An event to remember

Corporate events range from afternoon
parties to daylong meetings to three-day conferences. Ideally, employees or clients look forward to the event, participate in interesting activities, eat great food,
get to network, learn something new and, in
the end, walk away with a positive impression about the company.

But, unfortunately, not all events turn out
that way, according to Michele Clark, an
event-planning expert and the program
manager for training and development at
Corporate College. A poorly planned event
can be a public relations disaster, she says,
resulting in a long, drawn-out day — or
days — that attendees find disappointing,
boring or awkward.

“A successful corporate event has three
important elements: diligent planning, consideration for guests and, most importantly, a commitment to fun,” says Clark.

Smart Business spoke with Clark for tips
on how to make your next corporate event
a successful one.

What are the biggest mistakes businesses
make when planning a corporate event?

The biggest problem is when a business
owner or CEO hands off the event-planning opportunity to an administrative professional thinking that he or she can handle
it in his or her ‘spare time.’ Often, administrative professionals are thrown in without
any training, have to shoot from the hip
and hope all turns out well. Business owners tend to think that event planning is like
planning a party, but, in fact, it is a full-time
job that requires great attention to detail
and time-consuming organization. It is a lot
to ask of someone.

Another major mistake is not allowing
enough time to plan. Many CEOs don’t
have a concept of what it takes to plan an
event — even a company holiday party or
picnic. Not having enough time to prepare
could result in lack of attendance, absence
of key VIPs, and places or entertainment
that are already booked.

A third mistake is when the event planner
does not do enough research when booking an event or consider the target audience that will be attending the event. For
example, don’t host an event for your ‘green’ company at a hotel where a nuclear
conference is going on at the same time;
and make sure that you check for food
allergies and offer alternative meals so that
you don’t contribute to an allergic reaction.
Without research and attention to detail,
your event could be a PR disaster.

How can a business avoid these mistakes?

Hire an event planner or train someone in
your company to do the job, such as your
administrative assistant. Make sure the
event planner has the resources and enough
input from you and other employees to do
the job right. Make sure there is no conflict
of interest in the chosen venue. Have all
printed materials on a disk. If for some reason your materials don’t arrive on the event
day, you can take them to get printed.
Finally, have a plan B in case a key speaker
cancels or other unforeseen events happen.

What are the elements that make a memorable, successful company event?


  • Emotional involvement. The audience
    needs to be invested in and committed to the event. You want them to feel excited
    about going, wonderful when they are
    there and happy when they leave. Provide
    incentives for employees to attend, for
    example, give away an iPod to the first 10
    attendees or tickets to a show. Just
    because it’s a company event doesn’t mean
    you can’t use your marketing know-how to
    get people to attend.


    However, remember your event is not just
    a big party — get your attendees involved in
    the learning process in creative ways,
    rather than just have them sit through a
    three-hour PowerPoint presentation.


  • Consistent message. Know the purpose for the event and articulate that purpose in your invitations and marketing
    materials. Without a purpose and a consistent message, the event will feel directionless and will flop.



  • Time used wisely. Have an agenda and
    stick with it. Don’t allow long, drawn-out
    speeches. Make sure you have a facilitator
    to move things along and not let anyone —
    even a VIP — dominate the conversation.



  • Movement. If it is a long conference,
    make sure that you schedule some physical activity, even something as simple as
    touring the facility. Movement reduces tension and makes people more alert.



  • Attention to detail. If the person planning the event is organized, you will have a
    better company event. Little details go a
    long way in keeping attendees happy.


What can a company gain (or lose) from
company events?

A good event creates loyalty, provides
education and develops a team-building
environment for employees and/or clients.
However, a poorly executed event can do a
lot of damage. You can lose credibility with
employees and clients. You can lose time
and money. It takes effort — and a well-trained person — to pull off a successful
event. But once you host a successful
party, meeting or conference, people will
talk positively about it and will be eager to
attend your next one.

MICHELE CLARK runs The Shlensky Institute for Event and Meeting Planning and is the program manager for training and development for Corporate College, which offers employers custom-designed training programs to enhance future work force development, job
growth and job retention in Northeast Ohio. Reach her at (216) 987-2909 or [email protected].