Many companies no longer see events as a luxury line item – it’s become a necessary one. With over 80% of corporations citing meetings and events as “critical” to the overall health and success of their company, it is no surprise that the estimated annual spend for US Corporate Meetings & Events has succeeded $500B since 2014. $500B isn’t exactly pocket change so why are companies putting more money behind events now than ever before? Simple – live events harness the power of change. With such high stakes, an event must be smartly designed.
There are prevalent misconceptions about what corporate event design actually means. Many people think only of tablecloths and centerpieces. Others can’t see the difference between corporate events and social ones equating the importance of time and thought of a corporate event to that of a birthday party. And from that perspective, it’s easy to see why those things may be considered “fluff.” They are easy elements to achieve and by themselves don’t seem to carry any weight or potential lasting impact.
But that’s not design – that’s decoration.
Nobody hosts an event for the sake of hosting an event. There is always a deeper purpose and it’s the planner’s job to achieve it. A well designed corporate event has the potential to actually influence behavior, attitudes, and actions of guests long after the event ends. True design takes into consideration the larger goals around the event and turns them into the strategic driving vision behind every decision. That said, these are the four pillars upon which every corporate event should be designed:
We already know that the event should be constructed with meaningful purpose, but where does that come from? Start by talking with your event stakeholders. What are their goals? Current internal initiatives? Vision for the future? How do they envision people feeling when the event ends and for weeks after?
Being able to articulate the answers to these questions not only deepens your understanding of the event, it also provides the blueprint for the entire structure of it. By knowing what your objectives are you’ll know what your impact features should be, and consequently where your money should be going (read: budget efficacy). If your goal is brand engagement, your focus should be on a refreshingly original activation, not the centerpieces.
No matter what the objectives are, brand authenticity is essential. Approach goals from the same values and vision of the company to create genuine experiences for attendees.
Theming & Messaging
Theming and messaging is often likened to logoing and while there is certainly space for branding in the more traditional sense, logos on everything from coasters to cookies does not get the gold star.
Events are remarkably impactful because they speak to the guests. Loudly. Really loudly. Everything that they see, hear, read, touch all effects the perception of and their experience with the event. Because of this every element – pre, during, and post-event – should be carefully selected and should represent the brand and the overall message that guests should leave with. Do you want attendees to think that you are innovative and fresh? Consider a venue that has more surprise and less gold brocade. Trying to inspire employees to grow themselves and their sales? Spring into Q2 hosting a professional development session with an inspiring keynote speaker at the Botanic Gardens. Multi-level touch points that frequently and subtly reinforce the collective vision of the event and the values and enterprises of the company as a whole, become what attendees hear and internalize.
Where many professional interactions live somewhere between the inbox and the conference room, corporate events break free from those confines and create spaces where people can engage, be curious, and be inspired. Events are special because they provide an opportunity to connect to people on an emotional level. Emotion sparks thought and meaning and opens the possibility for conversation and bonding.
If you’re looking to convince clients that the incentive trip to Bali is the destination for them, bring in costumed dancers and musicians to give them an intriguing glimpse into the culture. If you’re wanting to show a prospective investor that your firm is at the top of technology help them engage with an AR wall that excites them for months. If you’re reinvigorating a company’s culture with holistic wellness, host a sponsored yoga and lounging creativity session with sponsored mats, bottles, and spa robes. By sparking people’s emotions, they can begin to care– and caring leads to action. Buying. Supporting. Connecting. Sponsoring. Investing.
Take the time to design an event that lets people create memories now and daydream about similarly interesting experiences with you in the future.
Event décor is the tangible heart and soul of events. Design and décor set the tone, energy, and expectations for the event – it is what wholly creates the environment. The planning and strategy and objectives all come together through stage sets, invitations, lighting, place settings, entertainment, gifts, engagements, music, and food and transports guests into a completely new space filled with the possibility of creative freedom and connection.
Decor is how guests interact with your event and consequently, your entire message. Rebuilding the company culture? Send sparks flying by hanging plastic tarps diffusing brightly colored shadows of active construction workers to set the tone as guests enter the space. Sponsoring the local Children’s Museum? A whimsical Dr. Seuss themed event with children dressed as colorful characters speaks much louder than a black-tie gala.
Décor lets guests play, imagine, and (most importantly) helps them buy into your purpose. A well-designed event will elicit emotion and makes the time attendees have spent with you extraordinary.
Corporate events have the power to inspire, influence, encourage, boost morale, solidify loyalty, create meaningful relationships, and so much more. They harness the potential to actually change companies and the people within them. Corporate events aren’t just happy hours or ballroom dinners, they are the vehicles of inspiration and long-term impact. Events are where change happens and human engagement is at its best. But thoughtful change through events, just like anything else, isn’t haphazard. It’s more than decorating a birthday party with tablecloths – it’s designing an experience to remember.