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OM BARROW OF Inconnection estimates that the events industry is worth £35 billion to the UK as a whole, of which corporate hospitality makes up

around £3 billion, a sizeable chunk in an economy where businesses do not want to be seen splashing cash unnecessarily. He explains that “traditional relationship-building and customer rewards are still the focus”, and that the main users of corporate hospitality continue to be “sales directors in a B2B environment, who are looking to develop parallel relationships with key people”. Although he predicts that fi ve to 10 per cent of hospitality is used for rewarding staff, trends remain fi rmly geared towards entertaining customers and securing future business. One change has transpired as a result of the

squeeze on the economy. “An all-out jolly with no thought for business is a thing of the past,” Barrow says. “We’ve found shorter lead times, and a decrease in budgets,” he states, adding that “people have the same high expectations with half the budget.” Companies are looking for a direct ROI and this has made the practice more mercenary. “We look at what the client needs to achieve to justify the cost,” he says. The key to this vital return

on investment is matching your event to the guest list or, as Barrow describes it, to “ensure tastes are met”. The fundamental goal is to get to know a customer and create new opportunities for your business. Tailoring an event to a group’s needs is the most important aspect: if guests are forced to attend something they don’t enjoy, they won’t want to be there, and you won’t get the desired results. This has led to companies searching for increasingly unique, one-off experiences that create a wow factor without breaking the bank. Most people will have space on their



escalating up to £8,000 a head. However, Barrow says that such events don’t always give you a lot for your money or, at least, only 9.58 seconds in terms of Usain Bolt’s performance. For a much longer and equally extravagant unique event, try the four-day RedEye racing event in Chicago, or the chance to mingle with the rich and famous at the Monaco Grand Prix: as much about being there as seeing the race. Generally, Barrow says, he would recommend a sporting event to a fi rst-time organiser: they are well-established and range from classic occasions such as the Six Nations, Wimbledon and Ascot, to more bespoke days out, for instance a corporate golf tournament, exclusive track day or fi shing experience. Barrow feels that sporting events will probably

remain generic go-to events for hospitality days, albeit with a much larger percentage of females in future. However he doesn’t think this will alter the shape of corporate events: “The trend is about unique experiences.” There are no end of events to choose from

calendar for an evening show, or will fi nd time for a prestigious sporting event, but the more specifi c the occasion, the more it must be planned carefully in advance. Combining the right timing with the right group of people will ensure you get the most interest out of your target group, and the more detailed the occasion, the more likely they are to appreciate you tailoring your efforts towards them. Examples of some of the most unique

events of the past year are the 100m fi nal at the Olympics and the Champions’ League Final, with ‘outlandish’ prices for hospitality

nowadays, with countless event organisers providing access to private seating at shows and sporting events, bespoke group experiences or full-on sporting weekends away. The main idea, of course, is for your guests to have a good time.

IN THE CITY London provides a huge array of venues

that can provide glamorous evenings out, or sporting days away. Not surprisingly, there is no shortage of specialist companies that can arrange visits on your behalf to award ceremonies, theatre performances, fashion

and music events and seasonal fl ower shows. One option could be tickets to a popular or

sold-out show, for instance a typical package at Wembley arena would include top-price seated tickets for a live performance, pre-show hospitality with a complimentary bar, a three-course meal and access to the private suite for one-hour post-show to give you a chance to meet the talent. Some companies even arrange exclusive VIP access. Hospitality at the British Fashion Awards gives you the opportunity to brush shoulders with the stars and be treated like a celebrity with a red carpet entrance to The Savoy. You take in the glitz and excitement of the awards ceremony, seated in the Savoy Theatre dress circle, then indulge in dinner prepared in the Thames Foyer Restaurant. Private access to seasonal events is another huge opportunity. Hospitality at the Chelsea Flower Show provides a full day out: an entrance ticket to the show and access to a VIP area with breakfast and a welcome glass of Champagne, full complimentary bar, four- course premium lunch and afternoon tea.



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