Corporate events can include anything from internal meetings, parties and team building events, through to client events, conferences and awards. They can be small one-day events or large week-long conferences, where internal employees and external partners attend.
In this guide we’ll walk you through how to organise a corporate event, including getting buy-in from your most important stakeholders, and creative ideas that will help make your event great!
This post has also been updated for 2018 with lots of new creative event ideas!
How to organise a corporate event
- Create your role
Unless you are already an in-house event manager for your organisation, the first step is to take responsibility of organising your company’s event. Many event managers start out as a PA or assistant, who helps to organise board meetings or other internal affairs. Any role that requires a high amount of attention to detail and organisation can be a great in-road to corporate event planning.
Start off by taking responsibility for meetings, like a management meeting that’s offsite, maybe with an overnight in the UK. This would involve booking a hotel, transport and selecting menus, but isn’t too pressured when you’re just starting out.
- Determine the event
Unless you have already been tasked with a specific event, the next step is to come up with the type of event your organisation needs. This might be a company conference, an internal meeting or something smaller, like an interdepartmental networking event. If you need inspiration, check out these great event ideas to find one that will work for your company.
- Decide if you need an external agency
Depending on how much production is required for your event, you may want to consider finding a good external agency to help. For example, if you have a large amount of people attending, or a huge event schedule with lots of conference sessions that will need presentation slides formatting, this might stretch the average PA’s skills. Whereas if it’s just an internal event there may only be a small workload that you can manage yourself.
Also consider the logistics. If your event is in the UK, you can easily liaise with the venue and catering companies, whereas if it’s abroad you may require a DMC (destination management company) who knows the country and can take care of flights and so on.
- Persuade your stakeholders
Now you have a rough idea of the event and who will be attending, you may need to persuade your boss just why it’s such a great idea. Make a list of all of the benefits to the company. Tell them the problem you’re trying to solve. This might be a lack of communication between two different departments, feedback from management about an area of marketing which is lacking or just the need to improve company culture in order to increase revenue.
Now you’ve explained the challenge, invite your boss or teammates to offer up solutions – they might just come up with the same idea as you. Getting them involved in brainstorming will force them to become more open-minded and consider lots of options.
Also consider how you present the information. People take information on board in different ways; some of us are auditory learners, while others are visual or kinaesthetic. If your client or boss is a visual learner, for example, you’ll have far more success by showing them your idea in action then simply telling them about it.
- Demonstrate ROI
If your idea requires spend from the event budget, it needs to add value. This is where you should be able to demonstrate the return from your company’s investment. Perhaps your awe-inspiring sculpture in the centre of the exhibition hall will act both as a symbol of the event’s spirit and as a central meeting point? This will make it easier for people to connect and do business at your event. Always addressing ROI will demonstrate your respect for the budget.
You should also include lots of examples of other events that have been a success, and the results they produced for the company. Show them pictures or video of an event where this was done (search the industry press for case studies or use our event examples below). It will help them get a better feel for what you’re trying to achieve and prove what a great feature it can be.
- Choose your event content
Depending on the type of event, you’ll need to decide on your event content. If it’s an internal event, it may be that the content isn’t going to be attractive. Perhaps there are sales figures that aren’t very good and need to be discussed. Whereas if the event if for an external audience the content may be more inspirational or informative. Use your company CRM to ascertain the interests of your audience. Then you can use this to plan the event content, and any leisure activities. For example, a middle-aged predominantly male audience may enjoy an event held at a golfing resort, which means they can play golf around the conference activities.
If you have more of a diverse customer base you may want to organise a range of activities to suit different age groups and types of customers.
- Find speakers
This is where you need to consider the event hook. If your event is aimed at an external or consumer audience you may want someone in the public domain speaking at your event. If it’s an internal event, it may just be someone well known in your industry that everybody rates.
It could also be somebody who does the same thing as your company does but has done it at another company at a high level. For example if you are Tesco, perhaps you invite the CEO of Sainsbury’s to give a keynote speech in order to give your team a new perspective on the same thing. Just be careful of any conflicts of interest.
- Create a contingency plan
Before you launch your event check, check and check again. This is important for any level of organiser to remember.
Don’t be afraid to state your opinion and push the boundaries. It might be that your company has been used to doing something for a long time and it’s time to stir things up a bit. Just because you’re new to event planning doesn’t mean your ideas are not going to be good ones – they’re going to be different. You can use your experience from elsewhere and bring that in.
There are so many unique venues and different options but it’s having the confidence to say, “We’re not having the event in a hotel. We’re going to stay in a hotel and I’m going to book somewhere more interesting for the dinner.” Of course that takes more organising and more management onsite but ultimately the guests enjoy a more exciting event.
- Plan for your post-event follow up
With internal events you can do a survey to see if people have enjoyed it, that they have taken back the message and feel enthused, but there’s often nothing there financially to measure.
With other events you can measure the cost of your leads; how many leads did you get? What was the cost per lead? The value is sometimes intangible but you should get a good sense of whether it’s been worthwhile.
20 Creative Corporate Event Ideas
If you want to run a corporate event that gets people talking, you’ll need to throw in a few quirky features (alongside your great planning of course).
We’ve scoured the web for the most innovative ideas seen at corporate events in recent months, providing a feast of interactive ideas to make your events stand out. Plus a few added ideas for 2018!
1. Alternative payment café
What: A ‘pay with exercise’ café concept, where diners could pay for their food and drink with stints on treadmills, spin bikes, rowing machines and exercise mats.
Where: David Lloyd Leisure ‘Run for your Bun Café’, London
Credit: Event/David Lloyd
2. Nitrogen ice cream bar
What: Nitrogen ice cream bar featuring ice creams in unusual flavours such as popcorn, and Jack Daniels and vanilla, with the novelty factor of exhalable “dragon’s breath” nitrogen smoke.
Where: 8 Northumberland Avenue 2017 Christmas Themes Launch, London
3. Internal TEDx event
What: TEDx talks are hugely popular presentations, where a key speaker gives a short talk on a topic of their choice. These are often inspirational and use storytelling as way to get the message across, a great choice to convey information at your corporate event.
Where: In your organisation.
4. Projection mapped stage set
What: A screen and 18 panelled columns provided a canvas for projection mapping sequences tailored to each speaker. Being able to customise the stage and set to each presentation, ensures that the audience are kept awake. A great way to mix-up a traditional conference set using technology.
Where: Panasonic Toughbook Innovation Forum, Liverpool
5. Rio De Janeiro themed gala dinner
What: A themed gala dinner for Team GB, that used all of the colours of Rio De Janeiro with real fruit walls built into the stage and an upstairs lounge and bar area, inspired by a Brazilian theme. Theming an event with colours, textures and scents is a touch that attendees won’t forget.
Where: Team GB Ball, Royal Opera House London
6. Carnival parade
What: Holland & Barrett kicked off its internal conference with an energetic morning carnival parade leading guests to the main plenary. This theme continued throughout the entire event, including the food and music, helping employees to be fully “in the moment”.
Where: Holland & Barrett Conference, Butlin’s Minehead
7. Immersive photobooth
What: A photobooth taking visitors on a virtual tour around London’s most iconic landmarks, with participants able to either instantly share the pictures or print them off to take home. Giving attendees a keepsake of the event helps your company to stay front and centre of mind.
Where: Coach Chinese New Year Activation at Selfridges, London
8. Food science
What: Cater Tonic presented ‘The Theory of Food’ – interactive live food stalls and science-based food concepts including ‘levitating’ petri dishes of pasta, tomato water bubbles, and savoury frozen lollipops. Guests also ‘foraged’ for unusual flavoured doughnuts using infrared thermal cameras. For the launch of a new venue, this type of interactive corporate event is a great way to get interest and press.
Where: Wonderlab Launch @ Science Museum, London
9. Indoor drag race
What: Indoor drag race on Triumph Bonneville Bobber motorcycles at The Printworks in London involving racing legends such as seven-times World Champion Carl Fogarty MBE, and an international team of motorcycle journalists. Having a prominent figure headlining your corporate event could increase attendance.
Where: Triumph Bonneville Bobber Launch Event, London
10. Pop-up vending machine
What: Hyatt Centric’s pop-up vending machine offering more than 1,600 travel-themed prizes to passersby if they posted their favourite destination on Instagram with a special hashtag. Using social media to amplify your event will get more traction with your company or potential audience.
Where: Hyatt Centric “Sunrise to Sunrise” campaign, New York
11. Corporate poem performance
What: A poem created from stories supplied by hundreds of Astellas employees helped make this internal event personal. Urban poet LionHeart crafted one single narrative and delivered the poem live at the event – wow!
Where: ONE Astellas Live, London
12. Immersive experience geodesic dome
What: A giant geodesic dome with immersive 360˚ visual projections and full narration to take those inside on a multi-sensory food journey, from paddock to the plate. This helped to highlight the Australian roots of the Australian Open and celebrate the great quality food produced by local farmers, through a unique experience.
Where: Woolworths Summer Sensorium, Melbourne
13. Capri Sun-inspired cocktails
What: Cocktails served in old-school Capri Sun-inspired pouches containing vodka-like Korean spirit Soju and lemon, strawberry, lychee, and cucumber juices. A great adult-twist on a childhood favourite. This type of “kid-attainment” is a great method for interactive events where you want your attendees to leave their inhibitions behind.
Where: Thursday Kitchen, New York
14. Seasonal journey
What: This ball was split into four key areas, with each one representing a season. This allowed the attendee to go on a journey; beginning in Autumn and moving through Winter, Spring and eventually Summer with different themed activities, decor and games at every “season”. For an end-of-year event or ceremony this is a great way to reflect on every part of the year.
Where: Christchurch Summer Ball, Oxford university
15. Branded disco party
What: This disco party used an LED screen and decor such as a Swarovski crystal chandelier and a glitter-enthused staircase to brand an awards ceremony for employees. If you aren’t at liberty to paint or decorate your venue, a digital screen can help to set the scene and mood.
Where: Internal Swarovski Award Ceremony
16. A content-led conference
What: An internal brand conference led completely by content. Employees were allowed to create their own agenda (rather than being told which sessions to attend) with models, catwalk shows and pop-up rooms designed to showcase new collections.
Where: The ASOS Assembles internal workforce event
17. Logo hedge sculpture
What: This event transformed a traditional conference centre into a completely customised brand event. From the huge logo sculptured out of a hedge that stood outside, through to the custom-branded balloons and reception counters.
Where: The LinkedIn European Talent Connect Conference, held at QEII Westminster
18. Cinema experience
What: Outdoor cinemas are a hugely popular way of putting on an event. By theming everything from the tickets, to the dress code and the merchandise, food and drink on display, it creates an immersive experience.
Where: Backyard Cinema Mission to Mars
19. Foam swimming pool
What: A swimming pool filled with blue foam squares and its own ladder, as part of the branded experience for VIPs at Stylist Live. Seriously instagrammable!
Where: Stylist Live, London Olympia
20. An ultimate pub quiz
What: A quizmaster podium with two large cubes that seemed to float in mid-air thanks to some clever lighting, suspended each side. Projection was used to have the quiz on each side of the cube. A traditional pub quiz – with a difference.
Where: YouTube’s “Geek Week” event, One Mayfair
Organising a corporate event doesn’t have to be a big, scary thing – start small with a meeting then try some team building or a Christmas party before moving on to a client-facing event.
You can use your administrative and organisational skills in new ways, giving you a great sense of achievement and helping your company to prosper. Plus these great ideas to help you find something that will stand out and be memorable for your attendees.
Seen any other great ideas recently? Share them with us!