If you’ve been reading this column for the past 24 months, and you’ve decided to adopt a relational rather than a transactional business model, you already know that one of the most rewarding events you could ever add to your calendar is the hosting of your own corporate Client Appreciation Gala. Done correctly, these indispensable annual “reunions” will deepen the connections you and your staff share with your clients, while celebrating their successes, retained gains and leveraged legacies — as well as give their attending friends an invaluable opportunity to see you and your team in action.

See also: 100 best sales & marketing ideas: 11 client appreciation tips

Hosting such an event is not to be undertaken lightly. The logistics can be daunting and the investment great, and even with the assistance of a banquet coordinator, you should have at least one staff person for every 40-50 attendees, in order to cater to the many minor details that invariably will arise — everything from dietary considerations to seating assignments to the timing of the meal with the entertainment.

The following components are critical to the success of a well-planned event: 

  • Plan the event near the beginning of your seminar marketing season, so the “buzz” from it enhances attendance at your next several workshops.
  • Hold it on a Tuesday or Thursday evening, as those days are the least disruptive of people’s midweek church or weekend travel plans.
  • Choose a centrally located venue with ample parking, where the kitchen staff is capable of stepping up their more routine menu offerings to a four-star experience.
  • Offer three or four different entrée items, such as duck, filet mignon, lobster or salmon as well as seated appetizers and a salad. Remember: You’re not doing this to “save money,” you’re doing this as an act of appreciation and gratitude.
  • Have excellent entertainment, either musical or comedic, scheduled after dessert has been served, and encourage audience participation.
  • Optional: Between the plated appetizers and after the placing of their dinner orders, consider giving an economic or market forecast presentation of no more than 20 minutes, plus a Q&A opportunity. This reconnects your clients to you as an expert, and gives their guests a sense of your knowledge, presence, poise and skillset, all of which will dominate the table conversation once the main entrees are served.

Important: The one factor most crucial to a great experience is the care you take in matching people’s backgrounds and temperaments when you design your assigned seating chart. Paired correctly, clients who were strangers will become dear friends and socialize long after that event is over — and thank you for introducing them!

In December, I’ll explain why we no longer hold large events, having moved to multiple smaller ones instead. 

For more from Thomas K. Brueckner, see: