It’s that time again. You’re gearing up for your next corporate event, but the planning aspect weighs you down a little.
You’re used to planning meetings, seminars, trade shows, but perhaps the thought of organising the yearly corporate awards ceremony has your brain just a little bit frazzled.
Sound familiar? It doesn’t have to be a headache.
In fact, just by following a few simple steps, you’ll be well on your way to running events that are truly successful and enjoyable. You don’t need to wing it anymore!
Here at Audiencetools, we’ve done the hard work for you, and created a checklist of what we believe is the ultimate corporate event planning guide.
So grab a drink and a pad and paper, you’re about to plan your best event yet!
Step 1: Brainstorm your purpose: why this event?
Getting the edge in a corporate event is all about novelty. Most of your audience have been to so many events, they want to see something different.
What will attendees think and feel afterwards? Have a think about what the real purpose is for your event, and how you can communicate that in the most exciting way possible.
If you’ve heard of the thought leader Simon Sinek before, you know that audiences are most attracted to a brand that can clearly communicate their WHY.
Why are you running this event? Keep asking yourself this question until you come up with a clear, tangible mission statement. Ultimately, this will be the value proposition you present to your audience – what’s in it for them.
Corporate events are usually designed to change customer perceptions, entertain executives and managers, stimulate media coverage or motivate staff. Your purpose might be one or all of these, but one thing is for sure – it has to be engaging.
If you’ve already done this kind of event before, why are you doing one again? Did you achieve your ‘why’ last time?
By defining your purpose, you’ll be able to have a clear vision of the event even before you start to plan anything else.
This will not only allow you to envision how you’d like the event to run, but it will also allow you to communicate your event passionately to your colleagues, exhibitors and potential sponsors.
Step 2: What are your goals? Figure out your measures of success.
Do you want to increase your sales by 15%? Get more sign ups to a course? Get more media coverage, or simply make a few thousand dollars?
Whatever your goals for the event are, making sure they’re specific is crucial. If you don’t aim for the stars, how will you ever reach them, right?
By setting up different goals in the areas of revenue, community, participation, sponsorship or PR, you can ensure that your event is gaining traction in the right way. Make sure your goals are SMART – (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed).
Most importantly, figure out your budget. An event can’t be all singing and dancing if you haven’t got the money to play with.
Have a champagne taste on a beer budget? Don’t despair. Create a spreadsheet, and add up how much you’re willing to spend on the venue, catering, guest speakers, decorations, marketing and anything else. Once you’ve set yourself a budget, you’re much less likely to exceed it.
Step 3: Organise venue, speakers, catering and exhibitors
Next is the organisation – the fun bit! (honestly!) Organising your event just means getting your lists in order, and creating a timeline of tasks. You can have fun testing out the catering, liaising with potential speakers, and visually planning how the event will look to your guests.
It’s always best to start from the date of the event and work backwards, covering off everything you’ll need to do. You can use online project management software like Trello or do some online research to ensure you’ve covered everything off. We love this handy checklist from Azavista.
When it comes to choosing an event space, think ‘location, location, location’. Where will your event be? Try out a few different spaces by doing a recce, and measuring up the space.
Formulating a sketch of the space might be a good idea. You don’t have to be Picasso, but it might help you to figure out where your exhibitors or speakers will be, and think about practical aspects such as audiovisual technology and where the electricity sockets are.
Walk through the space as if you were the attendee. What would you see as you walk in? Where do you go for refreshments? By putting yourself in the shoes of the customer, you’ll be able to tweak the event so you deliver a fantastic experience for them.
Will your event have a speaker, or exhibitors?
Sometimes, it’s not what you know, but who. Getting a top-name speaker for your event could not only draw the crowds, but could mean maximum exposure in terms of publicity.
Book your speakers as early as you can, as you’re likely to be covering expenses. If you wait until the last minute to book their travel and accommodation, you might be looking at a hefty price tag.
Refreshments and catering are an all important part of a successful event. Will you go for easy yet sophisticated canapes, a buffet service or get caterers in for a sit down meal? Whatever you choose, you might want to sample the food beforehand (to check the quality, of course!), and to ensure your caterers cover different dietary requirements.
Who will be exhibiting at your event? When choosing your exhibitors for a trade show, for example, make sure you have a mix of different brands. Work out the costs for different sized pitches, and decide whether you’ll be focusing your efforts on securing larger brands, or smaller businesses and entrepreneurs.
By selecting the right partners that resonate with your brand, this will help you gain sponsorship, too. Corporate sponsorship for events are commonplace; so think about a sponsorship package that will be really inviting for companies. Choose sponsors that are a good fit for your audience, and who have something to offer that complements rather than competes with what you’re offering.
Step 4: Work out your itinerary
Next, you need to decide on the schedule of the event. Who needs to be where, and by when? Having a timed schedule for an event is crucial, because even if things run over time (and they often do), you’ll know exactly how long other speakers may have.
Always err on the side of caution when it comes to timings. You don’t want to be at the event dripping with sweat because your speaker has gone twenty minutes over time!
Think from your audience’s perspective
Think about the needs of your audience, and how long they might like to comfortably sit before they need a change of pace. You don’t always have to break up a segment with a ten minute refreshment break – sometimes a group exercise or half an hour of ‘networking time’ works just as well.
If you’re unsure about how best to plan your itinerary, do some market research and attend a few corporate events. Take note of how long they spend on introductions, and how long each segment is.
Displaying your itinerary ahead of schedule is vital for both exhibitors and attendees to your event. Think about how you’ll communicate this: will it be on a flyer, in a newsletter, or on a Facebook event?
Before you go communicating your line-up though, leave the specifics until last.
Why? Well, if you need to swop a speaker at the last minute, or you need to change the amount of time you need for the lunch break, that could be very costly if you’ve already ordered 5,000 printed brochures with the full schedule proudly displayed. (Eek!)
Once you’ve finished your itinerary, the final thing to carry out is a risk assessment. Boring maybe, but absolutely vital to not only field potential hazards in advance, but also take the mental stress off the planning aspect, knowing you have every possibility covered.
Step 5: Develop your marketing strategy
It doesn’t matter how incredible your event is, if your marketing strategy isn’t properly implemented, it could fall at the first hurdle. Ideally, your marketing should start at least six months before the event, especially if it’s a large event.
When it comes to communicating your corporate event, getting your colleagues onside from the outset is incredibly important. Be specific about what’s in it for them, and how they may be expected to participate or contribute to raising awareness.
Corporate events are not just about socialising and networking; they’re also about building your brand, so be sure to communicate that to those who may not appreciate a serious tone.
Executing the marketing campaign
Once you’ve got the internal comms sorted, executing your event marketing campaign should be straightforward. Be sure to include all elements of campaign planning – from your website content, promotional materials, to your email newsletter and social media content.
Use project planning software like Asana to build a timeline of your marketing activities on a monthly and weekly basis, so you can plan your communications to build an impressive momentum.
You might want a specific microsite to host your event, whereby you can sell tickets, field enquiries and manage your ticket sales. An all in one solution is a great idea if you have many tickets to sell, as it will not only help you keep track of sales, but it’s something that your attendees are likely to expect with a standard corporate event.
The best word of marketing for any event is of course, word of mouth. If you’re passionate about getting people to talk, then the best way to create a buzz about your event is by engaging with your community online. If they’re hanging out on Instagram or Facebook, get them excited by incentivising them with a presale page. Counting down to an event is always fun, and builds the hype.
You might want to formulate a set of emails to different email marketing lists, whereby you give an exclusive discount, or even offer a competition on Twitter to win a pair of tickets. Believe it or not, the most effective way to be noticed is to do something different, especially amongst all those dry, stuffy corporate events.
Step 6: Collect content and data
It’s the big day – but today’s focus isn’t just about the event running smoothly. As well as delivering your impressive event, it’s crucial to gather both content and data for future events.
Maximise your content opportunities by hiring a photographer and videographer. They’ll collect snaps and footage on the day that you can use for social media, a corporate newsletter, or for in-house training material. Make sure you create media release forms for your speakers to make sure they’re happy being filmed.
If your event is open to the public, why not create an event based hashtag?
Communicate it to your guests at the start of the event, and have a live feed of user generated thoughts, comments and media, allowing you to really maximise your reach. Post interesting speaker snippets online, and perhaps even do a feature write up for a blog or trade journal.
Track your attendees behaviour
At the event itself, it’s also vitally important to collect data. How will you be tracking registrations or footfall?
Even if a lot of tickets have been sold, it will be useful to measure audience behaviour at a more granular level. Were the toilets used much? What was the most popular canape? Which exhibitor stand attracted the most visits?
By collecting those all important numbers, you’ll gain a good understanding of who went where and did what during the event, which will help you improve for next time.
That’s it – go plan!
One of the hardest things to do when successfully executing an event is to stay calm. There’s so many things to think about, that having all your actions in one place is invaluable. That’s why planning is of the utmost importance.
When you have a great plan in place it can make all the difference, and will allow you to truly shine in your boss’s eyes by pulling off a seriously impressive corporate event.
Like this? Love it? We’re keen to hear what you thought of this guide. And if you’d like more help in creating a buzz for your next event, don’t forget to Linkedin for up to date content.