13 Steps to Planning a Successful Corporate Event

Before planning any corporate events whether a large company or a small business, it is important to answer these critical questions. 

What are your goals?   Unlike weddings and social gatherings, most company events have goals and objectives.  The purpose of the event will usually determines these goals. Common ones are:

  • an open house to show off a new space to the community
  • launch party for a new website to attract new clients
  • a holiday party to thank your employees
  • a national convention to showcase achievements and upcoming launches
  • a leaders retreat
  • an annual

Who are the decision makers?  For most business events, there will be more than one decision maker.  There will be someone or a committee in charge of making money decisions, there will also be a decision maker for marketing and promotions, as well as potentially other departments.  Create a system to keep the team informed.

Create a guest list.  Deciding your ideal guest will depend on your goals.  Potential clients, community leaders, employees, other business leaders, current customers and clients.   After determining your target guest, create a reason for your guests to attend.  Well-known speakers, sneak peeks of new launches, and giveaways are common ways.

A fun, vintage soda shop setup for the grand opening of a restaurant, complete with servers in 1950's attire. 

A fun, vintage soda shop setup for the grand opening of a restaurant, complete with servers in 1950's attire. 

Determine a budget.  First you must have a realistic idea of what it will cost to host an event.   Don’t reserve a venue or choose vendors without finalizing this important number.  From there, the budget can be allocated to each category.  The main categories would be venue, food, décor, entertainment.  Other categories would be hotels, transportation and parking, rentals, A/V, stationery and design and insurance.   

Select a date   When looking at possible dates, check the calendar to also look at holidays, local events, sporting events and scheduling conflicts of your companies leaders. 

Choose a location  The first criteria are to make a list of venues that have availability, fit your budget and have the space for your guest count.  Even more important is finding a location that creates the style and feel for your event that matches your goals.   Your theme and colors should complement your venue.

Decide on promotion and tickets  Depending on the goals of your event, you may want to create a promotion committee to raise awareness and increase attendance.  Along with promotions, decide on a marketing strategy as well as possible thank-gifts and swag for attendees.

Ticket sales may also be a part of your plan if your goal is to raise money for a nonprofit cause.  

Connect with vendors.  Hire vendors to fill needs that can’t be filled from within the company OR if management decides not to take staff away from regular duties.  These would include event planners, venues, caterers, florists, décor and rentals, A/V, lighting, entertainment and marketing.

Don’t forget entertainment and photography.  These two areas are sometimes overlooked at business parties.  Entertainment can add to the atmosphere, energize and create an unforgettable experience.  Having a photographer at your event is vital for capturing images to use for PR, newsletters, stockholders meetings, and advertising.

Create an agenda  Unless your event has a cocktail or mingling type atmosphere you will want to create an agenda.  This will keep guests informed of workshops, speakers, product demos and more.  These could be a physical program, a large billboard type piece or a digital catalog.  For smaller more casual events, posting an event flow will keep guests from getting bored or leaving early.

Confirm details  This is where the logistics and details need great organization and oversight.  You will need a timeline for setup, during the event and post-event.  

  • Staffing
  • Guest admission and seating
  • Stationery – programs, menus, invitations
  • Swag and Giveaways
  • Speakers and workshops
  • Parking and transportation

Create energy  Use traditional and social media to promote your event.  Hashtags are a great way to create community and promotion on Twitter and Instagram.  Have a staff member harness social media during the event to post pictures on Facebook and Instagram, reply to tweets, and engage with hashtags.

Follow up  Collect suggestions from attendees.  Have decision makers write up their opinions of the planning process, event results and meeting goals. Compare estimated budget to final costs.