Corporate Event Planning 101: Breaking Murphy’s Law
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 this two-parter, we’re going to talk about the things that go wrong for no reason other than because they can — and how you can avoid or handle them with minimal effort.
Alcohol Is Your Best Friend…and Worst Nightmare
If you’re going to serve alcohol, you need to keep two things in mind: it really kills the pacing of an event if someone has to stand in line for more than a minute or two to get their drinks, and someone who stands in that line more than a few times needs to be cut off or otherwise handled. Alcohol itself isn’t a Murphy’s Law accident, but it’s the #1 creator of such problems, and stopping those problems before they start will save you untold stress down the line.
Track Details, and Communicate Often and Widely About Unexpected Changes
Every event is built around a host of assumptions that range from the number of guests to the type of phones those guests will be carrying to how much each guest will eat. As the event planner, it’s on you to write down each and every one of those assumptions, because the moment one of them is defied is the moment the event might go into a tailspin. Noticing it happening and responding by quickly developing a response and communicating it to every staff member in the relevant area is the best way to keep a failed assumption from turning into a failed event.
Delegate Fully (to People You Trust)
Complexity causes breakdowns, it’s really that simple. That’s why, if the event you’re putting on is large and complex enough, it’s perfectly legitimate to have people in charge of parts of the event (be they geographical, temporal, or activity-based). What you want to avoid is having those people be people you can’t trust to handle their responsibility if things start to go south. You need to ensure that the people to delegate to are people you expect to come to you with a report of how they solved a problem, not a request that you solve the problems for them.
Keep It as Short as Possible
Corporate events have a purpose — and there are very few of those purposes that cannot be achieved in a single afternoon. Every hour an event lasts beyond what it takes to achieve its purpose is another hour in which a dozen things can go wrong, and rest assured, a few will. Extending an event into a second day adds such a massive amount of complexity that it’s almost never worth it. Keeping your event as concise as possible will make sure that the takeaway will be exactly the event’s purpose, not something watered-down by irrelevant side experiences that were cool, but not on-point.
Make It as Long as Possible
Not the event itself, we just talked about that! We’re talking about the prep and takedown times. Especially when it comes to preparation time, cutting it close means things get skipped, missed, or screwed up — and when those errors come to light in the middle of some big activity, you’ll curse the very name of Murphy. Giving yourself twice as long as you think is reasonable (and being willing to pay the staff for their extra time, of course) and then taking two extra walk-throughs before things kick off is probably the single best way to make sure that everything goes as well as possible.