The four pillars upon which most successful events rest include the venue, transportation, and entertainment. The fourth pillar is innovation, coupled with imagination. To make your corporate event a standout, you must match the effort you put into choosing the venue, transportation, and entertainment with an equal amount of creativity.

Venues with Panache--Although the local convention and visitors bureau or national tourism organization may be your first contact when searching for venues, don't let them be your final stop. Local historical organizations may point you to extraordinary private homes that are the perfect location for your small group, and school and recreation officials may direct you to stadiums, gymnasiums, or amphitheaters that will comfortably contain your large gathering.

Once you have identified a venue, conduct a detailed site inspection, checking for parking, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, kitchen facilities, and other critical factors. Ask for the names of two clients who have recently used the venue, and interview them about their experience. Avoid using facilities with a driving distance of greater than 30 minutes; many times, these venues are too far from local hospitals, police, and other important support. Besides, after traveling several hours by plane to your destination, the last thing a guest wants is to be held hostage on a bus trip that seems interminable. Finally, confirm with the rental agent when you may have access to the venue and when you must depart.

Transportation with a Twist--Once the venue has been selected, identify safe, professional, dependable, and fun transportation. Yes, fun. Regardless of whether you use a 45-passenger motor coach or a trolley, it sets the mood for the event and serves as the first course in your three-course adventure. For a MASH party, I rented Korean War vintage ambulances and transported the guests from the parking lot six blocks to the party site. For another event, I leased yellow school buses and invited the guests to return to the '50s as they departed the hotel for the sock hop held at a local school gymnasium. Another time, I used pontoon boats to sail my guests into a waterside mall for an evening of shopping and dancing. The possibilities are endless.

Make certain your transportation vendor maintains automobile liability insurance and, if using a floating vessel, marine insurance. The transportation firm should also be willing to share with you their accident/incident records. To reduce cost, consider using continuous shuttles rather than a full complement of vehicles to move the entire group at once.

Entertainment that Roars--Did you know that the Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus, Deland, FL, will produce a private show for your corporation when they are routed through a city close to your event destination? This 100-year-old circus will customize their show for your group for a nominal fee as long as you book the date when they are in your event city. To find entertainment that is routed through your event destination, from major name headliners to stunt shows, use the Cavalcade of Acts and Attractions, published by Amusements Business of Nashville, TN.

Local school administration offices, as well as parks and recreations departments, may refer inexpensive and novel acts to you to provide local color for your event, from folk dance troupes to complete marching bands. They may all be yours for a nominal donation to the local organization that sponsors their appearance.

When using local entertainment, make certain you carefully preview (in person if possible) the act and determine how professional staging (including lighting and sound) may further ensure the success of the performance at your event.

And remember... Do not contract a venue, transportation, or entertainment resource because you think it's a novel idea. Every decision must support the goals and objectives of your event--only then will it be the right fit. n