Planning a corporate event seems like it should be easy. Pick a day, pick a location, get some food, and send out invitations—no sweat, right? If only it were that simple.
There is so much forethought that must go into planning corporate events if you want them to be successful. From understanding the budget, the scale, and the purpose of the event to finding a corporate venue and staff to make the event go off without a hitch, there are a lot of variables an event planner must consider.
So what do you need to do to make your event a success? What are the keys to a great professional event? How can you recognize and avoid pitfalls that may derail your event?
Understand Your Goals
The first step you must take when planning a corporate event is to outline the goals and metrics by which you can determine the event’s success. The importance of this step cannot be understated. Every choice you make for your event must be related to these goals and metrics.
It seems like this should go without saying, but it really is the most important step you can take to ensure a successful event. By understanding why you are throwing your event, you give yourself a lens through which you can determine what is necessary for that event.
It is also important to note that clarifying your goals for an event is actually a multi-layered process. There are several factors that must be taken into account before the nuts and bolts of how to plan an event for a company can be put into effect.
What is Your Event’s Purpose?
This is central to your corporate event planning process. This is the starting point for everything that comes after. There are a lot of different reasons to throw a corporate event, so knowing the primary purpose for yours determines every other aspect of your event.
An internal training event has different requirements than a product launch which has different requirements from a networking event. There are so many disparate reasons to engage in business event planning. You need to know yours.
This is not to say that there cannot be individual goals for breakout sessions or your primary activities, but all of the objectives of the different parts of your event should tie into your overall goal.
The purpose of an event should be something identifiable, quantifiable, and achievable. If you decide your purpose is to make your company the best in the world, you are setting yourself up for failure. That goal is not specific or quantifiable or achievable from throwing one corporate event.
If your goal is to generate excitement among new and existing customers for the release of a new product, you can make that happen. Your event can consist of speakers and activities designed to highlight your new product’s benefits for customers and quantify the excitement you generate through surveys or pre-orders.
Who Is Your Audience?
Going hand-in-hand with understanding your event’s purpose is knowing your audience. You want to be able to quantify the success of your event, but you can’t do that if you don’t know who your event is geared toward.
When hosting a corporate event, you need to have a good idea of who you will be hosting. An internal company event will have different goals than an event designed to bring in outside eyes as customers or for industry networking.
Understanding your audience also helps you to determine how to quantify whether or not you have achieved your goals. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to give customer surveys out to attendees of an event for high level executives to plan corporate strategies for the coming fiscal year.
You cannot know if you achieved or exceeded your goals if you don’t know who those goals pertain to. There’s no way around it—when planning a corporate event, you absolutely need to know your audience.
Understand Your Budget
You can’t talk about how to plan events for corporations without talking about your budget. If you want a great event, you have to be willing to spend money for it. Obviously, you’ll want to save money where you can, but if you set a budget that is too low, you may just get what you pay for.
The goal of your event, the target audience for your event, and the scale of your event will determine your budget. To get a good idea for the numbers you should submit for budget allocation, you’ll need to do some research.
Will your event take place over the course of several days? You’ll need to factor in money for catering, securing venues of appropriate size, and perhaps even off-site activities to entertain the people taking part in your event among other things.
No matter what you plan for your event, the best thing you can do is calculate your budgetary needs and then add between ten and fifteen percent just in case of emergencies. If you don’t need that extra money, that’s great. But you’ll really miss that cash if you need it and don’t have it.
Understand Your Event Format and Themes
To a certain extent, this falls under things you should consider when securing your budget. In some cases, when planning a corporate event, you will need to plan according to your budget—other times, you may be able to budget according to your plans.
No matter the order of your business event planning, knowing the theme and format for your event is key to its success. This is the part in your planning where you take the “why” of your event and hammer out the “how.”
How will you use your budget to achieve the goal for which you have gathered your audience? That is what it means to understand your format and themes.
If your event is structured around a keynote speech focusing on a specific topic, what kind of breakout sessions will you schedule to compliment that keynote message? How many will there be?
If your event is all work—like an event that is just one speech about sales techniques after another for a whole weekend—chances are good that your audience will burn out and their interest will wane. That’s a recipe for a failed event.
Similarly, if your event is all play—lots of entertainment options with very little tie into the central goals of the event—your audience will likely come away having had a good time, but with no new insights that can serve them in the future.
If you are reading this looking for corporate event planning tips, be sure to remember this: give your attendees a mix of work and play. Mix interactive and immersive events with content that will push your audience toward the insights and education that you want them to hold as they come away from your event.
In this way, planning a corporate event is a lot like planning the menu for a multi-course meal. Repeating salad courses will get dull and too many consecutive desserts will overwhelm a person’s taste buds. You need to strike a balance.
Understand Your Venue
Knowing your goals and your themes and format are one thing—finding a place to accomplish your objectives for your event is a whole thing on its own. This is one of the most crucial aspects of planning a corporate event.
Depending on what you plan for your audience, you may require several different rooms that can serve their functions as a cohesive part of your event. When it comes to successful corporate party planning, it isn’t enough to rent out a banquet room at a cheap hotel for an afternoon.
You want a venue that can host the main stage and breakout sessions you have planned, facilitate necessary technology for presentations and communications, ensure food is hot and where it needs to be when it needs to be there, and a little local flavor and character to the proceedings.
That last item is an underrated aspect of a great event venue. If you have people attending your event from out of town, giving them a feel for your location and how it influences your corporate character and approach to business is a great thing to do.
And if your event is only for locals, a venue with great regional character and history reaffirms your connection to your community and to the people that live and work there. A little character from your venue goes a long way.
Take the Lumber Exchange Event Center in Minneapolis. It’s located right in the middle of a fantastic downtown area. Major concert venues and professional sports facilities are within walking distance as are incredible restaurants that can only be visited in Minneapolis.
As a venue for a corporate event, the Lumber Exchange has spaces designed for large events and more small-scale breakout sessions. It has a catering staff, to ensure your event attendees always get great food. It is a great example of a venue for planning a corporate event.
That is the kind of versatility you need to look for in a venue for a corporate event. Somewhere that can facilitate your primary events as well as your side sessions is a must. Combining those spaces with character and history so that people don’t spend your whole event in a drab room under fluorescent lighting really helps people stay excited for your event.
Understand Event Promotion
It does not matter how great your event plans are if no one attends your event. It does not matter how well you know your audience if they do not know about or see the benefit of your event.
How you choose to promote your event depends on the size of your event. A small event can get all the promotion it needs with individual invitations and follow-ups for confirmation of attendance.
A larger event requires a larger promotional push. Sending invites to VIPs is not a bad idea, but you need to be sure to cast a wide net to fill your audience. Utilize social media and industry listings and newsletters to get the word out.
You can also schedule email blasts as part of your promotion initiative, but make sure you don’t only rely on that because, if your emails wind up in spam folders, you can’t guarantee that people who can benefit from your event will know about it.
Part of understanding your target audience for your event is understanding how to reach out to them. So use that knowledge while you’re planning a corporate event.
Set Yourself Up for Success
There are other corporate event planning tips out there that you can read, but the most important things to remember is that you need to know what you want out of an event, who that event is for, how much it will cost, how you will accomplish your goals, where your event will be held, and how you will get the word out about your event.
Planning a corporate event takes time. There are a lot of factors that go into making an event successful. So make sure you give yourself time to address those factors. The larger the event, the more time you’ll need to plan for it.
Establishing an event timeline that establishes when each phase of your planning needs to be complete helps ensure that, when the time comes to hold your event, things will go as smoothly as possible.
A good plan will not eliminate the small and large emergencies that can arise on the day of an event, but solid work when planning a corporate event will ensure that you have the bandwidth and resources available to address those emergencies as they pop up.
So take action to make sure you set yourself up for success when you throw your next corporate event—make a plan.