Pulling off a successful business event requires a knowledge of corporate event planning.

The boss expects perfection and your team is looking to you for direction. You need a plan. If you’re a “list” person like me, you rely heavily on a to-do document to get everything done correctly and on time.

What you need is a corporate event planning checklist. The tasks included in your list will vary, depending on the type of event you’re planning. Trade shows, company picnics, holiday celebrations and employee achievements will each have slightly different plans. But a general business event checklist is a great way to get you started.

Create a corporate event planning checklist

A solid event planning checklist is almost as good as having an assistant at your fingertips (except it won’t fetch coffee). As you check off these items, you’ll be showered with feelings of accomplishment and relief.

Amend this list to suit your event:

Establish a budget

green money sign graphic

This one’s a toughie. Budgeting is the most challenging part of any corporate event planning. But alas, it must be done. Almost everything else you do — ordering food, advertising, leasing a venue — depends on your money stream. So you have to start here.

At least two months in advance, create an outline of your entire plan from start to finish. Pin down a guest count. Much of your budget will be based on the number of people who will attend.

Calculate all expenditures as accurately as possible. Be sure to allow 5 percent of your budget for miscellaneous or unexpected costs. Then meet with your boss, treasurer or whoever holds the purse strings to get approval.

Once you have a budget, create a spreadsheet to show the maximum you intend to spend on each expenditure such as drinks, decorations and party favors. Keep a close tally so you don’t overspend as the plan goes forward. If you have an unforeseen expense, find other places to cut before your budget flies out of control.

Appoint a committee

It’s time to gather up the go-getters on your staff. You know who I’m talking about. These are the highly organized individuals you always rely on to handle details, give honest feedback, present ideas and bring up issues you never thought about.

Get your crew on board early and establish a time frame for the tasks you want them to complete. Consider giving them some type of corporate apparel to identify them as planning associates at the event.

Set a date

blue calendar with pen graphic

It’s a busy world we live in so finding a workable date and time for a business event can be complicated. Check your calendar and ask your team to do the same. Are there any other events in the area on this date that might conflict? Would it be difficult to get caterers, speakers or other vendors that day?

If your event venue is off-site, your date might depend on the site’s availability. Confirm that before deciding on the month, day and time.

Choose a theme

purple and white mardi gras themed sunglasses and beads

People love themes! An event theme allows you to stay consistent with your presentation. This makes corporate event planning much easier and shows guests you are organized.

Your theme must be appropriate for the occasion and inclusive of everyone attending. Take into consideration your attendees’ ages and cultural diversity. Stick with event themes that aren’t controversial. Corporate event themes should be popular or at least familiar with the customers and associates you invite.

Keep your company colors and your business culture preserved in your theme. Don’t alter the colors or design of your logo even if your event is focused on a holiday or patriotic theme. Stay true to your brand.

It’s OK to be lighthearted and humorous when planning more casual affairs. Here are a few business party themes to consider:

  • Hollywood
  • Casino
  • Olympics
  • Western
  • The 80s
  • Mardi Gras
  • Beach

Line up caterers, decorators, entertainers and speakers

Waste no time booking the people you want to enhance your business event. If your team can take on some of these duties, great. If not, contact these people as soon as possible.

Food caterers and entertainers should be first on your list to confirm. Some vendors focus their efforts on events for businesses. Make those a priority for your event.

Your menu — including snacks, dinner, beverages and/or desserts — and decorations can reflect your theme to keep consistency and planning ease. Communicate with entertainers and speakers at least twice beforehand so they know exactly how to prepare and what is expected.

Your own crew might be able to handle simple decorating tasks for a casual event. But if it’s a formal affair and you’ve got money in the budget, hire experts. Crepe paper streamers just won’t do if you’re serving prime rib and lobster.

custom printed vinyl banner for an open house

You’ll need a marketing plan for a public event such as an open house or landmark anniversary celebration. Social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook can be very helpful in getting the word out. You can also use email, radio, TV and print advertising if appropriate for your event.

Consider sending a press release to local media outlets. I also advise hanging a customized banner in a high-traffic area several weeks before the event to boost exposure.

Committee members should mail invitations with RSVPs if it’s a private or invite-only event.

Prepare your staff for the big occasion

Give your committee or staff all the tools they need to effectively help visitors or guests at your trade show or conference. Your crew is representing your company so it’s imperative they exhibit knowledge, professionalism and confidence. Arm them with giveaways to draw interest to your booth or upcoming speakers.

Let every member of your team know their main job and goal from the time they arrive until the last guest leaves. Schedule a run-through if necessary. Share your biggest concerns so they become a top priority for all involved. Have a backup plan for issues such as late-arriving vendors or accidents.

A show of gratitude for all who helped is a nice touch when the work is done. Consider giving them a gift card or a paid day off. It might encourage volunteers to sign on for the next big event!

Corporate event planning gets easier as you go

Yes, it gets easier. Every time you pull off a successful corporate event you become a knowledgeable planning pro. You quickly learn what works and what doesn’t and how to adapt.

Keep notes on every business event you plan and execute. Examine your budget for flaws. Where could we have cut? Could we have spent more on food or entertainment?

Discuss your decisions. Did the vendors exceed your expectations or were you disappointed? Was the venue a great choice or totally wrong for your theme?

Pay close attention to the feedback you get from everyone including your staff. Ask your committee members to send you their personal opinions on the event. It all helps to plan an even better experience next time.

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Shelley Grieshop is a former newspaper journalist who earned more than a dozen Associated Press awards for her in-depth research and writing skills. In May 2016, she joined Totally Promotional as a creative writer. She currently writes company blogs about branding, marketing, logos, wedding planning and much more. One of her life goals is to teach people when to use hyphens and apostrophes.

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