Corporate event management is about making the most of every event by bringing people together in memorable ways on behalf of a corporation. Corporate event planners take care of every little (and big!) detail from start to finish, to ensure the event delivers the best return on investment for their company.
As a result, a career in corporate event management demands that planners be skilled at developing relationships, conducting venue research, negotiating contracts, managing a budget, and event marketing, and typically pays $63,108 per year.
Today, we’ll explore how the best corporate planners bring their events to life, revealing some of the best corporate event management tips for successful events.
Explore the best corporate event management tips
Corporate event management can challenge the best of us, even on good days, because of the many stakeholders, the constant changes, and all the variables – from catering to event sponsorship. Here are a few tips the best corporate planners use to make every event a triumph that delivers ROI.
1. Reserve the venue for multiple years.
Try to lock in your venue early, and book a multi-year contract. Not only can it help make some of your theme decisions easy, and make it simple to bring back vendors that work out week, but it could also save you some money by guaranteeing the venue so much business up-front.
2. Keep your digital rolodex full by connecting on LinkedIn.
When you find great vendors, you can put together a group playbook that you can execute together on time and again. Try to make connections with folks who work in venues, create event swag, manager catering, help with AV, know great music artists, have exceptional event furniture, and so on. The best way to meet these people is through recommendations from your existing network. Check out people who have in connections in common with on LinkedIn, and if you need to, ask your original connection whether they’d advise working with the new person.
3. Send event invites at least three weeks before your event for small events. For big events, especially B2B events, notify attendees about the date a year in advance.
When you give people three weeks notice it’s enough so that they might not be booked yet, and still close enough that they won’t totally forget about your event. The exception is if it’s a holiday or you know there is a high demand for your chosen date, send your event invitation a few months before.
When it comes to larger B2B events it’s important to identify your date even earlier, such as year in advance. This is because companies typically have long buying cycles, and it can take a few months for employees to get their travel and education budgets approved.
4. Include seamless RSVP.
People are busier than ever these days, so making it easy to RSVP is critical. Especially because you need an accurate guest count to inform your spending decisions. Include one-click button calls-to-action in your emails, and if you’ve mailed invites include a pre-addressed and stamped envelope. You could also consider letting people text you a YES or NO response, as mobile phone usage continues to increase.
5. Make impact analysis part of your sponsorship packages.
Treat your sponsors like the gold they are! In addition to getting their feedback after the show, proactively provide your sponsors a report with the impact they had at your show. Help them track and capture leads at the show, show their brand awareness growth by reporting any social media coverage they got, interview some show participants to get quotes about the sponsors and include those, and share post-event survey answers that are relevant to your sponsors in the analysis report you send to them.
6. Take a negotiation class.
In corporate event management there are many things you need to negotiate, from food and beverage to audio-visual services. Taking a class can equip you to know what to give and when to pull. Waiting a few days, committing more business at a lower rate, and securing quotes from competitors are just a few tactics you can use.
7. Have a back up plan for your “must-haves”.
More often than not you’re going to find yourself tapping into Plan B. Make a list of the five most critical features of your event. Then, develop a back up plan ahead of time for how you might adapt on the spot, should something go wrong concerning one of those variables. While the exact situation might not arise, it should ease your stress, and can help you practice problem solving quickly.
How to become the best corporate event planner
Corporate event planning is one of the most lucrative areas of event planning. So where do you start and what is it that will help you become successful? Here are five tips for beginning your corporate event management career.
1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree.
While having a degree isn’t required, it’s strongly preferred and can make your application stand out. A Bachelor’s Degree in hospitality, public relations or business will give you additional context about the corporation you work for.
2. Get corporate event management experience.
One of the best ways to gain professional experience is through an internship or by volunteering for events. Start by shadowing event management professionals as they coordinate meetings and forums. You can offer to be a guest relations coordinator, or an administrative assistant – anything that gets you exposure to the day-to-day decisions and fire drills. This type of hands-on experience is the only way to develop the skills to spot problem clients or vendors from the start, and learn how to create backup plans that can help you pivot as needed.
3. Go to events!
Attend conferences and trade shows, and ask fellow attendees what they like and dislike. There’s nothing like experiencing an event to develop an understanding of what works well and what doesn’t. Also, these are great ways to network. By forcing yourself to try to build relationships at events you’ll develop the communication skills and interpersonal relationships you’ll need to succeed in corporate event management. And, at the same time you’ll develop your network of suppliers and vendors “ for example caterers, photographers, florists, and entertainers, all of whom you can work with later.
4. Earn an event management certification.
Professional events certification can take your expertise to the new level. While certification is not necessary, earning advanced credentials can help you stand out and ensure you’re up to date on the latest industry best practices. There are a number of certifications you can earn depending on your career on your career goals. Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), Certified Professional in Catering and Events (CPCE), Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP), Digital Event Strategist (DES) and Certified Trade Show Marketer (CTSM) are some of the most popular event planning credentials that you can obtain.
5. Practice with your own event.
Host your own event. Whether it’s a race for charity or a friend’s birthday party, plan an event from start to finish. This will help you build your skills and processes. You’ll develop a keen eye for detail, and a system to manage those ever-changing details. You’ll build your communication skills, as you work to constantly communicate effectively with customers, vendors, and participants. Plus, you’ll learn how to negotiate, as you will be dealing with vendors, as well as the vendors’ budgets and your own. And you’ll pick up new ways to address problems as they come up.
Discover the different types of corporate events
A corporate event is any occasion created by a company that brings people together on behalf of a business goal. As a result, corporate events can involve a business’ employees, board members, partners, customers, or leads. Here are a few of the most common types of corporate events an event marketing manager is responsible for helping to plan.
1. Seminars and conferences
Conferences and seminars are used as a way to bring together people with a specific passion, to connect, learn, and inspire one another. Seminars are usually one day or shorter events, with a cast of expert speakers that share their information and insights. For example, a Jane Goodall lecture. By and large seminars keep all members together in a similar space. And conferences are basically multiple seminars, meaning they have various sessions and tend to span multiple days. They generally kick off with a keynote speaker and then split up into topical breakout sessions or panel discussions about niche topics. Cvent CONNECT is a great example of a conference.
2. Trade shows and expos
Trade shows and expos are huge events that bring together an audience around a certain interest as well as different vendors and exhibitors for a multi-day event. Exchange shows are a great way to companies to position themselves as an industry thought-leader and pioneer. Even if you don’t host the show, there’s an opportunity for your company to attend an expo as an exhibitor to attract new clients. Event management for a trade show involves arranging sponsorship rates for the stall space, sorting out VIPs and keynote speakers, publicizing the event, and ensuring setup and execution runs smoothly. SWSX is an example of a trade show.
3. Team building events
Team building events are a great way to engage and motivate employees. They’re typically challenges that ensure groups cooperate to deliver a solution, and can include organized exercises such as games and sports. While pacing and engagement are important, don’t confuse team building with team recreation. Some of the examples of the best team building include scavenger hunts, board game tournaments, office trivia, improv workshops, and escape rooms.
4. Product launches
Product launch events can range from small in-house meetings to equip the internal sales teams, to massive glitzy parties geared toward building public hype about an upcoming product. Product launch events are most commonly held by businesses selling products to consumers “ with these prospective consumers and the media being key invitees to the launch event, because media coverage is one of the key aims of hosting a launch event. These events may include giveaways, a guest speaker or celebrity guests, dinner and champagne, and even live entertainment depending on the industry.
5. Board meetings
Board meetings are usually a presentation with a bit of discussion, and help align business administrators and employees around key business decisions. Similarly, stakeholder meetings give investors a chance to provide input into a company’s strategy and objectives. These meetings can be yearly or semiannual small in-house gatherings or bigger undertakings, relying upon the nature (and budget) of the organization, the quantity of board individuals or investors in the organization.
6. Executive retreats and incentive programs
Executive retreats bring top team members together to bond and map the roadmap for the company. They tend to be held in slightly more extravagant locations to help inspire the attendees. Similarly, incentive trips often reward a group of people with a trip an exotic location. The goal of these corporate events is to motivate sales teams and other to hit large goals.
7. Holiday parties
Holiday parties are a great way to thank employees for their work all year round. Typically held at restaurants or special event venues, holiday parties can involve seasonal catering and exciting musical guests. While significant others are often invited, it can be interesting to offer employees a chance to connect on their own with a few hours designated only to employees.
8. Company award shows
Company award shows are another way to thank and incentivize employees. These typically involve the whole company, and a handful of presenters. Physical awards such as trophies, plaques, and photographs are fairly common. The Dundees are an example of an award event.
9. Monthly all-hands company meetings
Many companies hold a once per month meeting to discuss how the company is doing and future plans, for all employees. Or, at least once per year they bring all their employees together from around the world in one place. These can be held in local hotel ballrooms if the company doesn’t have a large enough meeting space on its own campus. One critical component tends to be the A/V. Be sure the slide presentation displays and that all presenters are comfortable with their mics ahead of time.
10 Simple steps to plan a corporate event
The best way to approach each corporate event is with an understanding of the five most critical aspects of event management: research, design, planning, coordination, and evaluation. So here are some helpful tips for planning a corporate event your attendees won’t soon forget.
1. Know the context.
Create a standard input template that you can complete for every corporate event, that helps you gather all the necessary information for success. Ensure your stakeholders help you solidify who the event is for, what format the event should take, loosely when it should be, any vision they have for where, and most importantly why the event needs to happen. When it comes to stakeholders, use RASIC roles to help you lock in who should be involved in what decisions and to what extent. Once you have identified your SMART goals based on their expectations, you can decide what kind of event will work best.
2. Create a best case, base case, and worst case budget.
By creating multiple tiers of budgets, you can better predict what you might actually spend, and also prepare everyone for as few surprises as possible. For most events, there’s a surprise item or two, so it’s best to try to anticipate that ahead of time by adding in a “fudge factor” of about 10%. Once you’ve set your three budgets, work to break them down, allocating the biggest percentages to the features that will make the most impact on your event goal. For example, if you spend more money on fancy furnishings than you do on your speakers, it’s possible the audience won’t be able to hear to learn, even if they’re comfortable. To further cut down on costs consider creating unique event sponsorship packages as wells recruiting a group of volunteers from local schools.
3. Stick to your timeline at all costs, by using a checklist.
Set a time limit for each task to be completed before, during, and after the event, and then put them on a comprehensive checklist. If you organize an event team, consider going as far as creating a to-do list for each member of the team. To do this just whip up an online spreadsheet and use individual tabs for each event category, such as venue, speaker, schedule, agenda, and travel to list every part of the process, the owner, and all relevant deadlines.
4. Use online collaborative tools to save time.
Use collaborative online event software to address each task such as creating the event diagram, keeping track of potential event sponsors in a cloud-based sales and catering system, and powering your event registration with user-friendly tools. Because things change so frequently with events, using software that updates in real-time, no matter where your team members are located, can save you a bunch of mistakes.
5. Make the attendees feel exclusive, no matter the size.
It can be very stressful to decide how many guests to invite. Is it your company’s executives, managers, long-term customers, business partners, community members, or a combination of these or other groups? Once you can name your audience, you can meet their needs and interests. No matter how big or small the guest list is, people will remember the experience of the event. Which means everyone attending the event is a potential brand ambassador for your business. Include personalized touches every step of the way from including their names on the invitations through to ensuring they receive the right meal.
6. Choose an interactive format.
Now the time has come to select a unique theme and format. Check out what themes competitors have used, and the audience response to them. Research your consumers’ general interests in Google Analytics and see if there are any commonalities you can tap into to create a memorable theme. In terms of your format, bring in a guest speaker to position your company as a thought leader, set up client panels and roundtables to encourage discussion and idea sharing, or split groups up into breakout sessions based on topical interests. Work deliberately to create a balance between keeping participants actively learning, meeting others, and giving them some opportunity to breathe, as they may need time to process what they are learning and re-energize.
7. Pick a local venue.
Because location is critical to participation, try to stay local. You can explore hundreds of local event venues on Cvent, and find an event venue in a convenient area with a dynamic environment, so participants feel comfortable and are ready to make the commute. Do a virtual site visit, and ensure the catering, A/V, and security all meet your needs.
8. Provide real-time logistic updates.
Having everything planned perfectly will spare you from any hiccups. Know when your vendors are coming in to set up, have an agenda for the event, and ensure staff is advised on what happens when. Use a collaboration tool to keep your colleagues, vendors and the venue on the same page, even as changes happen. You can share diagrams, seating charts, and your registration list with food providers, AV specialists, printers, decorators, picture takers, and the security work force, just to name a few. To guarantee everything goes according to your plan ensure everybody in your group has specific assignments they’re responsible for. One easy way to do that is to say to yourself, “If this goes wrong, who gets fired?” and make sure it’s someone (not that you would actually fire them!).
9. Equip your sales team and marketing team to promote the event.
If people do not know about your event, no one will show up! First, create an event website and promotional sponsorship packages. Then, encourage your sales teams to email their contacts, and to promote the conference when they go on client visits. Work with your marketing team to place ads in industry newsletters, on social media, add your event to industry lists and directories, and pay your partners to distribute it. Help build brand presence by using the same event tagline and hashtags across platforms.
10. Spend as much time ending your event as you did starting it.
We tend to put a lot of effort into starting new things, and often fail to input comparable effort wrapping them up well and learning from them. When ending your event ensure you have a final call-to-action for attendees. It could be a special code for your product, exclusive access to photos from the event, one last swag giveaway, or anything else. Once the day of the event has concluded, wrap up any remaining details, for example, sending final payment installments to vendors, reconciling finances, and directing a post-occasion debrief with your group. Then host a post-conference Post-It Note party, where everyone puts up sticky notes in columns for what went well, what could have gone better, and what they learned. And, get input from attendees using your event planning application. Plus, share everything you learn with all the applicable partners.
Now you’re ready to rock these corporate event management tips!
According to event data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for meeting and event planners is expected to grow at a rate of 11% from 2016 to 2026. So compared to the total expected growth of 7%, event planners appear to have a bright future ahead of them on the job market. That means now is the perfect time to continue investing in your corporate event management skills.
Up next, check out some creative corporate event entertainment ideas that really work. Regardless of whether it is a conference, seminar, or a holiday party, and whether you have three weeks to design or a whole year, your event’s success is in the details.