Advanced Corporate Event Planning Guide (2019 Edition)
Whether it is the holiday season or time to celebrate your company’s anniversary, event planning can be a very tricky project to take on. It is a task that requires creativity, leadership and planning months in advanced. And depending on the pre-production process, the outcome of a corporate event can range from completely bland to memorable and successful. There are already high levels of expectation and stress involved in your day to day and having to build an event from the ground is no different. This is why we have created an advanced corporate event planning guide so that you know exactly what is involved and expected in a task such as this one.
WHAT IS A CORPORATE EVENT?
Before organizing an event, it is important to understand what a corporate event itself is. This includes the definition, as well as common mistakes. These events can be described as social yet professional gatherings that include employees, clients, both current and prospective as means to offer networking opportunities and entertainment. The company that is hosting said events are generally the main sponsors (they may sometimes include other businesses that are partners or that are helping the event through their products). It can also be expected that they are the main source of funding for it as well.
There are many details embedded in the fabric that is a corporate event, which is why there is a big possibility of things turning out disastrously. In order to avoid an unsuccessful event, it is important to highlight some common mistakes when it comes to pre-production.
The first common mishap is that most events aren’t really planned. This sounds counterintuitive since one would think that planning an event involves, well… the planning aspect. However, many people overlook the level of detail that has to go into each step of the way from having enough pens so that people can take notes to having enough restrooms! Having assumed that only minimum organization is required to take this show on the road, people tend to overlook the planning and simply expect the event to fall together on their lap.
The second mistake is intertwined with the first in that many people underestimate the time that the planning will take. Depending on the type/purpose of the event (which we will discuss further on) the pre-production of a corporate event can range from 3 to months or so. This involves everything from the brainstorming to the contacting of different venues, and companies that will help set up every aspect of the event. By underestimating the correct amount of time that it will take to build an event, you might simply end up organizing a last-minute disaster.
A leader cannot do their job properly if there aren’t any people for them to lead. This takes me to the third mistake, which is the fear of asking for help. Most amazing things in life cannot happen without a good team, which is why it is extremely imperative for the event planner to assemble a reliable team of people that he/she trusts so that any time they may need help, they can simply say so. The point of being a leader is to delegate different tasks among a diverse group of people that everything is organized and set in motion. There are deadlines to meet and people to make happy, so having a well-equipped and trustworthy things will make things run a lot smoother. It’s hard to know what road to take if you don’t know where you are going. Surprisingly, this applies to event planning; if you don’t know the purpose behind the event, then how will you know to plan it? There are so many reasons as to why corporate events are organized, whether it is a product launch, an internal team building activity or simply a form of entertainment. If you forget the purpose behind the event, you will most likely lose the vision and fail at the overall execution. In order to avoid mistakes such as these, I will be discussing the possible purposes/types of events that can exist so that you can better define, plan and execute accordingly.
WHAT ARE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CORPORATE EVENTS?
As mentioned previously, there are many types of corporate events depending on the special occasion. It is very important to understand what type of event you are in charge of planning in order to properly organize everything. As part of the corporate event planning guide, below I have listed, defined and given examples of the 8 most common types of corporate events:
1. INTERNAL TEAM BUILDING
One of the most essential components of a business is the people that are working in and forming part of it. Whether your company is an international corporation or a mom and pop local business, it is imperative that the team is a functional and trusting one. Ideally, this internal relationship is built organically as the company grows; however, this is not always necessarily the case. This is why many companies organize corporate events as an opportunity to focus on internal team building.
Organizing this type of corporate event is very different from any other because your main focus is to create an environment where your team can grow. This will most likely require group events, leadership-based tasks, and personal activities so that the team can bond and get to know one another on a deeper level. Events like these aren’t about your clients or the media, but rather the strong team that you want to keep nourishing so that your company can keep growing and thriving.
It is not always the case that these events are organized in a positive light. Unfortunately, we do live in a complicated world where one person’s actions can reflect negatively upon a specific company that they are representing. Which is why many companies organize corporate events in order to work on internal team building and re-emphasize the company’s core values and morals.
One famous example of this type of event is Starbuck’s Diversity Training Day that occurred a little over a year ago. After an unfortunate incident that sparked a lot of anger throughout the United States, Starbucks decided that they would shut down almost all of their stores around the US so that they could focus on the issue and re-train their employees regarding diversity. As Time Magazine wrote, “The intention of Starbucks’ company-wide training day was perhaps to show commitment from corporate leadership.”
Whether the reasoning behind this event is a positive or negative one, it is important to understand, while planning the event, that your main focus should be the team and employees rather than the media or possible clients. This will allow you to prioritize based on the right reasons rather than go off track and create an event that isn’t related to the task at hand.
2. NEW PRODUCT LAUNCH
There is no better way to celebrate months of hard work in creating a new product than with a product launch. Not only is it a way of rewarding your company and team, but is also a great marketing tool to give your most prized customers a sneak peek and preview of your product before it is out in the market.
In order to successfully organize said event, it is important to first and foremost make sure that your product(s) is/are ready to enter the public market (even though it won’t be for a few more days). Failing to have a fully functioning and successful product can completely impact the company’s reputation especially if your business is part of the tech realm. It is also imperative that communicate and organize with relevant media outlets, press and PR companies so that the event can get good media exposure and coverage. Another thing to take into account is to have available prototypes of the products so that your clients and customers can take a look at them and try it out themselves. It its this attention to detail that will make an event like this stand out and leave a good impact on the market.
Apple is easily one of the most successful company’s in executing these corporate events. Not only is there an extremely high demand for their groundbreaking products, there is also an immense amount of expectation and anticipation for an event, that some may argue, is their event of the year. This level of expectation is of course created with the help of media outlets and press releases from companies such as Business Insider or CNBC weeks in advanced. They also take advantage of more modern social media outlets such as YouTube by posting hour-long videos on their official Apple YouTube account so that aficionados who couldn’t attend the event can still take part of that legendary annual event.
It is important to think of small details like Apple does when planning an event such as a product launch. Consider what would be appealing to your audience and target market, make us of all the modern technological outlets that we have so that you can increase your marketing, and be creative! Show your company’s personality through an event that is made to not only showcase but also celebrate.
3. ENTERTAINMENT (CELEBRATIONS & ANNIVERSARIES)
Sometimes the reason as to why a company organizes a corporate event is simple, entertainment! What better way to celebrate achievements, anniversaries or holidays than with a party where everyone gets together to have a good time? These events are a great way of incentivizing or rewarding employees by giving them a night off where they can relax and enjoy. It can also be an amazing way of making the boss happy, which is always a good thing. If the reason for celebrating is an anniversary, then this is also the perfect way of shining some light on the company via media and press outlets.
Feel free to get creative when it comes to the pre-production of events like these; there are no rules! However, for celebrations such as these ones, it is absolutely important when planning the event to not overlook three very important aspects: food, drinks and music! It doesn’t have to be too complicated; start by picking an interesting and enjoyable theme for the corporate event and then simply pick the food, drinks and music based on that.
There is no celebration without dancing, and the best way to do that is by making sure you hire a DJ or live band that has experience in playing at corporate events. Bands like the Brass Animals are a great example of an entertaining and versatile group. Not only will they add joy and groove to your party, but they will also accommodate so that your special requests are played!
It is also really important to pay attention to detail when picking out the decorations for these types of celebrations. If the company is celebrating is 25th year anniversary, then make sure to really market that number and display it in the party, whether it be in napkins that say the company’s name and the # 25 or in a photo booth that has a backdrop with the anniversary and company name. It is details like these that will make the occasion stand out and create a memorable night for everyone.
4. AWARD CEREMONIES
Award ceremonies are very much similar to the nature of the previous type of event; however, it is a bit more focused in terms of organization. There is a clearer vision and purpose behind this corporate event since we know that it is about commemorating specific employees in the company for their achievements.
This type of event requires a lot of personalized touches including the choice of venue, the invitations, the overall program of the night, the awards that are given out and guests. It is important that the people attending the event feel important and recognized in positive ways.
One way to do this is to make the event open to employees and family members so that they get to celebrate with those that they love. With that in mind, it is important to have very well thought out seating charts so that those people who are related will be sitting with one another and so on. There can also be creative ways of giving thanks to those employees such as a wall with a blank sheet of paper and sharpie markers so that other people can write on the wall who they are thankful for and why! These little event considerations can really make this a memorable celebration, which is a good way of motivating employees and promoting good company health.
For an example of this type of celebration, feel free to watch any of The Office episodes where Michael Scott hosts The Dundies. This will give you a very clear idea of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to the organization and execution of award ceremonies.
As much as corporate events can be for the purpose of entertainment, there is an equal amount of events that lean towards the education side of things; seminars are a great example. Seminars are usually organized in the form of a conference where different meetings, discussions and panels take place. Another important component, aside from educational purposes, is networking. This is the perfect environment for your employees and attendees to mingle with panelists and other invited professionals as well as with one another.
Corporate events of this nature usually take place throughout a number of days that are divided by categories and segments. Because of this, organizing seminars, compared to a celebration, is a bit more complex in terms of timing. Another way in which organizing this type of event can be challenging is when it comes to hosting special panelists and guests who will most likely be traveling for said event. This will require a lot of travel accommodations so that the invited speakers will feel at home and comfortable in a place that isn’t their usual environment.
Another important thing to keep in mind when planning an event like this one is the schedule. It is imperative that the event names, times, locations and descriptions are laid out clearly in the event’s schedule so that there is no confusion and everyone can arrive to their destination without any trouble. Also, remember to leave either an hour or hour and a half break between panels so that attendees can go grab lunch, coffee and/or network.
Adding small details to the conference can really make a difference. For example, making brochures for each panel with the guest speaker’s name, profession and general information is a great way to keep the audience engaged as well as give them detailed insight on who the speakers are.
One example of a seminar that is held in New York City is the annual Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC), which is sponsored by The Orchard, a music distributor. Every year musicians, businessmen and women and overall fans of the Latin culture gather in order to discuss the current and future market of Latin Music in the United States; “With panels, showcases, and networking events, the conference brings everyone together to share and discuss Latin music within the US market” – The Daily Rind Blog.
Conferences such as this one, which is held in New York City, need to be extra specific when it comes to timing and location of their events because of how hectic transportation can be and how overwhelming the city itself is. Make sure to send all your invited guests an organized and clear schedule at least 3 weeks before the event so that they start getting used to their commute for those 3 days.
Lastly, remember to give your attendees a gift bag where you include sponsor items (as a way give thanks and promote them) as well as items that have the name of the event and the year. This is definitely exciting for your guests since it is always nice to get memorabilia from an event that you attended whether it is a shirt, sticker, CD, or discounts at the partner stores.
6. NETWORKING EVENTS
Although similar to seminars and panels, a networking event can be its own form of gathering so that employees, clients and other special guests can get to know one another. Events like this tend to only be one day, unlike seminars, which can last 2 or more days. This will make the organization aspect of things less hectic since you only have to focus on one day.
The main difference between an internal team building event and a networking one is that the internal team building only involves people from the company (employees, managers, bosses, CEO’s etc.) whereas the networking event can include clients, prospective customers, partners and other special guests.
Similar to entertainment events, it is very important to focus on the organization of food, drinks and music. Although networking is a key factor in one’s professional life, some may find it challenging to approach someone they have never met and strike up a conversation. This is why food, drinks and music are critical since it will allow people to make more meaningful and organic connections without the pressure of thinking, “I have to network.”
I have mostly seen networking corporate events in the music & entertainment industries especially when they want their artist to meet possible producers, agents, managers and so on. I had the wonderful opportunity of working at a digital media company based in Los Angeles called Black Box, where I helped organize a few networking events that were hosted in-house. The main purpose of the event was to showcase one of our artists and allow him to connect with old fans, meet new ones, and get to know other industry people as well.
In order for the event to run smoothly, we made sure to create a very warm and welcoming environment. We added decorating night lights, an open patio, a table set up in a “buffet” manner offering all kinds of food, and an area with refreshments both non-alcoholic and alcoholic. We moved around our office furniture so that there were enough seating spaces for people to chill-out and lounge as well as enough standing room space in case people preferred that.
I think that it is very important to have a main activity that the networking event “surrounds,” so that they have more incentive to attend rather than just the idea of networking. We implemented this by having our artist perform an acoustic set, which then smoothly allowed all guests to mingle at the end of the night. I think the most important aspect to keep in mind when organizing an event like this is that you want to create an atmosphere that isn’t really forcing anyone to mingle, but rather a “no-pressure” environment that allows guests to get to know one another in an organic manner.
7. CHANGING/CONFIRMING CUSTOMER PERSPECTIVE
A lot of the events mentioned in this list, such as internal team building or award ceremonies, focus solely on the company’s employees. However, there are other events that focus on the other equally important component of a company, their clients! Most of a company’s success comes from their trusted clients and customers who, year after year, choose their product or service over anyone else’s. Therefore, every once in a while, it is important to host an event that is focused on them and that shows them the reasons as to why they are their company of choice.
Events that are made to change or confirm customer’s perspectives are tricky in that you want to be able to find the right balance between effective and authentic. Some events, although effective in changing customer’s points of view so that they think that company is better than what they thought it was, may end up coming across as dishonest or inauthentic. It is therefore really important that you maintain the core values and integrity of the company while organizing an event that is meant to demonstrate to your clients why you are their choice in the first place.
One really great example of this type of corporate event planning was done by U- Haul! When St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance’s, one of U-Haul’s main partners, anniversary came up, U-Haul celebrated alongside by, “Renewing and expanding its Food Drive Box title sponsorship while making a push to fight hunger in Arizona” –U-Haul. They also donated 50,000 meals as a way of honoring their longtime partners and also helping a humanity cause and those in need.
An event like this creates the perfect balance between being authentic and making their client’s happy by showing that they are a company made up of people with values rather than just a corporation. The event also commemorated their long-standing partner,
St. Mary’s Food Bank, which shows that U-Haul shows appreciation for those who have helped and supported them along the way.
An event like this doesn’t have to be anything upscale and crazy, it can be a simple yet kind act such as U-Haul’s example that shows your customers that your company is built on passionate people with driven missions and visions. Be authentic and don’t be afraid to showcase what makes your company the number one choice for your clients!
8. INCREASE MEDIA/PUBLIC RELATIONS AWARENESS
With the rise of technology came new innovations in the form of social media. Although social platforms may be overwhelming, there is a huge advantage in making proper use of them, which can lead to massive exposure. Although all the previous events do include press coverage in one way or another, there can also be events that are meant to focus solely on media and public relations awareness.
These can include the following: press conferences, social media content creation, and exclusive interviews, among others. The most important aspect of this type of corporate event planning is having the proper media outlets present in said event. The sole purpose behind this event is increasing media and public relations awareness, and this couldn’t happen without the proper people present in the event.
Another important aspect to take into consideration when planning these events is the content itself. If what you are organizing is a press conference, the topic should be clear and the people speaking should be determined with time so that they are aware of how they will address the given matter. If you are in charge of an interview, making sure that the interviewee has received the questions in advanced and knows how to answer is critical. Also, make sure that the interviewee has received some form of media training so that they know what is proper to say in front of the camera and so on. And things aren’t so different when it comes to creating social media content. You have to have a good sense of direction both visual and purpose-wise so that the event can run smoothly and produce appropriate results.
A great example of this type of event was Banco General’s (a bank branch that forms part of the BG Financial Group) event in Panama. They organized an event called Banco General “A La Central” so that they could re-establish their identity as a company over music, art and local food.
Although this event could fall into the category of “changing/confirming customer perspective” it is mostly an event to increase social media and public relations awareness since they are promoting this event as a social media campaign. They created a specific logo and design for this event and they constantly posted and advertised it on their socials including Instagram.
By posting on their social media platforms, they created a ripple effect that reached the local mass medias such as press, newspapers, and other public relation companies. This helped increase the awareness of their presence in Panama through outlets and a specific event that otherwise wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t organized it.
WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE IDEAL CORPORATE EVENT PLANNER?
After reading the previous sections on the different types of events, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of that information was overwhelming. Normally, in a large corporation with multiple business units, the marketing department will probably know how to plan an event. However, this isn’t always the case. It takes a very specific person to assemble a team, lead and plan a corporate event regardless of what department he/she works in. Below, I have made a list of characteristics that the ideal corporate event planner has, which will help you define whether this is the right job for you:
• Communication skills
Planning a corporate event is not an easy task. There are multiple players involved in the process with which you need to communicate constantly. From the very first moment, you need to be able to express clearly and concisely what it is that you are expecting and what tasks your team members are in charge of.
There should be little room left for doubts, misunderstandings or confusion because once the event planning begins, you are on fast forward motion. However, make yourself available in case anyone has any questions or things that they would like to run by you.
Make sure you express yourself clearly in both written and verbal manners since most of the event communications will be done either in person, via email or on phone calls.
• Organization skills
Equally as important as your communication skills are your organizational ones. If you prefer the old school route, I would suggest keeping an agenda where you can write down your daily and weekly tasks and memos. If, however, you prefer the modern way, then feel free to use your smartphone’s calendar and reminder tools so that you can get a heads up before important meetings or events.
Emails are a very overwhelming especially when you are already receiving plenty of emails that are not related to your event planning tasks. Make sure you properly label your email subjects and keep any that are related to your planning in the same folder. This will make it easier to search for any emails that have important information that you need to look back on.
A last point that can really help the organization element of corporate event planning is delegating. One person cannot do everything, which is why it is really important to learn to delegate and trust other people to properly execute their tasks.
• Not afraid to ask for help/outsource
It is unrealistic to assume that one person is capable of handling every single detail of corporate event planning, which it is important to not be afraid to ask for help. Whether you are outsourcing for specific tasks or simply asking your co-worker to help you out with social media marketing, it is better to reach for help than try and handle everything yourself.
This doesn’t mean that you are not capable of organizing an event; it simply means that you are being proactive and efficient. It is important to allocate your time wisely, and if trying to understand a task is going to take most of your day, then you might as well ask someone that is an expert in that area so that they can help you out.
I am including this characteristic because, even though it seems self-explanatory or maybe obvious, you would be surprised how many people hesitate to ask for assistance in fear that it will make them look unqualified.
In the modern world that we are living in, it has become essential to adapt to the vast technological advances that have surged. Businesses have learned to integrate technology into their models. For example, they are now using social media platforms when dealing with marketing, data, promotion, press, to name a few. This is why the ideal corporate event planner has to have a good level of comprehension when it comes to technology.
You will most likely be setting up marketing campaigns on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, which requires a “tech-savvy” characteristic so that you know your way around the ins and outs of all of these platforms. It is also important that you are able to understand the vocabulary that tech-driven companies speak. For example, if you hire videographers and photographers to create content during the corporate event, it will be much easier to communicate with them if both of you understand one another and there are no misunderstandings when it comes to the vocabulary that they may use.
• Time management skills
Lastly, and probably one of the more important characteristics for an event planner is time management. Proper timing is one of the most imperative aspects of event planning; it defines how much in advanced you need to start planning, when you need to reserve the venue, when you should start promoting the event, when you should send out the invitations, and many more factors.
As an event planner you will have to decide all of those factors and work around them. If you establish a set date for the occasion to take place, then you have to make sure that you have enough time to find a venue that will have an opening for that date. You also need to take the guests into consideration and think about whether or not it is a convenient day of the week, month etc.
One thing that will help you with time management is getting a physical agenda or planner so that you can brainstorm, in advanced, the ideal timing of every aspect of the event. I would also suggest using your smartphone and take advantage of apps such as calendar, reminders, alarms, contacts and email. These will really help you take more control of your time and will allow you to prioritize based on the things that you have to do for a given week.
WHAT ARE CORPORATE EVENT PLANNERS IN CHARGE OF?
We have covered the characteristics that an ideal corporate event planner shouldideally possess, but what exactly are they in charge of? Below is a list of the main tasks that corporate event planners are in charge of:
• Brainstorming, planning, designing and producing an event
• Creating a team and delegating tasks to them
• Establishing an ideal date for the event to take place
• Define location and venue where event will occur
• Create the guest list
• Line up guest speakers and book traveling accommodations
• Act as an intermediary between clients and other stakeholders
• Provide periodic communication and feedback to the stakeholders
• Coordinate marketing and PR
• Problem solve as different challenges or problems arise
• Make sure that the day of the event everything runs smoothly
These are some of the most important tasks, however, depending on the type of event there will be a few more tasks that the event planner will be in charge of.
WHAT ITEMS SHOULD BE INCLUDED ON YOUR CORPORATE EVENT CHECKLIST?
There are some tools that will definitely come in handy when getting ready to organize and lead a corporate event. Therefore, part of this corporate event-planning guide includes a list of items that should be included on your corporate event checklist. Many corporate event planners make good use of them, and they are the following:
• “How to” books – these will give you more insight on the ins and outs of planning a corporate event. There are different kinds including the following:
o Event planning books
o Party planning guides
o Party planner book
• Large monthly planner – for those people who are visual, large monthly planners are perfect for envisioning the big picture. This one is great!
o Meeting planning checklists – I suggest bringing one for each weekly meeting that you hold with your team so that everyone is on the same page
o Meeting planner checklist – it’s also good that you have an individual checklist with your tasks and to do’s
• Agenda – this will help you create a corporate planning network so next time you plan another event, you know who to contact.
• Talking stick seating chart – this is ideal when it comes to defining the seating placement of the guest list.
• Fractured but whole headshot locations – in corporate events such as networking ones, it is good to give your employees the chance to renew their headshots. This gives the event a very professional feel and is also taking the employees necessities into consideration. Check this one out!
• Charging station organizer for multiple devices – in the tech-driven world that we live in, it is highly important that you give your guests a place to charge their devices. Check out this option.
• Event in a box – if it is the case that you don’t have all the details of the event figured out, there are many companies that offer different things including: check-in systems, iPads, printers, as well as digital packets with tips on event planning. Check this event in a box.
WHAT MAKES A CORPORATE EVENT PERFECT?
Before you go ahead and use all of the tools that have been outlined in this corporate event-planning guide to start planning, it is important to think about what makes a corporate event perfect. Based on experience, I have noticed that some of the best events that I have attended made an impact because of their attention to detail. Yes, you do have to think about general things that will help with the overall functioning of the event such as clean and accessible restrooms, cater services, and music.
However, thinking of smaller things such as having a good balance between seating and standing areas, making sure there is AC or heat depending on the weather, having umbrella services in case it rains, having both inside and outside spaces is incredibly important. I have been to events that are located in cities such as Boston where it was extremely helpful to get a map of the general areas where the event would take place. Not everyone is accustomed to the city so it is important to provide little things like maps and organized brochures so that everyone is accommodated properly.
Another very important thing to consider, especially when the event you are planning is a seminar, is to have impeccable timing when it comes to the starting and ending times of the panels. There have been events that start up to 20 minutes later than they are scheduled and that just leaves a really bad impact on the organization. Remember that you have special guest speakers and attendees and their time is valuable.
Entertainment services, such as music, can also make a huge difference and really help establish the perfect environment for the corporate event. Booking fun, live bands such as the Brass Animals is a great way to approach this for celebrations and networking events; you’ll have people dancing and socializing in no time!
Lastly, remember to give thanks to your sponsors, partners and guests by giving them a gift bag at the beginning of the event. These gift bags can include anything from pens, name placards, stickers, discounts or free subscriptions to your sponsor’s products or services and any other creative thing that you can think of! This is a great way to end the conference and leave a positive impact on all those who attended your event!
I hope this corporate event-planning guide will come in handy when it is your turn to plan a corporate event. Whether it is a celebration, networking event, internal team building or seminar, you have all the tools in order to create a well-organized and memorable event. Remember to always consider the purpose behind the event so that you can plan and execute accordingly. Don’t be afraid to get creative or ask for help; remember that the ideal event planner is never afraid to outsource or ask other for help. As much of a challenge as this may seem, if you use this guide, consider the tasks that you will be in charge of and make use of the checklist your results will be perfect! After the event is over, remember to do a post-production analysis so that you can improve and tweak certain steps of the way. You’re ready, so take this guide and get started!