Corporate hospitality needs to show its value; to show a measurable return. Wine tastings and events as corporate events are no exception, even if some effects on business relationships can seem intangible. We can work with you every step of the way to make your corporate wine tasting event a great success, whatever the purpose of the tasting: getting closer to clients, training, incentive rewards, conference or business travel sideshows, celebrating business milestones, thanking employees or entertaining the media. Here are the 20 Golden Rules to help you get it right. They all affect each other.
1 Make sure the DATE fits perfectly with the availability of the key clients you want to be there, and with the partners and account handlers that need to be there too. A reasonable lead time with venues (even your own premises) is three months minimum. Don't forget that holiday periods and the lead-up before Christmas are often no-nos.
2 Get the WOW FACTOR right. Wine tasting and wine and food events can add variety to your corporate hospitality programme, especially in an industry dominated by sports and 'adventure experience' events. But even with wine and food events, it's important to think out exactly what will catch the eye of your invitees and make them want to attend. Wine merchants prepared to come for free to present their wares may well sell a few cases on the back of it and it's often great goodwill. But they often lack the skills of great communication and a basic free drink is a two-a-penny formula which will not necessarily make your event a must-go attraction to key clients. Think up, or ask us to think up, original ways to make wine tasting irresistable.
3 Choice of VENUE can be critical for success. If it's away from the board room or the conference suite, think about how far your guests will need to travel and how its look and feel will match the event's theme. Outside venues can be the biggest expense, but they can transform the attraction and impact. Clients who quite often meet you at your premises will be intrigued to go to a venue which has kudos in its own right.
4 One way to turn heads when they get the invitation is to make it clear you will be serving VERY SMART WINE. There simply is little point to putting important people together in a room and then showing them ordinary wines they regard as 'everyday'. Believe us, the expense is worth it. Make sure the kind of wines to be served is clear in the invitation. Not every wine has to be fine and rare at a statospheric price - it's useful to show basic wines next to the best sometimes to point out quality contrasts. But real plums with a reputation do catch the eye and make the mouth water.
5 Watch out for all the VENUE CHARGES when you negotiate with the premises provider. Make sure you have a clear contract which details exactly what is in the price and what will be 'extras'. Corkage costs imposed per person or per bottle of wine brought in can be swingeing. As can definitions of 'minimum spend.' And remember that many venues' wine lists are simply not special enough to rely on them to supply all the wines. Charges on soft drinks and water supply are also often heavily marked up. Flowers, table linen and cloakroom staff can be extras. And many venues impose an overall service charge on the total fees including the hire charge - 15% of several thousand is not nothing.
6 Make a FLOOR AND MOVEMENT PLAN. Will the numbers fit in rooms and around tables? Where are the cloakrooms, signage and loos? How will people move from a reception area to another room and how long will it take? How many staff will there be to usher and guide? Make sure you meet the wine tasting provider and caterer at the premises to plan things through.
7 Plan for HIGH ATTENDANCE. The biggest drawback of corporate entertainment is often a 10-20% no show rate on the day. Important people are busy people and last minute problems arise. But there are ways to make sure key people attend. Make absolutely sure the diary is clear when people accept invitations. Consider sending taxis for them. Make sure there's a 'buddy' system in place so your own key people keep a regular reminder going. Always over-invite by 10%. Stay in touch with PAs in the week before an event to hear of any looming problems. Obviously attendance is connected to wow factor and Venue choice (see above), but Venues and pazzazz will not guarantee a full house without the detailed extra effort.
8 Have a clear purpose - in particular, is this just a PARTY or MICRO-MARKETING to build business relationships? Scala happily organises both but they are different kinds of events and will need different kinds of wine.
9 Get the BUDGET detailed, clear and approved by financial managers. Compare it carefully at CPH (cost per head) with the business priority the event has and alternative CPHs for similar types of corporate hospitality. Compare winetasting with fun days, going to restaurant private rooms, sporting events and team-building days. See Scala's clear and simple methods for costs and fees here.
10 It's important to RESEARCH what your competitors are doing for clients as corporate hospitality. Talk to colleagues who have worked with other firms. And of course, you will often be invited to events by other firms and see at first hand. Marketing departments should keep up with the corporate event industry conferences and exhibitions.
11 If you are using an outside caterer, make sure you ask for TESTIMONIALS and speak directly to some former clients.
12 At wine tastings, provide enough FOOD to ensure people don't get ravenous - tasting wine after a long day's work multiplies the hunger. If the event involves serious wine tasting, make sure it's only nibbles at first and the main food after.
13 Get the START and FINISH right. People do not all arrive together, and it's only polite to have a drinks reception before the main action. Similarly, it's useful to have time and wine for social drinking after a wine tasting event. This is often the best time for food and conversation.
14 LATE ARRIVALS may often be VIPs who overrrun tight schedules. Have a greeter on hand who knows them and can welcome them with a drink and update on what's going on.
15 TIMINGS are crucial. Map it out and make sure presenters know they are expected to keep to plan. Have a plan B if it goes awry.
16 WAIT STAFF who pour drinks are critical for a good impression. Make sure providers know what is expected for dress and appearance. Check they are experienced and can deal confidently and discreetly with your guests. If the wine tasting is at all serious, make sure they will not wear perfume.
17 PAYMENT is important for all round goodwill. Small suppliers may expect to be paid quickly. Make sure costs and invoicing arrangements are agreed in advance and your finance department has an account number for the supplier.
18 UNOPENED WINE left after an event can be a significant cost - make sure there is an agreement about sale or return with the supplier or if all supply is to be paid for, that you take it into store once the event is over.
19 MATCH FOOD AND WINE. Even if it is not an event to explore wine and food matching, make sure that, if the wine is very good, that any strong flavours such as chilli or spices or even sweet foods can at least stand up to the wines they may be served with. Take advice and make sure the caterer and the wine people talk to each other.
20 EVALUATE the EFFECT. You need to ask guests how they rate the event - afterwards is best, via online quick-click questionnaires. Give them a chance to comment at more length at the end. Sift and quantify the results.