Jan 02, 2013 Events That Build Relationships: The Comfort Zone and Corporate Event Planning
When it comes to C-level corporate events, building relationships is a key goal. At Wilsonwest, our tagline is Corporate Event Marketing: Events that Build Relationships and we’ve built our business around this concept.
How do you do this? There are three elements to relationship building at events: convene the right audience, deliver compelling content, and design the right environment. In this blog, the first in a series, I’ll explain how the right speaker in the right environment can help people connect.
When we walk into a crowded room, our first reaction can be anxiety. We wonder what we have of value to share. Or, what’s safe for us to share? To get past this, event planners need to design environments where people relax, and have real conversations.
We recently produced a banking conference at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel; the corporate event was a three day conference, with all the content supposedly happening in the ballroom, where leading financial gurus delivered their strategy. Thankfully, our client understood that the event wasn’t all about them and what they had to say from the ballroom stage.
It was about their audience.
It was a tough crowd – bankers and some very sophisticated banking clients. The firm’s primary goal was not only to disseminate their marketing points, but also to get the bankers to connect, share information, and build relationships with their customers and internal stakeholders.
We knew that most of the sharing would occur when the speakers weren’t talking. The important conversations would happen in the off-hours, during the breaks, lunches and dinners. So we needed to create intimate opportunities for the guests to relax together and open up discussions.
Entertaining to create breakthrough conversations is an old idea. Thomas Jefferson was a famed entertainer during his tenure as President, using dinners to soften his foes and to build consensus with his political allies. He understood that the critical discussions weren’t likely to happen in the state house, where politicians kept their armor on and defenses up. The real conversations happened in not-so-obvious ways, around a table.
In order to create a relationship-building atmosphere at the event, we created a sensory feast of bars – chocolate tasting, cigar tasting, a fragrance bar, and tequila tasting – all set to the beat of Latin music. We invited Julio Bermejo, the most noted authority of tequila in the world, to host the tequila tasting.
By having someone speaking to the guests and engaging them, and creating a relaxed, learning environment, the dialogue flew. The photo above is the proof: people engaged around Mr. Bermejo and most importantly, around each other.
This sort of relaxed but upscale event broke down barriers. In that simple and fun atmosphere, people could relax.
How do you create an environment that facilitates real conversations? If you know your audience, you can create an environment where they’ll feel comfortable. Or you can flip the concept, and take your audience out of their element to get people talking. I’ll explain more about that in next week’s blog.
So stay tuned!