By Anna Alonso Olcese
Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
These are the questions you must answer before you plan an event. In fact, they are the first questions you should answer when developing any form of communication, and an event is one of the most important forms of corporate communication because it showcases your company’s image…and image is everything.
Who are you? Who are your clients? Who is this event for, specifically? You must know your corporate identity and your target audience to answer these.
If the event is geared to your current clients, for example, then do something that will appeal to them. Your clients are your lifeblood; thank them for their business. Craig Wilburn, Senior Vice President at Bosshardt Realty and head of Team Dynamo, has mastered client appreciation, and his company’s image. Every year, he hosts a fun and casual, but high-end, client appreciation event and has partner businesses serve as sponsors. The result: customer loyalty, partner loyalty, and new business for all involved.
What is the purpose of the event? Community awareness, publicity, fundraising, team building, client appreciation—there are dozens of purposes, but you must clearly identify yours before you decide what type of event to host.
Once a purpose is determined, a good way to drive attendance and publicity is to partner with a charity that your company – or perhaps your biggest clients or advocates – support.
Wenda Lewis, CEO of Lewis Oil Company, is fervently devoted to the Alzheimer’s Association because her father died from the disease. At the company’s casual 50th anniversary barbecue, Lewis included games that helped raise funds for the cause.
Wilburn did the same at his event. Guests learned about Bread of the Mighty Food Bank and were encouraged to donate. Additionally, Sabore agreed to donate a percentage of the evening’s dinner proceeds to the nonprofit.
When do you want to have this event? Although there are many factors involved, these are three that I always consider when planning locally:
- Season. In Gainesville, there’s football season and there’s “everything else” season. During the fall (August through November), venues may not be booked every weekend, but your guests – and hotels – likely are. For that reason, mid-week functions are usually best for corporate events. From December through May, there are dozens of weekend events; holiday parties, mitzvahs, graduation celebrations, university functions and weddings fill nearly every venue’s calendar.
- Audience. For corporate functions, weekend events may not be ideal because they often are reserved for family and friends. Unless your event is family-friendly, I suggest having it mid-week instead. After work cocktail hours are popular, as are luncheons. However, if your guests are mostly parents of school-aged children, then happy hour may interfere with after-school activities.
- Timeline. You need months to plan most events; otherwise, you’ll end up with a stressed team scrambling to get everything done in a short span of time, and that’s a recipe for disaster…and a good way to blow your budget! Depending on the scope, you’ll need anywhere from three months to over a year to plan. Book your venue first, and then work out the other details: catering, guest list, invitations, décor, activities, sponsors, rentals…the list is nearly endless, and will often change during the planning process.
Where you hold your event depends on the type of function and your budget. Many places, such as hotels or restaurants, are the “go-to” venues. But also consider creative alternatives, particularly if you’re planning at the last minute or if your company image goes hand-in-hand with a creative location.
However, keep your needs in mind when booking a space. If you require access to audio/visual equipment, quiet space, abundant seating, a stage, or other specifications that may not lend themselves to an alternative venue, then a traditional space may be a better option.
Most of all, I always encourage clients to have events indoors. We are in Florida, where temperatures fluctuate from 90 to 40 degrees on a given week and rain is unpredictable. Worrying about the weather will just add to your and your team’s anxiety during the week leading up to the big day. One of my clients wanted an outdoor function in December, but I convinced her otherwise. On the day of the event it was raining and freezing. The first thing she said to me was “thank you” and gave a sigh of relief.
Why are you having this event? Really ponder this question. Events should have a purpose. Will a fundraiser actually raise money, or will it drain resources? Will a party build loyalty, or will guests only attend for the free food and drinks? Will an open house generate publicity, or will a press release or social media campaign create more buzz? Never have an event just because others do. For all you know, theirs may not have been successful in accomplishing their goals.
How will you manage to do everything you need to do to make your event successful? Hire an event manager. Like lawyers, accountants, financial advisors and other professionals, event managers are experts who handle all aspects of the job so that you can focus on yours.