A corporate event where guests are expected to have a good time is different animal than a corporate meeting where the intent of the meeting is far different than the intent of the corporate event. If you are an experienced event planner, you may already know everything you need to plan and run a successful corporate event with either a small or large crowd, but even still an experienced event planner or coordinator might find some useful information to help exceed expectations of an ever-so demanding area of the corporate world.

Perhaps the first step is to decide what the purpose of the event is, how many guests will likely attend, and what the theme of your event will be. Most corporate events these days have a theme associated with their event to spice it up a bit for the guests. Once you’ve determined this you will need to secure an event venue that can accommodate your group size and overall budget (there are MANY options in the state of Utah that can accommodate just about any group size or budget) and then start planning around the space that you’ve secured and what the venue will be able to provide.

Themes

Some of the more popular themes have included the theme of a new hit movie that has recently come out such as Star Wars, etc. Others have included themes based on locations such as the tropics, beach, etc. In addition, some of the other interesting theme ideas have even included genres of eras such as an 80’s party, 90’s party, and so on. The theme of your corporate event should be based on the specific interests of the guests that will be attending the event keeping their ages in mind (as a group of corporate executives that are in their 60’s + might not be as interested in a 90’s themed event as they would in an event that was more geared around the 60’s or 70’s). Will the guests need to dress up according to the theme, or will you just have decor and entertainment that is theme related? All things to think about when determining the theme that you will ultimately choose for your next corporate event. In addition, if you are having an annual corporate event that only occurs once a year, and if that event is geared around the holidays, many companies will choose to have the event geared around the holiday’s theme and then have cocktails/mingling, possibly awards and/or speeches from upper level management or the CEO, dinner, and then either a live band or 45-60 minute show after dinner has concluded. Also, consider the environment that you’re in when deciding the theme for the evening. Will everyone attending the event be a cowboy, or an accountant? Think of themes that go along the lines of the guests attending, or, go way outside the comfort zone for something dramatically different.

Live Music

Will you incorporate dancing as part of the evening’s offerings, or will you want light, background music that won’t disturb the guests while they are talking, mingling, or eating dinner? The purpose of the live music will determine what type of band that you will need to hire to accomplish your goal. If you are interested in having guests up, out of their seats dancing, a top 40 band is a better choice than a jazz ensemble, or even a DJ. The typical person is interested in a live band to perform either during dinner and then a dancing portion after dinner, or just dinner, or just dancing. Three hours is just about the right length of time for live music at your event. A three hour event will typically allow for one hour of dinner music, and then two hours of dance-able music after dinner, or three full hours of dancing depending on the guests. Most bands will play pre-recorded music during dinner if the client wants to have the band spend their time during the higher-energy dance portion of the night instead of while guests are eating, but it’s a preference that you will need to determine. A DJ, since he/she usually come’s solo, will likely give you more time, and be less expensive than any live music option. If you only budget $1,000 for live music, it is FAR better to book a great DJ than a cheap band. You should budget at least $3,000 for live music, or more. The ideal live music budget for a stellar band is going to be between $6,000 – $12,000 (which would include all the sound and lighting equipment). If you are hiring a band from out of town, $20,000 – $25,000 is a more in-line budget for a really superior, high-quality 7-8 piece band.

Live Stage Show

If you are interested in transforming the night into something that guests will remember, consider having a live act perform while guests are eating their dinner, or after dinner service has concluded. A solo act such as a comedy magician, comedy juggler, hypnotist, comedian, mentalist, or similar usually will need to command the audience’s attention and would require that dinner service concludes prior to the start of the performance. This is very typical. For a larger stage show, it’s less important to conclude dinner prior to the performance, but is usually appreciated as the entertainment would like the audience’s full attention to make for the best performance. If you are hiring a solo act, 45-minutes is just about the right amount time where guests have felt as though the performance was long enough to enjoy, but short enough to leave them wanting more. If you go to an hour, or more, in many instances, the audience will likely get tired of watching and it will feel as though it was less successful than originally hoped. Even a larger stage performance shouldn’t extend past about 90 minutes, even if you’ve hired a $50,000 illusionist. You need to leave the guests wanting more, that is the recipe for a spectacular event. A cover band is usually not a good idea for a stage performance if you plan to have the guests sit and watch, however, if you hire a tribute band (such as a Beatles tribute band) for instance, and they change costumes, and have fun banter in between songs, that is something that you could sit down and watch and feel overly satisfied at the end of the performance.

Food

Food is a very important aspect that will require a large financial commitment in order to achieve a satisfactory result for the guests. You could likely budget 25-40% of your total event budget just in food if you are having your event at a modest venue (modest in terms of cost to rent for the evening). You should note that there are many guests these days that will likely have an allergy, or a food preference, that eliminates some menu items. Be sure that when you’re choosing your menu items (as most events that have more than 20 guests you will need to select only just a few menu items for the chef) that you include vegetarian, gluten-free, and vegan options as this trend has been increasing in popularity today. Food is usually served after guests have arrived and have had the chance to either mingle briefly or have had a chance for a cocktail hour before taking their seats. You should expect the dinner service to take approximately 30-45 minutes for a small group (approximately 20-40 people), and extend in the upwards of 60-90 minutes for groups that are larger in size (approximately 150-300 guests, or more). As the event grows in size, more staff will be hired to cook, to serve, and to bus tables, so the dinner likely won’t continue to extend more than about 60-90 minutes, but this is a good estimate if you’re trying to plan every minute of the event to get the most out of it.

Transportation

Will your event be local, or out of town? Make sure that the venue has adequate parking available for the guests, otherwise things may get started a little later than you anticipate. If guests have to pay to park, or have trouble finding where to park, it could be a frustrating experience for those in attendance. Be conscious of the venue’s location within proximity to the average employee or guest that will be attending the event. Scheduling the venue too far from people’s homes will likely result in a lower turnout with a less-than-desirable outcome. If you are having your event outside of town, perhaps renting buses to transport individuals from their locality to the venue is a better choice. Have the guests meet up at a centralized location, within a close proximity to where they live (even better is to meet right at the work location), then have the buses in the parking lot waiting to take the guests to the event venue. Be sure to let guests know that the event starts 30 minutes early, to be sure that some guests won’t arrive late and be left behind!

This corporate event reference is meant to spark ideas within the creative mind of the event planner. Using the information found here should prove useful for first time event planners or event coordinators, or even for someone who has been planning events for years. If you get the creative juices flowing there is no end to the amount of excitement that you will instill in the guests at your events, and no telling how far your career will take you!