Planning an upscale corporate event can quickly feel overwhelming, especially if you’ve never designed and hosted a large-scale event before. However, by following a few tried-and-true tips, you can plan and execute a fantastic elegant event that your attendees will talk about for months.
Here are nine simple steps you can take to tackle a tasteful corporate event with ease.
1. Determine Company Goals
The first step to throwing a corporate event is to have an intimate understanding of what the company is hoping to achieve. Do they want to host an educational seminar? Is this gathering to announce a new product launch? Does the company want to reward its employees with a night of entertainment?
Talk to the client to understand what kind of event this is and what goal they hope it achieves. Every decision you make, from the food you choose to the order of the daily schedule, will depend on the company’s goals for their gathering. The best way to wow your clients is to capture their vision, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.
2. Learn to Delegate
If your event has a lot of moving parts, it might be a good idea to split up the work. As the event planner, your job will be to organize and delegate this event – not control every little detail. Similar to the role of a store manager, your responsibility is to ensure everything is running smoothly and every attendee is happy with their experience. The people doing the actual work should be vendors or assistants you’ve hired – and you should probably onboard more people than you think you need.
While you may be tempted to jump in and help with work during the event, don’t get caught up in personally controlling every detail. Your role encompasses responsibilities like communication, coordination, and dealing with last-minute emergencies – and if you’re busy rearranging flowers, you won’t be available to be in charge.
3. Focus on the Basics
When you’re throwing an upscale event, you may feel the need to go all-out with intricate meals, expensive decorations, and high-end entertainment. Those things can definitely add to an event, but the most essential things remain the same for every kind of event you throw.
Comfort and attendee engagement remain the most valuable aspects of your event, even if you’re hosting for a very important client. You can reduce attendee anxiety by ensuring enough bathrooms, easy access to water, and clear directions for where to go and what to expect. Make sure your menu can appeal to anyone. Overly fancy food may be intimidating when classics like tacos or pasta are likely to please more people.
Anything else will be icing on the cake to improve the attendee experience further.
4. Plan for the Journey
For a seamless event experience, consider what attendees will be doing and thinking from the moment they accept your invitation to the day after the event. What do you want them to feel? How can you inspire them to enjoy and remember their experience?
Thinking about the event as a whole will help you plan details like event reminder emails, parking directions, gift bags, clear indoor signage, and thank-you cards. The fine details elevate an event and make it a memorable experience your attendees will really enjoy.
Related: Event Planning Skills: Sweating The Small Stuff
5. Check Legal Requirements
As the coordinator, it’s your responsibility to ensure every aspect of your event is legal. Some venues require one to several licenses or permits, and some cities may currently have a limit on how many attendees are allowed inside a space at once. If you’re serving alcohol during any part of your event, you may also need a liquor license.
Parking permits, contracts with vendors, and terms of service agreements are a few of the other documents you’ll probably complete. The terms of service agreement is especially important because it protects you from being sued if someone at the event is injured. Of course, your goal should be to plan an event where an injury is highly unlikely.
6. Communicate Frequently
The last thing you want to do is talk to the company once they hire you and then wait to reach out again until the day before the event. Constant communication will ensure you and your clients are comfortable with where the event is going and confident that it will go off well. Establishing frequent contact will make you more effective and build a strong relationship between you and your clients prior to the event.
Last-minute changes, clarifications, and adjustments should be communicated as soon as possible to all parties. If you can, it’s a good idea to set up a single system for communication that everyone has access to. That way, updates will reach you, vendors, and your clients at once, and everyone will be on the same page on the day of the event.
7. Do a Practice Run
Even with careful planning, something is likely to go wrong during the actual event. The best way to prepare for this is to complete practice runs with staff and speakers and test all the equipment before use. Reviewing expectations and double-checking that everything is working will help you iron out any unforeseen issues before they become a major problem.
If something still goes wrong during the event, keep your cool. Others will follow your lead, and staying calm and collected will always serve you best. It’s infrequent for events to be completely ruined by one pesky detail. However, you can avoid headaches by creating a backup plan for essential elements, like a mic and sound system.
8. Care for Individuals
Planning a large event can be stressful, and the event planner carries the lion’s share of that stress. However, the most important thing you can do on the day of your event is to show that you care for individuals. When people talk to you, make sure you give them your full attention.
While you may feel tempted to be scattered and rushed, do your best to slow down and be present. It may help to keep a tangible list of what needs to be done so that you don’t have to keep a list of to-dos in your head. Making space to listen to personal concerns and give individuals your full attention is the difference between a good event planner and a great one.
9. Watch Your Budget
As the event planner, one of your primary roles is to manage your client’s money. You’ll connect with vendors and make decisions about where money will go and what items you’ll splurge on. It’s essential to be transparent and organized during this process.
As a good rule of thumb, you should always plan to budget at least 10% more than you think you’ll spend. Planning to spend under budget leaves room for last-minute fixes and adjustments on the day of the event. To determine where to spend the bulk of the money, refer back to the company’s goals for the event.
Pro-tip: Use an event budget calculator to stay in control of the budget details, payment schedules and to make sure your costs don’t overrun your estimates.
Throwing a Seamless Event
Like all skills, event planning gets easier the more practice you have. Take each event as an opportunity for growth, and you’ll be less likely to feel frustrated or flustered when something inevitably doesn’t go according to plan.
Follow these nine tips to plan ahead and throw a seamless corporate event that thrills your clients and leads to more business in the future. As a final tip, make sure you ask clients and attendees for a brief evaluation of their experience at your event. Event planning is hard work, but it’s worth it to see the positive impact you have on vendors and clients!
For further reading when planning a corporate event, check out Event Planning 101: A Guide For New Event Planners.
Cora Gold is the Editor-in-Chief of women’s lifestyle magazine Revivalist, and she enjoys keeping up with the exciting world of event planning and hospitality. Follow Cora on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more life, style and home inspiration.