Businesses around the world are always looking for different ways to engage employees, customers and business partners. For most companies, corporate events play a major role in overall marketing efforts to enhance or promote the company’s brand, both internally and externally. It is important to regularly appeal to employees, partners and clients and according to EventManagerBlog.com, networking, learning and entertainment are the top priorities for corporate event attendees. Networking provides opportunities to close deals, learning assists with rolling out new processes or products, and entertainment boosts company morale — all important components of keeping a company alive. As a result, most CEOs and HR professionals incorporate at least one major event into their company’s budget and are constantly doing research on how to plan a perfect corporate event.
In order to ensure that your runs smoothly and efficiently, there are quite a few things to consider. We’ve listed the top five most important components to planning a perfect corporate event. Understand the Purpose of Your Event
There are several different types of corporate events. The most common types of corporate events are as follows:
- Holiday Parties
- Team-Building Events
- Executive Retreats
- Board Meetings & Shareholder Meetings
- Appreciation & Organization Milestones
- Charity Events
- Product Launches
- Seminars & Conferences
The purpose of any type of corporate event is to provide attendees a level of engagement that isn’t quite possible to achieve in the office environment. For employees, a holiday party or appreciation event is a fun way to celebrate and learn new things about your colleagues. Employees will also appreciate a chance to get out of the office as well. On the other hand, a board meeting is an opportunity to inform shareholders and executive team members about the current state of the company and sell the new plans and ideas your team has to maintain or increase dividends. Sometimes different types of event formats merge together to create one amazing experience. Either way there is a tailored approach you must take in order to engage your target audience.
Here’s a quick guide to understanding the different types of events:
Appreciation & Organization Milestones:
Companies host these events to spend time with guests in a less traditional way. The goal is to celebrate employees or clients and the event usually is something casual like tickets to sporting events.
Technically a holiday party is considered an appreciation event but it is more common for companies – big and small – to host a holiday party and therefore has its own category. This serves as an end-of-year event where companies celebrate the successes of their company throughout the year, embrace the excitement of the holiday season, and (hopefully) give out Christmas bonuses.
These events are meant to boost employee morale and employee confidence. This is usually a 1-2 day overnight trip and the activities are usually outdoor obstacle courses and teamwork games. The activities are meant to symbolize the trust and confidence employees should have in their colleagues once they reenter the workplace.
Similar to team-building events, this type of event usually includes an enjoyable activity to build morale. The difference is the audience is usually upper-level managers and the goal is to create new business development strategies and to update organizational plans.
Board Meetings & Shareholder Meetings:
Board members meet to review the company’s performance and to make important decisions like approving budgets. Shareholders attend for the same reasons but are also looking to hear of new strategies and future goals in order to increase their ROI. These meetings are smaller and tend to last 1-2 days if they aren’t attached to a larger company event.
An event to promote a company’s brand and collect donations in support of a good cause. This gives attendees the opportunity to have a good time and feel good about the time (and money) spent.
Tradeshows & Product Launches:
Provides lead generation opportunities and opportunities for companies to reinforce their brands amongst industry leaders and other attendees.
Seminars & Conferences:
Businesses host these meetings to provide targeted audiences with relevant information. Seminars are usually a few hours or a full day. A conference usually has multiple sessions and may last for several days, ending with a keynote speaker.
Now that you know the type of event you want to host, you can set expectations for your event and yourself next. Ask yourself and your team — what do you expect from your corporate event — to increase employee morale? Are you creating an opportunity for your sales team to engage potential customers? Are you launching a new product? Are you hosting an employee training? These are the types of questions you must ask yourself before going too far into the planning process. You must also consider your audience. Are they tech savvy? Have they attended a similar event with another company? And if so, what do you think they will expect from your event now? Once you answer these questions, you can begin to create an experience that caters to your audience’s expectations and interests.
Your targeted guest list is also an important part of planning your gathering. When planning a wedding, many people have trouble trimming down the guest list; however, a corporate event has an expectation to be full of people buzzing and networking. It makes the room look more inviting to have a packed house so it is best to invite more people, than to invite too few. And if you plan an event in the future, you can create a buzz that makes people want to attend out of “Fear of Missing Out” (F.O.M.O.) and they will definitely want to register early if they think they could be edged out of having a ticket or seat in the future.
Set a Realistic Budget
A rule of thumb is to always set a budget then plan to spend about 10% more than what you’ve allocated. Just like planning a wedding or even going to the grocery store, whenever you’re spending money, it’s good to be prepared to spend a little more for incidental expenses or things you may have forgotten to include in your initial plan. You can also consider offering tips to vendors or upgrading party favors.
Be sure to do your research on budget allocation if you are not using an event planner. While you may want to invest most of your budget into fancy decor to create a particular look, there are behind-the-scenes factors that can make or break your event. For example, an event that hosts multiple speakers or visuals that will be projected on a large screen should include a hefty allocation of your budget to A/V specialists. There’s nothing worse than having great decor and not being able to hear a special speaker. Work with experienced vendors that can take your vision to the next level.
Finally, food is super important. Again, food is super important. For the last time – food is super important! Our agency can provide amazing visuals, great music and funny entertainment but your guests will ignore all of this if they are hungry. It’s hard to stretch a budget at every angle, but there are ways to get around spending a ton of money and making sure your guests are nice and full. One way is to have hors d’oeuvres passed throughout the night, instead of having a sit-down dinner. You should also avoid high-priced items like seafood or make concessions that allow you to include pricier food options but with a spin. SpecialEvents.com offered this trick in order for clients to get more bang for their buck:
“ Clients with champagne dreams but beer budgets can be satisfied as well. If clients demand pricey prawns, Jeannotte simply stretches the item with a prawn pasta. And those who long for lobster can get their wish — in the form of lobster bisque.”
There are also some companies that piggyback on other events prior to or after their events by splitting food costs through sharing the same menu or splitting costs on bulk items. The options to save money are endless. Check out this list that gives general cost projections for most of the events we’ve listed above!
Choose a Theme and Format
An overall theme and format is such an important factor when planning your corporate event. It gives you the opportunity to support the purpose of the event and add a little “dazzle” for the guests. Finding new and innovative ways to create a fun and enlightening event can be a challenge to even the most experienced event planners. The 2020 Advanced Corporate Event Planning Guide suggests that, “When planning corporate events, planners are most concerned about finding innovative ideas (81%), good venues (65%) and marketing their event effectively (48%)”. Keeping this in mind, it is important to start your planning early in order to give yourself a chance to gain input from colleagues and do your research.Pinterest and other social media outlets can offer great ideas for themes. Using an event planner can also help with finding inspiration for a theme for your event. Just know you are not alone in trying to find new ways to create an exciting affair.
As an agency, Entertainment Exchange has had the opportunity to provide special Audio/Visual services for educational-themed events. We have also provided fun specialty acts like impersonators, Alain Nu the Mentalist and Chinese Dragon Dancers to get guests to loosen up during a networking event; and of course, we book the most popular bands and DJ’s on the east coast for many holiday and corporate parties.
Having this experience helps us to gauge how to provide the best support and entertainment for most party themes. We’ve also seen times when themes don’t quite work and this is usually a result of not initially determining the purpose of your event (as mentioned before) and/or not having a clear understanding of your audience. We recommend just sticking to your basic goals and having a great team to keep you grounded when things seem to be spiraling out of control or when you’re overwhelmed with too many options.
Format of your event is also a big factor during the initial planning process. Is it best to merge two types of event formats together? For instance, if your goal is to impress shareholders and create lead generation opportunities for your sales staff, you may want to consider a 3-4 day event where you host a board member meeting during the day with a full company dinner in the same evening. You can also host a tradeshow component later on in the week. If you have more than 2 or 3 goals, prioritize which one is most important then evaluate how far you can stretch your budget. Consider teaming up with other departments and allowing them to tag on to the event — they may be able to share some of the cost if they find the opportunity relevant to their department goals.
Find a Venue and Create Your Aura
After setting your budget and choosing a theme, it’s time to get to work on a venue. It may be impossible to find the perfect location, but you should make a list of your top “must-haves”. In order to create your “must-haves” list, there are a few initial questions you can ask yourself or your planning team. Do the majority of your guests have to travel by flight? Or by car? This may influence your decision when it comes to choosing a venue because you may need to choose a location that is close to the local airport or provides ample parking.
You can also save money by choosing an “off day” of the week for your event. Friday, Saturday and Sunday are considered premiere days for events which means those dates are more expensive. June, September and December are also expensive months because your event will be competing with the wedding and holiday season. Finally, evening events also tend to be more expensive because the expectation is that an
evening event is more formal which means you will typically spend more money on decor and food.
If you can get away with hosting your affair on a date that’s close to the weekend – like Wednesday or Thursday, start there. You can also consider a Sunday arrival date for guests and host the most important event elements on a Monday or Tuesday.
Make Use of Technology
Technology is your friend when it comes to planning your corporate event. There are so many apps and websites that can help you to organize your event from beginning to end. You can keep all of your information in one place and ensure that your team, vendors and attendees all know what is going on. We’ve looked at quite a few digital event planning tools and have seen the best apps for planning purposes include custom dashboards, event registration and content management features. CVENT and Planning Pod seem to be the most popular tools for event planning. For attendees, ticketing, badge management, and social media promotion are the most important features when choosing the best tool. Reach out to other event specialists and take advantage of demo presentations with app developers to evaluate what is best for you. We suggest writing down your goals then starting to assess different technology companies early on so you can take advantage of the planning tools in the early stages of execution.
Overall, planning a corporate event is a tedious and time consuming task, but the rewards are great when the event is executed well. Whether you’re planning a small intimate event or a conference with hundreds of attendees, we suggest that you not take on the entire feat alone. Event professionals, skilled vendors and established booking agents can offer solutions you may not have ever considered. Use your resources and continue to be creative… and during the day of your event, peek your head out of the craziness to make sure you take a moment to breathe, enjoy a bite of the food and dance a few steps to celebrate your accomplishment of planning the perfect corporate event!