Do you have a corporate event to plan but don’t know where to start?
You’ve come to the right place.
In this guide, we will discuss all you need to know about how to host a memorable corporate event with ease.
Corporate events can be an effective tool for businesses, both internal (for teams) and external (i.e., customer relations) purposes, but at the same time, planning one can be quite challenging with all the potential moving parts.
By the end of this guide, you’d have learned about:
- What is a corporate event? The concept
- Identifying event purpose and objectives
- In-person, virtual, or hybrid corporate event
- Best practices in planning a corporate event
- Creating and sticking to an event budget
- Choosing the perfect venue for your corporate event
- Planning the logistics of the event
Without further ado, let us begin this guide right away.
What is a Corporate Event?
A corporate event is, in a nutshell, any kind of event that is held by a corporate or enterprise for its own benefit.
The company (or corporate) may plan the event on its own (i.e., by establishing an internal event team) or hire a professional event planner to do the job.
Also, a common misconception is that a corporate event is hosted only for employees or other internal stakeholders.
In certain cases, a company can hold a corporate event for both internal and external audiences or even the public. For example, a music festival fully sponsored by a brand is an external corporate event.
Types and Examples of Virtual Corporate Events
With that being said, just like there are many types and sizes of corporations available, corporate events also come in a variety of types and sizes. Here are just a few examples of the most common and popular types of corporate events:
- Product launch: one of the most common types of corporate events, a product launch event may be held internally/privately or externally (customer-facing) to generate buzz and drive more sales of the launched product.
- Conference: many corporate companies hold their conferences annually with packed agendas involving a wide variety of activities (keynote speaker, networking cocktail party, gala dinner, etc.) Corporate conferences often involve sponsors.
- Trade shows: this can be a private trade show where the corporation showcases its own products or services, or the company may also partner with other businesses to host the trade show together.
- Internal meeting: arguably the simplest form of corporate meeting, but that doesn’t make it less important than the other types. Some companies may hold a big and complex annual internal meeting with intricate agendas.
- Fundraising: a corporate company may hold a fundraising event as a part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or to simply support a cause. It can be held in various different forms, such as gala dinners, auctions, and more.
- Team-building: companies can hold various types of team-building events with the purpose of building team morale and productivity. Team-building events come in many different shapes and sizes, from simple scavenger hunt games to company-wide competition events.
This is not an exhaustive list. In fact, there are many more types of corporate events companies can plan and hold for various purposes.
Not to mention, in this digital age, each of these event types can be held in three different ways: in-person, virtual, or hybrid.
In-Person vs. Virtual vs. Hybrid Corporate Event
The advancements in technology and the COVID-19 pandemic situation have forced the adoption of virtual and hybrid event formats. This effectively requires event planners to consider each of the three event formats: in-person, virtual, or hybrid when planning a corporate event.
Which format is right for your event? It depends on many different factors but especially your event’s objectives (more on this later.)
Below, however, we will discuss the pros and cons of each format in a corporate event. Reviewing these can help you make your decision when choosing between the three formats.
In-person corporate events: Pros and Cons
An in-person event is held in a physical venue, and guests attend the venue physically.
Below are the key advantages and disadvantages of the in-person format.
- Face-to-face interaction. At the moment, we can’t replace physical interaction and face-to-face communication even with the latest technologies.
- Easier to maintain attendee engagement since they’ll be less distracted when visiting a physical venue than staying at home.
- Higher potential for generating revenue via product sales or other opportunities.
- The most challenging to host with the most logistic variables to manage
- Typically require more time and money to plan and scope
- Travel and accommodation costs for both speakers/talents and attendees
- Inherent health and safety risks. You’ll also be required to comply with more health/safety requirements.
When’s the right time to choose the in-person format?
Below are some factors that may signify that the in-person format is the right choice for you:
- Your event doesn’t require too many attendees or speakers traveling from abroad. Ideally, your event does not require any international travel at all
- You have adequate time and resources to prepare for the event
- You have time and resources to prepare and communicate health and safety plans to attendees
- Being in-person and/or face-to-face interaction is essential for the event itself (i.e., it’s a bowling competition.)
Virtual corporate events: Pros and Cons
A virtual event is held from a virtual event platform for an online audience.
Below are the pros and cons of the virtual format:
- Much more accessible and affordable to host than an in-person event. Ee can eliminate the costs and intricacies related to venue rental and other logistics related to the venue.
- Breaking geographical limitations. You can invite speakers/talents and attendees from all around the world without having to worry about travel and logistics costs.
- Smaller carbon footprint, much more environmentally-friendly than an in-person counterpart
- You can make the event’s content available on-demand even after the event, adding value and longevity to the event.
- Lack of face-to-face interaction can be an issue in maintaining engagement. Facilitating networking in a virtual event can also be more challenging.
- It’s typically more difficult to attract sponsors, although it’s improving lately.
- People expect virtual events to be more affordable. Even the biggest and the most complex virtual events can’t charge too much for tickets/registrations. This can limit the event’s overall budget.
- Maintaining engagement and managing attendee distraction (when ‘attending’ the event from their homes) can be very challenging. You need great content for the virtual event to stay competitive.
When’s the right time to choose the virtual format?
Planning your corporate event in a virtual format might be a good idea if you:
- Are planning to attract attendees from abroad, or if you already have a global audience base
- Can accommodate your event’s content and agenda for shorter attention spans to maintain engagement
- Have the means to set up the virtual event infrastructure to ensure optimal attendee experience. For example, you’ve hired staff experienced in setting up virtual events.
However, all corporate events would face a similar challenge in logistics, as we will discuss below.
Hybrid corporate events: Pros and Cons
A hybrid event is hosted for both offline and online attendees. Typically this is achieved by hosting the event in a physical venue, then broadcasting the event via live streaming technologies.
The idea of hosting a hybrid event is that you can get the best of both worlds. You’ll have the advantages of both the in-person and virtual formats. At the same time, you can also avoid the downsides.
However, that’s not to say that the hybrid format is perfect. For instance, typically requires more time and resources to plan than in-person-only or virtual-only events.
- Versatility is the biggest advantage. You get the best of both worlds. Also, your audience can choose between the two different formats as they see fit.
- Typically means more sponsorship opportunities. You are essentially offering two different events with two different sets of audiences for your sponsors.
- You can collect engagement data from virtual attendees to help contextualize the data you get from the in-person counterpart, making the dataset more objective.
- You’ll need to tackle the logistics of both portions of the event, which can be very challenging in practice.
- Typically will involve higher costs than a traditional-only or virtual-only event.
- More internal resources may be needed since you are essentially planning two different events in one. You may also need more knowledgeable and experienced staff, especially those responsible for AV and live streaming.
Logistical Challenges in Planning a Corporate Event
While corporate events can come in various different types, sizes, and formats, all corporate events must deal with the following logistic elements, each with its own potential challenges:
1. Event Branding
Having strong and distinctive branding is especially important for an external-facing corporate event (targeted at the general public/customers,) but internal corporate events can also benefit from having strong, memorable branding.
A well-designed and fully-functional website is the foundation of strong event branding, but other branding elements like logo, event name, marketing collaterals, etc., must also be considered.
It’s also important to consider the fact that branding for in-person events would require more time and resources, as you’ll also need to consider the production of physical elements like signage, posters, stage design, decoration, and so on.
2. Food and Beverages
People obviously love good food, and even more if it’s free. Treats remain one of the top reasons for people to attend events.
So, if you are planning to host an in-person corporate event, food and beverage should be one of your top concerns. You’ll need to consider which catering company you’ll choose, menu selection, whether the price fits your budget, as well as factors like health and sustainability.
In some cases, you may also choose to provide food and beverage in a virtual or hybrid event (i.e., by delivery.)
3. Speakers and Talents
Big-name speakers and talents are always in demand, so if you want to secure them for your event, you’ll need to plan early. Not to mention, high-demand speakers can be expensive, so you may also need to figure out funding, for example, via sponsorship.
4. Securing Sponsorships
Sponsorships remain the favorite way to fund most events, including corporate events, and whether you can secure the right sponsor for your event can literally make or break your event’s success.
Yet, finding and securing good sponsors can be challenging and take time. It’s crucial to try reaching out to sponsors as early as possible in your event planning cycle. The secret to securing quality sponsorships is how well you can communicate and prove your event’s value to prospective sponsors, so make sure to put enough effort into this aspect.
5. Technical Infrastructure
Both in-person and virtual events now rely on technology, from A/V equipment to live streaming technologies to the event management platform.
The more complex the event is, the more technology solutions you’ll need, and the list can be very long. It’s best to work through your technical setup as early as possible when planning your event to avoid having to deal with technical difficulties on D-day.
Also, when it comes to technologies, always plan for redundancies, especially if you are planning to stream your event live (not pre-recorded.) Have your plan Bs and plan Cs for ideally every technology solution you use during the event.
No matter how well you’ve planned and executed your corporate event, it will be a failure if you can’t attract enough attendees to enjoy the event.
Don’t underestimate the importance of marketing your event. Even if it’s an internal corporate event, you’d still want to properly promote the event to your team to generate buzz and ensure optimal engagement.
Also, don’t underestimate the time you’ll need to properly promote the event. Start as early as possible and leverage different channels according to your target audience’s preferences.
Planning a Successful Corporate Event: Step-By-Step Guide
Now that we’ve understood the common logistic challenges of planning a corporate event, this step-by-step tutorial will help you successfully plan your virtual event while tackling those challenges:
Step 1: Define corporate event purpose and goal
What’s the purpose of hosting this corporate event in the first place?
One of the biggest mistakes made by companies is to host an event just for the sake of having an event, which is a waste of money, time, and resources for your team.
Make sure you can identify the intended purpose of the event and define your event goals using the SMART goal principle:
- Specific: the goal should be narrow and specific enough and should be easy to explain.
- Measurable: you can measure the event’s performance against this goal in a quantitative way (i.e., you can assign KPIs and monitor specific metrics as needed.)
- Achievable: goals should be realistic and attainable, or you’ll risk hurting your team’s morale.
- Relevant: the event’s goal or goals should align well with the company’s goals and objectives.
- Time-Bound: you should be able to align the goal with a specific timeframe so your team members and stakeholders know exactly the deadline for achieving this specific goal.
Step 2: Create a comprehensive budget
Once you’ve defined your event’s goal or goals, the next step is to create your event budget.
The earlier you create an event budget (even if it’s only a rough draft,) the higher the chance you can ensure the event stays on budget and on deadline. This is because the amount of available budget can impact every aspect of the corporate event planning: venue choice, speakers/talents/presenters choices, catering, entertainment, and so on.
The expense elements included in the budget can vary depending on the event itself, but the primary expenses include:
- Venue (for an in-person event) or virtual event platform (for virtual/hybrid event)
- Food and beverage (including equipment rental)
- Speakers/talent/presenter/entertainment (also include travel and accommodation expenses)
- Marketing costs
- Technological infrastructure and equipment (A/V equipment, live streaming equipment, software solutions, etc.)
When estimating your budget, if it’s an external-facing corporate event, you should also create a financial projection estimating your sources of revenue.
The primary sources of revenue are:
- Registration/ticket sales
- Direct product sales
Once you’ve estimated your event budget, add a contingency cost buffer of around 10% to 20% of the estimated budget. No event is going to be 100% according to plan, and this contingency cost will be your buffer for these unexpected expenses.
Step 3: Market research
An event’s success depends on whether it effectively caters to its target audience’s needs and preferences.
So, before anything else, identify who the event’s target audience is and gather as much information as you can about them:
- Demographics data (geographic location, gender, age, education/career, etc.)
- What motivates them
- Pain points (what problems do they need help solving?)
- What’s most relevant for your target audience at the moment?
- What kind of people are they interested in connecting with or learning from
- Which influencer or influencers (if any) that you tap into to reach this audience
In general, the focus of this step is to figure out how you can provide value to your target audience, which you will put into reality on the next step.
Step 4: Choose a theme, type, and format for your event
Once you’ve established your event goals and target audience, by now, you should be able to choose a theme/topic for the event.
Ask what kind of topic or theme would provide the most value to your target audience that is still within your reach (budget/resource-wise.
Once you’ve figured out the answer, then you can identify the best event type and the ideal format (in-person, virtual, hybrid) you can use to deliver this topic/theme.
No matter which type and format you choose for your event, it’s crucial to always find the right balance between being educational and fun. Corporate events that can deliver a balanced, fun experience rather than sitting in the venue watching speaker sessions all day long are more engaging and successful.
Step 5: Design and fine-tune the event
Planning an event requires the event planner to keep track of a wide variety of tasks and variables, including but not limited to:
- Event content: In any corporate event, content is king. Focus on designing the best possible content to keep your attendees engaged.
- Managing distractions and maximizing engagement: Plan different types of activities you can give your attendees to interact and engage with your content (Q&A sessions, breakouts, workshops, etc.) while considering the short attention spans of most attendees.
- Networking opportunities: Design how attendees can get to know each other. Consider adding a networking session in between different activities to encourage conversations between attendees to improve their experience.
With the different variables involved in designing your event, it’s best to leverage an event management solution like Eventtia to streamline all these details and help you keep track of your checklist.
Also, remember that your event’s design will be closely linked to your budget. If you are working with a tight budget, put more time and effort into designing the event so you can maximize each element.
Step 6: Choose a venue
If you are planning a virtual corporate event, you can skip this step.
For in-person or hybrid events, however, choosing the right venue that allows you to execute your vision is very important.
In general, choose a venue in a good location that fits all your event requirements based on your design and the objectives we’ve covered in the previous steps.
Location is the key to attendance. If you can get a popular venue located in a convenient area, you can get more prospective attendees to register for your event.
If you are hosting a hybrid event, also make sure the venue can accommodate the storage and installation of your extra equipment. Typically you’ll need additional A/V and live streaming equipment for the online portion of the event.
If you are on a tight budget, it’s typically better to reduce your cost by booking the event at a less popular time rather than settling for a cheaper venue that is not big/comfortable enough and/or located in a bad location.
Step 7: Finalizing the logistics
By now, you should’ve opened the door for registrations (online and offline) for your event. You should let your event promotions campaign run to drive registrations while at the same time coordinating the rest of the event’s logistics:
- Finalizing event agenda
- Collecting finalized scripts from speakers/talents/presenters
- Setting up technology solutions and a virtual event platform
- Finalizing venue decoration and on-site coordination
- Coordinating presentations and sessions with speakers
- Doing dry runs and technical checks
Wrapping Up Your Corporate Event
While planning a corporate event can be challenging, the step-by-step guide we’ve shared above should be able to help you streamline the whole process.
Don’t be afraid to rethink your approaches and experiment.
In the end, the best corporate events are those that are the most successful in catering to their target audience’s needs.
So, for your long-term goals, focus on building engagement and facilitating your attendees in building authentic relationships.
The right event technology like Eventtia, can also help you in the planning and execution process of your corporate event. This way, you can concentrate on ensuring the best attendee experience possible.