Event management is one of the most stressful jobs out there, especially when it’s not actually your job and it’s just a side project that you were asked to do. But event management is hard because it’s important. Casual, fun events are critical to building a positive work culture and maintaining employee morale. So from early stage organization to the day of, here are some quick hacks that will help take the stress out of corporate event planning.
The first thing you need to know is that you shouldn’t attempt to do this on your own. That’s the fast track to misery. Instead, recruit others to help. Aside from reducing your workload and making you happier, getting help from others will increase the event’s likelihood of success.
Assemble a small task force of employees that you can delegate responsibilities to. The key here is good communication. Every day, ask for a status report so you can keep track of how well you’re sticking to the schedule. Avoid micromanaging them and trust them to do their jobs, but asking for reports from each of the members of your task force also enables you to play a coordination role and prevent gaps or redundancies.
This event is going to be for your company’s employees, so the best way to make sure that they enjoy it is to get them involved. Brainstorm a selection of event dates and themes ahead of time, then send out a survey early in the process so they can give you feedback and you can get an idea of what kind of event they’ll be most likely to attend and enjoy.
Once you have an idea of what kind of event you’re planning and how many people you have to help you, you will need to make a schedule with daily or weekly goals for each member of the task force. Don’t be too ambitious with these goals — the point of having these goals is to help you pace yourself while still having the event organized on time. For best results, be conservative and plan to be ready to go well ahead of the day of the actual event so that if anything does come up, you will have the flexibility to act as needed.
Now is also a good time to make a list of details. Everything that it will take to put this event together should go on this list, from corporate event transportation and activities to decor and refreshments. Having this kind of list on hand will help you delegate responsibilities evenly and make sure nothing gets missed.
As you create your list of details, you’ll need a budget to help determine what you can and can’t do for this event. While certain areas of event planning are worth spending more on than others (venue and catering, for example), the last thing you want to do is accidentally overspend. In fact, if you have to choose between over- and under-spending, choose to under-spend, as that will be more impressive to the people who assigned the event to you. However, it’s also important to make sure your budget is realistic for the kind of event you want to pull off.
It’s also a good idea to work a contingency plan into your budget for anything unexpected. An additional 5-25% usually makes for a good safety net.
As we mentioned earlier, plan to get everything done ahead of schedule. This applies to your task force, and this applies to vendors and other hired services as well. Make it clear in the contract that they can’t back out after a certain date, and enforce penalties for if they still back out past that point. This will strongly discourage them from making last-minute changes on you and putting more stress on your shoulders.
However, some flexibility will be required. Planning to get everything organized and ready in time prepares you to accommodate necessary changes in size, location, etc.
For any corporate event to go well, employees need to attend it. And if you want them to make sure to attend, get them excited about it. Creating a promotional video, informative emails, flyers, and other reminders will help employees create space on their calendar for attending the event. Remind them once a month until the month of the event, then once a week, and then again on the day before and day of.
However, set expectations carefully. For everything you promise, you will need to deliver on, just like with a client. You want to be able to over-deliver and wow them at the event, but don’t set initial expectations too low either or you’ll end up with a poorly attended event.
Remember Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong, will.” It’s critical when you’re planning your event to also plan for failure. Write down a list of “what-ifs” of everything that can potentially go wrong. What if it rains on the day of the event? What if you run out of parking? What if the catering falls through? What if someone gets injured? Let your anxieties run wild on this list, then compose yourself and address each item one by one so you have contingency plans in case they do happen.
For the day-of, get some volunteers (this can also be your task force) to help you manage anything that comes up so that it’s not all on you.
Attendance is the key to your event’s success. If your employees don’t attend, then what’s the point of all of your hard work? So when you’re planning the event, survey employees to know their availability, then choose the most open slot of the options. Then, communicate clearly about when and where the event will take place, as well as any other details that employees will need to know, such as whether children are allowed to attend.
It may be best to plan the event during work hours and then to let employees attend on company time. This way they are more likely to attend because they don’t have to worry about having it cut out of their paycheck or PTO, and they’re much less likely to have schedule conflicts.
Other ways to make sure that your event is easy to attend is to allow employees to bring a spouse or plus-one with them. This is especially helpful for getting over the hurdle of employees avoiding the event because they don’t know their coworkers well. Another big way to make sure that employees are able to attend and have a good time is to arrange plenty of easy-access parking, and corporate event transportation to and from the venue if needed.
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