24-Jan-2019 (Thu) Wherein we need your help getting corporate events.

I'm gonna make two guesses here: first, that 80% of the people reading this post work for tech companies, and second, that 100% of you would like DNA Lounge to continue to exist.

Great! Here's how you can help that happen: help us get corporate parties. Does your company participate in any way at any San Francisco-based conference or trade show? Do you host an after party, a product launch, a side-session, a PR event, an employees-only event?

Find out who in your company organized the last one, or is organizing the next one. Go talk to them. Tell them that DNA Lounge is awesome and they should have the event there. booking@dnalounge.com. And the Rentals tab up top contains salient details.

Maybe that co-worker of yours who is in charge of these things accomplishes it by just hiring a party-planner company. Great! If your person were to say to the planner, "Hey, how about looking in to DNA Lounge?" that could be all that it takes to make it happen.

Putting us directly in touch with the party planning company couldn't hurt, either.

Some examples of what's coming up:

  • RSA Security is the first week of March. It will fill all three Moscone buildings, plus close Howard St. We have nothing.
  • The Game Developers Conference is the third week of March. It's just as large. We have two great parties (and thank you very much, Gordon and Morgan!) but they are both indie, non-company-sponsored events. We've got room for more.
  • Google Next: Early April. We have nothing.
  • VM World: Late August. Nothing.
  • Oracle World: Late September. Nothing.
  • TechCrunch Disrupt: Early October. Nothing.
  • DreamForce: Late November. Nothing.

And those are just the 3-building tech conferences I spotted from a quick scan of the Moscone site. There seem to be an equal number of huge medical conventions in there, too.

We have, historically, been bad at getting events like that, try as we might. We don't have the right contacts. So maybe you can help with that.

The reason these kinds of events are especially good for us is that the companies behind them are paying for it out of their advertising and PR budget. Events like this don't have the same dynamic as a regular live show that has to "pay for itself". Success is measured by "was it a good party." Compared to a normal live show, they have money to spend.

The one Dreamforce party we had last year single-handedly saved the month. That one event made September be slightly in the black instead of deeply in the red.

So if, just by being a little irritating to some of you co-workers, you can get us just one event, maybe you too can save just one month.

Help us kick the can just one more month down the road.

Now, if you're like literally every person I know to whom I've given this speech in person, you're thinking: Wow, I'd love to help, but my company is different and inapplicable because we're: so small; so large; so broke; so dysfunctional; so frugal; so profligate; have a cafeteria; don't really "do parties" (except when we do); that's handled by another department; my team doesn't get invited; etc., etc.

I hate to break it to you, but your company is not unique. How about giving it a shot anyway? Everyone has a great reason to not do something, even something as effortless as prodding one other person with a suggestion.

But that tiny bit of effort could make you a hero.

And with that, some recent photo galleries.

Turbo Drive: Nina + Parallels
Mike Cervello
Monday Hubba: 3 Tiny Klowns
GTA + Geo
Sequence: Figure & Megalodon

Sequence: Road to Wobbleland
Bootie NYE
Hubba Hubba: Toys
Hubba Hubba: Bon Appetit

17 Responses:

  1. Dave says:

    s/party panning/party planning/

  2. atp says:

    I tried to book a holiday party on admittedly short notice. Got a prompt response from someone named Kat asking for more info and then got ghosted. Booked elsewhere.

  3. annon says:

    My first reaction, was to say “well, you need people working leads, showcasing the space and really pushing it for event use.” I assumed maybe that was it, yet you have contact info for your events team? Maybe they need to shift their focus, I mean, what are they even booking, if not these sorts of events.

  4. annon says:

    I understand appealing to the public, but most of these sorts of events aren’t booked through referral. They’re book based on needs such as guest count or a desired type of space. You need an in-house events teams that markets itself to big companies and conduct walk-throughs for potential clients and what-not. It is not just gonna happen over night, if you’re people aren’t handling it, maybe you need folks who have experience in this particular game.

    • jwz says:

      "All you need to do is hire an additional team of full-time staffers who are good at booking corporate parties" is also not a super helpful take.

      • Javier RR says:

        A couple of commenters suggested the same thing here, and you (jwz) don't seem willing to listen: this kind of party is booked in a different way, consider doing things differently in these ways, doing walkthroughs, etc.

        And your only answer is: I want that new business coming my way, but I won't change a thing to get it, except maybe writing this blog post.

        maybe you should find a way of devoting time to getting these leads you want, with the staff you have?

        Then again, it's your business. You know best how to run it.

        • jwz says:

          A few of you are saying, "All you need to do is hire someone who specifically goes after corporate parties in their own special way."

          As if I haven't thought of that. At any time over the last two decades.

          We have tried this. Repeatedly. Over years.

          It has not worked.

          Now, if you want, you can go ahead and assume, "Well, I guess you suck, and every person you've ever hired has sucked." Maybe? But even if you're right, your insight here is not helpful. It does not fix the problem.

          If it was easy it would be done. Can we just go ahead and take it as a given that it's not as easy as you think?

          (Also, you think we don't do walkthroughs? What?)

        • jwz says:

          Seriously, if you believe you have real-world corporate-event-planning expertise, let's have a meeting where you can tell us what we're doing wrong. But I can pretty much guarantee you that how that's going to go is: you say five obvious things, and we say, "Yup, we did all that. Most recently, for a year and a half. It took up a huge amount of time, a bunch of money, and landed us no events of note." Then you'll go, "Huh."

          "We must be doing something wrong, let's go talk to an expert" is kind of one of our go-to strategies around here. Been there, done that.

          So rather than spending a bunch more money doing exactly the same thing again and hoping for a different outcome, I decided to try something different: I made this blog post. Maybe it will help. Maybe it won't. But I didn't have to spend another 2,000 employee-hours on it to find out.

          Our historical lack of success at booking corporate events is why we spend most of our time focusing on less profitable but more frequent dance parties and live shows. Our time spent on those yields results. They're not as profitable, but 10,000 times zero is still zero. I'd love to be successful at both, but have not figured out how. But I am 100% certain that it's not the "Well all you gotta do is..." situation that some blog commenters assume that it is.

  5. Jeff says:

    Are you able to post pictures of the corporate events? Add a couple of event reports into the blog stream.
    We are very forgetful.

    • jwz says:

      We tend not to have photos of them. Typically they have their own photographers (hiring our own photographer for their private event would be awkward), but we usually can't get the photos out of them. And not even for reasons like, "Our lawyers say you can't have those photos for Important Corporate Reasons", but rather they tend to say, "Oh yeah, I don't know what happened to those photos, let me ask around" and then nothing comes of it.

      • Terry in London says:

        Hi. I know a little about this area from the corporate events side, although day-to-day a programmer. I’ve tried to keep the advice here actionable, but please excuse me if you have already tried some / all.

        Section 1) Applies if corporate event bookings are made based on the merit of your venue

        1a) Good luck to you. You’re popular and your blog reach is wide. You’ve lost nothing by trying this appeal-to-blog-reader approach. You have a good chance of reaching someone who could influence something.

        1b) I think Jeff has a point about photos. Pehaps, if clients are reticent or misplaceful, consider taking a quiet time and take mock up photos. Gets some mates, hire local extras and hire a photographer. Then you get the shots you want and permission to use them. Many venues merely use stock photographs.

        Consult competing venues and their brochure websites.


        Consider setting up a completely new domain on top of your green and black one.

        Say http://DNA-corporate-events.com . This could host a corporate ‘friendly’ version of the Rentals portion of the site. Most of the same content, different colour scheme

        Section 2) Applies if grimy real world problems are locking you out


        Unfortunately sometimes there are backhand arrangements in how event budgets are spent. Someone high up within the event holding company is essentially bribed to host their events at certain venues.

        That can be tough to break into, no matter what your website looks like. This is also shown by some venues that have appalling websites yet still get lots of corporate business.

        Unless one of your blog readers is an influencer at the top then they will effectively have zero input into the decision and are wise to not even try and mumble excuses if pressed. It is likely that someone who reads your blog is someone like this so this direct appeal is certainly worth it.

        Decisions can be made on a group level with no discretion allowed. For example Ford Motors has a list of approved hotels that staff may stay at internationally. Bespoke hotels are simply not available for staff to rent. Your venue may face a similar whitelist problem in corporate events.

        So what to do ? As mentioned this direct appeal is a good one.

        What other people have to do is schmooze senior people who make the purchasing decisions and set the guidelines.

        Take the list of companies who are attending the conferences. You already did this to see how much you’re missing out on.

        Find out who runs the HR, event team. They should be VP, SVP level. Everyone has this information on LinkedIn.

        Some will have blogs and profiles and try to find out who still likes live music and bump them to the front of the list.

        Then find out when they are in SanFran well BEFORE the conference. Work out the age they were 21 approx and use your knowledge of cool bands of that vintage and which acts at the DNA lounge are similar.

        Send them free VIP tickets to the events in an envelope with a With Compliments note to the senior person, along with extras for friends & colleagues.

        Try to keep the face value low because many companies try all these tactics and there is a limit on when they need to declare them as conflicts of interest . You’re more direct because you’re the venue and the total spend is really low and occasional.

        Keep a note of serial numbers or mark the tickets somehow and let the front door staff identify anyone who took up your offers by checking for the mark

        Schmooze them mightily.

        Follow up any attendees with more tickets, hospitality at DNA and a personal hand written note.


        Sometimes companies will get local event companies to organise everything on their behalf. In that case you need to schmooze them instead to get to the customer.

        Sorry to say, but the intermediary may be used to getting a personal backhand cut of the business they send to each venue. They’re trying to get their hands on the corporate spend too.

        They may send a junior to appraise your venue, but the key decision may be made on what you offer the senior person to act.

        Pose as a corporate buyer at some local event companies that book venues. Try to find out who makes the decisions, how much they charge. Run a few options past them of venues and see what they charge for each. Include the DNA lounge in there and see what calls you get as the venue. Also see what resistance you get for going off piste with suggesting the DNA lounge and what end price they’ll bill your venue out as.

        Consider finding an event company junior and ask them to appraise you venue. Perhaps they have some advice on how to present the benefits of your Venue.

  6. Slag says:

    I'll honor the request, if I can. Having said that, perhaps some corporate clients are hesitant... because of the tight coupling between you, your personal blog and DNA. Look at the total page space spent skewering big tech companies here (deservedly, in my opinion) and you can understand why that might give a certain tier of clients second thoughts. Not knocking you for being principled, but yeah... 'Nuff said.


  7. mrbill says:

    The tech company I work for do not organise their own events - they hire an event organiser to do it for them. I suspect these are the people you need to schmooze up to and present your offering. Typically they require several things:

    1) Drinks - open bar, or where each person gets vouchers for a drink - pay after that
    2) Food - some sort of offering - not necessarily a full meal.
    3) Entertainment - some sort of themed entertainment which you can organise for them.

    Come up with a brochure stating what you can offer (be specific) - numbers of people, etc etc. Quite often these corporate gigs have people staying at hotels as they come from out of town - keep this in mind too. How close/far are you to the kind of hotels that get booked out for a corporate gig? Testimonials may help too, and the requisite pictures of the place. I think enough old timers in the tech industry may know your name too - I would not be afraid to use your background in the tech industry as part of your pitch.

    • jwz says:

      The tech company I work for do not organise their own events – they hire an event organiser to do it for them. I suspect these are the people you need to schmooze up to and present your offering.

      Yes. Which is why my request here is for folks to figure out who at their company makes that hire, and then ask them to drop our name to the event organizer.

      If we were on the short list of places those event organizers call, that would obviously be ideal, but we haven't figured out how to accomplish that. Thus, the attempt at another path.

      Though we have tried, we have had little luck doing the JOIN on "every local con", "every tech company attending" and "every event organizer used" -- and then also getting the latter to talk to us in any meaningful way.

      Inertia is strong: people tend to just call whoever they used last time. But a suggestion from the client might overcome that.

  8. James says:

    Jamie, when I imagine you as a nightclub tycoon, it goes like this:

    A soft rain falls on a gentle enclave amongst the 21st century human metropoles. A man in a coat walks in to an office.


    A shadowy figure nods, and points to his associate across the room. The man in the coat turns his head.

    "Ah, yes, and Adam, thank you both for coming. I was worried the instructions would be unclear.... So, it is as we agreed, thirty percent of the equity stake in newco will pass into the irrevocable trust, and my client's venue will be prominently featured upon any request for a corporate event venue suggestion within fifteen kilometers of the principle's primary place of business."

    The man in the coat turns to each of the seated men. "Agreed?"

    Both nod vigorously. The man in the coat reaches into a vest pocket and pulls two heavily barcoded pieces of paper. He hands one to each of the men, who leave their seats to reach them and remain standing, clearly thrilled to be in possession of such decorated strips of cardstock.

    "Enjoy the concert, gentlemen."

    The man in the coat turns, and leaves the way he came in.


    If this is not the way things are in real life, I'm not sure I could stand to find out.

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