10 stylish ways to make an entrance
A recent survey we initiated suggested that 'location' had dropped to the number three consideration when planning an event. This was interesting but not surprising because there are now so many great options in terms of transportation. Whereas it used to be the tube or a taxi (unless you wanted to really blow the budget), now it's far easier to push the boat out (excuse the pun). These days, you can even travel by cable car (if you want to go from somewhere random in North Greenwich and end up in somewhere even more random opposite...erm....North Greenwich, granted). The views are spectacular though and it's well worth a ride!
The thing is that, nowadays, even a private jet can be economical, certainly accessible and absolutely magical!
Transport could and should be very much a part of the event experience because, in London at least, you spend almost an hour getting anywhere, so it's a big factor in your guests' overall experience. How many times have you attended an event and had a nightmare journey to or from the venue? When it happens, it's all people remember (a bit like sh*t catering). Well now there are ways to ensure it doesn't happen and think of all the tweets en-route when you've wowed your guests before they've even arrived! Imagine reinventing the, often arduous, journey to your event as an integral part of the event itself?
So here are our Top 10 ideas!
(Aside for the tube, which is actually brilliant, yet still massively underrated and taken for granted!)
1. Routemaster Bus
A great way to herd people without it looking like you're herding people! If you're staging an event in a less than easily accessible venue (ie more than 8 minutes walk from a tube, DLR or, at a push, overground) then a classic Routemaster is the perfect solution for several reasons:
- Firstly, it's an excellent way to ensure that at least fifty guests all arrive when you want them to arrive.
- Secondly, they can use the bus lanes, so they do actually arrive when you want them to arrive.
- Thirdly, it puts a value on arriving at the event, instigates camaraderie and creates an atmosphere which signifies the beginning of the event.
In short, people are more likely to attend if they know they have a private bus to catch! What’s more, you can even brand the bus! We've used this technique on a number of occasions and its perfect, particularly for events on the peripheries of Greater London.
We first used classic vintage Routemasters for a pair of events at Forman's Fish Island, on the edge of the Olympic Park. One year to the day before the Olympic Games we delivered over four hundred guests to the venue which, at the time, was considered somewhere beyond Timbuktu (and more of a challenge to get to!), via fleets of Routmaster bases - all branded with londonlaunch.com livery to avoid confusion at King's Cross.
Another great example was a far more long distance pick-up to an aircraft hangar in Biggin Hill. The 'Rizon Jet' event was spectacular, littered (for want of a more appropriate phrase) with super cars and executive jets although, being an aircraft hangar it was, as you'd imagine, a long way from civilisation. Over two hundred guests enjoyed a unique and spectacular event but, had we not laid on the en-masse transport, we would hardly have had a guest in the house (or shed, as it happens). What's more, the journey from The City was less than an hour - far quicker than by car thanks to the bus lanes.
2. Private VIP Cars
For smaller, VIP luncheons and dinners, you can't beat sending a smart chauffeur driven car (not to be confused with a chauffeur driven Smart car!) The benefits of such an exercise are countless. It's convenient, it doesn't involve having to go anywhere under your own steam, it doesn't even involve having to think. You just go about your business until someone comes to take you to something you actually want to go to. You can even work en route (no universal phone signals on the tube are still an infuriating fact of life - I once asked Boris Johnson about this and he told me is was a security issue, rather than a network issue) and travel in style, arriving relaxed and in a great mood.
Never underestimate the value of a relaxed, engaged and positive delegation, whatever the event. If you can afford it, do it. There are a variety of VIP car services who would be delighted to partner with you and your event - especially if its a recurring and, even better, peripatetic event (cool word - you'll probably need to look it up if you're not in the exhibition world).
For the right level of association, you'd be surprised at the deals that can be done. For ticketed events, you could even offer it as an optional extra for a higher ticket price, of course. And you don't have to stick to the standard blacked out Mercedes (although they are jolly nice!). What’s more, there are a wide variety of fun alternatives. If your company is all about CSR, then why not go for a fleet of electric or hybrid vehicles. If you want a more 'Spearmint Rhino' experience, you can go for a stretched pink Hummer limo with a jacuzzi in the back (liqueur in the front and poker in the rear!).
Depending on whether you're a Citi Bank (see what I did there?) or a record company attempting to appease Mötley Crüe (love that the iPad recognises this band and inserts the umlauts via autocorrect), there's something out there for everyone. Transport isn't only convenient, it's also fun and guarantees a higher percentage turn-out rate.
When I was about ten years old, I accompanied my father to a place just outside London called Air Hansen. He was upgrading from his iconic 80's Bell Jet Ranger helicopter to the altogether more spacious (but uglier) Bell Long Ranger. Upon closer inspection of the chopper, my father threw up his arms dramatically and stormed out of the hangar shouting "The deal's off - the bloody ashtrays are full" at which point an army of salesmen leapt up into the cabin to inspect this terrible oversight. My father then returned triumphantly, cheekily wearing a big, beaming smile (as well as his clothes), exclaiming "Only joking boys!"
He was, in fact, the original Wolf of Wall Street. Fast forward twenty-eight years and Air Hansen has become PremiAir. What's more, it's been bought by a friend of mine and they are reinventing the art of affordable corporate air travel. They've also hoovered up the Von Essen fleet which, ironically, had acquired my father's final Alton Towers helicopter, the legendary (and uber sexy) twin engined Bell 222. I'm told that G-JLBZ (his car was JLB 1) is now in Tazmania and used for spare parts (er…the helicopter, I mean). How times have changed!
The great thing about helicopter travel is that you can depart and land almost anywhere. I remember that we could fly from Cheshire to Battersea Heliport (190 miles by road) in less than an hour, so Battersea to Blenheim Palace, Aynhoe Park or West Wycombe Park, for example, is a mere 20 minutes away. And what a way to arrive in style. It's surprisingly affordable too and you can travel in a wide variety of machines, from a Sikorsky to Roman Abramovic's (spare) Eurocopter.
4. Executive Jet
You might not think or believe it, but air charter can be hugely cost-effective as well as being convenient, fast, luxurious, hassle-free and desirable. Here’s the science part...
Historically, corporations opted for fractional ownership of aircraft as opposed to outright ownership, which in anyone’s book, is a futile exercise. Even if you manage to charter your own jet all year round (when you’re not in it, innit!) you can only hope to recoup a fraction of your operating costs and depreciation isn’t even worth worrying your little Loboutin’s over.
Where there’s a sexy plane, there’s a sobering cost. Maintenance, fuel, landing fees, pilots, cabin crew, catering (see On Air for details of the best of the best!), it all adds up like Wayne Rooney’s weekly salary...quickly! The simple upshot is that, unless you’re the President of the Ukraine, it’s probably better to pay as you go! And, with that in mind, you simply can’t do better than partnering with Air Partner, the Ronseal of the aviation world (it says exactly what it does on the tin!)
To put it in perspective, for the same price as 50 hours flying time via fractional ownership (like owning the back end of a Pedigree Racehorse), you’ll get the benefit of 720 hours in a light jet with Air Partner, as well as approximately none of the expensive downside. It’s the same with big commercial airliner hire via Air Partner (think 747 or A380 for surprisingly economic conference travel) or even large-scale freight (think Antanov 225 for something with six engines and more wheels than anything else on earth). They don’t even charge you for the hidden extras – interchanges, fuel surcharges, crew expenses etc.
The benefits for international air travel are obvious here but closer to home there are some viable routes too. Blenheim Palace, for example, is just a mile away from Oxford airport and connects to any UK airfield, making your VIP delegates’ travel and overall experience world-class. Insert the names of most national conference destinations, Stately Homes, luxury hotels or sports stadiums and Air Partner will get you there, safely, cost-effectively, reliably and luxuriously.
5. Rib/Jet boat
You may get splashed but this is a dramatic and hugely exciting way to travel to your riverside events venue. And for the fastest, most exhilarating experience on the river, London Rib Tours should be your first port of call! With high speed, state of the art powerboats, fully equipped with an official Thames license to thrill, London Rib Tours will enable you and your guests to see London’s iconic sights (from Canary Wharf and Tower Bridge to The Shard and the Houses of Parliament) in ultimate style from convenient central London locations.
Every tour includes a comedic (slow speed) history of weird and wonderful London facts weaving London’s rich heritage into the experience, before the captain throttles up at Wapping to blow the cobwebs away and give you a hair-drying experience that even Sir Alex Ferguson would be proud of!
6. Jet Pack
Ok so this isn't practical (it not even dry) but its huge fun and looks incredible! They have a jet-pack school in the lagoon next to the fabulous Crystal conference centre. I even saw a programme about a local business man in Henley on Thames commuting to work on one, which has to be a publicity stunt, surely!? It's one of those things that looks easy (like snowboard cross) but I bet it's bloody difficult! In fact, this is not a practical way for your delegates to travel to your event (unless the traffic is really bad!) but it is a great team-building activity, come to think about it, so don't disregard it as a silly, albeit spectacular, idea.
Set up by a school friend of mine, Kabbee is the ultimate cab app. It's so simple to use, it's regulated (so only books fully licensed cabs) and guarantees the cheapest journeys imaginable. It's a price comparison app that books your cab and keeps you informed by counting down the seconds until your ride arrives. We always recommend it at our events because its genuinely brilliant.
I also have a great story about one particular journey to Olympic Avenue, prior to our (packed) event at the Aspers Sky Bar on top of Westfield Stratford. We booked our Kabbee cab, which duly arrived within minutes. It's also worth mentioning that this taxi run is one of the longest possible in the Greater London area, yet it was still only £25! And it can even be prepaid via the app, so you know exactly where you stand! Anyway, on this particular journey, traffic was really bad which, unlike a black cab, doesn't mean you have to re-mortgage because the price doesn't increase!
When we reached Piccadilly Circus, I decided to tell our lovely driver, Vincent, that I was no normal passenger. In fact, I was so important that I 'had a special permit which allows me to mount the kerb and drive straight across the pedestrianised area of Leicester square, past the cinemas and casinos, and demounting the other side onto Charing Cross Road'. Our excellent (and very trusting) driver duly obliged. We saved at least twenty minutes and Vincent (for that was his name) was never heard of again! As we cried (incredulous) tears of laughter we knew that we would never forget this level of service...
8. Boris Bike
I'm joking. It's important your delegates arrive alive.
See no. 8 but add a bit of James Bond/James Blunt style fun and character to your death-defying mode of transport. In actual fact, this is a great way to meet your delegates at designated tube stations in the West End, to complete their journeys with flair and panache. As a final leg, short distance experience this really creates excitement and adds an essential dash of fun to an otherwise mundane dash from tube station to venue.
10. River Cruiser
Amazingly, until the 2012 Olympic Games, the Thames was largely overlooked as a feature of the City, let alone as a central superhighway (which, it absolutely is, incidentally!). The sponsorship deal with General Electric ensured that all the bridges along the Thames are spectacularly lit which is one of the great lasting legacies of the Games.
There are numerous river cruisers designed specifically for transportation and they're particularly useful if you're travelling from Westminster (there are lots of piers there) to Canary Wharf or the O2 arena. I once went to a Lady Gaga concert when there was a tube strike and the journey back to Putney was an absolute pleasure on board the Thames Clippers vessel - it's amazing how 15,000 people can be flushed away down the river (a la our famous Victorian sewers)...On a slightly smaller scale, we collected over 300 guests from the City on a warm summer's evening and transported them to the Hurlingham Club (in celebration of the launch of their new pier) where they disembarked and enjoyed a wonderful stroll through the gardens to the venue - a memorable experience for all who arrived with Thames Executive Charters. Another great company worth checking out is London Party Boats, especially if you want a party. On a boat!
If Jeremy Clarkson was to stage an event in Central London this year, he would undoubtedly go for this suitably obscene entrance! A kick in the teeth to all things unobtrusive and eco-friendly, and exclusively In at Number 11, is the heavy weight champion of the event transport world. You can now arrive in a tank!
And when I say a tank, I mean an actual Tank. A huge great thing with virtually no windows and a great big gun! This monster holds up to eight passengers, is exempt from the Congestion Charge and you can park it virtually anywhere (no traffic warden will ever mess with you again, trust me!) and they're even constructing a jacuzzi on the back! With prices from £1,600 it's perfect for product launches, dictators and maniacs.
It’s not necessarily the sexiest subject in the event planning process (unless Exec Jets are involved, of course) but take heed and take your delegates’ journeys seriously – it can make or break the event experience you’ve worked so hard to create and VIP-ness is hard to sustain all night long!
Still here? After that last sentence (read it out loud!)? Haven’t you got a plane to catch or something?
Will Broome CEO