If hearing the word “corporate” makes you want to take a nap rather than get excited, you’re not alone. Many people have had less-than-thrilling experiences with various corporate events, and the truth is they often end up being pretty boring. If your last corporate team-building event consisted of sitting in a room having someone talk at you, you’ve taken part in a common experience.
However, that certainly doesn’t need to be the case. Modern companies are figuring out how to strike the right balance in education, team-building, and celebration. For example, the beverage company Red Bull hosts events that are anything but boring - in fact, guests would likely describe them as exciting, invigorating, and refreshing! Other companies of all sizes, all over the world, have put more focus into making their corporate events stand out. From cooking classes to segway experiences and outdoor movie nights, the options for leveling up your corporate event are limitless. It simply requires some dedicated corporate event planning - and your imagination.
In this article, we are talking about the process of corporate event planning: why it matters and how to do it better. Use this information to plan your best corporate event yet.
A comprehensive 10-step plan for corporate event planning
So, corporate events can be pretty important. If you read that and immediately panic, don’t worry. Everyone has to start somewhere. One of the most common questions we get is: “What are the duties of corporate event planning?”
There are some tried and true methods for planning events that will meet your goals. It just requires some careful thought and focused execution. Here are 10 steps to follow in order to pull off a corporate event that makes an impact.
1. Determine the purpose of your event
Why are you hosting an event in the first place? What do you hope to accomplish? Before you go too far, you need to know the goals and objectives of the event you want to plan. Narrow down your goals to a few specific ideas. Don’t think of your event as a standalone. Instead, consider it an interactive brand experience that will be meaningful and engaging. You can read more about specific goals below.
2. Understand your audience
You can’t be all things to all people, and most events are appropriate for a more targeted audience. For example, you probably can’t have a single event where you want employees to bond and also want to host your most important clients. Who is the audience for your particular event? Will you host your company’s executive team, local community members, or key prospects? What is the role of partners or vendors? It might be a combination of all of the above, but think carefully about the experience you are trying to curate.
In addition, you’ll need an understanding of your head count, which requires careful planning around invitations. Most experts agree that it’s better to invite too many people than too few. Regardless, attendees will remember how they were treated, so it’s crucial that you have enough space and staff on hand to make everyone feel welcome.
3. Set a (realistic) budget
You won’t get far without knowing how much money you have to spend. As you think about what type of event you want to produce, consider the costs of everything. It’s a good idea to decide early on how much you’re comfortable spending, and then add 10% more. It’s important to have a cushion because things are always changing, and unforeseen expenses will pop up.
As you develop your budget, understanding where to allocate resources is key. For example, you might choose to spend more on food than IT - but if you are planning to present information, then you need to invest in a skilled audio-visual lead. That being said, never skimp on food and beverages. Audiences will be a lot more patient regarding other small missteps if they are not hungry or thirsty.
4. Pick a format and theme
After defining objectives and choosing your audience, you’ll need to determine the best type of event. Narrow down a theme or topic for the event and then choose which format will be best for presenting to the guests you invited. For example, if one of your goals is to be viewed as more of a trusted advisor than a vendor, it could be a good idea to host an industry expert. To do that, you might want to host a small event with key clients where they can hear the speaker and ask questions.
Or, another popular option might be a peer-to-peer learning opportunity with client roundtables, a keynote speaker, and some breakout sessions. Try to incorporate the chance for people to do something fun as well as take care of business. That means thinking about ways to make your event different from others that they may have attended before. Look for opportunities to be memorable and entertaining, or perhaps offer the chance to do something they normally wouldn’t. Experts agree that an exceptional corporate event is both immersive and educational.
5. Create a project timeline
Here is where a lot of the more tactical elements of corporate event planning come into play. A successful event will require keeping track of a broad range of tasks. Begin by developing a master detailed checklist. The goal is to keep track of even the tiniest details and help your team to stay on the same page and organized. The planning checklist you create should be used as a tool for the duration of the entire process. You might want to start with a 12-month view and have milestones and check-ins scheduled for the 9, 6, and 3 month marks. Then, get more granular as the event approaches: two weeks out, one week out, two days out, and the day of the event. Break down the task list so that you can foresee the targeted milestones and know the issues coming up.
You can streamline this process by using project management software like Todoist, but you can also just use a simple spreadsheet or Google Sheet. If you use such a sheet, keep separate tabs for each event category, including venue, speakers, schedule, agenda, travel, etc. Make sure to list each activity and the person responsible as well as the relevant deadlines.
Pro tip: Your timeline is actually correlated to your budget. The lower your budget, the further out you should start the planning process. This will help you to shop around and get the best deals, whereas checking things off closer to your event date will likely come at a premium.
6. Choose a great location
Now it’s time to find a venue that brings the vision you’ve created to life. It can be tempting to book the first venue you find (or one that you have used before), but pause. Create the event architecture first, and then consider what spaces would be best for what you envisioned. You need to have a detailed list of specifications for shopping around for a location, including how people will be seated or gathered.
Location is key to attendance, so make sure to book in a convenient area with an enjoyable atmosphere. Consider how people will get there. How far is the commute for most? Is parking available? If you have a tight budget but a premium space in mind, try to be creative in timing. Maybe you can host the event at an off-peak time, such as hosting a breakfast rather than dinner. It’s also a plus if you can involve the local community as much as possible. For example, try to find local caterers and party rental companies.
7. Write down the logistics for the day
A large-scale event will require identifying, vetting, and contracting with a variety of event specialists. You’ll have to consider things like catering, audiovisual technicians, decorators, photographers, bar staff, printers, or florists. Depending on the type of event you might be looking for photographers or even security staff. This doesn’t even count the speakers or other presenters you hope to host. For everything to go according to plan, you need a thoughtful agenda for the day. Equally important is making sure everyone on your team knows this agenda and what they are responsible for managing. There is definitely an art to making sure attendees are engaged while giving them some freedom in their schedule. It’s a delicate balance that can be hard to pull off (we have some thoughts on such balance that you can read here). You need enough activity to keep people interested but you also don’t want a jam-packed schedule. Attendees should have some time to process what they’ve learned and interact with other guests. It’s always a nice touch to end the event with a digital takeaway, such as a link to photos and videos from the event, or other premium content.
8. Use technology the right way
Event planners don’t need to walk around with a clipboard full of handwritten lists and notes anymore. We suggest making use of event management software and apps to make your job easier. Many of these platforms offer a free version and can be used for everything from on-site check-in to virtual reality games that can increase engagement. The use of event apps will really help you to streamline planning and increase interaction at the event. Experts use the software by populating it with event details from the spreadsheet they created. Then it can be published instantly into an event coordinator app or a custom event-branded app that your team has created.
These apps are also designed to keep attendees up to date with all of the information they need leading up to the event, and during it. This can take a lot of pressure off of event-planners. Plus, many apps allow for collecting valuable feedback after the event. Some of the other features you can take advantage of are displaying text on large screens in the venue, uploading speaker slides for attendees, or creating games like scavenger hunts. Spend some time reviewing the plethora of software, apps, and services that can be used to streamline the entire planning process. You’ll thank yourself later.
9. Market the event
You can’t expect anyone to show up to your event if they don’t know about it. It’s essential to find creative ways of getting the word out. For a smaller event with a set guest list, simply send some well-designed invitations. Larger events require a bit more legwork, though. In the digital age, you can take advantage of several promotional methods to generate attendance. Your best bet is to make a real marketing plan with the various tactics, timing, and people responsible for each promotional activity leading up to the event. Start by emailing your own database and promoting on your own social channels. You can also place ads in industry newsletters or directories, and encourage your sales team and other staff to promote the event when visiting clients. Additionally, we suggest going beyond linking to event landing pages.
Try creating short-form videos, guest blog posts, and fun teasers or contests to ramp up interest in the event. Make sure to use the same hashtags and consistent messaging across platforms to make it clear that the buzz is around a single event. Bonus points for working with partners who can also promote the event to their own audiences, expanding your reach. This can be particularly helpful if your event is large enough to require sponsors. Then, you’re all in it together!
10. Celebrate your event and then debrief
If you followed all of these steps carefully, then your event went off without a hitch! However, your work isn’t done. Make sure to review your checklist and complete any wrap-up items such as sending final vendor payments or returning linens. At the same time, schedule a debrief with your team. It’s critical that not too much time goes by before doing this; it’s easy to forget the small details.
Gather feedback from guests and bring that to your internal debrief. This will help you to determine if the event met your goals and what could be done better next time. The lessons you learn will help you to improve your next event, and you can use the information to create new follow up opportunities. For example, if a guest had a follow up question to a presentation, you could address that question in a short blog post and send it to your attendee database. No matter how your event went, congratulate your team (and yourself) for the hard work done. Take a breather and then dive into planning your next successful event!
Corporate events need a goal
Event success doesn’t happen by accident. As we mentioned above, every event needs a “why”. You’ll have better results if you can pinpoint your ideal outcomes ahead of time.
Planning to host a corporate event? Here are some of the goals that such events can help you to meet:
- Brand awareness - Fun events are a great way to capture attention and increase your brand’s recognition. The opportunities are really endless for getting your name out there. For example, many creative brands take advantage of the huge media festival, SXSW , to host pop-up events, exercise classes, and more. This exposes them to a new audience in a memorable and interesting way.
- Lead generation - Many sales professionals use events as a way to reimagine the sales process. A well-planned event creates an avenue for building relationships that weren’t there before. Large companies often take advantage of conferences or trade shows to reach new customers and touch base with current ones, then follow up on the new leads they got.
- Customer appreciation - It’s a lot cheaper to keep a customer you already have than to obtain a new one. Research shows that it can cost up to five times more to acquire a customer than to retain an existing one. It’s important to have a strategy in place for creating loyalty and paying attention to the customers or clients you do have. Events that are designed to show your appreciation are a good way to up the interaction with customers as well as foster loyalty. Things like executive dinners or VIP experiences go a long way with your clients.
- Thought leadership - Many events are designed to highlight the movers and shakers in a certain field. Several conferences and other large-scale events are perfect for positioning your staff as experts, leaders, and visionaries in their field. You can host your own panel or roundtable, or sign up to present at one happening in a larger conference.
- Employee engagement - There’s a lot more that goes into a successful company culture than just the work being done every day. It’s important to reinforce company values, foster collaboration, and make proactive efforts to be a good place to work. Internal corporate events do all of those things, making your business stand out to employees in all the best ways. Things like holiday parties, milestone celebrations, team offsites, and department retreats are all examples of corporate events that can make your teams stronger and happier. Did we mention more productive?
- Professional development - Truly successful professionals never stop learning. They are always seeking new ways to evolve and grow. If you don’t provide those opportunities, they will look elsewhere. Consider what types of things your employees need to thrive in their roles. If getting off site for a retreat would help, give it a try. Or, maybe you can host a panel of experts or conduct focused training. Whatever you choose, employees will appreciate being able to use company time to improve their skills and their prospects.
Corporate event planning FAQs
What is corporate event planning?
On a broad level, corporate event planning is the process of organizing events to help a business or brand to meet its goals. It requires attention to detail, lots of coordination and communication, and a strong grasp of logistics.
Why does corporate event planning matter?
Corporate events are an essential part of modern business culture. Events can be organized to celebrate milestones, launch new product or service offerings, and strengthen relationships. These events are an important way to establish and nurture the relationships between clients, partners, and employees (which is an integral part of doing business).
However, you can’t just wing a great event. If you hope to make a good impression (which is the purpose of the event) then you need careful and thoughtful planning in advance. Additionally, proactive planning helps you to meet timelines and stay within a budget. Without the planning process, you’re likely to spend too much, miss milestones, and create an event that’s just “okay”.
Why do companies host corporate events?
There are a variety of reasons why a corporate event might be a good idea. Review the list of goals above to get a feel for common goals of event organizers.
Corporate events can create opportunities for networking and building relationships. At these events, your staff can interact with customers or potential clients outside of the office. Plus, offsite events provide rare chances for employees to interact with each other and with management in a more casual and relaxed atmosphere. This is good for strengthening trust and loyalty and improving overall company morale. Corporate events provide a key opportunity to foster new connections both inside and outside the organization.
Furthermore, corporate events are an impactful way of promoting your business offerings or brand. You can use these events to showcase products or services to a captive audience, which will generate more interest and awareness. Additionally, when corporate events are done well (meaning, not boring), then employees enjoy them! They can be a nice perk of the job and help to motivate and energize staff. Well-planned events offer a chance to socialize and get out of the office, which will actually boost cooperation and productivity.
What does corporate event planning typically include?
Corporate event planning encompasses a wide range of tasks and can include anything from venue selection to budgeting. Other elements are scheduling, guest list management, catering, and entertainment. Whoever is planning the event must ensure that the occasion is well-organized, on-brand, and aligned with the organization’s larger goals. Review a comprehensive checklist to see the specific tactics event organizers will be responsible for.
What does a great corporate event look like?
A successful event is one that’s enjoyable and memorable for all attendees, and leaves a great impression on customers, partners, and internal stakeholders. Oh, and comes in under budget! Sounds simple enough, but much of that is easier said than done! This is why proper corporate event planning is so crucial.
Don’t want to do corporate event planning alone?
Good news: you don’t have to.
Many people feel overwhelmed when faced with planning corporate events, or they simply don’t have the staff or resources required to follow the steps above with intention and energy. It’s easy to see how things will slip through the cracks, frustrating your staff in the process. In that case, it’s a smart idea to rely on an experienced partner.
Surf Office is an innovative company that creates successful and productive corporate events. We support the planning, logistics, and execution of corporate events of all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re envisioning an all-hands company meeting, a team-building retreat, product launch, company milestone celebration - or any other important event - our unique combination of work and play is sure to bring people together in all the best ways. Contact us today to learn more about our venues and how we can help you.