7 minutes’ read, but worth it.
don’t believe being organized is something we are born with, even though it can be considered a talent. I know that as a child, I only did my lessons if my mom reminded me to do so, or cleaned my room if she smiled and said: “You can go out, of course, but only when your room will shine.” In college, I studied like the rest of my colleagues, the night before the exam, even if at the beginning of the semester I used to make plans about how I would regularly study for each class. Yeah, and then life happened.
What I do believe is that organizational skills are something we can learn and cultivate. We can educate ourselves to be organized by following clear steps in any project we manage, be it personal or work related. And after 10 years of practice, this is the first thing that comes to my mind when someone asks me to present myself. “I am a very organized person. So, I became a Project Manager.”
I love my job and this is the most important ingredient in being a great event planner. Afterwards, there is the planning methodology that applies for projects in any field and that should be applied and tailored to corporate events. The following paragraphs are meant to guide people that want to (or need to) organize events for their companies, taking them through the most important phases of every event.
Corporate Event Project Initiation
The purpose of this phase is to clarify, clarify and clarify again. It is advisable to initiate the project few months before the event, but the exact timeline depends on the type of corporate event.
During this phase, a lot of questions need to be answered to ensure the project has a smooth start. So, what exactly do we need to clarify?
The SCOPE of the event. Is the company celebrating a milestone? Does the company want to launch a new product or service? Is a new branding being presented? Every event needs to have a clear WHY, that the entire team agrees with.
The BUDGET of the event. At this point we’ll only have estimates, we could call them T-shirt size estimates. Will the cost of the event be S, M or L? For estimating the budget, the team should take into consideration the number of guests, the targeted location, the number of vendors involved, etc. A good starting point for estimating a budget could be past events.
The TEAM and stakeholders. I already mentioned this word a few times, because the team is fully responsible for the project. Who will be the sponsor of the event? Not which company, no. What department and which person will sign-off the expenses and who will pay the invoices? The project team should have people responsible for each of the following areas: event planning and coordination, marketing and communication, vendor management, budget management, risk management, and sometimes even technology management. Put in place an escalation map and have clear decision makers for every area of the event. It will save you precious time later.
The expected BENEFITS. What are the benefits that the company is expecting as a result of the event? Some of the benefits are hard to measure or take a lot of time to be visible. For example, how do you measure “Growing employee loyalty”? It may take a while until the next internal survey or for attrition decrease to be visible. Discuss about the baselines and the targets for the benefits with the team and make a clear list actions and timelines for measurements.
The APPROVALS needed. Does the event need any internal approval before investing time in planning and research? If so, create an event brief and send it for formal approval.
It would be great to create a project brief even if no formal approval is needed. The brief will be a very useful document when establishing partnerships for your event, for contacting vendors or just for explaining the purpose of the event to internal stakeholders. Like this, you ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Corporate Event Project Planning
This is where the real work begins. The purpose of this phase is to facilitate communication and control by defining the means of delivering the event – where, how, by whom, when, and how much.
I personally invest a lot of time in planning, trying to establish a clear flow of the entire event, creating a plan that is easily understood by the event team and leaves little to no room for misunderstandings.
RESEARCH. The event team should start the planning phase with some time allocated for research, to identify the suppliers that could cover all the needs for the event. Shortlist suppliers for location, food and beverage, entertainment, logistics, design, marketing and communication, team building activities, etc. Depending on the size and complexity of the event, this activity can take between a few days and few weeks.
NEGOTIATION and CONTRACTING. After identifying the suppliers that are suitable for the event, the team should ask for offers for the products and services needed. The first thing that you need to decide is the location and the date. The plans will be built having these two decisions in mind, as all the other suppliers will need to confirm availability for the event date. My advice would be not to go with the cheapest offers but try to find a balance between price and quality.
The project PLAN. Create a work breakdown structure for all the activities and tasks that are needed for your event. The entire team needs to participate to this activity, taking ownership for their specific tasks. The result should be a project plan that includes milestones, tasks, activity duration, start and finish target dates, and resource assignments.
The COMMUNICATIONS plan. This plan should include the means for communicating both internally and externally with the event audience. Internally, establish how the information will flow: How often will the team meet to check the project progress? How will the stakeholders be kept informed about the progress? Externally: How will you communicate with the event audience? If it is an event for the employees, how many emails and at which dates will you be sending the communications? It we are talking about a conference, how will you communicate about the event and where will tickets be available?
The RISK management plan. Every project has risks and identifying them from the beginning is very important for the success of the event. Have a brainstorming session with the team and try to think about all the things that could go wrong before and during the event, establishing also mitigation activities and owners for the risks. More information about risks management is available in this article.
The BUDGET. When most of the above activities are done, you will have a pretty clear idea about the investment needed for the event. The budget owner needs to create the budget plan and schedule the payments for the suppliers. He should know who needs to approve the payments and what the supplier contracts are specifying regarding the advance payments. A best practice is to add between 5-10% as a buffer for unexpected expenses.
The event SCHEDULE. The schedule is the flow of activities during the event. It is very important to have an exact schedule that will help the team keep everything under control during the event.
Corporate Event Execution
Now let the fun begin! The project team will be very busy during this phase, as they need to put the plan into action.
Based on the plan, you will have activities scheduled each week, assigned to specific owners and with specific expected results. During this phase, the team will:
- Coordinate all the suppliers to prepare all the prerequisites for the event;
- Conduct regular project status meetings to discuss project progress as well as any issues or risks that have emerged;
- Distribute weekly status reports (to those identified in the internal communication plan) to advise what was accomplished during the week, how the team is tracking towards the goals, and what is expected to be accomplished in the next week;
- Process, review, and implement approved change requests;
- Implement risk management responses including corrective actions described in the risk management plan;
- Follow the external communication schedule and adjust your strategy based on the results: How many confirmed attendees there are, how many tickets have been sold, etc.
This is easier said than done, so it would be good for the event team to put some time aside for all the needed activities.
Corporate Event Monitoring and Control
For most of the projects, the monitoring and control phase takes place in parallel with the execution phase, at least in agile projects. For corporate events, however, I consider this phase starting just a few days before the event and continuing until the end of the event itself.
The team is few days ways from the much awaited and planned corporate event. This is the moment to go through the list of activities one more time, and check that everything is on track.
Contact once again all the suppliers and take them trough the event schedule, to make sure they are aware of the tasks they are responsible for. The same with the guest speakers, make sure their presentation is prepared and suitable for the topic.
Send final communication to attendees, maybe just as a reminder that the event is approaching, and to make sure they know how to reach the venue. Give them information about the location, the transportation options, the weather and the theme of the event.
Sit with the team that will be coordinating the event and make a list of tasks for the event day, with clear owners for each task. The project manager will not be doing everything on his own, he needs to trust and guide the team towards creating a perfect event flow. Make sure to answer questions like: who will be greeting the attendees, how is the registration process designed, how are we avoiding queues at the bar, etc.
And the time has come. The event is about to start. If you did everything else correctly, you should not worry too much. You will also be able to enjoy the event, as most of the things are already under control and an entire team is there to coordinate all the activities.
Corporate Event Closure
Maybe some of you think that an event is done when the last guest leaves the building. Well, not really. There are activities waiting for the event planner or project team after the event is done.
From closing and paying all the remaining invoices for the event to sending thank you notes to the guests and suppliers, gathering lessons learned for future events and creating the communications for the company’s website or social media, these are all important tasks that need attention.
Based on the feedback provided by the guests, the team will need to assess how successful the event was and what should be repeated/improved for future events. Gather feedback also from your suppliers and speakers and add it in the “lessons learned” document.
MONDEVENTS works with companies that want to build their employer brand, celebrate success with their employees and clients, or just grow their visibility on the market, through amazing events that communicate the company’s story, vision and values. A corporate event is not an easy task but we can transform it into a great experience for our clients and the event guests. Dare to imagine the amazing. We will create it.