Your boss just told you to plan the next company event. Now what? The easiest way to plan an event is to use the basic waterfall project management. List out your objectives, tasks, and timeline. Create a detailed budget. Assign tasks to individuals in a RACI Chart (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed). Then make it happen. Before you get to excited though, stop and consider the reason the event is being held.
Planning an event takes time, money, and resources away from other business activities. Taking the time to define goals will help you determine if this will be time well spent or if you should consider outsourcing the project.
While it may seem obvious, understanding the purpose of your corporate event is key to determining next steps. Is it a fundraiser? Are you trying to generate new clients? Do you want to celebrate a win and motivate employees? Why are you taking the time needed to make this event a success? If the answer doesn't fall into your personal goals (e.g. driving more sales) it might not be the best use of your time.
The goals of your event also will define the additional information you need to start your planning. Once you have determined tentative objectives, ask colleagues and key stakeholders if they agree. If you fail to get buy-in from others, you may wish to revise your plans or reconsider whether to proceed with an event.
Key stakeholders are the people who are investing in the event to achieve the desired outcomes. If the key stakeholders are not thrilled with your event, your hard work will be for nothing and could even backfire.
An event planner often serves as a mediator and even a therapist. They must listen to each stakeholder, understand their dreams for the event, and find a way to include each important aspect into the event. An added challenge is that you may never actually meet with each of your stakeholders. Therefore, it is important that you are empowered to communicate with them in some way. Provide photos, drawings, and written details about the event on which stakeholders can comment. Express the importance of obtaining approval throughout the planning process. Strive to find common ground among the comments and ideas shared by each of the stakeholders. By helping these individuals find common ground and ensuring no one must give up concepts that would keep them from being satisfied, you know your event will be on the right track for success.
The goal of a corporate event is never just to celebrate the completion of a project. Rather a company may want to honor project team members, while motivating other team members to do the same. If you honored the X project team, but didn’t find a way to motivate others, key stakeholders may say the event was OK, but they won’t be entirely satisfied and they may not even know why.
Clearly defining event goals enables your to also create measurable outcomes. This could be as simple as showing an increase in sales or it could require a little investigating such as asking guests to fill out comment cards or surveys. As you learn what the goals are, include how you will measure the outcomes to ensure you are capturing all the data a stakeholder will want to see.
The amount of money a person or company can spend on an event not only determines how much you can spend, it directly relates to customer satisfaction. Everyone wants the biggest bang for the buck.
So, stay very focused on your budget. An event can cost as much or as little as you want. For instance, you could choose to serve Champagne at $400 per bottle or sparkling grape juice at just $4 per bottle. By staying on top of your budget, you ensure that all the right elements are included while not spending too much on any one item.
While your budget helps determine the type of resources you can afford, that does not always mean you can get them. The most difficult things to book due to availability are the venue and the entertainment. Both require that your event be the only thing booked that day, the staff must be available, and it must meet your requirements. A venue is the first thing that should be reserved.
The location of an event provides the backdrop and sets the tone of your event. There are many options for venues such as fancy 5-star hotels, barns, restaurants, or cultural venues like museums or zoos.
When selecting a venue, consider things like parking, walking distance, and accessibility. Your guests should have easy access in and out of the facility with clear signage showing them where to go. For venues that are not easy to access or do not have ample parking, consider providing a valet service. This can be a big add to your budget, so be sure to weigh the pros and cons of the venue before selecting.
Give yourself plenty of time to plan an event. A corporate event can be organized quickly, but consider these factors:
To secure a large venue specific date, you may need to book it up to a year in advance.Soliciting sponsors can take 3 to 6 months over and above your planning timeline. If you want to include their logos or names on invitations, it will need to be done well in advance. Many business sponsors only accept requests once or twice a year.Good speakers are booked up to a year in advance and their travel schedules can change.Out of town guests should get a minimum of 6-months’ notice and longer is always better. In addition, they will expect you to provide options for them to book accommodationsLocal guests should get a minimum of 3-months’ notice for big events.Local media usually make their schedules weekly, but the longer you are on their schedule the better. Be prepared for them to get pulled away for bigger stories by having electronic press kits and links to photos/videos available.National media can cover events quickly, but to ensure good coverage the more notice the better. Keep in mind that they are also on a budget, so with more notice they save money on travel.
Once you take these items into consideration, you will need to add time for your own planning and preparation. Consider your team's vacation schedule, holidays, or other projects going on in the office.
Here is a guide of time-planning estimates:
Large fundraising event – 1 yearEvent with professional speaker – 1 yearLarge corporate party – 6 monthsMedium corporate event – 3 monthsSmall corporate event – 1 month (if the guests are notified immediately to save the date)
Events are great, but only if people show up. Consider what works well for the individuals you intend to invite. The time of day, day of the week, and even the season can impact how many people attend your event. Be aware of local sporting events, especially if your city has a favorite home team. Planning event during playoffs for instance can kill your event turnout.
If planning an outdoor event, consider backup locations or options such as tents. Corporate events tend to occur at times that are convenient for workers such as breakfast, lunch or happy hour (4 to 6 pm). Large black-tie corporate events usually do best on Saturday nights. This avoids people having to run home to change before an event begins.
It is best to always serve food at a business event. Professionals use their “break” time to go to events, so that means they have no other time to eat. A hungry guest is an unsatisfied and distracted guest.
Be sure to take drive time into consideration. When possible, suggest or provide parking. The less time it takes them to get to and into your event, the longer they will enjoy your hard work and the less stressed they will be.
If it is a destination event, be sure the think about travel time and any time changes. If guests will be coming from the East coast, consider having them come in a day early and hold your event in the morning, which will still be close to their time zone. If coming from the West, push your event to the evening to align with their time zones.
Now that you know the date, location, time, venue and measurable goals you can relax a bit. The big hurdles are over. Walk away from planning for a bit and clear your mind. When you start to work on the details, your mind will be fresh and full of ideas to really make your event special.