Event planning can be a complicated process. You have to coordinate food, accommodations, and decor, get all of your speakers, vendors, and entertainment lined up, and take care of about a million other things on your event-planning checklist. But when it comes to planning a standout corporate event, there are a few questions every event planner should ask before they get too far into the process.
1. Are you aligned with your stakeholders on the goal of your corporate event?
This is probably the most important question you can ask yourself because your stakeholders’ goals are the foundation for the entire event plan.The coolest venue, hottest entertainment, most interesting food, and most clever theme may make for an amazing-sounding event, but if it doesn’t meet the stakeholder goals, it’s not likely to make it past the pitch. Alignment on stakeholder goals is also important to the attendee experience, because if there doesn’t seem to be any relationship between the event and the things that matter the most to attendees, like the challenges facing their teams and the organization as a whole, attendees may be left wondering about the point of the event.
To avoid this pitfall, it is critical that you sit down with your stakeholders at the beginning of the event planning process and hash out their goals for the corporate event. Then, it’s a good idea to send an email that lays out those goals as you understand them, and ask them to confirm. This ensures absolute clarity and something to reference in the future.
2. Have you sought out all possible options for the agenda to achieve that goal?
Once you know what you need to achieve with your corporate event, you need to figure out the best way to get there. It can be tempting to fall into a pattern of using tried-and-true options like keynote speakers and PowerPoint presentations — after all, they’ve worked in the past. But with many interesting options to consider you’ll be doing yourself — as well as your stakeholders and attendees — a disservice if you don’t explore all of the possibilities.
3. Are you doing everything possible to wow your stakeholders and attendees?
It doesn’t take a crazy stunt or a dinner cruise to wow your stakeholders and attendees — it just takes some attention to detail. For example:
- Choose an event theme that is uniquely suited to the event objectives to tie everything together into one tidy, memorable package — use the theme to incorporate elements that are clever and unexpected
- Provide extra touches like doodle pages, fidget toys, and candies on the tables in your breakout sessions
- Look at the event space and incorporate social areas and quieter areas; use a variety of seating types
- Make sure everyone is well fed by providing snacks and coffee
- Personalize wherever possible; for example, use an email program to address event communication to attendees by name, ask for dietary restrictions in advance, provide personalized agendas, and so on
- Have backup plans in place to avoid disasters — this way if something does go wrong, ideally your attendees won’t even know
- Choose agenda items that maximize value and impact for both attendees and stakeholders (more on this below)
These types of details are fairly simple, but when you bring them all together, it creates a welcoming and engaging experience where everyone feels taken care of.
4. Have you planned an agenda that will appeal to your event’s specific audience?
As the event planner, you have a lot of power to choose content and other elements that are tailored to your specific audience — and what a cool opportunity to really wow them! Incorporating a variety of activities is always a good bet because you appeal to the greatest number of attendees if you shake it up. Think plenary sessions, breakouts, networking breaks, and panels, for example.
For your main event, it is tempting to try and find the most popular keynote speaker of the moment, but the downside of keynotes is that they have a particular set of stories and insights, and therefore offer very little opportunity to customize the message. If you want to accomplish your stakeholders’ objectives in the most effective way possible, incorporate experiential activities. They are fun and engaging, and make any event message highly impactful. Unlike keynotes, they can be tailored not only to the event goals, but also to your specific audience and their needs. By addressing the unique circumstances and challenges your attendees experience, and providing them with plenty of “ah-ha! moments” and practical, valuable takeaways, these activities are sure to be a hit with your stakeholders and attendees alike.
While event planning may be a complicated job, you can choose some unique options to achieve your stakeholders’ goals, wow your attendees, and tailor it to your specific audience if you start by answering these four questions. Happy planning!