Julian Agostini, MD of Mash Media, takes a closer look at the ‘VIP’ experience.

Ronseal famously captured the phrase “it does exactly what it says on the tin”. This was their advertising campaign during the 1990s and is now an overused expression in boardrooms, pubs, homes and everywhere else across the UK…ahhh, the power of advertising!

Whilst we have all adopted those words in common parlance to describe anyone or anything that is solid and reliable, no one has ever really questioned the validity of the statement.

We all just accept the endorsement, which may or may not be completely accurate. This is extraordinary in many ways, given that we live in a cynical world…that really is the power of advertising.

So what happens if it doesn’t quite do what it says on the tin?

There are certain things that I find disproportionately annoying in this regard.  For example, seedless clementines; bear with me here. Precious as we are these days, most smaller pieces of fruit are available without their natural seeds, which makes them so much easier to consume, especially at pace! It’s one of those evolutions in life that (albeit manufactured), despite being on the other side of the spectrum from being categorised under essential, you just can’t ever imagine going back to how it was.  Does anyone eat seeded grapes any more (outside of Italy)?

However, so spoilt as we now are, if a piece of fruit turns up with pips, it’s an issue and I don’t say that lightly. If I bite into a segment of a clementine, sold to me as seedless, and encounter a pip, I’m truly disappointed and it ruins the experience for me completely, so much so that the whole piece of fruit might get cast aside, should the next segment also offend.

I accept that I probably need therapy and this is a major over-reaction but actually what we all want is “exactly what it says on the tin” – that was the brilliance of the Ronseal campaign, of course.

On occasions, what is on the tin is left to interpretation and it is in this particular corridor of doubt that disappointment lies. As the world continues to pamper the consumer and everything becomes that bit easier to access, so our expectations go through the roof. Nothing is out of reach any longer for the person on the street be it holidays, fortunes, fame and celebrity; we all want the VIP treatment. The trouble with that is, obviously, if everyone’s a VIP then no one is.

This is prevalent in our industry. The vast majority of events, if not all, will have a VIP attendee list which probably stretches way beyond what used to qualify as a VIP. Yet is this label or privilege actually taken seriously by the guest?

What is the exact expectation of being a VIP and is it something that the rest of the attendees aspire to or does it pass them by without a second thought?

Recently I was a VIP guest for a few days at an event – yes, even me, and I arrived with some hope rather than expectation in truth.  What it had said to me ‘on my tin’ as it were, was that I would fed and watered very well and generally smiled at.

In reality though, it didn’t tick those boxes (well, maybe watered) but the food was ordinary and I was processed like every other guest. But what I did receive, I believe, captured the essence of how a VIP should be treated at trade events. That is, the removing of all obstacles, hassle or anything that might have wasted my time. This meant that I felt in control the entire time; as though all the admin of day-to-day life was being taken care of, so I could concentrate on why I had truly come.

Visitors, on the whole, don’t arrive at a trade event clutching their VIP badges expecting the red carpet to be rolled out. They, like any of us, just expect to be treated as if their time is valuable, and their presence at the show is appreciated.

In our industry, many VIP experiences are moving away from the old school hospitality and concentrating on making the day completely efficient for the visitor, but how good can we get at this?

What would be your absolute ideal tick list? If I were being a diva (I said if), my rider would look like this:

  • An invite that automatically uploads to my outlook calendar and my phone
  • Suggested travel arrangements and times
  • Even better a car or free parking by the venue
  • Ease of entry – just tap my phone or similar and no queue
  • Recommended (but not committed to) sessions to attend and companies to visit
  • Complimentary barista coffee/water
  • Comp. cloakroom
  • Secure VIP area within the event which I could use for meetings/work
  • Comp. phone charging facilities
  • Any information that I wanted from the event collated and sent on to me in one file

In essence, admin free.

The definition of a VIP might have changed, but that label is still a promise from organiser to visitor. In order to deliver that promise, it’s essential that both you and your VIP knows exactly what it says on the tin.