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Corporate events: the dos and dont’s

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If you work in any sort of business, the chances are you have been to a corporate event or two. The definition of a corporate event is simple but wide-ranging; any form of social activity that is funded by a business, catering to employees, board members, and sometimes other members of their industry. There are many types of corporate events including conferences, trade shows, retreats, team building days – even Christmas parties can be considered under this umbrella.

Just as they are diverse in tone, your experience of corporate events may be very different depending on how they have been organized. Some can be fun, a chance to escape the office and spend time in a different environment, interacting with your colleagues in new ways – whereas others can be boring and awkward experiences.

So, what if it becomes your job to organize a corporate event for your company – anything from a conference to a party to a company excursion? You may be feeling a lot of pressure to get it right, working to a budget, and making different people happy, from the Chief Executive to the pool of employees you have to work with every day. How can you make your event a success rather than a flop? Well, there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure you’re approaching your event as methodically as possible, ensuring it will be remembered by your colleagues for all the right reasons!

Do: Pick a greatlLocation

Location, location, location. It might be the cheapest option to simply hold the event in the company offices, but try to avoid this if you can. Employee morale can be massively increased by simply getting people out of their usual routines, and it will make your event feel special from the outset. You’ll want to find somewhere relatively easy to get to, but interesting and suited to your needs. If it’s for a team-building exercise or party, an outdoor event is a brilliant idea, giving people sun, fresh air, and the chance to let their hair down a bit more.

Don’t: Forget about practicalities

An event with outdoor elements is a brilliant idea in theory, but it becomes less ideal for any event held in the winter months, or somewhere that risks heavy rainfall. Make sure to check weather forecasts for around the dates of your event and plan accordingly. You’ll also want to weigh up the costs of a great location against your ability to provide other amenities and find a balance between the two – no one wants to attend a conference in a beautiful castle only to find there’s no food, entertainment or other considerations.

Do: Consider your budget

Even if you have complete control over most aspects of the corporate event you’re organizing, you’ll almost certainly have been given a strict budget to allocate. Make sure you’re sticking to this religiously and using it wisely. It’s a good idea to sit down at the start and portion out how much you want to spend on each element of the event; that way you won’t run out of funds before you’ve even started thinking about catering.

Don’t: Skimp on the basics

Having said this, there are some oft-neglected areas it’s worth splurging on. If the event is outdoors, you will need bathroom facilities – and with company directors in attendance, the last thing you want is to make them use those horrible blue portaloos you find at music festivals. Amenities such as a luxury toilet might feel like a splurge, but they are a key part of making your guests feel comfortable, and knowing that they are in the safest of organizational hands.

Do: Plan fun activities

Have you ever been to a conference that sounds like it might be interesting, but once you get there you instantly know you’re in for one of the most boring days of your entire life? It’s a familiar experience and one that most of us will have been through. You’ll be desperate to avoid sparking those feelings in others, however official your conference event may be. Of course, if you’ve been put in charge of a social event then you’ll want to pay lots of attention to organizing activities, and there are some glorious ideas out there for team-building games that you can integrate into your schedule. However, even for a conference it’s a nice idea to break up the day with something a bit different. Perhaps there is a practical exercise related to the topic, rather than a whole day of panel discussions? You could even hire in a theatre company to present a short play or interactive presentation to get people to think about something from a different perspective.

Don’t: Forget who will be there

When you’re organizing fun activities it can be tempting to get carried away. As you’re doing this, don’t forget who will be attending your event! You want to make your activities appropriate for the attendees, so make sure you know what levels of the company hierarchy will be in attendance, and plan accordingly. If you have an idea that you think is great but a little left-of-field, it’s also good to run it past your boss (unless you are the company director, in which case go ahead!) to make sure they’re happy with the content before you commit the funds towards making it happen.

Do: Consider a bar

For any sort of social event, if you want it to run into the evening or even late afternoon, you’ll want to consider a bar. Catering is one of the most important elements of any event, from the morning and post-lunch coffees to providing lunches and snacks to keep people motivated throughout the day. However, a bar is the crown jewel to top it off. There’s no better way of getting colleagues to relax with each other and feel positively about your event, than offering a glass of wine or beer – especially if they don’t have to pay for it.

Don’t: Regret it the morning after

As with activities, planning a bar needs to be done with careful forethought. We’ve all heard the horror stories of dreadful embarrassments after drinking a bit too much at the Christmas party – you want to organize your event so that people have just the right amount of fun. If you’re considering a form of open bar, you could potentially issue each attendee with a number of drinks ‘vouchers’ – after which they’ll need to buy their own – to help dissuade people from getting carried away. They’ll thank you for it the next day!

Do: Think about decorations

Even if you’re in a different location – but especially if you’ve decided to hold your event in your regular offices – you’ll need to think about decorations. This is easy and obvious when it comes to seasonal events such as Christmas parties, but for other occasions the requirements can be a little murkier. Think about small touches to make a space feel exciting a different; draping cloth to hide desks and the printer, for example, or making sure the catering is laid out on posh tablecloths. Upmarket balloons are always a good way to make a space feel special.

Don’t: Go overboard

Whilst planning your decorations, remember it’s not a themed event and don’t go overboard! It’s important to stay true to the content and form of your event – an official conference will want far fewer frills than a social party, for example. Overdecorating will feel like turning up to a party overdressed; there’ll be whispers, sidelong glances, and a general air of discomfort. Avoid this by reigning yourself in and if in doubt, getting advice from your team on the right level to aim for.

Do: Hire an events planner

If you have been assigned this task alongside your regular work, you may feel overwhelmed and far too busy to organize the event to an appropriate standard. In these circumstances, a corporate events planner could be your best friend. Outsourcing the planning of the event to an external source could take a huge weight off your shoulders, allowing you to get on with your daily work in peace, knowing that everything is being taken care of. Of course, this possibility may be restricted by budget, but most companies will tailor their packages specifically to the budget available to you. Given their position in the industry, they also tend to get discounts on materials as they will be buying them in bulk for a number of projects, or they have special relationships with certain venues and suppliers that they use. This means you’ll know your budget is being stretched to cover as much as possible.

Don’t: Leave everything to them

As great as it would be to hand the responsibility off to an events company and forget about it, resist this urge if you can. You don’t want to walk in on the day of your event and realize it’s the complete opposite of your vision, or that certain elements are horribly wrong. The best way to use an events planner is to work closely with them and retain an overview of the plans so you can ensure the event is everything you wanted it to be.

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