Tonight, the Motor City is dressing up.  No, not to celebrate Friday the 13th, the full moon, or the city’s 158th new restaurant opening.  Tonight, over 14,000 metro Detroiters are expected to arrive in their finest formal wear to Cobo Center for the 31st annual North American International Auto Show Charity Preview, organized by the Detroit Auto Dealers Association.

Affectionately referred to as ‘Autoprom’ by metro Detroiters, Charity Preview is one of the largest annual single-night fundraisers in the world.  Since 1976, this black-tie event has raised more than $106 million, and proceeds from the event directly benefit a wide range of children’s charities that are making a positive impact in southeastern Michigan.   

A ribbon-cutting ceremony opens the gala to a diverse crowd eager to acquire a preview of the 2017 Car, Truck and Utility Vehicles of the Year (awarded to the Chevrolet Bolt electric car, Honda Ridgeline pickup and Chrysler Pacifica minivan), in addition to a slew of concept vehicles and even a life-sized version of Lightning McQueen from Pixar’s ‘Cars’.   Whether they’ve come to network, socialize, or both, attendees will be treated a performance by this year’s headliners The Beach Boys, while enjoying inspired cuisine and cocktails provided by Centerplate, the exclusive caterer of Cobo Center.

And along with the main event comes a multitude of public and private pre-parties and afterglows, hosted by non-profits and corporations alike. All of this translates into a busy time of the year for Detroit’s hospitality industry, as catering companies, special event vendors and venues across the city have been working overtime this week to prepare the party circuit.  From elaborate tented affairs on Detroit’s waterfront to intimate events located in the city’s many hotels, restaurants and bars, these ancillary events provide business for vendors during a traditionally slow time in many other cold-weather markets.                                                                                 

While it may be a little late this year to plan an auto show event (though nothing’s impossible – we happen to know of one fantastic venue that’s open tonight, in the case of an event emergency!) it’s never too early to get a jump on a party for 2018.  Since many venues see repeat business from groups that return annually, it can be tricky to break into the party scene, especially at venues located in close proximity to Cobo Center.  That said, Detroit has seen a surge in the opening of new venues in the past couple of years, and many fantastic options exist.

If your group is looking to host a Charity Preview pre-party or afterglow in 2018, follow these pro tips to avoid a bumpy (planning) road:

Location, location, location: book early. Your venue is the most important piece of the puzzle to snag ASAP.  Not only are venues in high demand that night, but the location will dictate almost every other element of the event from capacity to catering.

Know how you’ll be getting from A to C(obo).  Unless you are lucky enough to score a venue within a block of Cobo Center (and few are), you’ll need to arrange transportation for your guests.  This should be your very second order of business, as transportation options will be sold out for the evening.  Keep in mind that January in Michigan isn’t often warm or dry, and that guests in formal wear appreciate limited traipsing through the elements!

Know your audience. Having an accurate sense of who your guests will be is integral to any successful event, but is especially important when your party is not the evening’s the main attraction.   Salon appointments, travel time/distance to the venue and a host of other factors can affect attendance.  Plan accordingly so that you don’t have an empty party!

Communicate event specifics.  Will there be food served at your event?  Does the venue offer valet?  Will transportation be provided to Cobo Center, and when will it depart? Managing guest expectations is your responsibility and will help ensure your attendees are prepared and relaxed.

To book an event for the 2018 Charity Preview, reach out!   There are a lot of potential road blocks out there that a professional planner can help navigate.  We’d love to put together a spectacular and memorable auto show event for your group!