue like The Ashmolean in Oxford or The Tate in London. 

If your company has a fashion connection, you could arrange a private dinner for clients with exclusive access to a designer’s latest collection or a tour of a luxury boutique with a talk from a well-known stylist on the latest trends. Former editor and style coach Samantha Harman is a great expert to work with or you could collaborate with a Creative Director from a luxury fashion magazine.

Food

Nothing creates a convivial atmosphere like first-class food and drink so don’t be afraid to make food the main attraction at your event.  Well-known chefs like Richard Corrigan and Tom Kerridge offer chef’s table experiences at their high-end London restaurants where you and your guests can watch the theatre of the kitchen while dining in opulence.  This will usually involve wine pairing with an expert sommelier.  Alternatively you can arrange a wine tasting at a merchant’s or a vineyard tour at picturesque spots like Hendred Vineyard in East Hendred or Fairmile Vineyard in Henley.

For a hands-on experience they’ll remember, invite clients to a cookery class. There are plenty of cookery schools in London and across the UK.  We have a great selection of beautiful country house hotels and cookery schools including Chewton Glen, Thyme in the Cotswolds, Lainston House near Winchester, Raymond Blanc at  Le Manoir Aux Quat’saisons in Oxfordshire and Swinton Estate in Yorkshire.

You can even tie in other activities while you’re there like a bird of prey display. If you’re hosting a small group of clients, it’s worth carefully tailoring the event to your guests or to reflect a particular aspect of your organisation. For example, a patisserie workshop, chocolate-making experience, cocktail masterclass or a vegan cookery class. To combine food with another niche experience, look into private dining in quirky venues like Sotheby’s or the Ferrari car showroom.

If (like many organisations) you like the idea of taking guests to Chelsea Flower Show, consider how to make it a richer experience.  At such a large event with so much to explore, it can be hard to keep clients together.  A pre-event could work well whether it’s a flower arranging workshop or lunch and a private tour of a beautiful house and gardens where your guests can learn more about horticulture – and about your business.

Follow up

When it comes to corporate hospitality, the return on investment is your customer’s loyalty, trust and the potential for more business in the future. With this in mind, avoid the temptation to do a sales pitch at the event. Your guests are there to relax and socialise, not to feel put on the spot.  Get the most out of your event in other ways, for example tailored goodie bags or personalised follow ups to tell them how much you enjoyed spending time with them. Only include additional information about your business if it feels natural and appropriate.

If you’re planning a weekend event, consider inviting your clients’ families. Leisure time is precious so letting people bring their partner and children shows that you appreciate the wider context of their lives outside work. Plus it allows you to get to know your guests on a deeper level and gives you talking points after the event is finished. If you’ve learnt that your client’s teenage son is passionate about golf, that provides a long-term conversation starter.  

Finally, when it comes to showing your clients how much you value them, why not ask them what they’d like to do next time and when the best time of year is for them to attend an event.  They’ll be flattered to be involved in the planning and that makes it even harder for them to say no! Not that they’d want to if they’ve suggested the activity themselves.

Always keep the benefits to your guests in mind when planning your corporate hospitality event.  Not only will your clients get to know you better, they’ll also enjoy networking with each other so aim to facilitate that.  Quality time with your key customers creates a good impression, allows you to show them what else you do and cements your reputation in the industry.

Lastly, if you’re worried about what is and isn’t allowed when it comes to corporate hospitality, The Bribery Act gives broad guidelines but rest assured it states that hospitality and gifts which are reasonable and proportionate are allowed.

Please do get in touch if you’d like to discuss your next corporate hospitality event with us.

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