5 Tips to Making Your Next Corporate Event a Success in Chicago!
Below you will find a detailed list on how you as an organizer can build, coordinate and properly execute your next corporate party, function or special event. These tips will help facilitate your process to make your job easier and your event successful.
STEP 1: HAVE A CLEAR PLAN
Starting with planning an event can be a daunting task. How much is my budget? Should I hire entertainment? How much food will we need? It can be very overwhelming. It's best to clearly plan out exactly what tasks you need to accomplish. In order of priority if possible. For example:
1. Confirm venue details with your catering contact (confirm your date first, time that you need, then go over the day's schedule)
(Most hotels use a catering manager to host all of their events. This person will be your go-to contact 99% of the time.)
2. Bullet point your schedule. Be meticulous. Leave nothing unaccounted for.
- Guests arrive 5:30PM
- Cocktail reception - 5:45 - 6:15PM
- Dinner - 6:30 - 8PM
- Desert & Coffee - 8:05PM
- Speeches - 8:30 - 8:45PM
- CEO introduces end of evening entertainment - 9PM - 10PM
- Raffles/ Door Prizes - 10:15PM
- Final Thank You - 10:30PM
- Gift Bags - 10:35PM
3. Make sure your dinner has the proper options. (vegetarian, meat, fish, etc.)
- Confirm if anyone has major food allergies and alert the catering manager
- Finalize the menu with the catering manager
- Pay deposit to the venue & for your food and beverage
4. Secure any staging, podiums, entertainer requirements, mics, backdrops, etc.
- Confirm with venue what they can supply and at what additional cost(s)
- Determine if an outside AV or staging company will be necessary
5. Confirm any live entertainment and pay necessary deposits. Do this at least a month in advance or sooner.
- Entertainers need time to organize their calendar, coordinate staffing if necessary and block the time off for your event.
- Double check the performer's technical rider. They may require lavaliere mics over handheld ones. They may need chairs, or small tables or access to power outlets.
- Confirm with the performer the length of the performance, and any other details that may make the show longer. (this happens more often than not)
The point is do not let yourself stress out. The more organized you are, the easier the day of will be. Additionally, you'll be praised for your commitment to the events excellence and your organization skills. Don't let yourself get overwhelmed, it's a slippery slope!
STEP 2: UNDERSTAND YOUR AUDIENCE
Is this event for executives? Maybe it's just for truck drivers? Maybe it's a family welcomed Christmas party? Having a clear understanding of Who is coming to your event will greatly reduce the amount of stress you face in the planning.
If there are children invited, then your menu will be affected. Is your buffet suitable for kids to reach by themselves? Probably not. Take these details into consideration. It may not sound important. but the attention to detail is ultimately what makes events successful.
Maybe this event is for guests from all over the world. Now you're talking possible language barriers, dietary restrictions, even religious restrictions that could drastically impact your event. Is your entertainer visual so they can work well with all cultures? Take these details into account.
Most live entertainment can work well with all language barriers and cultural differences. For example Mentalist Christopher Grace is primarily a mind reader. But his performances can play to ALL languages. Even though Christopher only speaks English.. and bad Spanish.
STEP 3: THE ROOM!
A step that a lot of people do not consider is how the room you're using is set up. Are you using round tables? Are they seating 8, 10, 12 people? Is the buffet in the room or outside? Will your cocktail reception take place in the same place you have dinner? Is there a huge dance floor in the middle of the room? Will the entertainment be in the same room as dinner? See how it can get overwhelming fast?
Let's start from the first question. Round tables are the most common for 99% of corporate events. Depending on how many people you're expecting, it will determine what size banquet round you'll need. If it's a small group, then maybe you only need 2 or 3 eight or ten foot long rectangular tables. Determine what you need based on the size of your group. Sounds simple right? It is!
How is dinner being served? If you are doing a buffer it will most likely be in the same room as where you actually eat. If this is the case, make sure the band, the mentalist, etc. is nowhere near the food. (or the bar for that matte) Keep these elements in their own sections. It will prevent unnecessary clutter, confusion and potential accidents. If you're doing a plated dinner, it's much easier as everything is coming out of the kitchen. Double check that the wait staff and catering management understand what you have planned and to be cautious of cables, extension cords, or unexpected items like cases, boxes or bags.
Dance Floors! In the entertainer world, dance floors are usually accompanied by table surrounding them. This will create a great place to dance. The DJ or band is at one end and everyone else is on the floor. Sounds great right? Well now imagine you bring in a speaker, or a performer. Now this person is trapped at one end of a huge dance floor with this ocean of emptiness between them and the audience. Performers collectively refer to this as the DOD or Dance Floor of Death. Meaning, it's capable to killing a performance. So you think, well why don't they move down closer to the edge of the floor? That would be a good idea if Everyone in the room was behind that line. If you have guests on three sides of you, now the performer is playing to only 1/3 of the audience. The point here is if you're having a stationary performer, or speaker. e.g someone that does not move around the room. Considering having the venue set up theater style seating on the dance floor. It's not a huge deal for catering teams and you'll be amazed at how fast some of these crews can clear hundreds of chair. Literally minutes. Please, please, please take this point into consideration if you're having entertainment. (which you absolutely should by the way.)
STEP 4: THE ENTERTAINMENT!
Hiring entertainment can be a daunting task all by itself. Who should I hire? Are they good? Do they have good reviews? How are their videos? Are they professional? Do they respond and communicate in a timely manner. That last point is very important as your schedule is most likely time sensitive. Unless you're planning a year in advance. (yay for you being ahead of 90% of all other corporate events.)
Let's start in reverse order this time.
Does your entertainment communicate in a timely manner? If you're booking an individual person - they should communicate quickly. Usually within a day or sooner. Most performers will get back to you quickly. Do not take this as a sign of desperation. Their time is as valuable as yours and their schedules are often unpredictable and chaotic. In most cases, if you found a good performer - you'll probably get calls, texts and emails from them while they're AT another event. Again - do not take this as a negative. Or a sign of disrespect to the client with whom they're currently working with. Bands, speakers, even mentalists or magicians all take necessary breaks during their performances. When Christopher Grace is performing strolling mentalism at corporate events. He will usually take a 5 minute break every 45 minutes or so to regroup and reset for his next round with the guests. If he's performing a full length show, which is usually an hour or longer from start to finish. He will not return a call in the middle. That's just crazy and would be Very disrespectful.
Is your performer professional? This can be tricky (no-pun intended) as professionalism is subjective. Here are a few good things to look out for when considering someone's professionalism.
- Do they have a clean, clearly designed and easily navigable website?
- Do they dress appropriately for your specific event? (not a hard and fast rule to follow as most performers dress in a variety of levels depending on event requirements. But keep it in mind for general first impressions on their website. What they choose to display in images on their websites is going to be 99% of what they wear on stage.
- Are they groomed well? Seriously. Nobody wants a smelly magician wandering around their cocktail party for executives. You can tell how much they take care of themself by looking at their pictures. Especially on social media. Look at fan pages and see if you can spot any live performance photos they've posted. Are they cleanly shaved? If they have a beard, is it trimmed and well kept? Are their clothes neat and unwrinkled? If they wear a tuxedo t-shirt run for the hills!
The point here is use your own judgement but don't let your personal biases get in the way.
You absolutely, 100% want to see or hear what this person can do and will most likely be doing at your corporate event. Now please bear in mind the following:
- Most performers do not travel with AV or recording crews.
- 99% of performers use house mics, sound systems and staging.
- Almost all performers have little to no control on how the room is set up
Take those points into account when you're viewing performance videos. Watch the show, not the room. And most importantly, to see if a video of a performer is good. Watch the reactions of the guests! To understand this point better watch Christopher Grace's videos here. You will get a clear understanding of how a video will and should look and how to watch them. Make your judgments on how the audience responds, not how you do!
Reviews and testimonials are huge in making decisions. However, the best way to find out if this performer is going to be a good fit for your next event is to actually speak to former clients. Ask the performer for a written list of his or hers 10 most recent clients. Do not let the date at which these events took place sway you. Some performers intentionally only work 10-20 times a year. Some work 200! The date is not important. The comments are! You wouldn't hire a person at your company without checking references right? Same thing here. Call, inquire and get a recommendation from the past clients. The performer should provide a name, phone number, email address, company or applicable website and some event details. (when, where, for how many, etc.)
Are they any Good?
Well, again this is going to depend on a couple of things. Do they have a good rapport with the audience? Are they engaged, smiling and applauding? Are You impressed by some of the things they are doing? For example, mentalism can often times look like someone is just speaking without doing much in the form of moving around, using props, etc. Key point here is to watch and listen! You'll be amazed at some of the things possible using only speech!
Who should you hire? Ah, this question. It's an important one don't get us wrong. But it's never an easy one. You'll wonder if they'll fit in with your group. If they're funny, not funny or not funny enough. Are they clean or are you looking for a more R-rated or PG-13 act? Are they accomplished enough to even be in the same room as fortune 500 executives? All of these questions you'll ask yourself on a conscious and subconscious level. Some of which you'll think about and decide on instantly from the viewing of one image, or video.
The best way to find out if they're any good is to talk to them! Call them directly, speak and let them speak. Say "tell me about how you'll make our company party a success." and then simply be quiet and let them talk. Ask a question from time to time. Don't try and trip them up but ask things that are not common. For example ask:
- What do you do if your show runs long?
- How much interaction do you anticipate for the show?
- Do you meet the audience before or after the show?
- Do you travel with your own sound equipment or do you need us to provide that? What kind of mic do you use?
- Can you perform during dinner? (this is a sneaky question. NEVER EVER have a performer go on During a dinner. It's at the top of the worst things you can do list. You're audience will not care who is on stage when food is on the table. Trust us.) The reason you ask this question is because you want the performer to say: "No! I will perform during the cocktail hour, strolling the room. Or immediately after desert." Make sure they say desert as it's usually part of the meal.
Use your own judgement of course, but these tips will help you make the right decisions on hiring live entertainment. Oh and if you're going with a live band, they can and most likely will have no problem performing during dinner.
STEP 5: BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER!
Putting your corporate event, retreat or special on is a challenge. A couple of things to keep in mind.
- Things will not turn out how you envisioned them!
- You have to be flexible when working with other people!
- Have backups and plan B's for Everything!
- Only work with people you trust! (your team that is.. don't do everything yourself.)
- DON'T DO EVERYTHING YOURSELF! Delegate, bring in trusted associates who you can put smaller tasks on so you don't get overwhelmed. If you're a seasoned corporate event planner, then you probably won't be reading any of this anyways.
Most importantly, remember this event is for you as well. Don't let yourself become the person running around the room all night making everything perfect. Nothing will ever be perfect. Do not strive for perfection down into the minutia or you will be disappointed. Have a great team and communicate regularly. Before you get into your event, create a simple battle plan for the evening.
Enjoy yourself and everyone else will as well.