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A Guide To Corporate Event Planning

Any business that wants to build lasting relationships has to know how to produce professional corporate events. Whether you’re launching a new product for 300 people or an employee training for 15, it’s key to approach each meeting with an understanding of the five elements of event management – research, planning, design, coordination and evaluation. Once an event is broken up into these manageable phases, it is much easier to conceptualize it and pull together the many moving pieces needed to bring it to life through the right corporate event planning.

In an increasingly digital world, corporate event permits people to relate in a personal way and develop genuine connections. Thus, hosting professional corporate events has become more important than ever. Indeed, according to marketers surveyed as part of a recent event marketing standard and trends report, live events are the most effective channel for achieving business goals.

Understand the purpose of your event

When you determine you want to host professional corporate events, the first step is to decide what you hope to accomplish. 

“It’s important to know the goals and objectives of the event you are trying to the outcome before you can do anything else,” said Brian Worley, creative director and owner of B. Worley Productions. 

Start by asking yourself why you are hosting the event and what you predict. Once you’ve decided your goals and expectations, you can then determine what kind of event will resonate with your intended audience.

Set a realistic budget

You should know how much money you have to work with to define what sort of event you can produce. You should know early on how much you have to spend and then plan on spending at least 10 percent more according to Worley. 

Once you have a budget, knowing where to allocate most of your resources is necessary. For example, if you spend more money on special decorations than you do on a skilled tech crew or personable speakers, your event might be lacking in essentiality. 

Also, don’t skimp on food or beverages, and take into account special dietary restrictions. Though this may not seem as important as other aspects of your event planning, audiences are more forgiving of mistakes when they aren’t hungry or thirsty.

Establish a project timeline

Designing the event requires you to keep track of a broad range of assignments. This can be simplified by creating a master detailed checklist. There are new, tech-savvy tools that streamline and facilitate the managing of twelve, if not hundreds, of tiny details. 

Gernhauser said that her team starts with a list for 12 months out and works in checklist increments at 9 months, 6 months, 4 months, 2 months, the month of, 2 weeks out, the week of and the day of the corporate event. 

Breaking down the assignment list like this helps our team foresee the schedule of milestones we need to target. 

Open a spreadsheet and use individual tabs for each event category, such as schedule, speakers, venue, agenda and travel. This way, you can list each activity or assignment, the people responsible for each part of the process, and all the relevant deadlines.

Decide on your audience

A decisive part of the planning process is defining your target audience. Is it your company’s managers, executives, longtime clients, business partners, community members, or a combination of a few of these or other groups? When you can name your audience, you can cater the program to their needs and interests. 

It’s always stressful to define how many guests to invite to these events. After all, according to Julian Jost, CEO and co-founder of Spacebase, it’s better to invite too many people than too few. 

For small businesses, empty seats and uneaten snacks look bad and are a waste of money, In most situations, having too many people show up isn’t really going to spoil an event. If too many people appear, it’s also great marketing. For sure you’ll create a buzz the next day, and it will add to anticipation about your next event.” 

Aside from how small or large the guest list is, what people will remember is how they were treated.

Choose a theme and format

Once you have set your objectives and determined the audience, it’s time to choose a theme or topic for the corporate event and determine the best format for presenting it to your guests. 

For example, coordinating a client event with an industry expert, such as a guest speaker, can position your company as a trusted advisor instead of just a dealer.

Always offer opportunities for guests to do something fun, memorable and entertaining that they wouldn’t typically do anywhere or anytime else. This might include hearing from a famous comedian, speaker, or band; playing on an incredible golf course; or trying something new, thrilling, or exclusive for the first time.

A successful corporate event is enveloping while educational, according to Worley.

Select an appropriate location

When you determine the type of event you’d like to host, it’s time to find a place that allows you to bring your vision to life. It’s attractive, at times, to jump ahead and book a location you’ve heard good things about or that you know is an up-and-coming hot spot, even if you haven’t quite whet in on the mission of your event. This is a mistake.

If you have a low budget, you can lower your costs by holding the corporate event at a less popular time when the location is more likely to be available.

Plan the logistics of the day

To have a successful event, you will have to classify, vet and contract all the necessary corporate event specialists. This can include caterers, printers, audiovisual technicians, photographers, decorators, florists and security personnel, to name just a few. Of course, you should also book speakers and presenters, including prominent figures, experts or influencers, who can best communicate the ideas you’d like to circulate throughout the gathering. 

To assure everything goes according to your plan, define a timeline for the event, and make sure everyone on your team knows what aspects of the day they are responsible for managing.

You should work very intentionally to create a balance between keeping attendees engaged and giving them some freedom in their schedule.

Promote your event

If people don’t know about your corporate event, no one will be there, so it’s imperative to find creative ways to spread the word. For a small event with a limited attendees list, you can simply send out invitations, but you need to be bolder for larger events. 

Build an event website or, at a minimum, a new landing page on your current site. Your social media marketing can also include promo guest blog posts, videos, and Facebook, Instagram or Twitter updates. Maintain consistency by using the same handle and hashtag across platforms and consistent messaging so it’s always clear that the buzz is about one particular event.

Make use of technology

The days of bulky mile-long lists to track all the moving parts of an event are gone. Today, there are tons of corporate event management software platforms and apps (some of which offer a free base product) that do everything from bringing seamless onsite check-in of attendees to boosting the appeal of workshops and presentations with simulations and virtual reality games.

Event management software keeps your project on track, but it also makes it easier to work collaboratively with dealers and other creative partners.  

Celebrate and evaluate your event planning success

If your event went off without interruption, congratulations! But you aren’t done yet. Now is the time to wrap up any loose ends, such as sending final payments to dealers, resolving your finances and conducting a post-event debrief with your team.

Above all, you want to gather feedback from guests. If you used an event-planning app with a feedback option, you can use it to ask guests questions. This information will help you define if the event met your original goals and what impact, if any, it had on the attendees. You can then share this information with all the relevant partners so an appropriate follow-up can be planned. The lessons you learn will help you clarify your planning for the next event.

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