Learn how to impress customers, prospects and other stakeholders with these impressive VIP event ideas. Featuring examples from American Express, Disney, MLB and other leading brands.
No matter what industry you’re in, you have certain decision-makers and clients who deserve celebration with a special event, an invite-only networking opportunity, or some other exclusive VIP gift.
Making people feel special is a great goal for all event types but especially for VIP events. In addition to showing your attendees gratitude, a VIP event can help build relationships and memories that will last for years to come.
What is a VIP event?
A VIP event is, like most other in-person marketing events, a chance to connect with key customers, prospects and other stakeholders. VIP events help maintain and strengthen long term relationships and and can serve as instrumental sales acceleration events. VIP events are typically invite-only or require approval by the host to attend. This helps guarantee that the right people are in the room for a personalized experience.
Here are 20 creative and outstanding real-world examples of VIP events you can draw inspiration from. To leave not stone unturned, this list includes B2B and B2C events.
1. Add a VIP lounge to any existing event.
Trace3 made waves when they chose to add a VIP lounge to their Evolve Conference, though they opted to change the meaning of the acronym to single out partners rather than persons. Attendees enjoyed multiple rounds of VR and AR games as well as an escape room experience for a very fun break from regular conference proceedings. Their VIPs received the same white-glove service that Trace3 delivered used to customer attendees.
Creating a VIP event doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch. Adding an extra experience on to an already established event can create lots of opportunities to honor guests who normally don’t get to be in the spotlight. Plus, you’ll get a chance to increase the event ROI of your main attraction—be that through unique experiences for customers, prospects or partners.
2. Create an experience, not an event.
In creating their VIP experience, Stableview Tech aimed to give attendees a curated array of activities, refreshments, and event entertainment in a truly unique way. To accomplish this goal, their marketing team thought of the event as if it was an art gallery, bringing together inspiring minds in a way that exceeded guest expectations.
While most VIP events focus on creating another event, planners would be wise to follow in the footsteps of Stableview Tech and discover how they can make each moment make an opportunity for a lasting memory. Leveraging an event system can help create an intuitive and seamlessly branded experience.
3. Give secret access to upgraded tickets.
VIP Nation is a big fan of offering add-ons to most of their advertised events, but when it comes to VIPs they tend to really roll out the red carpet. Although they do charge for their events, they offer a tiered experience selection that can easily be duplicated. For example, for Michelle Obama’s Becoming book tour, VIP guests could choose between a premium meet-and-greet package (with front row seats) or a standard meet-and-greet package.
Just like with other types of events, offering more than one package is one helpful event strategy for exploring the tastes and preferences of your VIPs. Whether you charge for tickets or give them away with your invitations, offering a highly limited amount of space makes the event extra desirable.
4. Provide early access through strategic partnerships.
American Express offers VIP cardmembers By Invitation Only events like suite access at the 2018 US Open Tennis Championships. Those selected receive a surprise message revealing that they’ve been chosen to participate.
If you’re interested in using this technique, consider giving your ultra VIPs an advanced preview or a cut-in-line special for the day. Partnering with brands that align with your image while also appealing to the interests of your VIPs is a win-win and fosters a strong foundation for future B2B event marketing.
Source: The Points Guy
5. Get your VIPs in the game.
Do you count sports fans among your most important people? Even if you don’t, there’s something to be learned from how the sports industry treats VIPs. The Wrigley Field Experience boasts an event where “luxury meets exciting Cubs baseball.” Coming in 2019, the newly renovated amenities and suite additions give VIPs every imaginable comfort for their game-viewing pleasure. From deluxe catering to premium parking spaces, VIPs are taken care of in every way.
One of the best ways to make people feel special is to make them feel comfortable and taken care of. Consider adding bonuses like early entry, priority seating, and free refreshments to your next VIP event. You can even attach these incentives to corporate event ideas you already have.
6. Give the gift of impactful reads.
Tony Robbins’ Power of Success event gave away complimentary prints of the author’s newly released literature as a special gift before the event began, serving as one component of their multi-touch event marketing strategy. VIPs were invited to have Tony sign the book and to take a keepsake photo with him. Getting to know the figure behind the movement made the rest of the conference that much more personal.
Even if you don’t plan to include a celebrity, industry experts and influencers make great speakers for any event. This is where knowing your audience becomes especially useful—be sure to invite someone they’ll really get jazzed about.
7. Create a VIP competition.
Radius really pulls out all the stops for their VIP events. Their B2B Champions are invited to enter and win this experience which includes a $500 dinner at a renowned restaurant, tickets to see the San Francisco Giants, a $350 luxury spa certificate, and $100 worth of quality branded swag (from coveted manufacturers like Patagonia and Swell).
If you’d like to create an experience like the one Radius hosts, it’s good to remember the mantra go big or go home. If you’re going to include high value products and gifts, try sending out a poll to your VIPs to see what experiences, products, and activities would most appeal to them. This is certainly one area that works hand-in-hand with account-based event marketing.
8. Gift exclusive tickets to keynote speeches.
Content Marketing World is known for its outstanding speakers, but the real treat is the VIP experience where guests enjoy one-of-a-kind speaker interactions with people like Mark Hamill. Not only do they get information that has never before been presented by the speaker, they get to experience it in a much smaller group, offering everyone a chance to have their questions and comments addressed in a more intimate environment.
Sometimes there's just no replacement for a gathering of like-minded folks discussing the things they are most passionate about. Sharing tips with other experts can often lead to career breakthroughs, business ideas, and connections that last a lifetime.
Source: Content Marketing Institute
9. Make upgrades extra special.
SaaStr has truly mastered the digital VIP event experience with their offer of over 52 proven lessons that attendees can access through a special portal. The catch is you have to first acquire the link to this treasure trove of industry knowledge and research. If you join their Pro program they’ll email you the speakeasy code.
If there’s one thing SaaStr proves with this example it’s that their event marketing strategy isn’t restricted to the in-person experience. If your guest list is physically far apart or doesn’t necessary have the means to make the journey, online exclusives will also do the trick.
10. Invite industry celebs.
The Jillian Michaels’ Tour obviously had one spectacular celebrity - Jillian herself. Guests got to meet and chat with the star backstage. They even enjoyed special wristband privileges and professional photography.
Whether or not it’s appropriate for your business or your budget to invite a celebrity to your VIP event, consider bringing in figures who are notable within your niche or who would excite your attendees. Sometimes all you need is a single name to give an event the flair and buzz it deserves.
Source: Jillian Michaels
11. Give out special event-only discounts.
Rockler Companies hosts in-person VIP events to announce new products and give out some serious deals that guests can take advantage of right on the spot. Held after-hours at their storefront, the woodworking and hardware company presents prize drawings and special demonstrations, and even allows their VIPs to bring a guest (pictured below is one of the younger guests in attendance).
This example is especially useful if you’re planning a VIP event centered around loyal customers. Because you already know what they’re most interested in based on account data from their past purchases, you can offer them a discount they’ll truly love and be grateful for.
12. Offer members-only access.
The Broccoli City Festival plays host to a selection of musical performances where VIPs get lots of privileges that regular attendees don’t have access to. For example, standing-room pit areas that get you up close and personal to the band are reserved for VIP members. VIPs also receive tickets to free beer tastings.
In another great example of how to utilize the resources you already have available, Broccoli City was able to create a VIP experience at little to no extra expense. If you’re already hosting an event, consider closing off prime location seating and giving out extra vouchers or drink tickets to your special guests.
Source: Four Over Four
13. Piggyback off of a holiday.
The Belle Vous Medi Spa brought the bubbles and hors d’oevres for their VIP event to celebrate early access to Black Friday deals. Guests who RSVP’d were entered into door prize drawings as well.
Whether it’s a federal holiday, a social holiday, or a very obscure occasion, if it’s important to your audience then it’s fair game for any VIP event creation effort. Plus, attaching it to day that your audience is already looking forward to helps build anticipation and makes the event date easy to remember.
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14. Identify their specific needs.
Event planners at 99UConference know that their VIPs are busy executives who, like it or not, will likely need to take a break from the main event to jump on their laptops and do a bit of office work right on the spot. In order to give them a break from the conference chaos, 99UConference designed a VIP center complete with soundproofing, luxe lounge seating with special power stations, and a simulcast of all sessions so they didn’t have to miss a thing.
Above all else, knowing your audience is key to creating a winning VIP event experience. Sometimes the occasion is less about giving them fancy food and more about supplying the things they actually need.
15. Introduce guests to influential figures.
The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce holds a yearly Summer VIP Reception for members to mix and mingle with the Chamber’s Circle and Board members. They advertise their exclusivity with an invite-only guest list and large brand name sponsors, which add even more credibility to the evening.
Sometimes all it takes to make people feel special is to be greeted by the higher ups within your company. Knowing that they are more than just an account number to the key decision makers makes customers feel more personally connected to the brand as a whole.
Source: Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce
16. Give away one-of-a-kind swag.
It’s no surprise that Disney World’s Star Wars Celebration would give away incredible prizes and free gifts to their VIP event attendees. In addition to early park access, guests got to experience a special shopping night and exhibit hall, and were granted front of line access to the store.
Even if your brand doesn’t have any kind of memorabilia per se, there might be other quality swag they’d love to receive. Stick to products whose manufacturers align with your company messaging and choose things that you yourself would like to be gifted by a friend or colleague.
17. Appeal to your attendees' unique tastes.
CloudFest VIPs were treated to an exclusive Kitchen Party this year. Hosted at the luxurious Bell Rock Hotel, this special evening featured a behind-the-scenes look at the creations of master chefs. As unofficial taste testers, VIPs enjoyed an impressive spread of food and wine.
CloudFest knew ahead of time that seeing artisans at work on their (very tasty) craft would be a huge draw for their VIPs. This kind of knowledge comes from digging deep to better understand their audience, something any company can replicate with a little creativity and initiative.
18. Upgrade the basics.
As Coachella participants will tell you, what makes their music festival experience so amazing and challenging at the same time is the unique desert venue. In order to accommodate their special guests, Coachella gave them what they really wanted: extra shade and better bathrooms.
Sometimes it only takes a little to make a huge difference in the lives of our VIPs.
19. Host a multi-day event.
The Peterson Automotive Museum hosts a series of VIP events centered around one extra special guest: The Shelby. In celebration of this beloved vehicle, attendees enjoyed an exclusive lounge, networking opportunities, and a once-in-a-lifetime multi-day panel of legendary drivers.
If you have the time and resources, creating a multi-day event makes it easier for participants to attend at least one of your given dates. Meanwhile, if you have a VIP base consisting of retirees or executives with generous vacation times, the event can become something they greatly look forward to year after year.
Source: Petersen Automotive Museum
20. Let guests compliment the chef themselves.
Never underestimate how much people love to eat. At the Nordic Heritage Museum VIP event, attendees enjoyed a meet-and-greet happy hour with the chefs, admission to a multi-course feast, and an exclusive swag bag.
If you plan to include a high-end caterer or chef, check to see if they’re outgoing enough to share their passion with interested attendees (for an additional fee, of course). Or if you choose to feature any other kind of art form, be it hand-crafted cocktails, contemporary paintings, or expert musicians, don’t be afraid to ask them if they’d like to share a little more about themselves and their work with guests. Besides, who doesn’t like talking about themselves?
Source: Nordic Heritage Museum
Key Takeaways: VIP Events
VIP events have a very specific purpose: to create a memorable and exclusive experience for a group of key stakeholders. There are lots of ways to impact attendees before, during, and after the event. Here are some key takeaways from the examples above that you can apply to your next soiree:
- Make it original. Whether the activities, the venue, or even the guests themselves are unique, be sure to add a little extra sparkle in one or more of your VIP event categories.
- Create an add-on experience. Whether you already have another event coming up or know of events your VIPs will be attending anyways, be sure to offer strategic upgrades through partnerships.
- Get to know your audience. It should come as know surprise that the better you know your audience the better your event will turn out. This is especially true for VIP events.
Making a lasting impression is easy with a little genuine appreciation and a whole lot of ingenuity.