Corporate events are key to the success of creating and sustaining long-term business relationships – either with staff and company partners or potential clients and buyers. Employee training, product launches, and company holiday parties are all examples of corporate events, and while the end goal of each event may vary, there are a few factors that should always be considered when planning a corporate event of any kind or size. Read more to learn how to make your next corporate event a success!
Plan A Fun But Strategic Event
The early event planning stages can bring a flood of ideas, thoughts, and opinions if you work with a group. Most people want to plan a fun and unforgettable event, but creating a solid strategy is super important in order to execute a corporate event successfully. Before going too far, it is crucial to consider and evaluate things like what success really means in this instance. Other factors like budget, location, and timeline are also essential considerations. After bringing these key factors together, you can then plan the more fun elements of your event, like entertainment and activities.
Define What Success Looks Like for Your Event
Let’s define what success means for the leadership team, attendees, and planner. We encourage you to have a meeting with the decision-makers and ask a series of questions that include:
- What is the purpose of this event?
- What is the end goal of the event?
- What should attendees walk away with when they leave the event?
- What is the budget for the event?
Some of these questions may seem unnecessary, especially if you plan an annual or recurring event; however, goals may shift slightly even with a regularly scheduled event. For example, a bi-annual Board of Directors meeting is usually a time for leaders and company partners to review and assess quarterly, bi-annual, or annual action items taken by the organization’s staff based on the last meeting. At times, staff members may need to use the meeting time to ask for more money for a new project, or they may have to report data and numbers that may not be as great as anticipated. In these instances, the goal of the meeting may not be as routine and concise as past meetings, and therefore, the goals and objectives of the meeting create a shift in focus and purpose.
Consider All Angles of Success
The leadership team may have one goal and purpose in mind for a corporate event, but the planner or event planning committee may also have sub-goals. For example, high attendance and recouping costs may be the high-level goal for the leadership team or client; however, an event planner may want to use the experience of planning the same event to network with other potential clients, add a new type of event to their portfolio or test the use of a new event planning app or system to see how it will work for their future clients.
Most internal company planners (planners who actually work for the company) want the event to be executed without too many issues, primarily if the planner works within the organization and has other responsibilities. The company’s leadership team may also offer the planner or committee bonuses or incentives for how well the event is executed.
External planners usually have other goals, and the first goal is to highlight their business capabilities to future clients. In today’s market, taking real-time photos and videos for social media are crucial to promoting any business. It is common for planners to want to snap a few pictures for Instagram and Facebook; however, if a planner is planning an event that is “closed,” the client may not want photos and videos taken during the live event; however, if communicated early enough, the client may allow the event planning staff to take pictures of the room before guests arrive or may even offer a video testimonial. This helps the client maintain their confidentiality goal while still supporting the planner’s own business goals.
Ultimately it is up to the event planner or event planning committee to be clear on the goals of all parties, including their own, and somehow find a way to execute an event that reaches each of those goals without compromising or clashing with the client’s original vision.
Consider Your Budget
After naming your event success goals, the next step is to consider your budget. Many deciding factors are affected by your budget’s bandwidth, like the venue, food options, entertainment, and gifts or prizes. To effectively plan those event elements, you need to know how far your money will stretch.
If you have to cut corners with a smaller budget, you can make adjustments that will still help you achieve your goals. For instance, if you want to hire a band, but the pricing is too expensive for your budget, you can hire a DJ instead and still get the music and energy you need to make your event a success. Be clear on the funding from the beginning and go from there.
Choose a Convenient Location
Next up – location, location, location! Location impacts the budget, attendee access, and even food, so we recommend considering your location deal-breakers. For instance, if you are hosting a corporate event with most of your guests coming in from out of town, you want to ensure the event is near public transportation options, so guests do not have to work too hard to get to the event.
If your event calls for food and beverage service (which most events do), consider that some locations do not offer catering while others have minimums or restrict outside food. You will need time to evaluate these options against your budget to determine your next steps and the flow of your event.
Craft Your Timeline
Finally, to plan a fun, and strategic event, think about the event’s timeline. A timeline will help you put the pieces together to help you honestly assess your needs. For instance, how does the intersection of time of day and food impact the budget? If your first activity or the welcome reception is between 5 pm – 8 pm, it is common to provide dinner or light finger foods for guests. If your first activity begins in the morning, guests will expect a continental breakfast. A continental breakfast spread is usually less expensive than finger food or plated dinner.
If you decide to have entertainment with music or noise, you should consider the city or building noise ordinances. Some residential areas or buildings have a strict cut-off time for loud noise or music. If you plan to have a party or social event that lasts beyond 9 or 10 pm, check with the venue manager or the local city office to double-check on the cut-off time before you sign contracts with other vendors like caterers and live bands.
Other logistics to consider while evaluating your timeline is how much time you have in between activities (will guests need a minute to reset, use the bathroom or check work emails?), how many vendors you need to engage (do some vendors package service together?), and whether you need to create time for networking and socializing (is it a draw for attendees to be able to network with prospects?).
Incorporate A Fun, Relevant Theme
Now that you have the hard stuff taken care of, you can move on to your theme. Think of a theme that represents the event’s goals, the attendees, the new product being launched, or a local trend or observance. Although this is a business-focused event, there’s nothing better than finding a way to merge business with fun. You will surely have attendees talking about your event long after it is over and will likely increase attendance for more events in the future.
Once you land on a relevant theme, you can start to think about the other elements that will bring the theme together. For instance, if you host a Mardi Gras-themed party, the catering company can serve cajun and creole-infused appetizers and New Orleans specialty drinks like the Mint Julep and the Sazerac.
Play Music that Aligns With Your Theme
Moving along with your Mardi Gras theme, you can also create a playlist with New Orleans Jazz and Top 40 tunes to round the music out. If your budget allows, you can hire a second-line band to welcome guests into the party or hire a live corporate band that will play a mix of tunes but incorporate jazz and maybe even dress the part. Find your theme, share it with your vendors and other key players, and ask them for their advice or input on pulling the theme together.
Keep Participants Engaged With Immersive Activities
Thinking of ways to keep your guests engaged? Think about the type of crowd and consider whether you need an exciting host to move the event along or consider hiring a clean comedian who can tell jokes that won’t be offensive but will be engaging. Music is a great start, but there is always room to add other immersive activities. If you host a company holiday party, you can plan winter-themed games or host a gift exchange. Remember, business’s underlining focus, but the fun will permanently seal any deal.
Go Beyond PowerPoint Presentations
You can continue the theme of keeping your participants engaged by making an effort to go beyond PowerPoint presentations and finding new ways to engage your attendees. If you can, mix team-building or interactive activities into your presentation. Not only will your guests appreciate the change in pace, but they will also be more prone to participate and pay attention. There may be instances where you have to use a PowerPoint to highlight data and analytics. Still, even in those instances, you can highlight data by using proven data visualization strategies and tools. If you have the budget, hire a professional to design your slides and handouts. You can also use any of the following tactics to take your presentation to the next level:
- Energize Your Audience: If you come in with a ton of energy, your guests will feel that and mirror you. Great energy makes for an excellent meeting for all involved.
- Work With a Group: Bring in other team members to speak and support you and give a fresh take on the information.
- Share Additional Information After the Meeting: You don’t have to bore guests with every detail all in one sitting — send out a meeting recap with pertinent information as a follow-up.
Hire A Team Of Professional Event Planners
After reviewing all of this information, it may be overwhelming to think about planning a corporate event. In most cases, it is a heavy lift to plan a corporate event, so if you have the budget to hire a professional event planner, we recommend doing so. An experienced professional will do most of the work to help you successfully execute your event. They have access to preferred vendors (well-known and highly ranked vendors) and can bring a wealth of knowledge to your event. If you cannot afford to hire a professional event planner, create an event planning committee by recruiting other team members to help you plan the event, so all of the work does not fall on just one person.
Celebrate And Evaluate Your Event Planning Success
After all is said and done and the event is over, make sure you celebrate your efforts no matter what. Planning an event is challenging for anyone, and if you can go all the way through the process, you should take the time to celebrate reaching the goal line. After you celebrate, you should also take time to evaluate your and your team’s performance to improve processes and output for future success.