How to Please Your VIPs at Your Next Meeting

Whether a foundation or PAC event or a more intimate board dinner, you want to choose the right venue for these special gatherings.

Over the course of their careers, associations executives become event professionals of a sort. Not only do they have starring roles at the annual conference—not to mention any executive or educational conferences that fall under their purview—but they also attend board meetings and any foundation and PAC events that the organization might hold.

When it comes to the smaller VIP meetings and dinners, you want to choose a space that will convey how much you appreciate your members and their service to the association. And, ideally, you want to show them a good time.

“I always look for a location that highlights the city we are in,” said Keli Jackson, executive assistant at the American Water Works Association. Jackson plans a VIP dinner associated with the annual meeting as well as biannual board dinners, all of which take place in different cities. Two years ago in Chicago, she booked a VIP dinner at Riva Crabhouse on the Navy Pier, which not only offered a fantastic view of the city but also of the water plant.

Here are three common VIP event circumstances and the types of venues that can both convey your appreciation and offer a night to remember.

Circumstance: We have a PAC or foundation event, and we want it to be a classy good time.

Venue solution: Book a venue with lots to do and see.

For a memorable—and elegant—affair, book space at a local cultural institution. This venue choice offers a dynamism to the event, with people visiting the exhibits open for private viewings. (Also, you might just increase attendance with this private viewing opportunity.)

At an art museum, like the Art Institute of Chicago, your VIPs can compare their thoughts on Monet vs. Manet during cocktail hour. Or dining near a dinosaur, like at the Field Museum, is always a treat.

And don’t overlook smaller cultural venues, such as an architectural gem like Chicago’s Frederick C. Robie House, a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece, or the Tiffany Dome at the Chicago Cultural Center.

**Circumstance: **The board of directors is meeting, and we want a venue that will allow us to immediately segue from meeting to special dinner.

**Venue solution: **Venture outside the hotel to a classy multipurpose meeting space.

Many cities have repurposed historic buildings into architecturally interesting event space. For example, the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel has multiple event and meeting spaces, so your board members can segue from one of the Executive Boardrooms to private dining room on the top floor. Or keep dinner casual and clubby and head to the Game Room (the association’s old billiards room), where there is also a bocce bay, shuffleboard, and chess and checkers tables.

**Circumstance: **We simply want to thank our board or other VIP members for their service to the association with a nice dinner—no need to overthink it!

**Venue solution: **Serve up a great view.

You know what makes any meal better? A stunning view. Head to high ground, particularly if you are in a densely packed downtown area. Chicago’s London House has three levels of rooftop space with both indoor and outdoor seating.

Or if your meeting city has a waterway, book a dinner cruise for a comprehensive and constantly shifting vista. Odyssey Cruises Chicago offers a new perspective on the city’s iconic architecture.

Your VIP members are the backbone of your association. They volunteer their time, expertise, and financial support, all of which allows the association to operate at peak performance. A thoughtfully planned evening out is a nice gesture of your gratitude.

Chicago is at the top of its game when it comes to hosting meetings. The city can accommodate any size group, offering a range of options for each meeting facet. Each article in this eight-part, how-to series tackles a specific piece of the meeting planning puzzle as part of the ultimate meeting playbook. Learn more at