How to Handle VIPs for Events, Start to Finish

Each event has VIP.

It’s inescapable, though you’ll notice that the scale of VIP varies dramatically from event to event. For example, you may work an internal company conference, where the VIPs are the company executives themselves. For other, more consumer-facing conferences, VIPs may be celebrities, thought leaders, authors, rock stars (literally) or representatives of the media.

A VIP is anyone who has especially elevated expectations, comes with their own entourage (sort of like the TV show, but not exactly), and, of course, has specific needs. The theme here is that they require a certain level of management and attention. So, here’s my take on how to get your VIP A-Game put together so you can pull off an event without a hitch—and hopefully impress the VIPs in the process.

Get clear on expectations.

The number one rule with VIPs is you can’t be indecisive or wishy-washy. Being extremely explicit about what you need from them, what you can (or can’t) deliver and how the event will unfold is critical to every party’s satisfaction. You may have an author coming to your event to host a panel session. Don’t spring an extra panel guest on them at the last minute or ask them the week prior to do a book signing after. Or, you may have an executive who is putting on an opening keynote session. Don’t tell them they have a podium if one doesn’t exist.

These are busy people, and they rely on the details being managed for them, so they can whisk through their days.

Double check the details.

Speaking of details. If there’s anything to get obsessive about, it’s the details as it relates to the VIPs. Double-check…no, quadruple-check everything: hotels, transportation, contact information, speaking materials. Yes, this is tedious. No, it’s not overkill.

One little detail going missing in action can cause a domino-effect of drama. You’ll sleep better when you get obsessive about the details, and they’ll have an enjoyable experience at your event. A win-win.

Have a point person.

That said, it’s insane to think you can do it all alone. As an event producer, you need to be directing the show on the day-of, so tap on a person or team you can trust to help you manage your VIPs. This includes ensuring the VIPs have the contact info for this point person. And, depending on how many people you have helping you, or how many VIPs, you may want to consider having a brief training session or pre-event meeting with your internal contacts to set expectations.

Respect their time.

This falls in line with having realistic expectations. You may be over the top that a VIP is headlining your show, but don’t bat an eye when they are in and out, and don’t stay for lunch. You can expect them to show up and do their part—whatever it may be—but consider it icing on the cake if they stay around for the full event or do anything extra. And don’t take it personally.

Don’t forget the follow-up.

It’s a good idea, not to mention classy, to send a follow up thank you note to all event VIPs. Let them know their time was greatly appreciated. Tell them they helped make the event sparkle. Give them a big dose of warm and fuzzies. The goal is to genuinely thank them, but also to establish a relationship for future events.

Do you have a tip for managing VIPs? I’d love to hear it—share it in the comments.