Corporate event planners have to connect the dots between specific business objectives and event types. Trying to sort out what types of events are best for achieving your organization’s unique goals can be challenging since there are so many options to choose from.
We’ll clear up some of that confusion by focusing on the top six best event types for businesses and what you can expect to get out of each one. We’ll also include plenty of specifics to help kickstart your planning. But first, a quick definition:
What are the classifications of event types?
Event types can be separated into corporate, private, or charity. Corporate events focus on businesses and customers, whereas private events are more recreational and charity events are for philanthropy.
The best corporate events have concrete and achievable goals associated with them. Which makes sense given the cost and amount of planning that goes into each one. If you’re new to corporate event planning or you’re just looking for more inspiration to help you achieve your business goals, we’ve got you covered.
The best types of events for hitting business goals
In this section, we will cover the top four most useful corporate event types. Each type includes a short description of what it is along with details about which business goals they’re best for, what types of venues you’ll need, how to plan your event layout, and real-world examples from leading brands that you can actually learn from. Let’s jump right in!
A conference is a large event (attendance numbers are typically in the hundreds or thousands) focused on a central theme or industry that is typically held over multiple days. Event activities for this event type include speakers, exhibitions, contests, and networking opportunities as well as more recreational get-togethers pre- and post-conference.
Best for these business goals: Raise product or brand awareness, increase sales, position company as an expert
Ideal venues for this event type: Conference and convention centers
Strategic layouts for this event type: Any floor plan that is spacious, takes sightlines into account, and keeps attendees as close to speakers as possible will do well at a conference. Try auditorium-style seating to keep the attention on the stage or banquet style to facilitate breakout groups.
Real-world example: TechCrunch Disrupt is an annual conference geared towards connecting startups with investors and educating attendees on the latest trends in technology. Their speaker lineup includes some heavy hitters. These partnerships help them secure their image as a top resource for the most cutting edge tech news and innovations.
Key conference takeaways:
- Conferences are great for helping your audience connect the dots between your business name and brand.
- Take a page from TechCrunch’s book and invite speakers that are recognizable to your audience. Don’t limit yourself to celebrities either – micro-influencers are more affordable (if not free) and typically have loyal fans.
- Here are some creative ideas for making the best conferences.
2. Trade Shows
Trade shows bring together tons of like-minded brands under the umbrella of one major theme. This interactive event type relies on exhibition booths and interesting partners to create memorable experiences for their audience.
Best for these business goals: Showcase a variety of products both old and new, connect face to face with your audience, supercharge lead generation, build sales/marketing contact lists
Ideal venues for this event type: Conference and convention centers, auditoriums, universities
Strategic layouts for this event type: Grid layouts help organize booths into aisles for greater efficiency of space as well as grouping brands into relevant categories. It helps your audience plan out which booths they want to target as well as discover new brands nearby that may also appeal to their interests.
Real-world example: Natural Products Expo West offers multi-city trade shows featuring hundreds of organic and healthy products. In addition to sampling various foods, beauty products, and supplements, attendees enjoy discovering hot new brands to love. They also offer plenty of educational opportunities (in the form of printed materials, videos, newsletters, and dedicated booths) on causes their guests care most about.
Key trade show takeaways:
- Trade shows are fun and exciting for attendees because they love getting to try samples, participate in hands-on demonstrations, and learn about services they can really use.
- By offering their event in multiple major cities, Natural Products Expo West makes it as convenient as possible for interested participants to attend. They also share plenty of educational programs on their event website, which brings in even more leads online and helps those who can’t physically attend the events get more involved.
On the surface, seminars are a lot like conferences. The biggest difference is that seminars are entirely dedicated to instruction and training. Because they’re academic in nature, it makes sense why they’re often done as a series and involve smaller groups than their more massive and diverse event type counterparts.
Best for these business goals: Product training, employee training, certifications or courses, develop or strengthen long term customer loyalty
Ideal venues for this event type: Classrooms, board rooms, small to medium size multifunction spaces
Strategic layouts for this event type: Classroom style layouts and conference-style tables help attendees learn as a group while also giving them space to break off into partners or discussion sections as needed.
Real-world example: The Academy of Business Leadership holds multiple one-day seminars called Got Big Dreams?. Attendees include 8th graders to college sophomores who have big dreams that typically involve some level of entrepreneurship. Guest lecturers lead them through a variety of exercises and discussions that help them flesh out their ideas as well as actionable next steps for starting their own businesses.
Key seminar takeaways:
- Seminars are educational events that help businesses connect with attendees by giving them practical information, tools, and skills to achieve their own personal goals.
- Follow in the footsteps of The Academy of Business Leadership and target underrepresented demographics (in this case teenagers and young adults). Focus on solving one major pain point then provide plenty of extremely useful solutions they can take away from the experience.
4. Corporate off-sites & executive meetings
Corporate off-sites and executive meetings are face-to-face events that often involve high level employees and/or key business partners. Companies use this type of event for lots of reasons but it’s up to the event planner to set them up for success through clear agendas, creative environments, and tools or policies that improve productivity.
Best for these business goals: Generate new ideas, complete a specific task, make important decisions, establish partnerships
Ideal venues for this event type: Boardrooms, restaurants, co-working spaces
Strategic layouts for this event type: Round tables are best for groups of 10 or less (to facilitate discussion) whereas larger groups do better with U-shape seating or the classic conference style set up.
Real-world example: Companies like Buddytruk make it a point to meet every Friday and recap the major events of the week. Not only does this keep the whole executive team on the same page, it also allows for a more effective review of current goals, budgets, and projects. While it would be easy for a regular meeting like this one to run late (given the fact that they cover many topics and it’s on a slow day), they’ve implemented a fun push-up policy. If a meeting runs over the scheduled amount of time, the last person who did the talking has to get down and give them 50!
Key corporate off-sites takeaways:
- Corporate off-sites and executive meetings help facilitate communication and offer a higher level of collaboration that can’t be obtained using email and Slack alone.
- In-person meetings can be fun and productive as long as you put some policies in place to keep your attendees on task, just like Buddtruk did with their creative punishment.
5. Company parties
Company parties bring employees together to celebrate shared victories, acknowledge milestones, boost morale, and enjoy holidays. While the focus of this type of event is usually fun and relaxation, event planners can still set and achieve concrete goals for their colleagues.
Best for these business goals: Show appreciation for employees, facilitate interdepartmental mingling, improve company culture
Strategic layouts for this event type: Because company parties are made for socializing, it’s best to include plenty of empty space for dancing or just standing and talking. Add some tables and chairs for comfort (especially if you plan to serve food).
Real-world example: Amazon’s post-holiday party celebrates the new year, recent wins, and their employees through a variety of fun activities. In addition to enjoying great food and drink, attendees got caricature self-portraits, a concert, a dance party, karaoke, dueling piano performances, and even kicked field goals.
Key office party takeaways:
- Company parties are an important component of a successful corporate event ecosystem thanks to its inherent morale-boosting effects on employees.
- Even if you don’t have the budget to pull off a celebration as extravagant as Amazon’s, you can still plan interesting activities that employees will love. Aim to include things or places that your team enjoys as a group or has special meaning to your brand.
6. Product launch
Product launches help formally spread the word about a new brand, partnership, product/service, or special offer. These in-person events generate buzz and help attendees get to know your company better.
Best for these business goals: Increase sales, improve brand recognition, connect more intimately with fans
Ideal venues for this event type: Boutiques, hotels, spas, golf courses, restaurants/bars, any industry-specific venue that allows for mingling, photography, and mini booths.
Strategic layouts for this event type: Any custom floorplan that has one central point of focus (the product or service being launched) with plenty of space to mix and mingle. You can also include mini booths for hands-on experiences or brand partnerships.
Real-world example: Fenty Beauty’s launch party (hosted by Sephora) hand-selected a mere 180 attendees for the exciting event. Guests had exclusive first-access to their brand new makeup products as well as fun activities like photo booths and a the chance to appear in a custom-made digital fan film.
Key product launch takeaways:
- Product launches are a more personal way to make a splash with new brand offerings.
- Limit your invitations to only your most influential fans like Fenty Beauty did to make the event even more special and memorable. Add some interesting activities to the mix and hand out some swag while you’re at it.
Plan the right event type the right way
In order to help organize, keep track of, and monitor goal progress, you’re going to need to rely on a great free event planning software like Social Tables. In addition to helping you hit business goals, Social Tables helps corporate event planners find and strategically diagram venues to make sure they’re getting the most out of their investment.
Up next, learn more about creating the best event objectives.