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Plan the Perfect Corporate Event!

Posted to: Events by Lorin Laxton on Aug 16, 2012
Planning a corporate event can be stressful! With so many details to think about, many things can get lost in the chaos. Though tackling the logistics of such a big task can seem daunting, never fear! Our valued partner, Kim Shope of From the Ground Up!, shares her top tips!

How far in advance should a coordinator begin planning for a corporate event?
It all depends on what type of event the client has in mind. Most of our corporate clients are interested in an opening of some sort or an employee event. In the case of an opening, or celebration where the guest list includes elected officials, both local and/or statewide, business executives, etc. we recommend 4-5 months out. Mainly because of design of save the date, invitations, guest list, any public relations component needed, menu selection, reserving the venue and/or tenting.
When organizing a fundraising event, ideally you should consider 8-9 months. We have organized these types of events in 5 months, but that’s usually pushing it especially when you’re raising the money to help defer the costs of the event. We’ve also organized events in as little as one month out.

What are the 3 biggest mistakes you’ve seen while planning a corporate event?
Not having enough planning time, having a large committee to make the decisions, allowing the client to chose the caterer i.e. the corporate lunchroom vendor or a hotel restaurant group because they didn’t think catering is “that big of a deal.”

What do you suggest to look for in a venue?
Location, location, location! Convenient access for the attendees, parking, loading dock for the contractors, ample kitchen workspace. Most of our corporate events happen on-site and are usually a tented event. In that case we look for the most level ground, access to electrical, bathrooms and parking.
For events held at hotels or convention centers we consider the décor, audio-visual component, lighting, food and beverage selections, tables, linens, and the staff. You don’t want to have to bring all of your own subcontractors to these venues when those items should be provided. If we don’t feel as though we’re getting their undivided attention from the beginning, we find another location. The main goal is to keep it affordable for the client while giving the appearance of a very upscale event to the attendees. One of the nicest compliments we received early on is as the attendees starting arriving and saw me at the registration table one of the executives said “oh good, I know we’re going to have some great food!” If the food is bad you’ll never hear the end of it ☺

How does a coordinator choose a menu that makes everyone happy?
We always listen to the client to determine what we think will work for the majority. I sometimes include my catering partner in on these initial meetings so he/she can recommend some menus. Depending on the feedback we suggest a menu, do a tasting with the client and then get more feedback and go from there.
One of our clients hosts the largest event (1,600) each fall for their employees. There are a lot of vegetarians in this group as well as a lot of health conscious individuals. We suggest a menu that incorporates both of those scenarios. We also post a copy of the final menu, with ingredients, on their company website so if there are any dietary issues we can be notified before the day of the event.

Is a theme necessary? What types of themes are appropriate for a corporate event?
Again, it depends on the event. Most corporate events are about a groundbreaking, dedication/opening of the new building or a renaming of a building. We’ve done a 50th Anniversary Celebration for a company that has a global presence so we chose the menu to reflect the different international locations. We also hung custom banners, in chronological order, reflecting their 50-year history. These banners could be reused throughout the campus during the year of celebration.
Another “themed” event was geared more toward the military. We were able to hold the event inside a huge warehouse (on-site) and use some of the military vehicles as props. Guests were able to climb inside the vehicles and have their pictures taken. We also hung 20+ US Flags from the ceiling separating the program area from the dining area. The dining area tables were covered in 3 different shades of camouflage tying together what the company does for the Defense Department.

Would you suggest a live band, a DJ, or another form of entertainment?
We’ve used bands, DJ’s, CD’s playing through the sound system and jazz ensembles. I hate to sound like a broken record but it does depend on the event. For one of our fundraising events we played the WRAL Brain Game. It was a BIG hit with the corporate sponsors. It gave them an opportunity to be front and center but more importantly it was an opportunity for the audience to learn more about the non-profit organization and the disease we were raising the money for. It was also a great form of entertainment.

Do you think party insurance, with the venue and vendors, is necessary?
We’ve never used party insurance mainly because all of my team (sub-contractors) list their terms and conditions in case of a cancellation of an event. It’s part of the contract the client signs. If we’re planning an outdoor event we discuss a back-up plan with the client in case of inclement weather.

What types of amenities keep guests comfortable and happy?
In the summer – AC; In the winter – heat. ☺ Seriously, we always keep in mind the outdoor elements we may have to deal with on the day of the event if the event is going to be held outside. Tenting is our number one recommendation to keep people cool, comfortable and dry (in case of rain). Mounted fans, if necessary and we never, never use plastic folding chairs. They are not even an option. If time permits before the program, we serve ice water or lemonade during the hotter months and/or coffee and hot chocolate during the colder months.

From The Ground Up! has been in business since 1996. Our goal from the beginning has always been quality and attention to detail. Once we begin a relationship the client always deals with the owner of the company, Kim Shope. You are never “handed off” to another team member. We have long established relationships with our partners that include audio-visual, public relations, marketing and design, catering, theme design and many others who help make your event the best it can be. After all it is All About You!
Visit their website at or feel free to contact Kim Shope at (919)614-6673.