Corporate Event Planning 101: Why Are We Doing This?

Some corporate events are self-creating. When the CEO decides that her new vision for Delta-level Teamplay Synergies needs to be promulgated throughout the corporate metasphere, there has to be an event. When the technological demands of the customer base exceed the capacities of your company’s circa-1995 customer support software and there needs to be a mass retraining simultaneous with the rollout of the new CSRWare 2017, there has to be an event.

Those events are the easy ones. But what about the other kind? What do you do when the boss walks up to you and says “You know what the Sales department needs? Some sort of event to get them pumped up,” or “Gosh, the Accounting department is really falling apart since Janice and Mark had that affair. Maybe they could use some sort of team building somethingorother.”?

Step 1: Elicit Feedback
One of the most often-overlooked facts about humankind is that we love to talk about our problems. Create an anonymous online survey at someplace like SurveyMonkey, and send out an email invitation to every potential attendee. Get a few allies in the target departments to subtly ask around about what kinds of problems are commonplace in the office. Focus on finding cultural issues or specific skill gaps that an event-like structure is good at addressing.

Step 2: Craft a Goal
Taking that feedback — and management’s demands — into account, write down the goal of your event in SMART terminology. You want your goal to reflect the problems that your feedback revealed, and defines the effect you intend to have on the problem as well as how you expect the event to achieve that effect.

Step 3: Match a Theme to the Goal
This step isn’t easy to put into coherent, repeatable steps — it’s far more art than science. The theme of an event can be basically anything: a character, place, event, famous quote, scene…just about any part of any story or history you can imagine. The challenge is to pick a theme that enhances progress toward your goal rather than detracting from it. That can be surprisingly difficult.

For example, let’s say your goal is to get buy-in for the new CSRWare. You know that the office lately has been talking a lot about the upcoming samurai war flick Sengoku Jidai, so you choose as your theme ‘splitting hairs,’ based on the many legends of katana so sharp you can use them to cut a hair in half lengthwise. It of course takes your audience all of seven seconds to start cracking jokes about customers splitting hairs with their complaints, and your theme has just profoundly undercut your goal.

Once you have a theme and a goal, you can hand the event off to a professional planner (or use any of the guides for corporate event planning that are available all over the Internet, our own included) and you’re off to the races. But getting from “boss demands event” to “here’s what we’re doing and why” is a subject that’s rarely covered — hopefully now you have some solid ideas of how to make the leap. Good luck!

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