Whether you’re an experienced party planner planning a huge fundraising gala or a novice human resources employee planning the company picnic, planning a corporate event is an enormously huge task. Corporate events have components that a smaller-scaled event may not require, but there are some basic guidelines that you can apply when planning a corporate event. If you need a jumpstart to plan a corporate event or just need positive reinforcement that you’ve remembered everything, dig in below as we share the ultimate guide to planning a corporate event.
What is corporate event planning?
First things first, what is corporate event planning? We searched high and low for a fully defined answer, and here’s what we came up with when we put them all together:
Corporate event planning is the execution of any form of event, hospitality, or social activity organized or funded by a business entity. The target audience for corporate events usually includes employees, board members, and stakeholders.
What is the purpose of a Corporate Event?
Hospitality technology provider CVENT says, “Events in a corporate environment are often staged to communicate company strategy, change internal company behavior, launch a product or service, motivate, train or reward staff, or influence the external behavior of customers towards the brand. In many instances, they bring company employees together, support wider marketing or sales initiatives, incentivize team achievements, or entertain senior leaders.”
Corporate events are an extension of a company’s overall mission and sustainability. In-house meetings and Zoom calls are sufficient for day-to-day operational gatherings. Still, there are times when employees and stakeholders need to be outside of the typical office setting. Changing the scenery allows them to reacquaint themselves to their organization’s 30,000-foot view, helping spark next-stage growth. When executed well, an intentional and calculated corporate event can do just that. And it isn’t enough for people to only attend your corporate event – attendees must walk away with clarity that galvanizes them to take post-even action.
In the early stages of the planning process, it is wise to coordinate with your team and key players to define clear goals and objectives. What is your organization’s purpose in hosting a corporate event? Do you have a vision of how to execute your plan? Are you flexible with your approach? These are great initial questions that can spark creativity and help you connect and reach cross-marketing goals within your organizational departments or co-sponsors.
Keeping your event’s purpose at the forefront of your mind is especially important from a simple cost perspective. When a company is in its early stages of growth, the CEO and employees may pay to attend industry events to network and prospect potential customers; however, as the company grows, the CEO and company will shift into hosting corporate events, which can have a hefty price tag. There is a vast difference between paying to attend an industry event versus producing your own and spending a large sum of the company’s money to do so. That said, Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) that are attached to the overall event goals must be set and consistently revisited as a checks and balances system to make reliable event planning decisions and stay the course.
What Does a Corporate Event Planner Do?
While attendees may feel the excitement and maybe even glamour of attending the event, that won’t likely be your experience as a corporate event planner. While guests may be dancing the night away or enjoying a shrimp cocktail, you may be crawling under a registration table to tape electrical chords down to the floor. Corporate events require a massive amount of not-so-glamorous planning and coordination, so it is noble for people who decide to (or are thrown into) planning a corporate event.
What a Corporate Event Planner Should Expect
Besides the actual execution of a corporate event, planners have to learn how to navigate the intricacies of working with a corporate client. Weddings and galas can be overly extravagant. A planner can flex their creative muscles a little more; however, corporate planners know that there are limitations with corporate planning because of perception from attendees. For example, if a company is hosting an annual meeting and has to explain to their Board of Directors why they have had to make budget cuts, it won’t look great to host the meeting at an ultra-expensive hotel. Large corporations don’t want to appear overly extravagant in general, so as a planner, that may limit your creativity and bottom line.
Planners also run into the issue of being overruled even when they know there may be a better option for their clients or C-Suite. Companies usually have a very clear idea of what they want to do, and at times, while your input is welcomed and essential, you have to give the higher-ups what they ask for at the end of the day. You also have to personally maintain a corporate image, which is a little more stringent than the way you may dress in a business casual setting or wedding setting. As a planner, it is crucial to align your image, demeanor, and expectations with the client’s level of expectation and brand identity.
How Do You Get Into Corporate Event Planning?
The most experienced corporate planners may have a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, marketing, or public relations. Along with a degree, they may have related work experience in hotel management or catering and continue to get certifications and garner recognition in their respective field. That alone should tell you that planning a corporate event is no easy feat. If you’re a novice, it is absolutely fine to get help by hiring a professional or doing research (like reading this article) to gather tips and guidelines on successfully planning your company’s event. Here’s why:
Corporate event planners must create timelines, select locations, manage vendors, coordinate travel, and prepare budgets for their clients or the executive team. It’s a lot of work to plan the scope of a corporate event, and even with years of experience, there are so many different components you have to maintain. If your company is on the small side and you are planning a corporate event, you may also be working full-time. If this is the case, juggling both can be a challenge, so give yourself some grace and consider getting help when you need it.
Types of Corporate Events
Now that you’re familiar with the “what” and “why” of your event and understand the type of person responsible for planning the event, it is essential to understand the different types of corporate events so you can categorize yours. We went back to our friends at CVENT to gather the following definitions:
Micro events are planned for up to 100 people and framed around a small meeting or intimate training session. Planning may require room booking, presentation facilities, break-out refreshments, and registration. While the word “micro” alludes to a simple or easy planning process, a gathering with senior executives can be complicated when you consider flights, varying arrival times, and multiple presentation requirements.
Small events are for 100 – 250 attendees and are usually reserved for seminars, training days, or larger departmental conferences. A planner may have to coordinate lunch, refreshments, A/V support, online registration, transportation, and several break-out sessions.
A midsize event should be completely inclusive of a technology-driven planning process because a planner manages up to 1,000 attendees. These meetings are usually inclusive of senior leadership presentations or leadership summits and may include several micro and small gatherings.
Other things to consider:
- A branded website & event mobile app
- Pre-event marketing and communications
- Hotel accommodations & transportation for VIP guests
- Pre & Post Event Reception & Entertainment
Large-scale events like conventions can attract over 10,000 attendees and may last for several days. An event of this magnitude requires another level of planning, technology, and time and should not be (solely) managed in-house. You may host offsite activities, company partner dinners, and awards ceremonies. A significant segment of VIP attendees will expect ease of use options when booking hotels, flights, and online registration. Consider early-bird specials that can help cut down costs and give a better estimate on the number of attendees.
How to Categorize Your Corporate Event
Now that you know the general types of events, you can attempt to categorize your event to be clear on the different elements needed to pull it all together. In most cases, you will need to mix and match other details from every category level. For example, if you’re planning a small event, you may opt to have a branded website or entertainment, although these elements are generally reserved for large-scale events. Technological advances in event planning apps are very robust and are not as expensive as they have been in the past. As a result, you may have more flexibility to use technology without busting your budget.
To categorize your event, start with the number of attendees and location. The number of attendees is an easy way to scale your event, but location matters as well. If you plan an event where most guests are traveling from out of town, while it may be a small scale event, the planning can become a little more intricate.
After attendees and location, go back to your event’s purpose and consider what you’re trying to accomplish. Think about your company partners and VIP attendees and assess their corporate events expectations. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend your whole budget on impressing them, but you want to have adequate accommodations. Anything less could serve as a distraction from your event’s purpose because guests will be focused on peeling paint in a cheap venue or drab food instead of a mind-blowing presentation from the host organization. Categorize wisely!
How to Plan a Corporate Event
Now that we’ve done the back work, it is time to dig into how to plan a corporate event. The actual planning process is a multi-step orchestration that includes initiation, planning, implementation, execution of the event, and closure of the event. These are the various event management phases and were extracted from other traditional project management theories. To clarify, here are some details about each step of the planning process.
Phases of Event Management
The initiation stage is the proposal process and should include the following:
- Determine the mission, goals, and objectives.
- Research historical data, feasibility, and constraints
- Specify concept, scope, and expected outcomes
- Prepare proposal and acquire acceptance
The planning stage should produce the overall project plan and will include the following:
- Assess resource requirements
- Develop standards specifications
- Determine tactics
- Establish modification policies and procedure
The implementation step is the cultivation of your action plan and will include the following:
- Acquire goods, services, and human resources
- Coordinate logistical and spatial requirements
- Establish communications infrastructure
- Monitor and control scope, schedule, costs, quality, and risks
The event stage is the event production stage and will include the following:
- Inspect and monitor service delivery
- Direct on-site logistical operations
- React to changes and problems
- Implement contingency plans as necessary
Finally, while often overlooked, the closure stage helps you to cultivate an event report and will include the following:
- Supervise event shutdown and obligation fulfillment
- Collect data and feedback
- Analyze and evaluate outcomes
- Compile final report
Now that you have a framework for the lifecycle of planning a corporate event, you can ensure that you offer each step of the process your full attention. As noted, the closure stage is often overlooked, but it is vital if you will be planning events in the future. You can gather logistical information to enhance the planning process in the future. You can conduct a survey and gather feedback from attendees and clients to find ways to be better prepared the next time around. Take the phases of managing your event very seriously and use them to your advantage. As mentioned above, setting the event objectives are most important because they serve as a guide for everything else. Your initial meeting should clarify the event objectives, and you can use this information to tackle the cultivation of a budget.
Set a Realistic Budget
Your client should offer the budget guidelines, but in a measure of operational planning, go into your discovery meeting with the client armed with numbers of your own. For instance, you may not know the exact budget beforehand. Still, when a client initially summons you to plan an event, they usually give you an idea of what they are interested in doing. You can use that information to do research beforehand.
Being armed with information for clients, in the beginning, will help you in the long run, especially if your company is relatively new or inexperienced with producing an event. The client may have an unrealistic budget or have expectations that are too high to execute in a short period of time. Real-time numbers usually wrangle people back into reality and help everyone spend less time setting goals that are not realistically attainable. Presenting the average cost of hotels in the host city is a great way to give clients a proper perspective on price, and you can guide the conversation from there.
Remember to overshoot the budget as well. As you know, when it comes to planning anything that involves money, it is better to plan for miscellaneous expenses, so you’re not surprised at the end of the event.
Find the Perfect Event Venue
It is fair to say that finding the perfect venue can be a challenge, and this stretches across the board when you’re planning any type of event, including weddings. After clarifying your host city and event goals, create a working list of your favorite venues and take a tour.
Questions to Ask When Touring a Venue
During your event space tours, ask some of the questions below:
- What are the parking accommodations?
- How does the venue accommodate elderly or disabled guests?
- Are there discounts for reserving and filling room blocks?
- What are the social distancing restrictions and protocols?
- Do you have a preferred vendors list?
Use these guidelines to assist with choosing your venue, and don’t forget to ask for recommendations from other planners. The company leaders and partners may also have connections with venues, so keep that in mind when you have your initial consultation with your client or C-Suite.
Choosing Production Vendors and Entertainment for Your Corporate Event
Now we’ve reached the fun part – finding vendors! Hiring vendors means that you can visually see work you do NOT have to do during this process. Hiring someone who will take over different components of your event’s execution is a great way to find peace during a very stressful process. When you initially think about vendors, you may only think about food, but some elements may be necessary to pull everything off.
At Entertainment Exchange, bands, DJs, and specialty acts are our thing! We are an award-winning talent agency and represent some of the top entertainment professionals on the east coast. Our company has the experience, our artists are well-vetted, and we are detail-oriented from start to finish. Working with comparable vendors with these types of credentials and expertise opens your door to so much more.
When you book acts and services with Entertainment Exchange, you’re in for a treat because we offer so much more than just bands and DJs. If you’re looking for lighting and A/V support, we can offer those services too. Lighting and A/V services are notable for corporate event planning because they are tied to your event’s efficiency and professionalism. For example, lighting is such an underused tool for adding pizzazz to an event without breaking the bank. The right lighting for a speaker on stage or behind a new product that your company is trying to push can have a lasting effect on attendees. Here are some of the benefits of this age-old event design component:
- Lighting draws attention to where you want guests to focus
- Lighting enhances the mood of your attendees
- Lighting encourages social interaction and sharing
- Lighting assists with safety and security
When it comes to Audio/ Visual services, you cannot cut corners on this expense. Just imagine the CEO of a company giving a presentation during his company’s annual meeting, and halfway through, the few hundred employees attending cannot see his screen or hear him through his lapel microphone because of cheap equipment.
If you have to choose where you allocate most of your budget, please shift the majority of your budget to A/V services and work with a vendor who can listen to you describe your event’s vision and presentations to bring them to life.
Bonus Tip: If you need a professional way to draw attention and increase attendance at your event, you can hire a keynote speaker. A person of notoriety within your industry or achieved a level of success will drum up excitement for attendees. You can use the person’s likeness and name on marketing materials and possibly garner local press. Introduce the idea of bringing a thought-leader or celebrity to your clients early on. They may even have ideas or connections to people of interest.
Marketing Your Event & Engaging With Attendees
The last step to your strategic plan is to create a marketing plan and find ways to engage with attendees before and during your event. Beyond the general marketing elements (invitations, email marketing, branded website), here are some additional ideas to assist with marketing your event and engaging with attendees:
- Highlight the Host City: If you’re hosting a multi-day event, people are always interested in eating at new restaurants or sightseeing when the conference is in recess. Research a few hotspots in the host city and add their features and accessibility to marketing materials.
- Work With Local Vendors and Businesses: Working with local vendors gives you access to discounts and local business. If your corporate event is not targeted to a company but a type of person or organization, you can work with local companies that have access to that audience and cross-market their products and services for your event. For example, if you are hosting a corporate event where small business owners are the target audience, partner with the local Chamber of Commerce so you can capitalize on appealing to their audience. As a trade-off, you can allow the Chamber to have a booth or promote membership benefits during the conference through a pro bono sponsorship.
- Social Media Marketing: Start the social media conversation with attendees before the event and ensure they can tweet and post about the event. This will help you to promote your event to increase attendance beforehand and increase engagement during the event.
Your job as a corporate event planner is to work together with your team and vendors to fulfill your client’s dreams and deliver on your part in making the event successful in meeting organizational goals. As the supervisor and manager, you should be equipped to offer suggestions, execute with ease and pay attention to details. Give your clients confidence in being able to focus on their part. You’ve got this!
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