A step-by-step guide to planning a corporate event.
Organising corporate events can seem overwhelming. Even for small events. Between checking venue availability and getting quotes from suppliers the process seems endless.
However, to make your life easy, we’ve broken down the entire process into simple steps:
- Establish the scope of your event
- Determine your budget
- Decide on the date
- Search for a venue
- Get a quote for the catering
- Contact the remaining suppliers
- Finalise the budget
- Place your bookings
- Plan how you’re going to engage your audience
- Create a Schedule
- Start marketing your event
Let’s dive in.
1. Establish the scope of your event
Make it crystal clear why you’re planning a corporate event and for whom. Every decision you take later on will relate to this.
What’s the event type?
There are many different types of corporate events. For example seminars, trade shows, incentive events, Christmas parties… the list goes on and on. We’ve dedicated an entire article to cover the most common types of corporate events.
If you aren’t sure what type of event you’re planning, check out the list and then come back for the next planning steps.
What’s the objective of the event?
Every event has an objective. It can be very tangible, for example, sales or intangible, for example sustaining your company culture.
Take the time to clarify what you want to gain from hosting an event. Every decision after that should be in line with this objective.
Also, don’t try to shoehorn too many objectives into a single event. For example, generating new leads and recruiting require separate events. It’s more expensive, but cutting corners won’t get you anywhere.
Pro-tip: When setting goals, it’s recommended to use the SMART framework (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound). If you aren’t familiar with this framework, check out this article by HubSpot.
What is the size of the event?
What you consider a big or a small event is very subjective to the size of your company and your industry. However, as a rule of thumb:
- Less and 100 people is considered a mini-event. For example internal seminars, company milestones and more.
- 100 to 250 people is considered a medium-sized event. For example family open days, Christmas parties and more.
- 1000 people is considered a medium-size event. For example conferences, office launch and more.
- Large events are anything past 1000 people. For example wedding tradeshows, industry summits and more.
As a rule of thumb, bigger events are usually for-profit events (i.e hosting the event will generate money) while the smaller ones have other objectives.
2. Determine your budget
Once you’ve established the scope of the event, you’ll want to determine your budget. At this stage you don’t need exact figures, just estimates.
Keep in mind that planning a corporate event is expensive. Don’t be surprised if your figures seem outlandish!
Estimate how much the event will cost?
This step isn’t essential but it’s nice to have an estimate of what overall cost is likely to be.
There are a few ways you can achieve this. For example, if you’ve hosted similar events in the past, you can base your estimate off of your previous budget.
However, if there is no easy way for you to get an estimate, skip this step. You’re going to need to reach out to all the suppliers anyway.
What is your company’s budget?
Decide internally what you’re willing to spend for the event.
Your available budget will have the single biggest impact on your event. Again, at this stage, you don’t need a to-the-penny amount just an estimate of what your budget is.
Compare your estimate with what your company is willing to spend. If it matches great, otherwise try to see if you can plan a cheaper event. There is no point planning your dream event, only to be told you don’t have the budget for it.
3. Decide on the date
The easiest is just to choose a single date that works for you and work from there.
However, if you want a bit more flexibility, select a couple of tentative dates for your event. Two or three is fine. Narrow down your choice of the date after you’ve contacted the venues & the catering (see next steps).
If you want to host an event during a “busy period” (for example near Christmas) start planning as soon as possible. Availability fills up fast.
Also, don’t assume Saturdays are necessarily the best. The ideal day of the week will vary depending on your event and your audience.
4. Search for a venue
Find two or three different venues, at different prices points that could host your event. For each venue get the following information:
When it comes to booking a venue the catchphrase “location, location, location” has never been truer. You need to find a location that is easily accessible for your guests.
Depending on the event, you might need to organise transportation to and from the event. This mostly applies when your guests all arrive from a single location, such as a hotel or the airport, or if you’re organising a high-end event.
Otherwise, if your guests aren’t arriving from a single area, check to make sure the venue is generally easy to get to (and get home from).
Is the venue the right size for your event? Don’t book a space that’s too big, or the room will look empty. Conversely, don’t book a room that’s too small or your guests will be cramped together.
This information is most often online but you can also ask when you reach out.
Facilities & Layout
Ask what facilities you get when booking the venue? Is there somewhere for your guests to hang their coats? Is the venue wheelchair accessible? What spaces can you use apart from the “main” room you’re booking (for example outside)?
Make sure you list everything they offer with the rental. Otherwise, you won’t be comparing apples to apples.
Again, check what equipment the venue can supply you with. For example speakers, screens, a microphone, a stage, a speaker podium and so on.
Do they have everything you need or will you need to hire a supplier for the missing pieces?
You’ll want to check whether or not they are available on any of your selected dates. Otherwise, repeat this step and reach out to other venues.
5. Get a quote for the catering
Food and drinks are a key aspect of any event. Even if there is none. It’s still a decision you need to take.
There is no right or wrong answer. It depends on the type of event you want to host.
What food are you planning on including?
What you include, depends entirely on the type of event you’re hosting and the duration. Do you want to provide your guests with a full meal? Just some finger food?
It’s also possible that the venue has its own bar/restaurant. In which case, depending on the type of event you’re hosting, you can send your guests there instead of planning food.
If food isn’t appropriate for your type of event, it’s common to just provide your guests with tea, coffee and water.
What drinks are you planning on including?
If serving alcohol suits your event, it’s customary to give a few free drinks to guests. There are a few common ways to approach this:
- Welcome drink: Give everyone a free drink as they arrive at the event. If you’re on a budget, this is usually the cheapest option.
- Drink Vouchers: This is the simplest and most common approach. Simply give 3 or 4 drink vouchers to every guest as they arrive. They can order what they want by exchanging each voucher for a drink.
- Open Bar: With open bars, your guests get to order for free. It’s a luxury as it can get expensive fast! Generally, you’ll want to agree ahead of time with the venue how much money you want to spend. After that, the bartenders will revert to a cash bar.
Who is providing the service?
Many venues provide onsite catering, in which case you can ask for a quote when searching for the room. If they don’t you’ll need to find a third party supplier who is available that day.
Pro-tip: Ask the venue who they recommend/usually work with. Working with caterers who know the venue is always easier.
If you’re planning on serving alcohol, make sure they have a licence. If the venue regularly hosts events they most likely will but it’s worth checking.
6. Contact the remaining suppliers
At this point, you’ve found the venue and caterer but you’re not done yet. You’re still going to need other suppliers. Exactly what you need depends on your type of event. Below we’ve listed the most common.
Reach out and ask if they’re available. If they are, ask for them to keep a tentative slot open for you. This is something most suppliers will be happy to do.
Is someone going to be giving an important talk?
When it comes to speakers, you’ll need to get a quote & availability from them directly. Most often their website is the best place to start. They will also likely have a list of (common) requirements. Such as a screen, microphone & a projector…
Who is in charge of taking the pictures?
Depending on the event you’re hosting, pictures are more or less of a priority. However, it would be a shame to good through the whole planning effort and not have at least one decent picture.
If you’re based in Ireland, you can hire photographers on the PartyWizz website. We operate with 100% price transparency which makes getting quotes a lot easier.
Entertaining your guests at your event is key. If you’re looking for some ideas, we’ve dedicated an entire article on the topic. For example, are you going to have a photo booth? Do you need a DJ to play some music?
If you’re based in Ireland, and you’re interested in booking some entertainment, check out the PartyWizz website. We only work with the best entertainers in each category.
7. Finalise the budget
Now that you’ve contacted all the suppliers, you’ll want to add up all the prices to get a total cost. At this point, you should be close to your final figure.
Some of the suppliers might be estimates, in which case you’ll only get the exact figures after the event. If that’s your situation, try to have some “buffer” with the budget; it will keep things smooth.
Can you afford the current quote?
If the price of the event matches the budget you set initially, then you’re all set. Otherwise, you’re going to need to find cheaper alternatives or do without certain services.
Can you generate income from your event?
If you need extra budget, or if you’re trying to make a profit from your event, look for companies who would be willing to give you some cash in exchange for some awareness.
For corporate events, the two most common options are sponsors and exhibitors.
Is there anywhere you can save money?
Apart from looking for cheaper alternatives, is there anywhere you can save money?
For example, do you have any partners who would be willing to give cheaper rates? If you regularly work with a venue, they might be inclined to give you a discount.
This is only relevant for some companies, but if it applies to you, don’t miss the opportunity.
8. Place your bookings
As soon as your budget is approved, and you’re happy with your suppliers, place your bookings. If you don’t you might lose your slot.
When it comes to corporate events, there is no such thing as booking things too early.
Make the payments
When it comes to making the payment, suppliers & venues work differently. Some might ask for payment upfront while others will ask for a deposit.
For example, at PartyWizz, we operate with a standard 15% deposit. The rest of the payment is due after the event.
Get a contract
It sounds boring, but don’t skip this step!
Make sure you get a signed contract or agreement with every supplier. These should cover what you’re paying for, what your receiving, the payment terms as well as what happens if something goes wrong.
9. Plan how you’re going to engage your audience
At the very first step, you established why you’re hosting this event. To achieve this, you’re most likely going to need to engage with your chosen audience. Now is the time to decide how this is going to be done.
What content do you want to deliver to your audience?
If it’s an internal event to celebrate a milestone, it might just be a few speeches from the senior management. On the other hand, if you’re objective is to generate leads, maybe you’ll want to set up different pods for your sales team to give mini-pitches.
The content and how it’s delivered will depend entirely on the type of event you’re hosting.
How are you going to brand the event? How are you going to brand the venue? What is your key message?
To maximise your return on investment, you should take some time to carefully consider the role your brand is going to play during the event.
Note: If you don’t already have branded items, you’ll need to add them to your budget. As these can be re-used over time, it’s always a good investment.
10. Create a Schedule
At this point, you should already have a fairly clear idea of what your event will be like.
However, don’t leave anything up for chance. Make sure you have a point-by-point break down of the event.
It’s better to be over-prepared and bend the timing slightly on the day than be underprepared and miss out on some activities or speeches.
11. Start marketing your event
You can’t host a successful event without actively promoting it. Even an internal event.
Promote your event
How to market an event is outside the scope of this article. However, if you want your event to be successful, promotion is key. You can find some nice ideas in this article by orbit media.
Send out your invitations
Alternatively, if you want to go the extra mile, you can send out physical invitations.
It’s an extra cost and effort but it makes the event extra special. There are a lot of online and offline printshops you can use for this.
That’s a wrap
We hope you’ve found these steps for planning a corporate event useful. If you’ve enjoyed this content, why not stay in touch?
At PartyWizz, we favour content quality over quantity. So rest assured, we won’t flood your inbox!