HR & Management

The definitive guide on the best approach to corporate hospitality

8 min read

28 April 2015

As budgets begin to expand, purse strings loosen and new business increasingly pushed onto the agenda, corporate hospitality provides a great way to introduce your business to new clients or provide a refresher for existing ones – as long as the right approach is found.

Warm weather has arrived and with it comes thoughts of long days out, drinks on summer terraces and larking around with bats, rackets and footballs.

It is also a time when businesses start considering hosting corporate hospitality events – perhaps days out to the horseraces, a box at Wimbledon or an outdoor summer party.

The corporate hospitality industry had a tough recession as companies looked to cut costs and play down the image of rich businessmen and women swanning around whilst the rest of the nation suffered. According to research group Key Note the total value of the UK corporate hospitality market – organising events, dinners, or boxes at high-profile sporting events – fell by 2.5 per cent to £1.2bn between 2007 and 2011.

However, buoyed by the London Olympics of 2012 and the improving economy, confidence has slowly returned, according to sector giant Keith Prowse, with SMEs increasingly becoming interested in hosting events.

Corporate hospitality events are not just an excuse to drink, laugh and be merry. There is a serious business case behind hosting an event – rewarding staff and current clients, tempting new clients and generally boosting your brand and company’s name and image.

So what do businesses need to know before booking the best seats at this summer’s top events?

Venue

Consider what type of event will best suit your needs and guests. Are they sporting types or people who would prefer summer cocktails or canapes? Visit the venues, talk to the owners and event bookers. Do you want to organise and host the event yourself or get a third party involved? Perhaps find a guest/after-dinner speaker? What atmosphere are you trying to create?

Remember even if you hate golf, your clients might love it so chin up and try and get through to the 19th hole.

People

It is important to get the right mix of people. Clients, staff, media. What do you want out of the day in terms of discussions or conversations and what do you think your guests want to get out of it? Think of garrulous clients who will help keep conversation flowing. Try and get one or two members of your management team there – but don’t go too overboard on business talk. The trick is to create an entertaining and enjoyable experience not to break your guest down with sales talk when he is trying to watch Maria Sharapova serve.

Price

Consider the price you are paying for an event or box very carefully. You want to try and make a return out of your event so rigorously assess your budget.

As part of this you could evaluate how big a revenue stream each of the clients you are inviting brings in every year and try and work out a return on investment from your hospitality spend. It may be useful to conduct an annual survey of actual returns on corporate spend per customer and then increase or decrease your overall budget accordingly.

Event bookers have recognised this trend and are now offering a wider range of price-points. So research these and take advantage.

Don’t be afraid of small bookings

The days of trying to impress new and prospective clients with large scale “Great Gatsby” style events and fully-booked rooms with swathes of corporate boxes are over. More considered smaller events are in vogue now. These can be more intimate and produce better results. As the boss you have more time to spend with each and every client and customer. Your guests will feel more valued.

Make every invite count

Tied in with having smaller events, try and invite only the key people on your client or media list. This can be your biggest spenders or those with most potential for new business.

Recognise that the hospitality market has changed

New regulations such as the Bribery Act have been introduced which is making it harder for businesses to organise or accept event invitations and gifts.

Introduced in 2011, the Act recognises that hospitality can be an established and important part of doing business and building and maintaining relationships. However it warns that bribery can sometimes be disguised as legitimate business spending.

Hospitality spend and gift giving has be proportionate and reasonable. So a dinner to celebrate the end of a deal or tickets for Lords is fine. But paying for a five star holiday to Barbados for a potential or existing client as an inducement or a reward may not. Especially before or just after a tendering process.

Ask yourself when is a gift or an event appropriate or inappropriate? Am I making it just for my own advantage? Also is the scale of my event proportional to the nature and size of my business i.e. small events are looked upon more favourably than large and lavish events.

Senior managers and directors can be held personally liable under the Act for offences committed by an organisation if they are found to have consented or connived in it. The maximum penalty for individuals is ten years prison and or an unlimited fine. Businesses could face an unlimited fine.

Every business should gem up on what restrictions they and their clients now face, work within the rules and get legal advice.

Read more about the Bribery Act:

Behaviour

Drink and sunshine can sometimes be a bad mix. As the host try and stay relatively sober so you can best monitor alcoholic consumption to ensure the event doesn’t go out of hand and you have a large bill for some torn curtains

Analysis and feedback

Create a system to analyse what your guests did following the event. Spend more with you, sign the contract, buy the product etc? Also get some feedback from selected guests – did they enjoy the experience, what more could you have done as a host?

This is also a good time to act on the goodwill (hopefully) generated by the event. So a phone call to talk through the next contract, the latest product etc may not go amiss.

The goodie bag

You can’t beat it. They aren’t just confined to children’s parties – adults love them as well. Perhaps a box of chocolates, a tennis ball, golf balls etc. Oh and perhaps a little promotional card about your business. Also it is good form to send an email or letter afterwards thanking your guest for their attendance.

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