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5 Tips for Making V.I.P.s Comfortable at Public Events

Event pros stress the importance of prioritizing safety basics and personalizing the experience.

At its Super Saturday shopping fund-raiser in Los Angeles on May 16, the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund attracted a subset of the guests to a V.I.P. area with its own food, drinks, seating, shopping concierge, and other perks.
At its Super Saturday shopping fund-raiser in Los Angeles on May 16, the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund attracted a subset of the guests to a V.I.P. area with its own food, drinks, seating, shopping concierge, and other perks.
Photo: Alesandra Dubin/BizBash

When V.I.P.s attend large public events, they don't expect to fall in line for the portable restrooms with the rest of the crowd. But taking care of this set within the context of a larger event requires some finesse. Event pros whose work includes creating such elite experiences supply their top tips for how to do it effectively and seamlessly.

1. Know the entire site.
The only way to provide an exceptional experience for guests within a specific area is to develop an intimate understanding of the entire space, according to CID Entertainment C.E.O. and founder Dan Berkowitz, whose company provides V.I.P. and travel programs for music festivals, concerts, and live events.

“I remember at our first Bonnaroo, we sent someone all the way to Nashville to buy a parasol for one of our guests who wanted some protection from the sun. Turns out they sell parasols in Centeroo [within the festival],” he says. “If we understood that site a bit better in our first year, we would have saved about five hours that day and our guest would have had her parasol much earlier. Now we make sure that our team knows everything that they possibly can about the site they are on and the surrounding area.”

2. More staff and better technology increases comfort.
Never mind fancy amenities or gifts: Sometimes it’s avoiding simple general-admission hassles like waiting in line that makes V.I.P. guests feel the most pampered in the midst of a larger event.

Berkowitz says the best way to help them avoid those nuisances is by beefing up the staffing. "It’s imperative to minimize wait time for guests, so make sure to appropriately staff check-in and concierge tables, bars, catering, and security to ensure guests promptly receive credentials, answers, drinks, food, and entry. If their favorite band is going on stage in 10 minutes, and they arrive with 15 to spare but your check-in line takes 20 minutes to get through—you’ve got a problem.”

In addition, basic tech innovations can help mitigate associated stresses. “Nobody wants to wait at a table with a confused check-in concierge going through a paper list that has not been alphabetized. We use check-in apps and a proven ratio of check-in staff to guests to ensure minimum wait times for all of our guests,” he says.

3. Personalize the experience.
John Wyatt, who is founder of the Los Angeles outdoor film screening program Cinespia in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, says that the key to making V.I.P.s feel comfortable is treating each one as an individual. Rather then prescribe a one-size-fits-all approach, his team considers how each person prefers to be handled. “Some people want special treatment. Some people get mad if you give it to them,” he says. “We have people wanting different things in varying degrees."

4. Make people feel comfortable, but not isolated.
Over Cinespia’s 14-year history, Wyatt has accommodated many V.I.P.s, given that, “doing a public event in L.A., you’re going to get people who live here, who are A-listers, or are used to being [taken care of],” he says. But he’s learned that doesn’t mean those people necessarily want to be removed from the public experience altogether; frequently, they want the same experience, but with more comforts.

So instead of waiting in line for hours to gain entry and dealing with chaotic parking in a congested Hollywood environment, V.I.P.s at Cinespia have access to a special parking lot and ride into a dedicated area within the main event on golf carts. From there, he says, “It's very casual. They're going to sit there and watch a movie just like everyone else. They really love that casual thing, and that’s what keeps them coming back all the time. It's a cool mixture of feeling pampered in the middle of the crowd—it's an experience some people don’t have a lot because they’re going from bubble to bubble."

5. Prioritize the basics.
No matter how lavish a V.I.P. experience may feel, pampering is incidental compared to guests’ basic human needs, as well as to their safety. "Safety and guest comfort are always crucial when designing V.I.P. experiences, so don’t forget to focus on the less glamorous elements such as clean restrooms, cold water, and plentiful seating. A $10,000 bathroom trailer is not worth $1 if it’s dirty with a full tank,” Berkowitz says. “[Those details] make all the difference and allow guests to keep focus on enjoying the event."