Corporate Event Planning Challenges: Tips from 27 Event Planning Experts on How to Avoid Headaches When Planning Corporate Events

Last Updated: July 6, 2018
 

Planning a corporate event? You have your work cut out for you. Corporate event planning is a huge undertaking, requiring a practically super-human level of organizational skills and attention to detail. That said, it can also be a lot of fun, and it’s always incredibly rewarding when you’ve managed to pull off the event of the year.

Whether you’re planning your company’s annual corporate event or you plan events for other organizations for a living, no one is exempt from event-planning stress. For tips on how to make your next event-planning experience a bit less stressful, we reached out to a panel of event planners and corporate event managers and asked them to share their responses to this question:

What’s the single biggest challenge when planning a corporate event (and how do you overcome it)?

Meet Our Panel of Event Planners and Corporate Event Managers:

Learn how you can avoid common pitfalls and pull off your next corporate event like a seasoned pro by reading our experts’ advice below.  


Nicola LloydNicola Lloyd

@mason_frank

Nicola Lloyd is the Events Manager for Mason Frank International.

It’s absolutely imperative to…

Develop a communication system before, during, and after events you manage. The less you communicate, the more chance there is of something going wrong.

If you are coordinating teams in different parts of the world, it is even more important to plan out a communication schedule to account for time differences and ensure all events staff are on the same message. We conduct weekly team phone calls prior to events, WhatsApp with those attending the event, and hold a post-event phone call to summarise successes, failures, and ROI.

A simple solution to a hugely important planning consideration. Budgets are challenging, timescales are tricky, but communication is essential.


Greg JenkinsGreg Jenkins

@brvprodevents

Gregory P. Jenkins, partner and co-founder of the award-winning Bravo Productions, holds an impressive list of credentials and has earned a high reputation in the field of special events – a career expanding more than three decades.

One of the single biggest challenges when planning a corporate event is…

To completely identify and understand all factors as it relates to risk management. You can have a firm grasp on the audience demographics, make selections for the exact type of entertainment and decor elements that will appeal to the guests, and have a system in place to track audience responses, however, if you don’t have a plan to address any threats that could possibly take place and disrupt the event – even potentially putting guest safety at risk, the planning tinkers on the possibility for disaster.

As a event planner with more than 25 years of experience, it’s key that one always identify threats, including weather factors (Acts of God), possibility of protests, labor strikes, civil unrest, and risks to guests safety, etc. That’s foremost to any corporate event plan.


Eric AnthonyEric Anthony

@StreamingOb

Eric Anthony is the Founder of StreamingObserver.com, where they report on streaming news and offer tips for streaming and cord-cutting.

If you’re in charge of planning a corporate event, be sure to check out the space ahead of time…

Is there enough room? Is it too noisy? Is it well lit? All things you need to make sure of before hosting an event, whether it be with partners, shareholders, or your own employees. It is a corporate event, after all- the location has to accommodate the purpose.


Myles NyeMyles Nye

@MylesNye

Myles Nye is Chief Operations Officer and co-founder of Wise Guys Event. Based in Los Angeles, Wise Guys Events specializes in intelligent fun and has produced high-end, interactive team building programs for clients including Google, Apple, Nike, Disney, and many more. 

Among the skills targeted in team building programs for corporate clients…

The most frequently requested is communication, and it’s no wonder: when planning a corporate event – as when navigating a marriage, a job interview, or a hostage negotiation – effective communication is often the biggest challenge. From very straightforward matters such as how many emails on a single subject is too many before a phone call is warranted all the way to how can you ensure that you are listening to receive and not just listening to respond, there are many pitfalls to communicating
clearly and effectively. Making sure the client’s expectations are expressed clearly and every vendor on the chain is evaluating accurately about what they can do and when and for how much: these are just the beginnings. If we could solve all communication problems, most other problems would fall away as well, or at least be mitigated significantly. 


Barb CulbertsonBarb Culbertson

@LXMpls

Barb has been producing corporate, social and wedding events and for over a decade in the Twin Cities. Her enthusiastic personality towards venue sales has brought continued success throughout her career. With her restaurant management experience and go-getter attitude, she aspires to craft a great work atmosphere for all. She is now the Director of Sales at the Lumber Exchange Event Center.

Some of the biggest challenges in planning corporate events are…

PROBLEM #1: VARYING VISIONS

One of the biggest challenges I see when planning corporate events is not having everyone share the same vision. Sometimes we’re working with the company planner for months on one idea only to have their boss come into the process later on with a completely different expectation.

One of the most important roles of an event planner, especially when doing corporate events, is drawing out a company’s vision. Events speak to people. From the very beginning, I need to understand what our client wants this event to say. What are they trying to convey to their guests? My job isn’t just planning a party, but creating an experience that captures a company’s message. That begins by really getting to know the business you’re working with. If I can do that, the rest is a lot more fun!

I’m not only an event planner but a problem solver. One of the biggest lessons this business has taught me is to be flexible. My job is to give the client everything they want in an event, no matter how many times they change their mind.

PROBLEM #2: CLIENTS FROM FAR, FAR AWAY

I’m working with people from all over the world who want to have a corporate event at The Lumber Exchange Event Center. Dealing with sometimes drastic time differences can really slow down the planning process. Also, many of those global corporate clients have never been here. While seven distinct event spaces within our venue give us the creative flexibility we need to put on a memorable event, explaining how we will use the space to
someone thousands of miles away, who has never been here, can be daunting. But if you take the time to get to know your client and build a relationship of trust, oftentimes corporate planners will simply put everything in our hands. This is what we do best, and if we can plan an amazing event without having to stress out the company putting it on,
everyone wins!

I like taking the time to explain my vision to our corporate clients who can’t always see it. A lot of times, our clients get overwhelmed with all of the moving pieces that go into putting on an event. It’s not their job to worry about all of that, it’s mine. I want them to see past all of the stressful details and really visualize the end result and what kind of experience we are giving their guests.

PROBLEM #3: OVER-THE-TOP IDEAS

We’ve had some pretty outlandish requests at The Lumber Exchange Event Center, and I love it! Clients have had some pretty incredible ideas for their events: silk dancers, mariachi bands, even a drumline. And that was just one event! As the person expected to make it all happen, these kinds of complicated requests will keep you up at night. These are also the kinds of events that make my job so exciting! It’s certainly not easy to keep all of these moving pieces organized and on point, but they definitely make our events magical!

Every event planner has, at one time or another, had to tell their client no. It’s not fun. I want to give our clients the exact event they want, but sometimes budgets or the physics of gravity simply don’t allow it. This business has taught me there is always a way to make something happen. You have to be malleable but firm in what you can and cannot deliver on, and I’ve found that approach helps everyone win. The client’s vision remains
intact and I don’t have to deal with a fire marshal!

One of the best parts of event planning is finding an answer to a problem. In the event business, there is always a way to make a circle out of a square. With so many moving pieces, once in awhile, a problem is going to pop up. It’s the ability to think on your feet that will get you out of any issue.


Michelle BellMichelle Bell

@CaptureMktg

Michelle Bell is the Director of Events at Capture Marketing, a PR, Marketing and Events agency based in Pewaukee, WI. We have assisted clients on a number of events, ranging from corporate to philanthropic, both of which they have encountered and seen various challenges arise.

One of the most common corporate event planning challenges is…

The Challenge

One of the biggest challenges I have faced when managing a large corporate event, whether for the employees or the clients, is getting management to buy in and approve the budget. Typically people see corporate events as really big, expensive parties, but neglect to see it for what it is – a relationship building experience and/or employee retention tool.

The Solution

Be visual! Not only is it important to show management where the money is being spent, but show them the overall goal and how the event will achieve it.

For example, if the overall event goal is to retain customers, illustrate the number of people that attend year after year, survey attendees following the event, etc. Show them that the event will be fun, but will also be purposeful.

Once they understand the importance of the event, you can talk about the budget. Rather than just providing them an excel spreadsheet with a general cost, use a pie chart to show them that X% of the budget is spent on the venue, X% is spent on food and beverage, etc. This will not only help make sure the money is being spent appropriately, but it will help you if you need to go back and reduce the budget as well.

Relationships are key in today’s business, and management decision should work towards helping to build and foster them!


Jennifer MagasJennifer Magas

@Soul0fWit

Jennifer Magas is currently the VP of Magas Media Consultants, LLC and an Associate Professor of Public Relations at Pace University who has been teaching Communications and Public Relations courses forover 20 years. Additionally, she was an Employment Law attorney in an HR department of aninternational commodities trading firm where she handled the employee relations for 9,600 employees.

Planning any event is beyond stressful…

Aside from needing detail-oriented staff, small budgets and rising costs, and the fact that anything can go wrong will go wrong, there’s something in particular that I would consider the single biggest challenge. What I’ve dealt with most in my planning are short time constraints.

Often times, an event will come up almost without notice, or a client will approach with an idea for an event that needs to happen ASAP. It’s stressful to deal with getting everything you need to get done in a short amount of time, and sometimes it can feel like you’re scraping by.

It sounds silly to say that planning an event requires… well, planning. But when it comes to dealing with short time constraints, it requires extra planning. By that, I mean sitting down, writing down everything you need, how you’re going to get it, who you need to contact, etc. Attention to detail is everything when it comes to planning something in a small amount of time. There is little room for messing up if you don’t want your event to flop. I would suggest checklists and divvying up duties to a reliable team.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but sometimes events are built in just a few weeks. It’s all a matter of how willing you are to make a list and make it happen.


Chivonne HyppoliteChivonne Hyppolite

@AEMAEvents

Chivonne Hyppolite is the Event Execution Expert for Abstract Elements Management Agency. With over a decade of experience, she has planned and executed various corporate meetings/conferences, galas, golf tournaments, concerts, community fundraisers, festivals for Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, start-ups and nonprofits. What sets her a part from other planners is she lives by the motto that “Experiences are lived…not Googled.” In that regard, it is her quest to not sell her services, but curate unique experiences through events.

My single biggest challenge when planning a corporate event is…

Receiving the final slide presentations from the contracted speakers on time. It never fails, no matter how big or how small the conference may be there are always a handful of speakers who walk in the door with a thumb drive and want us to create magic onsite. They do not tend to realize that there is a production element to their presentation and oftentimes discount the amount of work that has to be done to get their PowerPoint in alignment with the events template branding or sequencing with other speakers.

The way I generally overcome this challenge is by establishing rapport and communicating with the speakers (or their assistants) early on. I take the time to educate them on what the goals and objectives of their presentation should mirror and express to them that the production element of their talk is crucial to the success of the presentation. I provide them with the submission deadlines verbally, then I follow up with an email. Within two weeks of the event, if I have still not received their presentation, my staff is calling their staff daily. After all, it is in the best interest of my client (the entity hosting the event) to have every element in place.


David JacobsonDavid Jacobson

@TrivWorks

David Jacobson is the Founder & CEO of TrivWorks.

For me, the single biggest challenge when planning a corporate event is…

Finding the right people to fill the various roles needed to execute on behalf of corporate clients. As somebody who produces corporate events all over the country, I rely on others to carry out what my clients and I have carefully planned; this means I needed to identify, train, and ultimately hand over the fate of each event to people whom I have complete trust in, as they are representing my brand and reputation in the marketplace. Once the right people are in place, everything else can be managed – however, without
the right people there is simply no way I could deliver my services at the level which my clients and I expect. 


Rosie CapposRosie Cappos

@FreightCenter

Rosie Cappos works as a marketing coordinator at a Tampa Bay based company called FreightCenter, a full-service 3rd Party Logistics company whose primary focus is to assist individuals and businesses with their freight shipping needs.

Recently, we held our first ever Company Picnic…

Which was such a success we plan to make it an annual event that everyone can look forward to each year. A common concern that marketing and HR struggled with while planning the event, was ensuring that the majority of employees would be in attendance. Many employees work far away from the office and asking them to attend an event on a Saturday would require a bit of effort from us. Aside from stating the obvious, which would be that as long as you throw a great event, people should want to come regardless, there were a few other tactics we used to persuade people to attend. We recruited the help of many employees to help the event run smoothly (someone to face paint, a few people on the grill, etc.). Making employees feel as though they have a duty to fulfill at the event makes them more inclined to attend. In addition, we offered countless prizes for easy to win games, to guarantee that everyone walked away a winner. We even handed out a free t-shirt to everyone that came. And who doesn’t love free t-shirts?


Alicia JohnstonAlicia Johnston

@NYPartyWorks

Alicia Johnston is the Accounts Manager (CFO) for New York Party Works.

The biggest challenge when planning a corporate event is…

Keeping your employees entertained. After you spend money on food, tents, or a catering hall, the last thing you want to see is employees standing around looking
bored. NYPW supplies all different types of entertainment based on the event. For picnics, a 300′ long portable zip line will be exciting and a memorable experience or you can have inflatables such as slides, bouncers and obstacle courses especially if children are invited. For corporate events, Photo Entertainment & Casino nights are the most popular. These types of events keep employees engaged and having fun together. Remember you want your employees to leave the event talking about what a great time
they had.


Robert Fowler Robert Fowler

@CatalystCreativ

Robert Fowler is the Managing Partner and SVP of CatalystCreativ where he focuses on event design and production. Robert has worked with multiple Fortune 500 companies and is based in New York City. Creating unique and engaging experiences has been Robert’s passion for many years.

One common challenge when planning corporate events is…

CatalystCreativ has had the honor and pleasure of working for many corporations, organizations and non-profits since we started in Downtown Las Vegas in 2012. One challenge that remains the same, no matter the size of the client, is navigating the internal politics and personalities of the individuals at the organization. There are often conflicting agendas and options about all aspects of the event. We try to establish, from the very beginning, the why of the event and then go back to the why with everything we plan, suggest and do. This often helps internally resolve the differing opinions.

Just like many other service professionals, we as event planners often wear many hats for our clients beyond our contracted job. We become therapists, travel agents, stylists and even life-coaches for our clients. All of that aside, we feel lucky that we get to call many of those we work with friends, which makes our job that much more fun.


Charles DuganCharles Dugan

@Am_Img_Displays

Charles Dugan is the owner of American Image Displays, designers and stock distributors for trade show display equipment.

When it comes to corporate event planning…

It’s hard to generate enough buzz and interest that excites people and convinces them to attend. Filling seats isn’t easy. Not only are you competing against other industry events,
but you also have to persuade people that your event is more important than other commitments they have. People lead busy lives, so they need a compelling reason to allocate their time and resources to going to a business event. If you are looking to get more people to attend your event, then my advice would be to execute an email marketing campaign. Email marketing is quantifiable, meaning you can easily measure your results and get a good feeling for how many people are interested in your event.
Despite a plethora of options, email is still the preferred means of professional communication.


Serena HolmesSerena Holmes

@serena__holmes

Serena Holmes is the President and CEO of Tigris Events, an award winning experiential marketing and event staffing agency headquartered in Toronto. 

Finding the right venue is a big pain point for many event planners…

You need a venue that has a good location and is within your budget. It’s important to select a place that has an appropriate amount of space. Make sure you have a rough estimate of how many individuals will be attending. The last thing you want is to select a venue where people are crammed and don’t have space to walk around and socialize comfortably. I recommend narrowing your venue options to a short list and then scheduling site visits so you can see the space in person. 


Alexis ChateauAlexis Chateau

@AlexisChateauPR

Alexis Chateau is the founder and managing director at Alexis Chateau PR. She enjoys travel, hiking, and British novels. Chateau is proudly owned by Shadow the PR Cat.

Naturally, event planning is one of the services we provide at my PR firm…

However, it’s one we don’t take on often. Why not? Because the single biggest challenge when planning any event, is trying to figure out how many people will come, and then budgeting and planning accordingly.

Not everyone invited will show, and some of those invited may bring guests. Are they bringing just their spouse, the whole family, or is a prized client bringing half the team from their company? Some people give a heads-up, and some people show up and say, I hope you don’t mind, but I brought…

Fortunately, the case with most events is that the more people show, the more successful that event is. The problem comes from catering for that uncertain number, especially if food and seating is involved in the plans.

The best way to overcome it is to issue a limited amount of tickets (even if admission is free!), that is just a little less than the seating and the food prepared. That way, if people show up with a guest, there is a little extra room.

It’s also a good idea to contract with a charity for the homeless to ensure the leftovers are given to people who need it. You can never go wrong at any corporate event with a dose of goodwill, even if you never make it publicly known.


Thomas BeckmanThomas Beckman

@28PowerComm

Thomas Beckman is a CEO & Executive Coach. He established 28 Power Communications as an agency that reflects his experience…his personality…his work ethic…his creativity…his passion. A cornerstone of 28 Power Communications is the company’s executive message development and media coaching program which helps create lasting and impactful messages for companies around the globe.

The single biggest challenge facing event planners these days is attendee engagement…

The days of sitting in a banquet room and watching presentation after presentation are over. We need to challenge ourselves to find ways to reach attendees during the event in new and fun ways so we increase message retention.


Karen ShackmanKaren Shackman

@nyc_meetings

Karen Shackman is the founder of the leading Manhattan Destination Management Company Shackman Associates New York, and has have 20 years of experience helping corporate meeting planners overcome event challenges.

Two challenges we find are the most common to overcome are…

1. Site selection mistakes and how it can make or break a meeting and what it can mean for attendees.

Historically, the reputation of a venue can have a very strong draw for any meeting or event. However, if the location is in direct conflict with the brand and message of the company, this can have an adverse effect. In the case of outdoor events, it is important to note what is in the surrounding area. We recently had to redirect an outdoor event as there was a billboard across the street for a competitor that would have been in direct eye sight of all guests. Also important to ensure that the venue is adequately equipped to handle basic electronic and food requirements

2. One forgotten item on the site selection checklist.

Basic checklist items include details on security, emergency contingencies, insurance
requirements, wifi, electric output, and catering/flexibility in food and beverage. Load-in requirements/restrictions need to be considered as are timing restrictions for an event may run long.You would be surprised how many meeting presentations are doomed because of small tech component was overlooked. Here is how we have overcome it for clients. We do a run-through of the entire program to make sure the event itself is not the only time every single item is used.

3 Tips to Avoid Unexpected Challenges: 

1. Overall, think like an attendee.

Getting attendee feedback prior to planning will pay off in a big way. We are finding some of the most successful meetings we have helped managed were the result of a
collaborative effort throughout the company to find exactly what kind of takeaway attendees expect– including the nature of delivery of the material, any leisure time activities or info for spouse programs. Ensuring that all dietary restrictions are accommodated is an important component to encourage attendee participation.

2. Understand how a brand fits into a venue and how a venue impacts the
goals of the event.

A venue might sound really amazing, but does it reflect the corporate culture. Making an assumption that a venue can accommodate any last minute changes, or electrical requirements should be avoided. It’s also important to check with the venue that there will be no competitive brands in-house at the same time as your event. Also for any
food and beverage brands, it is important to ensure that the venue selected supports those brands.

3. Demographics are huge.

Planners have to consider many aspects of their attendees including age, sex, position in the company (executive or incentive top performer, etc) when selecting venues. This will determine whether the venue should be more classic in nature or more contemporary
with amenities that could support wifi activation stations, virtual reality booths etc. This is true too for the location of the event.. Millennial attendees may want after-hours options after the event, so selecting a venue for a corporate dinner or cocktail party that is close to hot neighborhoods like the Lower East Side could add to the attendee experience.


Katie SilvaKatie Silva

@JPMKTG

Katie Silva is an Outreach Coordinator for JP Marketing, an advertising agency in Fresno, California. She’s been planning and coordinating nonprofit and corporate events for approximately 7 years now.

The single biggest challenge in planning any event is…

The needing to rely on vendors to ensure your event is executed in the way it was planned. Planning an event is much like a puzzle. Each vendor is its own piece and when one piece goes missing, the entire puzzle’s image is altered.

You can put countless hours into planning the perfect event, but the fact of the matter is you can’t control every aspect entirely. Perhaps one vendor got a flat tire while on their way to the event, or maybe they arrived on time but forgot a piece of equipment.

The worst thing to do in any situation like this is to panic. The moment you do, you lose control of the prosperity of your event. Instead, put those superb planning skills to use and create a Plan B and even a Plan C. As event planners we need to expect the best, but plan for the worst.


Oury ThomasOury Thomas

@Choyou

Oury Thomas is an entrepreneurial-minded individual who is passionate about technology. He currently works at ChoYou as the US General Manager. He has 10+ years in large and international events management worldwide. Oury is an accomplished marketing executive for the tech industry with extensive experience in event production, content marketing, lead gen strategy, partner programs, and creative experiential marketing campaigns.

A corporate event is all about connecting people (sales with prospects, buyers with distributors, platforms and partners, etc.)…

In the era of millennials, event professionals are not only being asked to do more but to also adopt and use the most recent technologies in event planning, social media platforms, trendy apps, and so on. Event planners and organizers are focusing 80% of their time on logistics and production, and only 20% on the strategy and the vision of what they are doing. The biggest challenge is to answer this simple question: what am I doing and why? In today’s connected world with many cloud technologies to assist us, this ratio should technically be reversed: 20% spent on non- to low-value tasks (event space booking, logistic details, badge printing, etc.) and 80% on what really matters: the strategy. We should be asking strategy-focused questions. What is the purpose of my event? What are the goals? How do I measure the success? What kind of strategy can I come up with to reach the objectives? How do I attract more attendees? How do I sell more sponsorships? There are a lot of technologies out there right now that are trying to help and support event professionals. In reality, all these apps and software are focusing on the non-value part of an event. The biggest challenge is to find a way to dedicate more time to what matters!


Alecia MayAlecia May

@eventistrybyal

Alecia May, owner and Digital Event Strategist of Eventistry by Alecia, has been orchestrating events for over 13 years. With a passion for life and a flair for the creative, she’s planned and coordinated conferences, summits, meetings, grand openings, retreats, workshops, product launches, music festivals, private parties and more, for anywhere from a handful of people to thousands of attendees. Her experience combined with a natural eye for detail has allowed her to design and execute very intricate and complex events.

No matter how many times I do this or how many successful events I’ve planned…

There’s always a part of me that wonders if everyone will show up! What if the caterers flake out and the guests are left hungry and thirsty? Or what if the florist misplaced our order and the venue has no decorations? What if the speakers double-booked or got the days wrong? Will all of the people who bought tickets or RSVP’d actually show up to fill the seats? Every single time. But then I talk myself down by remembering that the vendors I work with are reputable and reliable and that I dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s about 10 times over. There are always going to be a few no-shows for attendees – it’s inevitable – but as long as the majority show up, I consider it a win.


Nicole BatisteNicole Batiste

@EventsBySB

Nicole Batiste is the President and Owner of Events by SB.

With corporate events, there tend to be many players involved…

And with a lot of players comes a lot of opinions! To ensure we are satisfying everyone’s needs, we usually ask that the clients split up components of the event that they’d each like to be responsible for influencing. For example, one person can drive the guidance on menu and drinks, while someone else can be more involved in the entertainment plan. Dividing and conquering is always the best approach! 


Tyler RiddellTyler Riddell

@eSUBinc

Tyler Riddell is the Director of Marketing for eSUB Construction Software with over 15 years of experience in Marketing, Product Management, Advertising, and Public Relations. He has a proven track record for successful go to market and corporate communication programs in multiple vertical tech markets.

The biggest challenge in planning and executing successful corporate events is…

Our company, eSub, provides cloud-based solutions for project management in the construction field. We take part in many corporate events throughout the years and I have found that proper event staffing is crucial to its outcome. Not having trained and knowledgeable people managing an event can be disastrous. Make sure to find the right people with the proper skill set to oversee your corporate events. 


Jud YaskiJud Yaski

@LetUsInspireU

Jud Yaski is the owner of INSPIRE Productions.

Corporate events are a great way to bring the entire company together and create an atmosphere filled with fun and positive energy…

As any event planner would know, corporate events are difficult to plan. All events come
with the logistical stress of deciding where the event should be held, how much food and drinks should be provided, how many tables and chairs and needed for the guest count, and much more. However, corporate events add the extra challenge of having to interlace professionalism with entertainment. How do you do you entertain an entire corporation in a lively and enjoyable environment without pushing the boundaries of being unprofessional?

The key to overcoming this challenge when planning a corporate event is constant communication with and a strong understanding of the corporation’s core values. Every corporation is different. Some have created a relaxed work environment for their employees that allows for them to express their personalities and feel relaxed about sharing personal details and experiences. Others have created an environment that is structured around following strict rules and maintaining strong professional work ethics when acting in a manner that is associated with the corporation’s brand. The key idea to remember is that your contact with the corporation knows more about their employees and the company environment than you as an event planner does, so listen to them thoroughly! Ask questions to get to know their core values and the culture of their employees, even ask about what events they have done in the past that were a success! Corporate events are easy to plan and pull off successfully if the event planner feels comfortable about the personality of the corporation!


Maggie O'NeillMaggie O’Neill

@Peppercomm

Maggie O’Neill, managing director & partner at Peppercomm, Inc., provides agency-wide communications and brand experience support to the agency’s expanding portfolio of consumer clients. In addition, she is the founder and driver of Peppercomm’s experiential service offering, responsible for its growth and direction. She is a former celebrity publicist and ex-bartender – both of which taught her lessons about client service and thinking on her feet.

Transparency and communications are the biggest challenges to planning a corporate event…

Often times the person in charge of the event is not focused on consistent two-way communications with senior members of the corporation and the event planner. When this happens, expectations are rarely met and measurement of success comes into play. The best way to address this is to set KPIs with senior leadership at the start of the planning and provide weekly updates throughout the process.

It is also essential to be 100% transparent with event planners and agencies working on your behalf for a corporate event. Internal roadblocks, past event concerns and what may seem like small issues during planning are often not addressed, putting anyone working on the event at an immediate disadvantage. A pre-brief on potential issues and working in a live document/filesharing platform helps keep transparency going even when team members get busy and are moving quickly.

Establishing both of these protocols at the start of any planning initiative will ensure no one is surprised the night of the big event.


Julia Angelen JoyJulia Angelen Joy

@JuliaAngelenPR

Julia Angelen Joy is the PR Consultant for Z Group PR. She is an international steward of creativity with extensive experience in public relations, community engagement, fundraising, and marketing. With 20 years of experience, two marketing degrees, and an MBA, Jules can solve Engagement & PR issues faster than you can say, Super PR Lady! Julia resides in Boise with her four children and two tiny dogs. She loves chocolate, wine, and yoga.

To start, an event that has a robust digital/social presence will warm the 
attendees up for the in-person experience…

Conversations, posts, and tweets from presenters and/or organizers that engage with followers/attendees prior to the event will create a level of engagement that will start the event off warmly, rather than everyone showing up cold and having to warm up at the event. Even an internal only audience can receive the same warm up activities via a private email, intranet or team board.

For example, when people register/confirm, asking them to share the event on social media or via the team intranet and then following up with those shares creates pre-event conversations that will help the attendees feel connected. Adding location/team information and sharing posts of attendees from the same area/department will help.

Once at the event, avoid the standard line-up/sign-up approach. Registration and sign-in should be a social event, not a roped-off stand-in-line slog that feels more like a zig-zag through airport security. Have sign-up tables where groups of people sign in together, do a roundtable intro and connect right at the beginning. With advanced planning, sign in tables can put attendees together as peers, affinity groups, or by location, creating a basis for easy networking.

Throughout the event, organizers can create chatting and meeting spaces, dining experiences and social sharing options that bring attendees together. Following the same or predictable conference set up is not conducive to networking. It throws a bunch of people together, most of whom are introverts, and expects them to do all of the work. Event planners who function like hosts, introducing their guests and creating a warm, welcoming environment will take the time to make introductions, get to know attendees, and create an environment that spurs conversations.

Having presenters, key attendees, or topic influencers set the stage for networking and spend time working to connect with attendees when they are not on stage is crucial. Event planners can hire additional staff or professionals to help with this. Again, moving away from the standard event formula and looking more at how you want to treat your guests will help planners to create better events.


Lindsay KrauseLindsay Krause

@linzkr

Lindsay Krause is a Senior Meeting and Event Manager for Special D Events with 15+ years in corporate meeting planning. She has planned countless corporate events of all kinds and enjoys partnering with clients to develop and execute event strategy, while staying in budget and on-time. 

One of the biggest challenges I regularly encounter is…

Achieving buy-in from top executives for event initiatives. Often the event planner in an organization works in marketing or human resources department or is an administrative professional. They are tasked with planning the event, but top management owns the budget. As a creative agency, that does not provide me with much face time with corporate leaders. It’s a challenge to pitch innovative ideas indirectly.

In addition, due to busy schedules, many times C-level individuals do not surface until just a few weeks prior to an event. At that time, it is often too late to pitch them on a major event concept, or discuss the need for change in past initiatives.

As such, I employ the following techniques to break through the noise and get their attention:

Provide short, professional pitch. I create a concise, visual deck that can be shared with top management. In that presentation, I include successful case studies from similar organizations, as well as budget estimates and potential returns on investment such as increased social presence, a jump in brand awareness, etc. Essentially, I try to provide my point person with everything they might need to build a case for an idea. Then, I offer an opportunity for another meeting to answer any questions.

Give event attendees a voice. Another successful tool is to share attendee feedback with top executives. Post event survey results from reoccurring events can exponentially help the next year’s plan of attack as it shines a light on best practices as well as areas that require room for improvement. Nothing speaks louder than a critique straight from the target audience-good or bad.

Discuss worst case scenarios. The truth is, things can go wrong with events. Many times, the things that go sideways are due to budget cuts. So, if I can story tell and share what has happened to other events executives are able weigh their priorities a little easier.

Provide Solutions. If I have a problem that needs to be massaged I try to come to the table with a solution. Perhaps, audio visual costs are coming in higher than expected due to a demanding rider from entertainment. Rather than just relaying the situation, I try to get creative with fixes. Maybe we could secure another sponsor, serve passed hor d’oeuvres rather than a buffet, or work with local (and often free of charge) volunteers to help wayfind. Top management is expected to solve problems, so I try to mirror their work style to get their attention.

Leadership style varies from company to company, so I always try to gain an understanding of the corporate culture early in the project. This helps me strategize the best way to break through the clutter so top executives will hear the planner’s voice.


Meghan McNeilMeghan McNeil

@onelineagency

Meghan McNeil currently works at a full-service sports and entertainment marketing company, One Line Agency, as an Event Marketer. She works with sales and marketing leaders at Fortune 500 companies in North America to plan and manage their corporate events. 

We have found the biggest challenge when planning corporate events is coordinating ground transportation…

Not to be too harsh, but many of these companies are not reliable, often sub-contracting out services to other transportation providers without much forethought or concern.

To avoid having transportation issues such as a vehicle not showing up on time or at a wrong location, it is extremely important to stay organized and maintain strong verbal and written communication. Make sure you receive a trip confirmation from the company and review it multiple times to check for mistakes. Also, review the contract terms carefully to ensure that they cannot switch vehicles on you without penalty.

Lastly, it is very important to get the contact information of your actual driver so you know when they are on the way and do not have to rely on a dispatch to reach them.


Categories Events

Angela Stringfellow

Angela Stringfellow is a writer with 10+ years of experience. She focuses on news, trends, and insights in marketing, business, and technology.

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