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Five Things to Consider When Planning a Corporate Event

corporate event planning KIPP

As we enter holiday season head first, social invitations seem to be circulating faster than PSY’s Gangnam Style YouTube video. Since we’ve recently had the pleasure of working with KIPP Houston, a charter school system composed of 21 schools educating underserved students , on their annual benefit dinner, we thought we’d tap into the expertise of  Tracie Tate, KIPP’s Manager of Events and someone with years of experience planning intimate gatherings, grandiose fundraisers, and brand-building affairs. Below, she provides insight on how to ensure that your event goals are accomplished and you’re still standing when all is through…

In the world of marketing, a corporate event can thrust your name in front of people that would otherwise never be in your circle of influence. It can sometimes be a daunting task to throw together the many details that make an event successful, but in the end, it really just comes down to five easy steps.

1. Solidify your identity.
Before you even begin picking out the flowers, you should consider what makes your company unique. When deciding what type of event to throw, the first thing I ask is “what do I want my guests to walk away remembering about my company?”
I usually limit it to three things, and focus every aspect – from the table décor to the speakers – on driving these points home.

2. Identify your goals. 
Every event should have a goal. Whether you want to fundraise or friendraise, you need to be clear about what you expect at the end of the day. Your goals will be dependent on your audience (who is coming to your event, and why do you want them there?), the needs of your company (do you just want to get your name out there or do you need to raise money for something specific?), and your capacity (do you have a team of people and an endless budget for the event?).

3. Respect your abilities and make some friends. 
There is nothing worse than event that tries to be more than it is. If you are on a tight budget, accept it and work around it. Not every event has to be a black-tie, sit-down dinner or a Ringling Brothers Circus. You can work around whatever constraints you have and still make it an event for the books.
Don’t think you have to do it all alone though! Everyone is looking to advertise their product. You would be surprised how many people are willing to donate if you just ask. Short on money for centerpieces? Ask your local florist if they would like to donate in exchange for some recognition throughout your event.

4. Make a timeline. 
Plan EVERY detail. You may think you only need to know what day the invitation hits the mail, but it is just as important to know when drafts one through five are expected to be finished. It is your job as the event planner to make sure everyone does what they are supposed to, and the clearer your expectations are, the more likely you’ll have everything handed to you on time. There are a million moving parts from save the dates, invitations, volunteers, and entertainment, and you don’t want to be caught on the day of the event trying to fill in the gaps. People can tell when you are rushed so leave yourself more than a few extra days in case something goes wrong.

5. Don’t sweat the small stuff. 
Speaking of things going wrong, it will absolutely happen. You cannot anticipate the needs of 1,000 different people at once. There will be a chair missing, some guests you weren’t anticipating, or a speaker that is MIA. You need to be able to think on your feet, and not get flustered when it happens. Only you know what the event was supposed to look like. More often than not, your guests don’t even know what is going on behind the scenes – and your only goal is to keep it that way.