Working with VIPs at events

Internal VIPs may include the Chancellor of the University of Oxford; The Rt Hon Lord Patten of Barnes and Lady Patten and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford; Professor Louise Richardson.

External VIPs may include:

  • Donors, benefactors
  • Prospects
  • Government representatives
  • Heads of State
  • Royalty
  • Guest speakers
  • Notable alumni

Please note, the VIP may not fall into any of the above categories: a VIP can be anyone to whom you want to give special attention or treatment. Be prepared; it is possible that the VIP may turn up with unannounced guests, and you will be expected to accommodate them. 

The way you interact with your VIPs will directly reflect on you, your event and the University. It is vitally important that you address your VIPs with the correct titles, and of course, with the correct spelling of their names.

If in doubt, always ask or do some research. A VIP’s Executive Assistant can be a reliable source of information; you can also look up forms of address by using the Debrett’s Correct Form publication.

Your VIP could be very important for a number of reasons. Whatever the reason for their VIP status, your job is to ensure that they receive five-star treatment, not just at the event but before and after. Ensuring all their special requirements are noted and organised accordingly prior to the event date will ensure your VIP experiences a seamless and enjoyable event.

Special requirements could include:

  • Dietary requirements
  • Mobility requirements
  • Transport
  • Accommodation
  • Audio visual requirements
  • Any cultural requirements

Five-star treatment for the VIP guests could extend to ensuring there is a “meet and greet” upon arrival, the event host is notified of their arrival, that they are seated in reserved seats for lectures, they are seated next to internal VIPs for lunches and dinners - the list is endless. 

The presence of some VIPs will be newsworthy information, and it may be beneficial to notify the University News Office. Before doing so, consideration must be given to preferences of the VIP and whether they are comfortable with media attention either from the University News Office or other outside media.

Five star treatment for VIP guests may also need to include security. It is worth speaking to the University Security Services for advice and a possible security plan. Please refer to the Security guidance page for further details.

If your VIPs have an active role to play in the event, they will need a brief to include timings, schedule, running order and biographies of any key guests they will need to meet and liaise with. Your internal VIPs will almost certainly need a brief, whether they are playing an active role in the event or not. The brief should include biographies of key guests, the running order and a detailed summary of what is expected of them, along with contact details of any key stakeholders. Remember to password protect your briefings and only keep personal information for as long as is needed.