With the holiday season barreling down upon us and a new year on the horizon, many organizations are planning events — community forums, departmental parties, leadership rewards outings or even lavish galas — some for the first time in several years, thanks to the restrictions of the pandemic.
While some corporations have dedicated event-planning groups, most do not, which often leaves the planning to the communications and marketing teams. Whatever the nature of the gathering, here are five tips to help your team create memorable and effective events.
Begin with the end in mind: What are you trying to accomplish? Make sure you know the primary goal along with other “nice to accomplish” items. Common corporate event objectives include building employee morale, celebrating a success, creating excitement for a new product or initiative, rewarding or motivating teams such as sales or business development, training staff, recognizing the community, changing customer perceptions or just kicking up your collective heels. It’s critical to set those expectations from the beginning, let them steer your planning and know what success will look like to the key stakeholders.
Set parameters: Once it’s clear what the organization or division is trying to achieve, it’s time to build the lanes within which to plan. Budget should be top of the list: What can you spend? How much can be apportioned to core categories such as décor, speakers, food and beverages, event materials and collateral, vendors such as videographers and trainers, pre- and post-event marketing and media relations, and so on. Track everything you can — overall and category-specific budgets, short-range and long-range task lists and calendars, team assignments and contact lists, relevant metrics such as sales conversions or media impressions, vendor-deliverables expectations and the like.
Overcommunicate: Any event, especially a large and complex one, will have dozens if not hundreds of details. To keep things from falling through the cracks, communicate early and often. Set a cadence that makes sense and is dynamic — perhaps weekly emails and monthly meetings to start, advancing to weekly or even twice-weekly team meetings as the event gets closer. Consider having all documents live in a team-accessible environment such as Google Docs or SharePoint so that everyone stays on the same page. When in doubt, talk it out.
Leave some things to the pros: If budget allows, it can be a huge help to outsource some or most of the big-picture planning to professionals, with oversight and deep involvement from your team. Specialty corporate event planners will think of things that you might not, and it can be useful to have third-party experts to give perspective, help motivate the internal team and build excitement. When things start to get overwhelming, as they inevitably do, professional planners have the “don’t worry, it’s all going to fall into place” experience that can keep things sane. Beyond the overall event planners, other professionals just make sense — after all, most corporate teams don’t have experience in, say, hiring singers or creating visual oomph.
Consider the optics: Of course you want your event to be special, but it’s always a good idea to remember tone and both internal and external perception, as well. If your company is going through layoffs or budget-tightening, maybe scale back from a splashy rewards banquet for top performers to one that’s more palatable to observers but still makes those being honored feel special. For taxpayer-supported organizations or public corporations, the level of oversight and expectation can be especially strong. The idea is to pull off an event that feels exciting and worth doing, but also appropriate. And don’t forget to stay abreast of COVID protocols and act accordingly.
With a little — OK, a lot — of planning, some common sense and a whole lot of enthusiasm and willingness to roll up your sleeves and work, a great corporate event can be something that hits the mark, achieves organizational goals and has people talking for a long time to come.