At Kinetic, planning the corporate event that one-ups all other events of its type is always the goal. And while it’s a lofty goal, it’s one we enthusiastically embrace. How can we do it even a little bit better than last time? This is the question we’re continually asking ourselves, from the first client meeting to post-event participant surveys. It’s how we continue to improve and raise the bar. Moreover, we’ve found that even as we approach our 15th year of planning every type of corporate event—from new product launch events and dealer meetings, to ride-and-drive events and travel incentive trips—the best way to make space for improvement is to have the basics down to a science. By following our six-part formula for event success, you can ensure that your next event will be a unique and memorable experience.
- Develop a production schedule—and stick to it.
When meeting with a client to plan a corporate event, the first thing that we tackle is the production schedule and timeline. To ensure there is enough time for the planning process to unfold and wrap up before the actual event, we start with the event date and work backward. We also take the client’s and any other decision-makers’ schedules into account, taking care not to schedule deadlines during vacations and making review periods long enough as to not interfere with other responsibilities. Then, once everyone agrees on the production schedule, sticking to it is crucial.Unfortunately, once deadlines begin to slip, a domino effect occurs, and the consequences can be challenging, to say the least. When deadlines are missed, everyone slips into a sort of “catch-up” mode, which increases the likelihood that steps will get skipped, details will get missed, and mistakes will be made. In addition, missing deadlines also puts a strain on the budget; rush charges and penalty fees accumulate in the rush to still have everything ready to go by the event date. The best way to avoid all of this is not to tip the first domino; once you do, it’s almost impossible to keep the rest from falling.
- Avoid the most common event budget mistake.
With so many moving pieces, it’s easy to see how event budgets can run over if not closely monitored. While we have seen this happen, it is rare (and usually not extreme), as long as the event planning team stays on top of it. The real budget buster is being unrealistic or ridiculously optimistic (depending on how you want to look at it) when determining the initial event budget. Optimism is the budget issue we run into the most often. Avoid this pitfall by evaluating past event budgets and being reasonable when allocating budget to individual event elements. For example, if previous events hosted 100 attendees, and this year you’re expecting 125 attendees, you can expect your budget to increase by at least 25%, unless you cut in other areas. It’s not reasonable or realistic to think that you will be able to accommodate 25% more attendees—for the same number of days, with the same level of services, amenities, and overall experience—for the same budget. When you aren’t honest with yourself—and your client—about the realistic cost of the event, you set yourself up for serious budget issues before you’ve even started.Pro tip: Before allocating budget, take a step back, and develop a vision for the event, considering the overall experience you want to create for event attendees. Then, as you go through the individual elements of the event, use this vision to guide how you divide your overall budget. For example, if creating a personalized and relaxing experience where the guest feels important and pampered is the vision, but budget is a concern, look to save money in areas that don’t serve the vision. In this scenario, you could select garden view rooms (rather than ocean view rooms) at a five-star resort, and the service and room quality will be the same, but with considerable savings. You can then spend more budget on event staff, the welcome experience, and spa appointments—all of which allow you to deliver the experience you envisioned for your guests without breaking the bank.
- Remove the drama from location selection.
Choosing the location for your corporate event can seem impossible, especially if there are multiple decision-makers who can’t seem to agree. We experience this challenge often and have found that ensuring everyone is on the same page can be easy if you focus on three key criteria:
- Ease of travel for attendees: How far will the average guest have to travel? What about the furthest guest? Reaching an agreement on the amount of travel time that is reasonable will narrow down your location options.
- Budget: Jetting off to an island might make for a great event, but even if the hotel is within budget, consider the average cost of flights, as well as the increased cost of pretty much everything on an island, not to mention the cost of shipping supplies and materials. By eliminating locations that are out of budget, you will further narrow your possibilities.
- Venue availability: What venues are available for your dates that meet the needs of your group? If a location doesn’t have venue availability, it doesn’t matter what else it has going for it.
After weighing the possible options against travel, budget, and availability factors, there are usually one or two locations that rise to the top. Using this approach generally makes selecting a location drama-free and straightforward, but if you still can’t decide (or agree), it’s worth considering a site inspection to the remaining locations to make the final decision.
- Treat venue selection as a contact sport.
While event location selection can usually be determined without leaving the office, venue selection is most definitely a contact sport. Conducting a venue site inspection allows the event planner to check on all of the big and little details that can have a significant impact on your event. For example, is the staff at the hotel accommodating and friendly, or do they seem rushed? How is the noise level inside meeting rooms and the quality of the food? These are examples of details that are difficult (or even impossible) to appreciate or plan for without the venue site inspection experience.
- Keep the attendees and their experience top of mind.
Put yourself in your attendees’ shoes, and imagine you’re going to the event. There are many details to consider between the time the guest receives the event invite and when they arrive on site for the event. Do flights need to be booked? What kind of clothes do attendees need to pack? How far is the airport from the hotel? Are meals included? Is transportation included? Who should attendees contact with any questions prior to arrival and once on site?These are all questions that will go through your guests’ minds once they receive the invitation to your corporate event, plus many more. If you can anticipate these kinds of questions, you can communicate important details ahead of time. Smartphone apps are an excellent option for guest communications and event details. With an app, bulk messages and notifications can be sent about last-minute changes, specific start times, or even to simply welcome guests to the event. Clearly communicating and providing a resource such as an app also reduces the number of questions the guests will need help answering and reduces the frustration that can stem from uncertainty.Pro tip: We’ve found that having a dedicated guest relations person who is always available for the guest is an excellent way to ensure a five-star experience for attendees. If a guest has any questions beforehand, they can reach out via email or phone with ease and receive a personal and prompt response. We’ve found that guests who have a personalized communications experience have less anxiety and are more likely to arrive at the event prepared and with a positive attitude.
- Develop an event itinerary that plans for the unexpected.
Keeping everything on track and on time can be challenging, which is why planning the event itinerary is critical. Begin with an itinerary that takes into consideration not only the time needed for different components of the event (sessions, dinners, excursions, etc.), but also the length of time attendees will need to move between each location and allows for adequate personal time. Once you’ve considered these components, consider what could go wrong, and map out a contingency plan in advance. For example, what will you do if a speaker runs over by 10 minutes? Where can you cut to make up that time without disrupting the event? What if a guest is running late for a group excursion? How long can the transportation be held before it has to depart, and if it’s already left, how will the guest be reunited with the group? Creating an itinerary that plans for the unexpected is key to producing a successful event.Pro tip: When developing the event itinerary, remember that an effective contingency plan includes more than just the what, how, and when; it also defines the who. Assign an on-site event staff person who is responsible for putting the plan into action, if needed. A great event can very quickly become a horrible event if everyone is scrambling because there is not an effective contingency plan in place.
Looking for a partner to help plan your next corporate event? Kinetic’s event team specializes in strategic planning and execution for a variety of events and meetings. Let us help make your next event a unique experience that sets you apart from the competition.