By Angela Petteys

It’s easy for business owners to overlook the value of hosting events. Whether you’re looking to improve brand awareness or build company culture, there are faster and easier options people tend to gravitate toward first. After all, why go through the effort of planning an elaborate employee appreciation event when you can just have some pizza delivered for lunch one day? But sometimes, going the extra mile with an event can be very beneficial for a company.

For companies looking to raise brand awareness, hosting an event is a great way to build a stronger relationship with your existing customer base, reach new customers, and get people talking about your company. If building company culture is a bigger priority, organizing events for employees helps set the tone for the kind of culture you want to have, strengthens relationships between employees, and inspires people to be more engaged at work. 

Successful corporate events take a lot of careful planning and if you’ve never organized one before, it can be hard to know where to begin. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by it all, here are a few tips to help you stay on top of things. 

1. Purpose

Before you get carried away with thinking about things like venues and vendors, it’s important to make sure you’ve determined the exact purpose of the event. This might seem like an obvious point to make, but it’s something that will guide all of your planning going forward.

Are you trying to trying to raise money for an organization, improve your brand awareness, or just to do something fun for your employees? All of these goals are going to have different event-planning needs, so keeping your main intent in mind is an excellent way to help you stay on track. 

2. Budget

Like so many other things in life, planning an event largely revolves around your available budget. Once you know how much money you have to work with, create a simple spreadsheet to help with planning. Add columns to your spreadsheet where you can list each item needed (location rental, catering services, marketing, furniture rental, etc.), a description for each item, the amount needed of each item, the estimated cost for each item, and the actual cost for each item. 

It’s very easy for costs to fluctuate, so don’t forget to leave some extra room in your budget to work with. Event planners typically recommend keeping 10-20% of your budget free to deal with unexpected expenses that might come up along the way. Speaking of unexpected costs, don’t forget to account for things like gratuities, taxes, and any other fees that may be included with a service. Those can add up quickly and many people forget to plan ahead for them. 

Once the event is over, be sure to keep your budget spreadsheet on file for future reference. If you decide to have a similar event again in the future, being able to look back at your past budget will make planning easier. 

3. Timing

Before you officially set a date for your event, make sure you’ll have enough time to get everything in order. If you have your heart set on having your event at an extremely popular venue, you may need to make a reservation months in advance. In the case of events that are by invitation only, it’s best to send out invitations at least four weeks in advance and save-the-date notices six weeks in advance. For marketing-focused events that are open to the public, start getting your promotional materials and strategy ready 6-8 weeks before the event. 

Once you have a date for your event in mind, another important thing to do is check to make sure there aren’t any major events that might make it difficult for people to attend your event. Things like holidays and school breaks can mean that people will be out of town or already have plans on the day of your event. Or if there’s a major event happening nearby on the same day, people might prefer to stay home and avoid the traffic. 

4. Venue

We’ve all heard the old adage that location is everything and it’s one that definitely applies when you’re planning an event. Not only do you need to find a venue that fits within your budget, you also need to find one that will be convenient for your guests, can comfortably accommodate the amount of attendees, and is appropriate for the general tone of your event.

For example, if you’re planning a formal, black tie event, you’ll want a venue that offers an upscale setting. Or if you want your event to have an intimate, personal vibe, you don’t want to choose a space that’s too large for the number of guests being invited. 

As you research locations for your event, don’t forget to consider the various services offered by each venue. Do they have chairs and tables you can use? Does the venue have staff who can handle setup and cleanup? Do they provide catering services? Not all venues provide these sorts of services, but if they do, it can help make planning your event easier. 

5. Menu

Food and drinks can make or break an experience for event attendees, but figuring out how much food to order takes some careful planning. You definitely don’t want to order too little food, but ordering too much would be an added expense. When ordering appetizers, here are some good guidelines to follow: 

  • 10-15 pieces per person if dinner isn’t being served, but round those numbers up a little bit if appetizers are being served at a buffet instead of on hand-served trays.
  • 3-5 pieces per guest if appetizers are being served before a meal
  • 1-3 pieces per guest if appetizers are being served as a midday snack

If you’ll be serving a sit down meal, a good guideline is 5-7 ounces for the main entree with two or three sides to go with it. 

Planning a corporate event takes time and energy, but the benefits they can bring to a company make them an option well worth considering. By keeping these tips in mind, your event will be on the right track to being a great success.