22 Types of corporate events (and how to make them productive)

Corporate events are company gatherings that bring business teams together in relaxed offsite settings. In so doing, they provide an invaluable break from routine, as well as a precious opportunity to have fun, collaborate, partake in team-building activities, and network with peers.

But you knew all that already! The real challenge is keeping track of the myriad types of corporate events that take place. To help, we’ve drawn from our experience of organizing them for businesses across Europe and the US to reveal a comprehensive list of corporate events (and what they bring to the table). Enjoy!

22 Types of corporate events

Corporate events come in many different shapes and sizes, with each type accomplishing something different. The secret to choosing the right one for your business is understanding what you’re trying to achieve and for whom you’re organizing it. Keep that in mind as you sift through the 22 coming possibilities.

1. Company retreats

Some of the most successful corporate events are company retreats. This is where coworkers step away from the office for a few days of distraction-free socializing and team-building, with occasional work tasks thrown in for good measure.

The result is an effective way to connect on a more personal level and develop stronger relationships. Team communication gets a boost, and the change of scenery works wonders for improving morale. Ultimately, everyone returns to the office feeling refreshed and invigorated.

If this type of corporate event sounds appealing, consider hiring Surf Office to help with logistics. With years of experience organizing company retreats and trusted partners in 100+ locations around the world, we make the process seamless from start to finish and save your business time and money. 

2. Tradeshows

Held in large indoor or outdoor venues, tradeshows are exhibitions where businesses in a particular industry pay to promote their products/services. As major corporate events, they can cost tens of thousands of dollars to host – hence why most companies simply attend ones that already run in their niche.

Whether you decide to host or go to tradeshows, the benefits remain the same: you connect with potential customers, network with possible partners, and see what your competitors are doing. If you do choose to host one, you’ll need to find sponsors, locate a venue, advertise the event, and invite guest speakers. It takes serious effort, but you’ll solidify your image as a leading brand in the industry as a result.

3. Product launches

Got a new product or service that’s about to hit the market? Want to create excitement among potential customers and generate some buzz about it in the press? Well, look no further than a product launch for your next corporate event.

A critical step in the product development process, a well-executed launch achieves each of these prized outcomes, as well as newfound brand awareness. These events are held in anything from small conference rooms to giant convention centers and typically involve a combination of marketing and PR activities. Expect product demonstrations, speeches, interviews, and other such promotional efforts.

If you wish to organize one, it’s imperative to keep your brand values and audience in mind. Don’t, and it’ll be harder to create a compelling narrative that communicates the product/service’s unique value proposition.

4. Holiday parties

Holidays parties are light-hearted corporate events where attendees can let their hair down and relax. From the company’s perspective, they’re also ways to show appreciation for people’s efforts. You can see them as a “thank you” that takes the form of company-sponsored lunches, festive dinners, cocktail parties, and so on.

As for incentives, holiday parties help build camaraderie within teams and improve the overall work culture. Employees mingle outside the confines of the office, connect on a more familiar level, and enjoy anything from energizer games and karaoke to live entertainment.

It’s important for these events to be as inclusive as possible, though, so consider everyone’s interests, desires, and different cultural/religious beliefs when organizing them. Providing transport/accommodation could also be worthwhile – especially where alcohol’s involved, or if people are traveling long distances to attend. 

5. Board meetings

Board meetings are more exclusive and formal types of corporate events in which the board of directors gathers to discuss the company’s financial position and make key decisions about business operations. Strategic planning, risk management, and corporate social responsibility are just a few of the talking points that may arise.

In terms of frequency, board meetings happen on a semi-regular basis – every quarter, biannually, or annually, for example, as well as in special circumstances or for emergencies. Their format and duration? These can both vary, depending on the pre-set agenda and the number of items set to be discussed.

All board meetings must comply with regulatory requirements and internal governance policies, too. For instance, companies must prepare an agenda, provide relevant information and materials to board members beforehand, and record the meeting minutes. Shareholders will also expect to see reports from board meetings.

6. Conferences

Similar to tradeshows, conferences are popular large-scale corporate events that connect brands with their target audiences and create opportunities for networking and collaboration. The main difference revolves around intent. Whereas tradeshows have a sizeable sales component, conferences focus on sharing relevant information with the audience.

They’re usually held over a number of days, hosted in hotels or conference centers, and feature speakers, workshops, and panel discussions, alongside sessions on subjects like industry trends or problems faced by companies in the room.

The resulting corporate event is highly sought-after but also complex and time-consuming to organize. From selecting the venue to promoting the event to potential attendees, successful conferences require careful planning to ensure a) attendees get a premium experience and b) the organizer maximizes their ROI.

7. Charity events

From gala dinners and auctions to benefit concerts and fun runs, charity events aim to fundraise for a particular cause, give back to the community, and demonstrate the company’s commitment to social responsibility.

To plan one, start by identifying a cause or organization that aligns with your business’s values and mission. Keen to get your employee’s buy-in? Survey them beforehand to find the causes about which they’re most passionate. From there, you can start setting goals for the event, such as how much you want to raise and how many attendees you need to attract.

Promotion is key to the success of charity events. So aside from using traditional marketing methods like social media, be sure to leverage your professional network and invite influencers, celebrities, and community leaders to help raise awareness. Sweetening the deal with fun activities (such as raffles, live performances, and other such lures) should drive interest and donations, too.

8. Incentive trips

Incentive trips are similar to holiday parties in that they reward employees by providing them with an opportunity to let their hair down. The difference is these corporate events are generally bigger (and more expensive!). Think paid weekends in Spain, for instance, or weeklong visits to a destination of someone’s choice. 

They’re also often reserved for high performers – people who have exceeded certain performance goals – rather than the entire workforce. Why? Because companies aren’t just trying to express their gratitude! Incentive trips are exactly that: an incentive. The idea is to motivate hard work and compel people to achieve specific business results with the promise of a desirable vacation.

An added bonus is their capacity to boost employee morale and facilitate friendly competition. After all, you’re not asking the team to work hard for nothing in return! With a memorable adventure up for grabs, things like staying late and smashing performance targets become far more exciting. 

9. Appreciation ceremonies

As the name suggests, appreciation ceremonies are events where companies recognize the contributions, loyalty, and achievements of their employees, customers, or business partners. They take many forms, ranging from grand award ceremonies and gala dinners to low-key gatherings in the office.

There are no set rules around what happens at appreciation ceremonies. Nevertheless, they typically happen at the end of a project or fiscal year, feature speeches from executives, and involve the presentation of certificates/awards to people who have done something noteworthy. It’s also common for companies to mark special milestones, such as an employee’s retirement or promotion.

Aside from being relaxed and happy occasions, employees walk away from appreciation ceremonies feeling acknowledged and valued. This helps create a positive company culture that nurtures greater loyalty within the team.

10. Family fun days

These laidback corporate events extend the invitation to employee loved ones for a day of company-sponsored entertainment. Whether you’re outside having a BBQ together, playing games, visiting local attractions, or doing arts and crafts, the goal is always the same: provide an enjoyable day out for everyone involved!

We love these events for many reasons, but the glimpse they give coworkers into each other’s home lives is a major plus point. It creates a chance to learn more about one another and find common ground outside the office. Attendees make the leap from colleagues to friends in the process.

Just keep in mind any team members who might not have immediate relatives or family members to invite. Opening the event up to friends and partners ensures your fun day is something everyone will appreciate.

11. New experience days

What’s something you and your colleagues/employees have never done before? Better yet, what are three to five things you’ve never done? Having answered those questions as a team, new experience days challenge you to turn the situation around by ticking those items off your collective bucket list!

For example, nobody in the team may have eaten German food, been to a certain part of town, or been bowling. In this situation, you’d spend the day eating schnitzel and currywurst before finding a bowling alley in the area in question. 

Whatever the case may be, try choosing experiences that are easy, accessible, and budget-friendly. After pinpointing and doing them together, you’ll end up with new shared memories and should feel like a happier, more cohesive unit.

12. Hackathons

Corporate hackathons are exciting events where employees work together for a set amount of time to:

  1. Solve a specific problem or
  2. Create a new product/service.

For example, a team of developers and designers might have 48 hours to brainstorm, prototype, and create a new app, improve an existing product, or produce the company’s next big marketing campaign.

Regardless of its purpose, the focus of any hackathon is always productivity. There’s a level of fun involved, but mostly they’re intense periods of collaborative work designed to spark innovation and creative problem-solving. As for the benefits, you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve in such a short time period and see a boost in teamwork, communication, and employee engagement throughout the event.

13. Improv workshops

Looking for a fun corporate event that facilitates collaboration? An improv workshop could be ideal. Short for “improvisation,” these sessions challenge team members to act out impromptu scenes with no script or prior preparation.

These types of games can be daunting to begin with, though, so consider taking the group to see a live improv performance in advance. This should give everyone a clearer sense of what’s involved, helping them enter the spirit of the event when it eventually takes place. Alternatively, you could hire an actor to lead the session, offer encouragement, and walk you through each activity.

On a budget? Check out our list of improv games and simply spend an afternoon playing them together in the office!

14. Cross-department mixers

Large companies can have entire departments full of employees who never (or very rarely) meet in person. If that’s the case in your business, you could rectify matters with a cross-department mixer. Sometimes known as interdepartmental socials, these corporate events invite two or more departments to socialize outside the office.

The options for what they entail are endless. You could host a pizza party, organize a trivia night, go for dinner, or do post-work drinks at a bar in town. Alternatively, if you’d rather do something that takes less planning, two departments could simply meet for a chat at lunchtime (or for an official lunch and learn).

Whatever form your cross-department mixer takes, it’ll encourage interactions among employees who may have no other chance to get to know each other. People make new friends, and teamwork gets a boost as a result – as does the wider company culture.

15. Internal tests

Internal tests are like a precursor to the product launches we talked about earlier. Both showcase new products to an audience. However, as opposed to a large-scale event that reveals a finished widget to the outside world, internal tests bring members of the organization together to test and give feedback on something in development. This serves two main purposes:

  1. First, it sheds valuable light on the product/service, including any hitherto unnoticed issues. The organization can then iron out the proverbial creases before it hits the market – saving time, money, and hassle down the line.
  2. Secondly, internal tests give event organizers practice explaining a new product or running a new service. This hones their understanding of the offering and helps them promote it to potential customers in due course.

16. Escape rooms

You’re locked in a room with your team and have 60 minutes to find the key. The catch? The only way to succeed is by working together to find and solve a series of clues! That, in a nutshell, is what happens when you sign up for an escape room experience – one of the most popular corporate team-building events on this list.

Business leaders love escape rooms for a number of reasons, but mainly because they demand high levels of teamwork and communication. If that wasn’t enough, they’re also incredibly revealing.

Among other things, you discover who in the team has natural leadership qualities, how well people respond under pressure, and how coworkers resolve conflicts. No matter how the escape rooms go, then, you walk away with countless talking points to take back to the office.

17. Speed socializing

This corporate event takes the concept of speed dating and applies it to connecting coworkers. Here’s how it works:

The team meets at a venue where two rows of chairs face each other. There should be enough seats for everyone in attendance. Next, ask people to sit down and give them five minutes to chat with whoever’s facing them. When time’s up, sound a buzzer and instruct one side of the line to move a seat to the left. Everyone should now have a new conversation partner to talk to!

Repeat this process as many times as you wish, giving different coworkers a chance to mingle, connect, find common interests, and make new friends. As you’d expect, this corporate event is excellent for uniting teams and promoting a positive atmosphere in the office.

18. Movie nights

Movie nights lack the formality of other corporate events, which is one reason we recommend them! Their casual nature is part of the appeal. Attendees can unwind and enjoy themselves in a relaxed setting, bonding over their shared love of certain movies and characters.

If those incentives don’t suffice, movie nights are also straightforward to organize, affordable, and great for team-building. For the least hassle, you could buy tickets for everyone to see a movie (or two!) at a local theatre. Or, for a more exclusive evening, why not rent out the entire venue?

Don’t worry if you’re on a budget, either. With a large enough space, a big screen, and bucket-loads of store-bought popcorn, DIY movie nights can be just as fun – especially if you set a theme and ask people to come in fancy dress. You could even combine the event with a family fun day, inviting your employee’s loved ones to share in the experience.

19. Group tours

Corporate events for small teams don’t get much better than group tours. Engaging and memorable, you explore unique attractions with a guide who provides fascinating insights into them as you go.

For example, you could do a walking tour of a neighboring city, where you’re taken past historical points of interest and told tales of bygone times. Or why not try a museum visit? Or a winery tour? Food tours, bike tours, brewery tours, and art walks can be fun, too. Whether they’re free, donation-based, or paid excursions, you’ll enjoy an immersive cultural outing and valuable quality time together.

Just be aware that the best group tours take the team’s interests into account! So if you work with a bunch of foodies versus historical buffs, we suggest you organize a food tour over a trip to the local museum – and vice versa.

20. Team-building retreats

Unlike other retreats, such as workations, where work remains a priority, the main purpose of team-building retreats is to improve the dynamic between coworkers.

By going somewhere new for a few days of fun-filled activities and well-deserved R&R, you come away as a more cohesive unit, which works wonders for productivity upon returning to the office. Whether you hike, bike, spend days at the beach, or play ice-breaker games in the hotel, you tailor activities to your employee’s interests and strengthen relationships between them in the process.

Once again, this type of corporate event is one we specialize in! If you’d like support with everything from choosing the ideal location to finding suitable accommodation (not to mention organizing activities and booking tables at restaurants), then Surf Office is here to help.

21. Volunteering events

Want to contribute to a good cause or do something positive for the local community? Consider organizing a volunteer day for your team. These increasingly common corporate events involve taking time off work to volunteer for a non-profit organization or community service project. 

Volunteer days offer numerous benefits. For instance, they:

From spending afternoons at nursing homes to lending a hand at soup kitchens, these group volunteering opportunities take many forms. If you’re struggling to decide what to do, ask the team! They may know about local projects where they need extra help or have particular causes they wish to support.

22. Team outing

Ready for another corporate event idea that takes place outside the office? Team outings set any thoughts of work aside in favor of having fun and uniting the team in a casual setting. Examples of popular outings include the escape rooms and movie nights we mentioned above. But you could also:

You can find a full list of team outing ideas here. However, no matter what you choose, organizing one can be challenging – particularly if you want to go away overnight. If you want some help planning process a longer-term team offsite (i.e. an event with a minimum of two nights away), then Surf Office is a one-stop shop that can save you time, money, and energy.

How to plan a successful corporate event

The old adage that “failing to plan is like planning to fail” certainly applies to corporate events. After all, you could have hundreds of people coming and tens of thousands of dollars on the line! Effective planning helps ensure the event runs smoothly, goes down well with attendees, and delivers desirable business results. With that in mind, here are some top tips for organizing a corporate event:

1. Pick the right location

The first step is to choose a suitable event destination – a decision that’s easier for some businesses than others! For example, remote-first companies have to consider the country, city, or town that’d be most convenient for their workforce. Your US executive team might want to go to Napa Valley, California, but if it’s simpler for your European colleagues to travel to Malaga, Spain, then that could be the better option.

Then there’s the venue to think about. Whether it’s a house by the beach or an event space in a hotel, this must be accessible, comfortable, and large enough for everyone to attend. Bonus points if the amenities are second-to-none.

2. Set activities suitable for your goal

All corporate events have a central goal/purpose. But the best corporate events orient their entire agenda around it.

Take product launches, for example. Their goal is to introduce new widgets to potential customers and generate enough excitement to drive sales. To do so, they might combine an engaging presentation that highlights the widget’s features with memorable experiences and workshops that let attendees try it for themselves.

Keep that in mind when planning your own event. Ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve, select a corporate event that aligns with the goal, and then establish an agenda full of activities that’ll deliver the necessary results.

3. Understand your audience

Corporate events are similar to birthday parties. You have to know exactly for whom you’re organizing them in order for everyone to have a good time! Fail to define your target audience beforehand, and you risk investing time and money in an event that doesn’t cater to their needs and interests.

Likewise, how many people will you invite? This can be a stressful decision, but, in general, we advise inviting too many versus too few. After all, empty seats and tables full of uneaten food don’t look good (and are a waste of money, too). Furthermore, being overbooked can create a buzz that spills over to the next event. Just as prices increase when demand outweighs supply, interest in future events can spike when too many people show up!

4. Work with reliable vendors

The best event partners are organized, punctual, and equipped to handle the number of people you’re hosting. They should also come highly recommended by your industry peers and have rave reviews online and website testimonials for additional social proof.

Of course, high-quality, reliable vendors also cost more to hire. Just remember that you get what you pay for in life! While budget-friendly vendors can be tempting from a financial perspective, you may rue the decision to save money if they’re late, poorly equipped, or just generally inept. In our experience, spending more upfront saves time, energy, and money down the line.

5. Promote the event in advance

Organizing a corporate event is pointless if nobody shows up. So give your audience plenty of notice and find creative ways to promote it to them!

The exact marketing strategy you employ will depend on the event in question. For instance, a simple email invitation may suffice for small events with limited guest lists, while larger ones demand bigger and bolder methods. An initial email, followed by regular social media posts, ads in relevant newsletters, and promotional efforts from your sales team can all be employed for this purpose.

Taking your team on retreat? Give everyone a chance to weigh in on where they want to go and what they wish to accomplish.

Trust Surf Office to organize your corporate event

As you can tell, corporate events come in many different forms and serve a wide range of functions! However, every single one enables employees to come together offsite, take a break from their usual routines, and network with their peers. Team camaraderie, communication, and the company culture improve in the process.

Ready to organize one of your own? Want some professional support throughout the process? Surf Office plans and hosts corporate events for companies of all sizes. Get in touch with our planning experts today to bring your event to life.

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