The Ellington Ballroom sm square | 7 Corporate Event Planning Tips (Plan Like a Pro)

A corporate event can be a fantastic way for your business to engage with current and potential clients. Done right, it can create a lasting impression, strengthen your brand, and build deeper connections. 

We’ve hosted our fair share of corporate functions here at the Ellington Centre. For instance, our function centre has served as the venue for multi-day conferences, awards nights, fundraisers, trade shows, and many more.

Time and again, we’ve witnessed how important corporate event planning is when it comes to hosting business functions.

The fewer things you leave to chance, the fewer opportunities for things to go wrong!

In this article, we will walk you through the main steps of corporate event planning, from determining the purpose of your function to setting a budget and more.

Let’s get started!

What Are Corporate Events?

These are a special type of event specifically designed to promote a business or organisation. 

It can involve anything from hosting an annual meeting or fundraiser to a company picnic or anniversary dinner.

It's a way for a business to market itself in front of its employees, clients and other people in the industry using an event as a tool.

In the past, these affairs were seen as stuffy and boring, but they have come a long way. In fact, today's business events are often just as exciting, fun and fashionable as many other types of events.

What Makes Corporate Event Planning Different?

There are many differences between event planning for corporate functions versus weddings, birthday parties,  or other types of events. 

For one, events like weddings are not designed to market the host. They are purely social or celebratory in nature, and focus on the attendees instead of the business hosting it.

Next, business events are not planned around a single person. Corporate event planners have to take into account many different types of people when putting together an agenda for their client's guests.

In contrast, wedding planning revolves around the bride and groom, while party plans revolve around the birthday boy or girl. 

Finally, corporate functions last longer than other types of parties – often, they are designed to last the entire day, which is why they require more intensive event management.

Additionally,  they are often business-oriented, which means that the activities or purposes of these events may be more serious or formal than other types.

How to Plan a Corporate Event Like a Pro

Corporate event planning is not always easy, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. 

Here’s a breakdown of the process:

1. Understand the purpose of your event.

The first and foremost thing that you need to do is define your goals and objectives.

Without knowing why you're holding the event in the first place, you'll be flying blind throughout the whole corporate event planning process.

You can specify it more by asking yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish with this event?” 

For example, are you looking to generate leads? Is it a networking event? Do you want people to remember the name of your company or an upcoming product launch? 

To help you narrow the event type down, here's a quick list of the most common types of business events:

  • Seminars

These are typically short, educational events that can range from a couple of hours to half-a-day.

  • Conferences

These are typically longer, more in-depth events that can go for a couple of days or even weeks.

  • Company Retreats

With these types of corporate events, the goal is to get everyone together so they're able to learn about what's going on within their company as well as become familiar with each other by building relationships and teamwork.

  • Trade Shows

Industry conferences or expos where companies set up booths and meet with potential customers face to face. You'll usually find crowds at these events, so if you're looking for something more intimate, consider a different type of event instead.

  • Corporate Charity Events

Usually hosted by companies to raise money for charity or give back to the community in some way.

  • Gala Dinners/Parties 

These are usually formal events that include cocktails and dinner with entertainment like live music or dancing afterwards. 

They're often held at upscale venues and can be quite expensive to host, but they're a great way to reward your top employees or gain exposure for the company.

  • Team-Building Exercises 

These are designed with staff members in mind—think team trivia contests, escape room experiences or outdoor group activities like rock climbing or kayaking.

  • Award Ceremony

If you have or are planning to award employees for their hard work, consider hosting an event specifically dedicated to this.

  • Product Launches 

Most companies will want some type of product launch in order to get the word out about a new item they've been working on. 

Whether it's physical goods like beauty products or cars, or a software update, you'll want to do something special to commemorate the launch.

  • Board Meetings 

Like charity events and gala dinners, board meetings are more formal affairs with less of an emphasis on entertainment.

They're typically hosted by companies' boards or executive teams together with business partners, but can also be hosted by individual corporate divisions.

  • Business/Corporate Dinners

Similar to gala dinners, these are usually hosted by companies' boards or executive teams. They're much more formal affairs with an emphasis on business networking.

  • Grand Openings

Hosting a grand opening is the perfect way to introduce your company's newest branch, office space or store to everyone in your community.

  • Corporate Holiday Parties

You'll usually find these types of corporate events around the holidays, but they can be held any time of year. 

They're a great way to thank your employees for all their hard work throughout the year and reward them with food, drinks and entertainment.

Once you know what type of function you are planning, you can start doing more intensive event management.

2. Set a realistic budget for your event management and stick to it.

Start your budget planning by adding up all the costs you are likely to incur. 

Some of the most common expenses for planning a corporate event are:

  • Venue deposit and rental fees 
  • Catering, such as food and beverage for your guests to enjoy during the event 
  • Vehicle transportation such as shuttle buses or limousines for guest pick up/drop off at a central location 
  • Promotional items given out to all attendees of your corporate function. These can include pens with logos on them, calendars, mugs and other promotional items 
  • Premium gifts given to the most important guests at your corporate event such as a bottle of wine or box of chocolates. These gifts can be purchased in bulk from wholesalers if you are low on budget 
  • Entertainment expenses such as live acts, bands, DJs, and hosts
  • Photography expenses such as having professional photography done at your corporate event 
  • Stationary costs including costs for name tags, pens and paper. These can be printed in bulk by yourself or purchased from printing companies online 
  • Miscellaneous supplies like decorations 
  • Additional charges such as taxes and service fees 
  • Travel expenses to transport your team members from one location to another, including gas and tolls. If any of your team members need to stay overnight before or after an event you can also include their lodging costs in this budget calculation  
  • Public relations expenses to promote your event through channels such as social media, local newspapers and magazines

Don't forget that there may be unforeseen expenses during the event such as additional staff or emergency equipment hire, so pad your budget so you have a little wiggle room.

Furthermore, make sure you have a contingency fund. Prepare for the unexpected, such as sudden inclement weather or extra attendees.

Finally, DON'T spend a cent before you've triple-checked and finalised your budget. This way,  you will know exactly where your money is going and you won't be surprised when bills start to arrive.

3. Carefully select your attendees.

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Be sure that the attendees are appropriate for your event and will add value! Here are some useful tips for selecting your target audience:

  • Choose attendees based on the type of event you are hosting.

For example, if the event is networking, choose attendees who are business owners or employees of big companies. 

Company parties, on the other hand, can be attended by employees at any level.

Planning a big conference? Make sure to research speakers and experts who understand your industry and are familiar to your target audience.

  • Send invitations as early as possible.

This is perhaps one of the most important things for corporate event planners. If you wait until the last minute to send invitations, you can expect a much lower turnout.

Additionally, sending invitations early gives people time to plan. This is especially important if your guests need to book travel and accommodations, take time off

  • Don't forget to include RSVP information!

Finally, stay on top of those RSVPs. You want to make sure you know who is attending, and not just confirming that they received an invitation.

If you need to, send a reminder email or another follow-up note to your guest list as the date approaches so people don't forget to RSVP!

4. Establish a project time frame for your event.

Next, having a solid timeframe is the best way to make sure that all of your bases are covered.

By establishing a project timeline for an event, you can work backward from the date of completion and create smaller sub-projects out of larger tasks in order to avoid getting overwhelmed. 

It is also helpful to schedule regular check-ins with yourself (or your team) during this process to ensure that everything is going according to plan.

But first, how much time does corporate planning usually take?

It really depends on what type of event you're holding.

For example, if you're planning a large-scale, multi-day conference for your company, it's a good idea to give yourself a year or more to iron out the details. This will give you enough time to plan out the different stages of your event as well as how to plan for any problems that may arise.

A sample timeframe can look like this:

  • 12 months before the event:  

Establish the purpose of your event. Brainstorm and research the theme set an initial budget, and form your event planning team.

  • 10 months out:

Scout the venue, draw up an initial list of attendees and look for vendors.

  • 8 months out:

Shortlist your attendees, send out invitations, and set an RSVP system. Lock in your venue.

  • 6 months out:

Shortlist your vendors, give out reminders for attendees, finalise the menu and activities, etc.

  • 4 months out:

Set another RSVP reminder, book your final vendors, flesh out the details of the activities.

  • 2 months to 1 month out:

Finalise your RSVP, organise the pre-event preparations, run through the day with your event team. Finalise other details.

On the other hand, if you're planning an informal company party or gathering, it's best to give yourself at least three months (or more) in order to properly prepare for this more casual function.

Once you have your timeframe, you’ll have a clear schedule to guide your entire event planning process.

5. Choose and book your event vendors.

Your vendors can quite literally make or break your corporate event. For instance, you don’t want your guests being served bad food, or worse, forgetting to account for allergies and other dietary restrictions.

Create a potential vendor list about a year from a big event, and finalise at least 6 months out. This gives you plenty of time to look for alternatives in case your first choice doesn’t pan out.

Here are more tips:

  • Make sure to choose a vendor who offers their services in an area near where your function will be taking place; this makes it easier for logistics purposes.
  • Be prepared before speaking to a vendor, and be able to answer questions about what your function will entail.
  • If you are not familiar with the types of services a certain company offers, ask someone who has used them before for help or recommendations.
  • Be sure to have an idea on how much money you want to spend on each service so that when speaking to a vendor, you can be prepared to give an accurate number.
  • Give vendors as much information as possible regarding your function so that they are able to provide the best service for it; this allows them to work more closely with you and plan accordingly.

Here is a list of common vendors you'll need:

  • Caterers and servers
  • Photographers and Videographers
  • Decorators and stylists
  • Audio/visual companies
  • Entertainment
  • Venue rental
  • Transportation services (for both guests coming to your function, as well as those who are providing their own transportation)
  • Security services (especially if you have high-profile attendees)

Don't forget to consider event insurance so that you can get coverage for anything unforeseen!

6. Book your venue.

Next, your venue will affect every part of your event, from safety to activities, number of attendees, and vendor coordination. 

Use these questions to help you choose the perfect place for your corporate event:

  • Indoor or outdoor?

There’s a reason why most corporate functions are held in function halls: it gives you more control over the entire day.

For instance, you don’t have to worry about bad weather. No need to consider if other people (and their noise) will affect your event, which is common in outdoor locations like parks.

Function centres are more convenient, too. Often, there are already provisions for lights and sounds, catering needs like tables and chairs, plus parking.

Finally, the best venues will have a hand-picked vendor network you can tap for your event.

  • When should you book the venue?

Do it as early as you can, preferably a few months to a year before the event itself.

  • How much should you spend on your event venue?

It depends on how big your event will be. Don’t be shy about asking for packages!

7. Finalise your menu.

People who attend an event will be looking forward to the food you serve, so it’s important that you get this right. Keep these tips in mind:

  • First, make sure you are catering to the needs of your guests.

If they have allergies, make sure their food is free from those ingredients or has alternatives available for them. 

People with special diets should be accommodated as well—so if someone only eats kosher meat, then serve foods that meet this criterion and let people know in advance by including the information on the invitation to your event.

  • Second, serve foods that are easy for people to eat while they're standing and mingling. 

It’s common at corporate functions for guests to put down their plates and continue talking or moving around—so make sure that they can hold their food without too much trouble.

One way to do this is by serving finger foods like mini sandwiches, sushi rolls (if you can find kosher ones), and fresh fruit.

For dessert, serve items that are already portioned out or cut up into small pieces so people don't have to dig their forks into a huge slice of cake—a caterer might be able to serve desserts like mini cupcakes or cookies that are already cut into small pieces.

Of course, if you're hosting a formal business dinner, adjust the food options accordingly. For this type of event, you may want to hire servers to serve the plated food. 

  • Third, make sure you have a variety of foods available for everyone at your event to enjoy. 

If you're hiring a caterer, ask them to provide a variety of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options during the event planning stage.

You also want to have a mix of meal types available—for example, serve both hot food items like roasted chicken or lasagna as well as cold foods that people can enjoy without making them wait too long for their turn in line at the buffet table.

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  • Use corporate event management software.

This type of software allows you to create a master schedule, track expenses and delegate tasks. 

A corporate event management software can be an invaluable tool because it keeps everything in one place so everyone is on the same page for any event project from start to finish.

  • Always have a Plan B, C, D, and so on.

In other words, if something goes wrong at your event, you'll want to have a plan B or C for alternatives. 

For instance, if your guest speaker doesn't show up, have a recorded message ready to play. 

Another example is if your catering company doesn't show up with the food, have a plan for an alternative meal available.

  • Measure the success of your corporate event by defining your KPIs (aka goals).

At the end of the day, these events are business tools. 

Therefore, you want to make sure each event actually grows your business in some way.

Establishing KPIs, or key performance indicators, is a great way to measure its success.

In simple words, KPIs are simply goals you’ll set for the event.

For instance, it can be the number of leads or new clients you get, the number of attendees, or how much social media engagement your event got. 

  • Consider hiring a professional event planner.

Don’t have time to plan the event yourself? Hire a professional! It’s one of the best ways to ensure a successful corporate event. 

Specifically, event planners are experts in the field, meaning you don't have to spend hours researching venues or catering services. You can rely on their expertise for choosing the right venue, vendors, and décor.

An event planner will also save you money because they'll take care of all the details, which means you won't be hit with any hidden costs. 

For example, they can include price quotes for every vendor required to make your event successful. They can then negotiate prices to get the best deal to fit your budget.

Not only will it make your event less stressful, but you can make sure your guests are taken care of while meeting your event goals and objectives at the same time.

Corporate Event Planning FAQs

How do you plan a successful corporate event in Adelaide?

Many corporate events are held every year, but the secret behind a successful event is planning. There are certain important things that need to be kept in mind while you plan an event.

For instance, you need to know how many people are coming, the overall budget for your event, whether you want it to be held at a particular venue or not. Don’t forget to define your goals and objectives as well, and decide whether you want to hire a professional planner or not.

What are the 5 C's of event management?

The 5 C's are:

  • Concept: Define the vision and purpose of the event.
  • Coordination: Who is involved and what are their roles?
  • Control: Conduct a run-through, double-check all vendors, RSVPs, and plan for back-ups. In short, this is about tying up all loose ends.
  • Culmination: This is the big day! Always be alert and stay on top of the event's progress.
  • Closeout: After the event, tie everything up. Are all contracts and payments complete? Provide feedback to your team as well. This is also when measuring KPIs happens.

When is the best time of the year to hold a corporate event in Adelaide?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. 

The best time of year for an event depends on the type of corporate events you are hosting,  what type of event it is, and what your company’s goals are. 

For example, conferences usually happen in the spring or fall, while company holiday parties often happen in December. On the other hand, a company-wide meeting may happen right before accounting season.

What are some of the biggest mistakes companies make when hosting events? 

There are many things that can go wrong during an event. Some of the biggest ones are:

  • Sending out invitations late (or not at all)
  • Not having enough activities or entertainment planned for guests
  • Forgetting to print place cards and table numbers ahead of time
  • Not having clear rules about bring plus ones or children to an event
  • Having an unorganised schedule
  • Failing to designate tasks 

Most of these are avoidable with proper event planning, so make sure you give yourself enough space and time to do so.

Corporate Events at The Ellington

Hosting a business function or corporate event? Let The Ellington make it easy for you.

Aside from offering a beautiful, spacious function hall that can accommodate everything from trade shows to formal gala dinners, conventions, and training sessions, we also have a carefully curated selection of vendors to help you with event planning. 

Let’s connect! Make an enquiry today, and we’ll get back to you shortly.


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