As a former event and wedding planner, I can tell you that a paper invitation, an impersonalized email blast and one placement is not going to cut it for your next company event.
Sure, your event may not be quite as special as your wedding day, but there is no better feeling of working hard to plan an event and seeing it go off without a hitch.
How do you get there? How do you make it special, unique and generate excitement?
Here are 11 easy steps you can take for your next company event that I have found helpful when planning weddings:
1. Establish a budget with your company or client. This is important so you stay on track, whether you’re dealing with a $500 budget or a $500,000 budget. Keep in mind that nonprofit organizations get a reduced rate at most venues.
2. Figure out your vision, similar to the importance of choosing your wedding theme and colors. Your theme should be apparent from start to finish. Are you serving hamburgers and hot dogs in a backyard under a tent or butler passed mini crème brûlée cups in a grand ballroom? This is a good time to determine goals and objectives with your team or client.
3. Talk to your co-workers and friends about your event and make sure your ideas are not too “out there” and your goals are attainable. What makes this event important? Why should people want to attend? A wedding is about celebrating a relationship. What relationships can you celebrate with your company?
4. Choose a location that people wouldn’t think of on their own. No one wants to go to a banquet hall with no windows, or the same place everyone hosts their events. You can be cost-efficient by finding a venue that lets you bring in your own caterer.
5. Make sure the venue is available, set a date and map out a timeline. Don’t ever set a date first. Most brides get upset because their favorite venue isn’t available on the date they want. Same goes for company execs. This is a good time to look at calendars and make sure there are no important community or sporting events that will interfere. Also, make sure the key players for the event have nothing booked. Key players may include keynote speakers, honorary guests and charity partners. Sometimes events are last minute. A solid timeline is crucial to planning a successful event.
6. Use reliable vendors who you can trust. Talk to other professionals and find out who they recommend and why, and look for reputable online reviews. You wouldn’t choose a first-time baker to make your wedding cake or a florist you’ve never heard of to design your centerpieces. Do your research!
7. Think of everything that could go wrong, and come up with a risk management plan that includes a troubleshooting strategy and/or a plan B. You prep for your drunken uncle at the wedding by letting the bartenders know to serve him fake drinks, and you need to plan for similar instances at your event. Common problems may include unwelcomed guests, bad weather, drunken guests, allergic reactions, etc. The more you plan for, the less surprises you have to deal with.
8. Figure out your bridal party, aka volunteers. Who are you going to be able to count on the day of the event? Who will be in charge of event PR and handling media? Who will be the go-to person if anything goes wrong?
9. Follow-up with your vendors. People make mistakes, and you don’t want your specialty linens or your desserts showing up to the wrong place on the wrong event date.
10. Pay attention to details and put personal touches on things to make people remember your event. Personalize the invite, have hot-air balloons rides and live flamingos! If you have the budget, the opportunities are endless.
11. Build excitement and hype. Engage in social media and blogger relations, if it makes sense. Even weddings have micro-sites for this purpose. Some brides promote custom hashtags to follow the conversation and to post photos. Send a gift package to important guests and media that include fun clues to your event.
This is a lot of information and it’s still not everything that goes into planning a big event! But, it’s enough to point you in the right direction. Luckily, for those of us in the PR industry, event planning often comes naturally. PR professional qualities are also helpful when wedding planning!
How have you made your company events memorable?