Corporate events are complex, multifaceted events that have a really hard time cramming together under any umbrella (even the one ‘corporate events!’). But there are some remarkably consistent ways in which corporate events of any size, scope, or purpose can fail miserably — and we’re here to talk them up so hopefully, you can avoid them. In this section of our two-part post, we’re going to discuss what you need to know to plan a corporate event — and why.
Knowing What Your Event is For (and Why!)
This is a pretty basic thing, right? Why would you even plan an event if you don’t know what it’s for? The trick here is that oftentimes, the corporation in question wants to accomplish a goal with the meeting that they’re simply not actually ready to accomplish. For example, if you’re planning a product release and your company won’t have the website for that product up until the weekend after the event, you’re going to waste a titanic amount of time and money.
To counter this mistake, you need to talk over not just the purpose of the event, but the expected outcome of the event with the company’s leadership. It’s easy to say “we need to build teamwork among the sales staff,” and start planning an event around that idea — but if what you actually want is to improve sales, and the sales staff works on commission, taking them away from their desks so they can play social games with each other is going to be directly counterproductive. Looking at expected results gives you a much clearer view than simply asking why an even should happen.
Knowing Your Event’s Staff and Skills
Improper staffing is probably the single most common mistake corporate event planners make. No amount of detailed paperwork can overcome the moment when you realize you need a bouncer to handle that 260-pound ex-wrestler from HR who just had one too many, and all of your bartenders are cute, petite little females with no particular experience working the doors.
To counter this mistake, you need two things: a full understanding of what is likely to go wrong at your event, and (more importantly) a full understanding of the skillsets of all of your staffers, including those that come with the venue, the corporate-provided ones, and any vendors or contractors. Knowing what your staff’s actual capabilities are might take some time that seems better spent choosing your event furniture, but it’s like an insurance policy against a wide variety of disasters.
Knowing Your Guests
Every decision that goes into event planning is affected by a wide variety of factors — the budget, the random bits and pieces handed down from upper management, what the venue can handle, and more. But when it comes right down to it, every single decision needs to end with the all-important question, “Will this result in the best possible experience for our guests?”
Obviously, “best possible” is limited by all those other things, but it’s all too easy to make decisions that are budget- or venue-driven without a single thought about the experience of the attendees. The result is inevitably an event that either only barely accomplishes its goal, or fails entirely. Of course, to achieve the “best possible,” you have to know your guests. If you make a Family Guy reference, will they get it? If they do get it, will they approve? Understanding the culture(s) your guests come from is crucial to making decisions that will make your event effective.
Sun Tsu famously said, “Know yourself and know your enemy, and you will survive a thousand battles.” Event planning isn’t all that similar to a war, but in the end, knowledge really is half of the battle.