You want to organise the perfect business event. But where to start? In this guide, we highlight the four key steps to organising your own conference, exhibition, networking event or grand opening.
Despite the enormous connectivity that we enjoy today and the ease with which we can exchange information, businesses still need to connect with their customers, employees and other stakeholders in a more personal way. There is still no substitute for chatting to people face to face if we really want to engage with them.
For many large corporations, they are used to organising “Corporate” events for their partners and employees and have dedicated teams to organise the events or deep pockets to pay a specialist. However, for new businesses or smaller organisations, they do not have the deep pockets needed to retain event organisers. However, fear not, you can still organise a truly authentic and engaging event even on a shoestring. We know, we have done it!
Types of Business events
The first thing you have to think about is the type of event you want or need to organise. The purpose of the event will have a huge impact on who we invite, the venue, the level of investment or whether it is formal or informal. The most common company events are:
- Partners / shareholders’ meeting: The objective of such a meeting is to bring together the owners of the organisation to discuss, vote and review major events and plans.
- Presentations and internal Conferences or team meetings: We gather together internally to share information and exchange knowledge, brainstorm plans and initiatives, develop creative ideas and positive working relationships. You may be bringing people from across the UK although in the new globalised world perhaps even colleagues from overseas!
- External company presentations, press conferences and media events: Business events are not only for our internal teams. When we have something important to tell the world, organising a networking or launch event is a great way to spread the word. We may even coordinate this time event with the Shareholders’ meeting or new product or service launches.
- Celebrations and / or new business launch event: Business events are great milestones for any organisation and knowing how to celebrate them with society other stakeholders and partners is very important. Anniversaries, tributes and awards to celebrate success and a “launch” party are a valuable way of winning hearts and minds and developing that feel good factor.
- Informal events: The traditional Christmas dinner or other recreational activities outside of work can help to generate more a relaxed environment among our teams. Simple to organise, relatively inexpensive, but an amazing way to build high performing teams.
The purpose of your business event
In addition to how we go about organising our business event, we have to clearly establish the goal or purpose to justify the investment of time and money. The purpose will help you set the budget, galvanise support from organisers and those you want to attend and make sure you get the right level of formality.
What is key, is ensuring we do not send out a confusing message by trying to achieve too many objectives at the same time. Trying to create a social and relaxed atmosphere at a networking event may not be the best time to do a high-powered selling presentation about a new product.
The right place, time and place for the business event
Once we know the type of business event we want to organise and the purpose and goals, we need to think very carefully about venue and timing.
Think about numbers likely to attend, ease of transport, whether the atmosphere is likely to be formal (conference or exhibition centre) or more relaxed (hospitality venue such as a restaurant, banqueting suite or even the pub!).
As well as ease of transport and connectivity (e.g. to railway stations), think also about parking, whether overnight accommodation is needed, making sure attendees are fed and watered and, very importantly, confidentiality and privacy if the discussion is sensitive.
Time & Date
When we talk about time, we also need to think about the date or time of year. From experience, if you get this bit wrong, you may find very few are willing or able to attend! Common pitfalls make include peak holiday periods, clashes with other important events or activities organised internally or by external parties or where there are likely to be transportation problems.
So, from our experience, Friday is often a very bad date because transport is usually much busier and people are distracted with the thoughts of a weekend off! Bank holidays, school holidays, too close to other significant seasonal events (e.g. Christmas, Easter), are all factors to consider depending on what you want to achieve.
At the end of the day, you really need to be guided by those you want to attend. Keep it simple and straightforward for them and they are more likely to support you. No one will thank you if you bully them to attend at a particularly inconvenient time for them. They may attend but will they be properly engaged?
Ultimately we need to communicate our message effectively. Can people see us, hear us or inter-act in a beneficial way? Are they too hot, to cold or too hungry or thirsty!
Connectivity and audiovisual needs
We live in the information age and it is essential that we control the channels through which we will communicate to the visitors. We have to anticipate that the sound will be perfect in the room. The projectors and screens have to be ready so that we can reproduce the audiovisual material and we need a strong wi-fi signal so that both we and the event visitors can transmit the most interesting part of our business activity through social networks and stay connected.
Catering and comfort needs
Comfort is critical if we want to keep them engaged. As a minimum, we must provide water to the participants for proper hydration, loo facilities (that do not involve huge queues!) and from experience boiled sweets and snacks to keep their energy levels up! Obviously, depending on the duration you may also need to consider providing food – meals, nibbles or snacks as appropriate.
Identification and security needs
Increasingly we need to think very carefully about health and safety and security and this remains a primary duty of event organisers. For example, we need to clearly distinguish between staff and visitors and ensure that visitors cannot just wander where ever they want or that those that should not be attending cannot gatecrash the party!
A great idea is to use personalized Lanyards or Wristbands. These simple, relatively inexpensive items will help you identify people, manage access and even help you promote your brand or important message (say if you are a Charity).
Lanyards obviously hand from a person’s neck but with RFID becoming much more popular, you can even attach a card that facilitates access control and the management of numbers.
There is also the option of Silicone, Fabric and Tyvek Wristbands, which again are simple, inexpensive, highly visible, comfortable and hygienic and with good design fun and memorable to wear. They may even be worn with pride as a badge of honor!
Budget for the business event
This last point is essential. If we have successfully dealt with the preceding steps but then lose control our budget success can soon turn into a disaster. As with all projects, cost control is very important. Cost in terms of time (opportunity cost) and of course money.
The event is important but we need to get an adequate return from our investment. Importantly, this needs to be considered carefully relative to the expectations of those attending. If they are expecting a very posh, exclusive “no expense spared” event, you need to consider whether it is worth it or whether you need to trim numbers. You also need to carefully consider the time taken to organise and run the event and what the impact will be from this loss of time spent elsewhere.