Planning an event is tricky, especially
if it isn’t something you do on a regular basis. Even smaller events,
for less than fifty people, can be a real challenge if you aren't a
professional party planner.
During the course of a year I perform for several dozens of corporate
events. Here are fifteen tips I've assembled that you can use to make
your awards banquet or holiday party a success.
Always take the time to plan ahead. If
you are renting a special venue you need to secure it as far in advance
as possible. Some places can book up even a year in advance. By
finding your venue early and putting down a deposit, you can ensure that
you get the time, date, and location that you want.
Set a realistic budget and include a
little bit extra to cover miscellaneous costs that pop up. Every event
will have some unexpected expenses; it’s simply part of planning an
If you have contracts, agreements, lists,
or seating charts, make sure you keep extra copies of them in case they
are misplaced or lost. Copying them is very simple and quick and can
really save you later on if you lose your plans.
Make sure you send out your invitations
at least 3 to 4 weeks ahead of your event. In addition, make sure that
you ask your guests to RSVP so that you know how many people will be
If you are creating a seating chart for
your event, you can either set it up randomly or work with someone else
in your company to come up with the best possible scenario.
My recommendation? Reserve one or tables in a prime location for
VIPs then leave the rest open for "festival style" seating so people can
choose to sit where they want. It's easy for you as the planner and
people are with those they like to be around.
What day should you schedule your event?
Friday and Saturday nights are the most popular time for big parties.
People can enjoy the "night out on the town" without worrying about
getting up early the next way for work.
At the same time, you can get good attendance for your event by
scheduling it earlier in the week. People are more likely to head out
of town on weekends. Avoid scheduling your party near major holidays
for the same reason.
It is important to know when to use a
theme and when not to. Corporate events can be hugely successful with
plain elegance that doesn't break the bank or rob you of time from your
real job. However, the best and most memorable parties I've been to
have had themes (pirates, medieval, magic, etc.). It's so fun seeing
people dressing the part!
If you have the money (see Tip #2), a theme does make your event
easier to plan… on paper. You know what style of decor to use, what
colors to choose, and what kind of dress to suggest. It's easy and fun
to design the invitations.
Decide whether to go with a theme or not by deciding how important
this function is to you and the company and what resources you have
When you are having a business event,
keep the music mellow and stick to something that everyone can enjoy.
Although the simple solution is a powered speaker and an iPod, the
services of a professional DJ – whether your group enjoys dancing or not
– go a long way towards a smooth and fun event.
Great DJs not only keep the flow of the event moving, they can act as
emcee and insure that your speakers have professional sounding
microphone so everyone can hear and enjoy any program or presentation.
If you need equipment such as
microphones, projectors, speakers, a video camera, etc., make a list of
the things you will need and make sure that you have someone on site who
can fix any technical problems which may come up during the event.
Test everything before guests arrive. It's embarrassing and
frustrating to realize that your LCD projector isn't working in front of
a hundred colleagues!
When you are planning an event,
especially a large event, make emergency and contingency plans in case
of disaster, illness, or any other emergency.
It's important to take into account
special accommodations that are needed by any disabled attendees. If
you don't know what someone will need, simply ask them. They will be
happy that you cared enough to ask and understand that you didn’t have
any other way to get the information.
This applies to wheelchair accessibility, food allergies/vegetarian requests, hearing or visually impaired guests, and more.
If your event is longer than two hours
your guests will expect to eat a snack at minimum. You should have a
meal if your event is longer than four hours. At all times, you should
at least have water and coffee available for your guests.
Communication is a major key to the
success of an event. If you are using vendors, make sure they have very
clear and specific instructions of what you expect of them. You should
have written agreements or contracts for all of your service
Remember the "incidentals" like
directions, transportation, and parking. The last thing you want is for
your guests to have to walk a long way to the event or to miss the
event completely because they couldn’t find a place to park.
Although the venue, caterer, and décor
are always chosen first, the entertainment is frequently what your
guests will go home talking about. And no, I’m not referring to the
boss’ speech or the door prize drawings!
Decide if you want "background" entertainment like a caricature
artist or strolling magic during the cocktail hour or a "main
attraction" like a show band or stand-up magic show after dinner. Be
sure that entertainment is appropriate and in good taste. Browse their
website for testimonials, photos, music samples, or a demo video. If
you still have questions, ask for a reference from a recent client that
you can chat with.
There it is – my short and sweet Fifteen Tips for Planning Corporate
Events. I hope that you find one or more nuggets of information that
pay big dividends in your event.