Are you planning your next corporate event? Planning may not be the most exciting part of the event, but thinking things through in advance will hopefully avert some of the biggest headaches on the day – and help ensure success. Here are 10 tips for you to consider for your next event with focus on how to add the WOW factor!
In this post I will cover the following topics:
- Pick the right date! It can sound silly, but selecting the date is important and can be tricky. The day and date will affect the number of people who can attend and therefore the success of your event.
- Message and theme. Choosing the right message and supporting theme is important. Know why you are setting up the event, know what you want to achieve and make sure your entire organization is onboard with the message.
- Make and follow a budget. Raise a hand, please, all those among you who have ended up with an event that cost more than planned. *waving desperately*
- Venue selection – spend a few days scouting for your events, but make sure you see it in person. Photos don’t always give a full idea of the surroundings, access points or real dimensions.
- Consider hotels and transport as you want your audience to sleep well and have stress-free access to your gig
- Plan outside venue activities. Depending on what kind of event you have, adding an external twist can be the deciding factor for participants and a way to make your event more memorable.
- Project Management is a crucial factor. Too great a workload on too few people can break your event before your guests even arrive.
- Marketing and documentation. Proper marketing of the event is important, but what about documentation and post-event marketing? See the event itself as the mid-point in your planning, not the finishing post.
- Having selected the venue, you need to think about on-site preparation and planning. What and who needs to be there? When? How? You know there will be hiccups along the way, but hopefully you’ll be that much more prepared.
- Adding the WOW factor! Don’t spend a lot of time and money on an event where the audience only feels a “meh” when leaving.
During my two years at Nordic Media Lab and previous experience from event management in projectiondesign/Barco, I picked up a handful of tricks and best practices – now I want to share them with you. The tips are geared towards a traditional corporate event, where a company want to host a day with presentations, a product introduction and a social setting for the company´s core partners.
Nordic Media Lab has one of the most spectacular venues for corporate events in Norway, where we hosted numerous corporate events such as conferences, product launches, sales meetings, dinners and parties.
In this relatively small venue, we could seat about 150 people and the main attractions of the room are two big screens to use for visualization (4 big projectors) and a lighting installation with moving heads, led strips and follow-spots.
At the end of this blog post, you can see a video from a corporate kick off arranged by Nordic Media Lab.
The tips are all fairly obvious, but see them as a checklist to follow. Why 10? Well, why not?
1. Message and theme
When choosing the right message and supporting theme you have a lot of considerations to make. The message should be fairly simple as it can be connected and relate to your company´s brand and product messaging. If this is a partner event, just say so! Do not overcomplicate things.
When it comes to selecting the supporting theme, the choice is greater. It can relate to the new product you are launching, to the visual aesthetics of your brand, to the time of year (Christmas, Halloween, summer), or you can be creative and turn the entire event into a kind of scenario/costume setting (cowboys, Vikings, sports, etc).
During one event, we hosted (a sales meeting), the client brought in caravans and tents into the room, placed fake grass on the floor and built a representation of a camping site. Pretty cool!
2. Pick the right date!
Who is your audience? Different people have different periods of the year when they are busier than other times. At the end of year, most sales people should be hunting down the last orders and neither they (nor their managers) would probably appreciate a large event that takes away their focus. Are there vacations to consider? International holidays? Are there other major events or conferences that could steal your target groups attention just before or after – making them choose which one to attend?
Bear in mind, too, that other companies may plan events for the same period. Check hotel and restaurant availability, as you surely do not want to make a last-minute panic booking at the only available – Bates Motel downtown.
3. Make and follow a budget
Everybody who has ever been responsible for an event or project knows that budgeting in general can be a challenge. I’ve seen events running with costs almost 100% greater than the first drafted and approved budget. It is never nice.
Budgeting for costs can be a pretty easy job, but also here you need to add headroom for all eventualities. It can be small things like forgetting to add taxi and transport costs to major hurdles, like a last-minute headline speaker cancellation, requiring a last-minute booking of a new and more expensive speaker.
Budgeting for revenue is often a bit more challenging. If your event’s funding is based on sold seats, you need to do some pretty good worst-case calculations – and be especially careful when selecting your date. If your audience has already been to a conference about health products a month before, your “smart health” conference might run into trouble.
One thing that can be good, if you have the opportunity, is to set a cut-off date (like a “GO or NO-GO date”). Assume you need to sell 200 seats but have only sold 35. What do you do? Boost marketing (invest more) and hope for the best? Or do you cancel or move the event? Successful events which are recurring tend to offer early bird pricing, and often even start promoting next year’s event at the end of the current event.
Regardless of how you fund your event, having a budget is smart and keeping an eye on it is even smarter. It’s also wise to engage the venue manager in the budget, so they won’t contribute unwanted surprises when you get the final invoice.
4. Selecting the right venue
If you live in a city with multiple options, create a list of things you need from the venue and make visits in person to see that they can offer what you need. In addition to all the practical stuff related to the venue (access, transport, logistics, size, acoustics, visual displays, etc), you need to remember the human factor.
One of the most important things is that you need to feel comfortable and can communicate well with the staff. At least the venue manager, event manager or project manager. And make sure that you have everything in writing.
If you want to wow your audience (you sure do!), make sure that all your creative plans are okayed by the venue. I vividly remember a concert we hosted, when the band on stage switched on their smoke machine. Thirty seconds later, the fire alarm went off and we needed to rush the 100+ people outside and call the fire department to explain.
It was a class act of poor communication in the planning stage, which led to what could have been a disaster. In hindsight, this is at least an event that people remember.
Photo by Nordic Media Lab: Planet Mastergod, live at Remmen. On the day of the smoke machine event.
5. Hotels and transport
You want your audience to sleep well and have stress-free access to your event.
Hotel accommodation is important. Do not go into the disaster of planning your event, booking speakers, paying flights and other costs – only to discover that another big event you did not know about has already booked all the decent hotels.
This might not happen in the biggest cities around the world, but try to book a hotel room at a decent price in Amsterdam during two very specific weeks per year and you’ll see what I mean. The world’s largest AV trade show and a major broadcast trade show sell out all hotel rooms every year. I have had visitors coming to the event who had to stay in a neighboring city due to no hotel availability.
Transportation is also important. Depending on how and where, perhaps add a transport service from airport or train station? Make sure, too, that there are plenty of parking spaces in the neighboring area to the event location – if you know many of your visitors will drive own cars.
If you bring your guests to an outside area of the conference room, make sure they are well informed about who, when, how and where. It can be very confusing and leave a bad memory if they remember the feeling of being left alone.
6. External activities
Depending on what kind of event you have, adding an external activity can add value. Even if you are doing an event for partners or customers, you can add a nice twist with a visit somewhere including a teambuilding event, or similar.
With these alternatives, you may get some crazy ideas and think that everybody loves surprises. Just remember… If you want to positively surprise your guests, at least have the smarts to tell them to bring appropriate clothing. You do not want to have guests tackling an assault course in their most expensive shoes, or getting their finest clothes torn and dirty.
Unless you have plenty of time and skills in dealing with these sorts of activities, I can recommend adding the cost of hiring a professional company to arrange it. People who do it for a living add value and a professional approach that you might not be able handle on your own.
7. Project and event management
"I can do that." "I can do this." How many people do you really need to pull off this event? Proper project management and event management is essential. I have seen far too many examples of underestimating the number of persons needed to handle events properly.
There are good reasons for hiring a venue for your event and to use their services for your needs. It might come with a price tag, but hey – just arranging basic hospitality stuff like soft drinks, cookies and fruit does not happen by magic. Neither does the creation of name tags, registering your guests and making them feel welcome! Basic stuff needs to be bought, arranged, refilled and handled – and either you or someone from your team needs to focus on it.
That is why you should consider procuring many of these services from event management. They are professional and handle events and guests daily. You, however, are most likely not handling events on a daily basis.
Make sure that everybody engaged in the event has been assigned enough time to be able to deliver as promised. Too great a work load on too few people can break your event.
8. Marketing and documentation
Most companies are quite successful in marketing and promotion of their event until it starts. But then nothing has been planned. Pre-event marketing is important, but what about documentation of the event? Can you use creative marketing during the event? And what about post-event marketing?
I will not focus on the pre-event marketing, as most of you are quite capable of doing that successfully. But what about during the show?
Hire a photographer and a team to film. If you are doing a classic event with a conference day and dinner, or a two-day conference, use the creative skills of the film and photographer to create a nice film to show during dinner or as a kick-start the next morning. With good planning up front you can make an impact during dinner with fresh footage from the day.
Plan some interviews for publishing to social media (ask ahead of the event so people are prepared). If you have important guests or reference customers, make proper interviews with them – for feature articles on web, newsletters, social media and such.
After the show, it is of course nice for the attendees to get a small reminder video, and you can use the video or photo content to create next year’s event.
9. On-site preparation and planning
Having selected the venue, you need to think about on-site preparation and planning. Remember to use the event manager from the venue to make sure you run things smoothly. They know which mistakes others have made – there’s no point in repeating them!
As I mentioned earlier, good communication with event/venue manager is crucial to your success. You cannot be too prepared for an event – but you can never plan for the unexpected. And things tend to happen. Having a good and positive tone with the venue staff will surely help.
10. Adding the WOW-factor!
You spend months on your event. Everything goes well. Marketing has been good. Presentations are OK (they are PowerPoint or Keynote, right?) and the speakers have avoided mumbling too much. Your guests listen to the headlining presentation and are good to go. Polite applause after your CEO says thank you, goodbye and see you soon.
How do you feel? The not-so-beautiful feeling of mediocre? You did OK, not good and absolutely not great.
So, how can you add that WOW factor, that will make the audience leave singing your song and praising your event, brand and product? Or turning important decision-makers into positive advocates for your brand and product?
There is more to it than a spectacular visual display, but from experience, a great presentation, such as a film covering the entire wide screen, a cool visual setup using LED walls or projection – works.
That is the reason why the big companies have them on their launches, kick-offs and presentations.
They are impressive. They are great tools to support your story.
Let the WOW begin (before the event)
The WOW can start immediately at the event – or even better – before the event. Do not send the entrance pass in an email. Wrap it neatly, package it and give it the impression of value.
When the guests arrive, make them feel special. Make them want to be part of your event. Here your event/venue managers can help you on this – if you are unsure or feel that they are not capable, you also have special event companies that can help.
And then finally, when the presentation starts… Lo and behold! It is NOT a dead boring PowerPoint or Keynote presentation. Engage your creative team to help the presenters convey their stories using the big screen. Use audio. Use great visuals. Use film. Use illustrations. Use text when needed.
If your room allows, add lighting from non-projection sources (moving heads, led strips and follow-spots) to strengthen the message on the screen. The presenter can show a video, dim the light in the room and then re-appear at a different place only lit by spots. Highly effective – and can cause great dramaturgy to the entire presentation.
But… Nothing comes neither free or without sacrifice. You need to spend time to make sure you have practiced on the delivery. A bad pitch by a presenter who does not know what comes next or the content – that is not mediocre. That is much worse.
I’ll leave you with a prime example from my own experience. Being a bit bold in both corporate attitude and having a high understanding of the impact a powerful video have, the client, eSmart Systems, invested in a wide-screen promotion video produced by Nordic Media Lab. They brought potential customers into the room, sat them down, and dimmed the lights. Showtime!
Good luck on your next corporate event! Be bold! Be good! Leave mediocre for somebody else.