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Get Creative When Planning Client Events

October 20, 2016

As an advisor to families of significant wealth, I have tried my share of ways to connect with clients, prospective clients, and those who help introduce us to future clients.

In an already overcrowded industry, we see way too many of the same “come listen to us talk about the markets” events put on by just about every large firm in just about every nice hotel across the country.

Further, there are only so many great restaurants, sporting events or cultural experiences that our clients want to attend, and most of our clients have direct access to these types of experiences.

I love building relationships and wanted to explore new opportunities to create fun, memorable events that people wanted to attend, and not just felt obligated to attend. When we launched our new firm I took the opportunity to get creative.

Our focus has been on putting together client events that can be truly inspiring experiences for our guests.

In so doing, we focus on three things. First, we focus all of our attention on our clients and guests and no attention on ourselves nor our business. There are no PowerPoint presentations, no market updates and no sales pitches.

Second, we create unique experiences that even the most privileged individuals cannot access on their own.

And third, we carefully curate a guest list of clients and friends who will enjoy connecting and learning from one another.

Here are some specific ideas we have found are “best practices” for a truly successful event.

Tie in music, art and performances when possible. Events with entertainment tend to be more popular with clients and prospects and create an informal atmosphere to get to know people better. If serving food, think about incorporating a new restaurant that no one has experienced and directly involve the chef and/or owners of the restaurant. Not only will the food be wonderful but it adds another dimension to the overall experience.

Invite an array of people from different backgrounds. We have found that inviting a diverse cross section of the Chicago community – VCs, entrepreneurs, private equity executives, artists, attorneys, professional athletes, etc. – creates a dynamic event with great discussions. Regardless of the entertainment aspect, the most valuable parts of our events are the people who attend them and our ability to use these events as a fun way to help develop an “ecosystem” across our network, facilitating new introductions and new relationships for those in our network.

You can also set a theme and tone for your event. We host Jeffersonian-style dinners for clients and key business influencers. What we like about a Jeffersonian dinner is the depth of conversation from all seated at the table. With a Jeffersonian dinner there is just one topic and one conversation, so it makes for a meaningful discussion with thought-provoking issues which give all much to ponder long after the dinner is over. Thomas Jefferson started this wonderful tradition in his own home, and we have enjoyed doing the same. We have found that this forum is a wonderful way for us to continue to develop our ecosystem of clients and friends in our business community in Chicago.

Another idea is to think about a strategic partnership with a firm in your area whose goals are aligned with yours, and plan a joint event. In our case, last year we co-hosted a party with a sports agency when the NFL Draft was held in Chicago. Given that my partner and I are former professional and collegiate football players ourselves, we have several professional athletes on our client roster.

We invited our athlete and non-athlete clients to this party and the agency invited many of its clients who were entering the NFL draft. Our entrepreneur and executive clients really enjoyed getting to know some of the athletes, and vice versa.

Whatever your event format, be sure to follow up appropriately after each event. Thank people for coming but also ask for feedback.

We are constantly striving to get better and asking for feedback is a great way to keep tweaking what we do. We know our clients’ time is precious, and we want to be sure they view their spending time with us as worthwhile.