We recently asked Los Angeles-based event pro Nina Storm about what hotels can do to improve client satisfaction, and avoid planning faux pas. Here, Storm offers practical tips using real-life examples from her own experience:
SELLING YOUR SPACE TO EVENT PROFESSIONALS:
INSIDE THE MIND OF A DISCERNING CREATIVE
By Nina Storm
The best event producers and designers are a savvy lot. Understanding what is important to us can help you sell your space. Even better, learning how to work well with creative professionals will ultimately raise your game as a venue.
Often when I work with hotels, I get the sense that the catering sales team neglects creative opportunities to collaborate with me and distinguish their venue. My job title is Visceral Experience Curator, and my approach on my first walk though is, “What can we do here that hasn’t been done before? How can I work with this property to create an extraordinary experience?” I pride myself on delivering custom results for my clients. I do this in part by seeking only the most creative solutions and by requesting “off the menu”/out-of-the-box alternatives from venues.
Hotel professionals that appreciate this and are excited about working with me to create something extraordinary, rather than sticking to the script, are the ones to whom I return again and again. When the catering manager doesn’t show interest in working with me on this level, it makes the property harder to sell to my client and the entire experience less rewarding.
Here are some tips, drawn from my experiences with hotels that will help you to stand out the next time you have the opportunity to work with an experienced event pro:
• Be receptive to accommodating the client’s vision.
Several years ago, I was shown a ballroom space for an awards gala. The hotel suggested that the cocktail reception take place in a smaller, adjacent ballroom. This was at a breathtaking oceanside property with a gorgeously landscaped, circular front drive. I took one look at that outdoor space vs. the ballroom and asked if we could hold the cocktail portion in the front drive. The property hadn’t sold the space previously, but they decided to accommodate my request. Not only was everyone at the gala raving about the cocktail environment, but the property ended up making their front drive a regular offering for other prospective clients.
• Make sure your entire sales and catering team is on the same page.
Recently, I booked a corporate event for a client at a historic property in Hollywood. I worked with a sales person to book the space and a catering manager on the actual production and execution. Once I started production, it became evident that I’d been given less than accurate, or in some cases, faulty information about certain elements of the space, pricing, and in-house amenities. This inconsistency was glaring and quite frustrating to a detail-oriented event pro. Do whatever is needed to ensure that all information is presented to the event producer accurately from the start. This will reinforce confidence and foster a trustworthy relationship between you and the client.
• Embrace “off-the-menu” ideas.
While it might be more cost-effective for your kitchen to do what it always does, events are seldom remarkable when they lack an element of the unexpected, especially when it comes to menus.
At one gala, I wanted to feature my vodka sponsor’s Double Chocolate flavor. This inspired me to dream up a shakerato bar as part of dessert service. In turn, this required the property to allow me to bring in outside product (it wasn’t an item that they had in- house) and allow a bar setup outside of their typical offering (pre- brewed espresso, outsourced glassware, etc.) They rose to the occasion and worked with me to perfectly execute the shakerato bar of my dreams. Consider the long-term benefits of collaborating with event pros on new, exciting menu features that you can ultimately promote to future clients.
• Live and die by the BEO.
It may sound painfully obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times specific instructions on a BEO weren’t executed as written. With the amount of time we all spend on BEO review, don’t you owe it to your team and your client to execute this document to the letter? It is something I encounter far too often and always find frustrating.
Focus on creativity, flexibility, and accountability and you have the keys to building successful long-term relationships with event professionals.
Nina Storm is a Visceral Experience Curator. The LA-based event producer and creative director has 10 years of experience collaborating with art and design professionals, nationally recognized chefs, and A-list entertainers to establish and realize her client’s vision. She has the privilege of working with notable clients in the corporate, nonprofit and private sectors including Mitsubishi Electric US, The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, Global Green USA, Barbara Streisand’s Women’s Heart Alliance, and many others.