In this blog we are going to discuss the ‘content’ of an event for different styles of events. Let’s say, for example, you are planning a special birthday. You might have friends with a variety of interests and ages so have decided to do something you all love; perhaps a trip to London to see a show or a spa break with like-minded friends or a trip overseas to watch England play if you’re a mad footy fan. Alternatively, you might opt to do what many people decide to do: book a private room in a venue, arrange a DJ to play music you know will get your guests dancing, organise a buffet and put some money behind the bar; whatever you do is your personal preference but, with just a bit of extra thought, your guests will enjoy the event as much as you!
Whatever you decide to do, you can make any event more memorable with the right planning and preparation. Let’s take a private party. There are so many function rooms and venue options available these days but remember that, unless you book an area in a very cool pub or restaurant with gorgeous décor, your room is likely to be just a blank canvas (on the other hand, it could be weird and wacky and not quite what you expected – one of our team once attended a corporate event at a football club to find herself facing football wallpaper and light fittings all day- great for footie fans but...!). For many venues, you will probably need to consider decorations and the lighting as a priority. Remember that candles are not always allowed but you can still make a dramatic effect with fairy lights. Thoughtful touches are always appreciated by your guests; some friends of mine made the name place cards for their wedding using a photo of each guest; this was a really personal touch that immediately broke the ice with those at the table we either didn’t know or hadn’t seen for many years. The effort they had taken to do this was really appreciated by everyone.
It is very worthwhile, as the host, trying to welcome everyone personally, as this will make your guests feel extra special. Thank them for coming and, if your budget allows, offer them a glass of champagne or Prosecco, or perhaps a cocktail (though whatever you arrange, do make sure there is a non-alcoholic equivalent)! If you are organising a buffet, perhaps do something a bit different from a typical buffet, such as a hog roast or a themed buffet; perhaps you love all things Spanish so could have a Spanish theme – Spanish guitar playing as guests arrive, a glass of sangria on arrival and huge pans of paella available for the meal? Or your preference could be Cuban; a Mojito on arrival and perhaps your budget could stretch to a Cuban band - absolutely guaranteed to get everyone up dancing, especially after a Mojito or three!
If you are hosting an event and you know that not everyone knows each other, do try and introduce like-minded people or ask others in advance to look out for them. This will help everyone enjoy your event that little bit more (and more likely attend your next one if they know they will be looked after!)
If you have arranged a DJ, unless you trust that DJ implicitly, then I would suggest chatting to them well in advance about the playlist, and potentially providing a playlist of songs that you know your guests will enjoy; if there is a mixed crowd of ages, then you really must try and mix it up a bit, with some 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s music thrown in for good measure. It is then probably a good idea to run your playlist past some of your friends to check whether you have struck the right chord! Many bride and groom also send playlist requests with their invitations, which is another good way to ensure all tastes are catered for.
Turning now to corporate events, it is vital to get your content right. If you are planning a corporate event, then the content must be on point, relevant to your audience and engaging (this is doubly so if you are charging for the event).
If it is a celebration event, such as a gala dinner or an awards evening, then why not try and be a bit different to what others in your industry are providing? Perhaps look outside your sector to take inspiration from how other organisations are opting to entertain their guests. There may be many hundreds of speakers to choose from, but some don’t always regularly change their content, so be very careful not to book a speaker whose stories might have already been heard by most of your guests. Between us, thanks to attending events, we’ve now heard a former England rugby player tell the same South Africa 2003 story three times!)
If your event is a conference or educational event, plan your speaker sessions well in advance. Do not be intimidated by your speakers; sometimes, if they are speaking for no charge, then you might run the risk of leaving it to them in terms of subject and content, but remember it is YOUR event, and therefore you must be in control of the content. They are getting free PR for speaking so they are not just doing you a favour; it works both ways. There may be a risk of repetition so think of your event as a newspaper and that you must retain editorial control; you wouldn’t want to read a newspaper that was repetitive, and delegates of a conference will certainly not want to sit through sessions that cover the same ground.
In order to prevent repetition, you must have plenty of discussions with your speakers and DO NOT leave it to chance. You will have marketed the event and people will have booked tickets on the basis you have outlined in your sales material, so your event needs to do what it says on the tin. It needs to be pitched just right so you, as event organiser, will need to ensure that a session doesn’t go over – or for that matter under – your delegates’ heads.
A final note about materials. If you have promised handouts, then make sure that you have advised your speakers well in advance about deadlines for getting these notes to you (and tell them an earlier deadline than your actual deadline...). The run-up to an event can be very stressful and can be made even more so by not having everything you need for printing or circulating.
We hope that this blog has been useful. Content is key to any event, whether private or corporate. We have organised many events and know what does – and doesn’t – work. We can assist with any event requirement, either by supporting your in-house team or managing the whole event on an outsourced basis. We can also provide an event team on the day to ensure that you spend the time doing what you need to – hosting and networking – and not running around!