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Corporate Event Planning 101: Part I

We know not everyone is a party planner. That’s why we put this guide together to help you plan your next corporate event.

Goal of the Event

Keep in mind what the goal of your event is.  Is it …

  • To motivate and inspire your team?
  • To reward them?
  • To boost morale?
  • To make an announcement?
  • To thank your customers or employees?
  • To launch a product?

No matter what your objective, everything you do for the event, from the collateral and the giveaways to the food and décor, will convey the message. A surprise hot dog-and-hamburger barbecue or a fajita buffet during the work day might be a great way to boost morale or show appreciation. However, this sends a completely different message if it is the fare provided to your team or best customers for having reached a phenomenal goal. When creating an event, focus on and follow through with the feeling that you want your guests to experience during the event and they will take it away with them.

Know Your Budget

The top executives may be visualizing surf and turf but they’ve given you a budget for hot dogs. Need help? First, clarify what needs to be included within the budget. Is the presented budget just for the food and beverages or is it to include rentals, flowers, entertainment, and transportation? Sometimes, the budget is not as bad as it seems and other times a reality check is in order. In such cases, it often helps to break the budget down by working backwards.

Start with the venue cost and transportation to the venue (if you are handling), followed by equipment needed at the venue (Does the venue include tables and chairs or do you have to bring them in?). Is entertainment a must? Will you need china and linen? Flowers for the tables? Now, what’s ultimately left for food, beverage, labor, service charge and sales tax? Sometimes, this can be a negative figure because the executives were not aware of other necessities that have a way of adding up.

Don’t be afraid to share your budget with your caterer. A professional caterer can more easily make suggestions on menu, service style, and cost cutting alternatives when you are both on the same page.

Even though you’re working within a budget, don’t be afraid to express your “wildest dreams” to your caterer. It’s often those ideas that become the springboard for creative brainstorming that helps your caterer make your event memorable.

Demographics of Party

Who will be at your event? While there will always be exceptions to any generalization, the reality is that different groups have different tastes and it is important to be cognizant of those when planning your event. For example, an event that includes families must incorporate menu items for the children (they most likely will not reach for the Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto or the Crostini with Sonoma Goat Cheese). On an event where a significant number of guests share the same culture, it could be important to incorporate a few appropriate flavors or dishes. Likewise, if a large number of guests are of a religious background that does not allow certain menu items, it’s best to leave those out. Do you have a larger than average number of vegetarian and/or vegan guests?

Like it or not, there will always be “meat and potatoes” guests vs. “sushi and chi-chi” guests. You can never please everyone with every item but it does help to have a feel for who will be attending.

Location, Location

Without a doubt, employees love to get away from the work environment and appreciate the opportunity to do so. Luckily, there are many unique venues in the Bay Area as well as those that lend themselves to other activities during the evening such as the Lawrence Hall of Science and the USS Hornet Museum.

However, the best location (in terms of budget and goal) might be your own facility. If it is a customer event, it can be the perfect vehicle for showing off your facility. And for an employee appreciation event during the work day, doing it on site can boost morale without taking too much out of the day’s production.

If budget and time allows, it is also possible to create “another world” at the corporate facility by erecting a tent or transforming a warehouse and bringing in props, décor, and festive lighting. These possibilities are endless and we are happy to help!