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9 Useful Corporate Event Planning Tips

Let’s be real: the mere mention of a corporate event can conjure images of stuffed shirts, droning presentations, monotonous conversation, and overheated conference rooms. Event planning pros know better, don’t we? Boring, forgettable corporate events — whether conferences or social gatherings — are the result of poor, unimaginative planning. A party is a party and a meeting is a meeting, and ne’er the two shall meet, right? In a word: wrong!

Whether you’re planning a conference for engineers, a networking event for funeral directors, or a sales seminar for Harley shop owners, everyone likes to be comfortable and have a good time. Keep your event informative, running smoothly, and, most of all, far from being a snooze-fest! Following are some corporate event planning tips to keep yours at the top of everyone’s minds and have them clamoring for the next one!

Tip #1: Establish the purpose and goals of your event

Are you educating, entertaining, fundraising? Is the purpose to network and create connections, to leave with knowledge and inspiration, mark a milestone, or just have a good time? Spend some time brainstorming, then narrow your focus into a 30-second elevator pitch. Once you’ve crystallized the why, you’ll be able to knock out the how.

Tip #2: Carefully select your attendees

Planning a corporate event is a masterful way to get like-minded people together! We aren’t in elementary school, so you don’t have to invite the whole class. Instead, cultivate your invitation list by starting at the very smallest common denominator, then let it grow from there.

For example: an event for wine connoisseurs can expand into winemakers, vineyard owners, and wine retailers. From there, it can expand to cheesemongers, chocolatiers, and bakers of French baguette. Find a single common thread among potential attendees and see where it leads!

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Tip #3: Create a budget — and stick with it

Advance planning on this end will keep you from having to make tough cuts at the last minute. Add line items for venue, food, staffing, speakers, marketing and signage, A/V, decor, transportation — everything you can think of — and start filling in the blanks.

Now is when you have decisions to make: what components are most important to the success of your event? Once you decide, that’s where the larger allocation of your budget should go. We can’t stress this tip enough: money is an object for everyone! Just have the absolute best corporate event that you can afford.

Tip #4: Choose your venue — escape the hotel conference room and book a Peerspace

Hotel conference rooms are a dime a dozen. The options for a Peerspace are endless! Find the venue that complements the purpose of your corporate event. Put your speakers on stage in a downtown performing arts space, or hold breakouts in a private lounge with billiards and a wet bar. A creative venue sets the mood in a joyful, surprising way — and the kudos for creativity will be well-deserved!

Tip #5: Choose a theme

Say what you will about themes, but a good one can set the tone for the day and leave a lasting impression on your guests. Use it to tie together invitations, speaker topics, as well as the menu and post-event happy hours. Of course, consider your audience: event professionals may enjoy a club vibe between sessions. Real Estate professionals may not — but who knows your guests better than you do?

Tip #6: Build an unstoppable event day team

There are so many moving parts to corporate event planning. You’ll manage setup, A/V, speaker concierge, registration, and general support. Sure, you can execute it with a skeleton crew — you’re a professional! But why would you want to?

Assign someone to wrangle speakers or become the point person for catering, another to run vendor departure, tear-down, and trash removal. This way, you can do what you do best: oversee and offer direction. Someone has to drive the bus. Surround yourself with other professionals who will allow you to do just that.

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Tip #7: Create a master timeline

Even if your event is purely social, your final event timeline and logistical details are valuable documents. The master timeline is what makes your corporate event a living, breathing thing. Ideally, it should break up the day into 15-minute increments for your event day team. Get feedback from vendors to ensure that everyone is reading from the same sheet of music, so to speak.

Make sure you give yourself a deadline for changes — including a reasonable date for RSVPs — then communicate that deadline to the world. On event day, adhere to the timeline as reasonably as possible — preferably without being a drill sergeant.

Tip #8: Have backups for your backups

As important as it is, when planning your corporate event, don’t allow yourself to rigidly stick to the timeline. A speaker’s flight may be delayed, attendees move at a different pace than you’re planning, or the DJ may have a technical malfunction. If it rains, lunchtime will likely be faster than you anticipate; if it’s 75 degrees with bright blue skies and sunshine, you’re going to lose people to the terrace for an extra few minutes. Roll with it!

That speaker whose flight was delayed may be able to present via Skype. Internet is down? Think ahead by planning for presenters to provide you with a flash drive of their presentation one week prior to the event. Basically, have a tech person on site even if you don’t think you’ll need them. You will. And those guests on the terrace? Bring their food and drink to them.

Tip #9: Don’t forget to feed people

Seriously. Don’t skimp on coffee breaks. If you must cut catering corners, give attendees a couple of hours off for lunch and to recharge; offer suggestions close to the surrounding area. If you do that, it means continental breakfast and the afternoon coffee break have to be memorable!

Provide items that are portable, and cover the bases of sweet and savory, as well as crunchy, salty, and creamy. Offer an array of thoughtful hot and cold beverages — “thoughtful” can mean fresh, hot coffee and ice-cold fruited water. Alternatively, it can mean Italian sodas and a mojito bar!

One of the most surprising corporate event planning tips is that you have the opportunity — really, the responsibility — to be more creative and cutting-edge than you’d normally be for a personal, social event. As long as you stay within the boundaries of that particular corporate culture, the sky’s the limit!

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