Shelby Sisler is the director of catering and convention services at the award-winning Radisson Blu Mall of America. She joined the hotel just before the pandemic and has showcased her flexibility throughout the past four years, making her an invaluable member of the team. Named a Finance & Commerce Rising Young Professional in 2022, Sisler uses her skills and experience to create one-of-a-kind events for clients.
How To Keep Events Exciting for Long-Standing Clients
When it comes to filling a book of business, we all know returning clients are an important piece of the puzzle. As we celebrate our 10th anniversary at Radisson Blu Mall of America, we’ve seen how important — and fun! — long-standing event clients are. Whether it’s an annual event, or an account that started small and has grown into something different, lean into change to ensure event clients are dazzled year in and year out — and keep coming back.
So, how can venues keep things fresh and encourage repeat business? Here are four tips any event team can use to help know when and what to change — and what can remain the same.
Listen to Feedback
We believe clients know their event attendees best, so when they have feedback, we are happy to listen. For example, after receiving requests from clients who wanted to bring the farm-to-table essence of our on-site restaurant into the banquet space, we worked with our executive chef to craft a menu that captured that vibe while working well in an event setting. This is now one of our most popular buffets. Listen to your clients and think about what feedback you’re getting, and brainstorm how to incorporate these ideas into your menu.
Add New Offerings
Creating new options is key when it comes to meeting and exceeding expectations for returning clients. This might mean completely revamping the catering menu, or it could be swapping a few things annually. Another idea is expanding upon an existing offering to add new elements. For instance, turn an average water station into something fun and creative by offering fruit infusion options. If you already have a pizza station, could you turn this into a custom pizza station, where guests choose their own toppings and have the pie made to order right in front of them? Could you add themed music or a beverage pairing? Tap into the five senses to create a truly memorable experience.
Create Custom Solutions
Channeling creativity can lead to something that genuinely reflects the client, event theme and goals — and is inclusive of all event attendees. Nearly all groups seek options that fit an array of dietary needs, so brainstorming specific solutions is crucial. Think about how to elevate vegetarian versions of meat entrees, so both dishes have the same look and flavors. Clients will appreciate the extra effort as they work to ensure no one on their team feels excluded. Also be sure to have standing menu offerings that accommodate allergies, so clients are confident the needs of their guests will all be met.
Keep in mind not everyone drinks alcohol, and many of your guests may be sober or sober curious. Be sure to offer delicious signature mocktails alongside signature cocktails to help support people in this choice while still feeling a sense of belonging and enjoyment.
Another area in which to consider custom solutions is logistics. After all, an event is only impactful if attendees can experience it. For large venues or events spread throughout multiple areas, make sure you have proper signage, an online landing page and staff to help navigate and answer questions. Technology can also be a big asset here. Would an interactive map help with navigation? Could a QR code that links to menu ingredients provide peace of mind to folks with dietary needs? Determine what’s the right fit for your space and clientele, and help your guests have the experience you envisioned!
While change is good, maximizing existing relationships is beneficial for all involved when it comes to events. Building trust takes time, so relying on team members who have worked on an account in the past helps efficiency and opens the door for more creativity when everyone has already established trust and is looking forward to collaborating again. Especially after the pandemic years, people are craving connection. Lean into that and make clients feel special. In addition, be intentional about building relationships beyond the client. From partners to vendors and the event team, fostering relationships at every level is a win-win for everyone.
While there’s no magic formula to retain business, these tips will help build upon existing relationships and lean into change to create beautiful, meaningful events.
Allen Plante, director of banquets at Radisson Blu Mall of America, contributed to this article.