How to plan a corporate party
There are hundreds of articles and blogs online that tell you how difficult and overwhelming organising a corporate party is. Not us.Breaking the process of event planning down into achievable tasks, helps you stay focused and accomplish your mission to organise an awesome party one task at a time. Yes, it is a big job. Yes, there’s a lot to think about, but with proper planning and our handy checklist, organising a corporate party in London can be fun and rewarding too.Whatever your level of experience this checklist should give you a basic framework and the confidence to plan the perfect corporate party.
What are corporate events?
Corporate events are classed as any casual, social or business occasion that is organised and funded by a business. Corporate events can encompass many different types of events. The two main goals of the corporate event is to either promote or market the company hosting it, or to foster a sense of bonding and for its employees. Examples of corporate events can include:
- Summer parties
- Christmas parties
- Sports days
- Award ceremonies
- Trade shows
- Team building events
Start planning your corporate party as soon as possible
Planning a corporate party involves a lot of waiting around for responses and confirmation from others. So get started with the planning process as soon as possible.
- You are competing against other companies for the best venues and entertainment
- Get invitations sent before employees start making commitments
- Give yourself more time to iron out the finer details
- Early planning means lesser likelihood of things going wrong
- Less stress
Lists are the best things in the world for planning a corporate party. Not only do they help you break down the process of corporate party planning into manageable tasks. They also help you to keep track of how much you have already achieved and how much more is left to do.
Make your list smart by giving yourself deadlines and applying the Eisenhower Matrix to each task:
- Not urgent but important
- Urgent but not important
- Urgent and important
- Neither urgent or important
The Eisenhower Matrix will help you decide the order in which you tackle each of your tasks.
Create an events team
If your company doesn’t already have an events team, now is a good time to create one. Choose people with arrange of different skills from across the company. Your team can help you with everything from allocating budgets to making invites and even cleaning up afterwards. Many hands make light work and having a good events team can help you get things done a lot quicker.
Look at the future square in the face, take a deep breath and let’s begin…
How to plan a corporate party step by step
Set the budget
Right at the top of your urgent and important list should be setting the budget. Finding out how much money you have to spend as early as possible is really, really important. And it will have the biggest impact on the type of corporate party you organise.
If the money available for the event is negotiable, it may be worth reminding the purse strings there is a tax allowance for staff entertainment of £150+VAT per annum.
Allocate the budget
When deciding how to allocate your budget, go by what is most important to your company, the culture and the expectations of your colleagues.
Set the date
Venues in London fill up quickly, especially during the party season. So confirming a date should be the next thing you do. Traditionally, Thursdays are the most popular days for corporate parties in London, as they do not take up any personal time. Fridays come a close second. However, don’t disregard days earlier in the week, they tend to be cheaper and offer more flexibility when it comes to picking a venue. It all depends on your company culture (and whether you think Debs from accounting will be happy sorting payroll with a hangover!).
A quick and easy way to set the date is to create something like a doodle poll with a few initial dates for everyone to choose from. Send a link to the poll in an email so you can get a feel for the preferred date and get an indication of numbers. Remember to include an RSVP date on your emails so you’re not waiting for responses and make sure to follow up with a save the date email once you’ve picked a date.
Decide what kind of party it is
When it comes to deciding what kind of party you are throwing, here are the main things to consider…
- High or low impact?
- Day, night or both?
- Bespoke or package?
- Meal, dance or both?
- Shared or exclusive?
- Ticketed or free?
How to find a venue for your corporate party
Book appointments to see the events co-ordinator at the venues you like.
What to look for when choosing a venue:
Making the right choice when it comes to a venue is crucial. It doesn’t matter how organised you are or what amazing entertainment you’ve booked, if the venue does not meet certain needs, it will tank the event. The following are good starting points to use when starting your search:
- Capacity – is the venue the right size for your guest list?
- Location — is it accessible, good for taxis and public transport? If not, you may need to consider hiring buses or even overnight accommodation.
- Facilities — is the PA system modern and functioning? You may require equipment for speeches, presentations and live entertainment.
- Flexibility – will the venue tailor its packages to suit your needs?
Questions to ask event planner:
- Will the venue organise clearing up?
- What selection of food can you produce?
- What drinks selection can you serve at the bar?
- What equipment is included in the price?
- What are the cancellation terms and conditions?
- Do you offer an indoor alternative? (if outdoor)
- Is the quote inclusive of everything you require?
Pick a Theme
Having a themed corporate party doesn’t just mean fancy dress. The theme sets the tone of your party and should apply to the invitations, food, music and decorations. At Senate House, our favourite theme will always be 1920s, but there are loads of ideas you could plump for. Once you’ve picked, make a list of everything you would associate with that chosen theme and try and apply it to your party.
A great way to maximise your budget when it comes to decorating is to focus on the focal points on the venue such as the entrance, bar and table centres.
Depending on what type of venue you have chosen you will need to decided between using in-house catering (which will work out much cheaper) or hiring external caterers. If your venue has a good reputation for serving good food, we recommend you using them, it will be the simplest and most effect way to tackle catering.
When picking food for your event make sure you think about:
- Whether it will be a set menu or will guests need to choose beforehand?
- Catering for special dietary requirements
- How you would like the food to be served -will the nibbles be laid out or taken round by waiting staff? Is it a sit-down meal or buffet?
When it comes to organising drinks for your corporate party, the first thing to do is decide whether you are going to pre-order drinks or pay for what is consumed on the night. Pre-ordering gives you more control over your budget, but you do risk not ordering enough for everyone. If you are offering an open bar, make sure the food menu is substantial and features plenty of carbs.
There are three main ways to ensure fairer drinks distribution at your corporate party:
- Organise drinks tab into vouchers to be given to guests beforehand
- Have a set about of bottles per table
- Have a waiting staff serving drinks, topping up when needed
When it comes to music, you have a few options: hire a DJ or live band or put together a playlist. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you liaise with the venue to make sure you have all the equipment required.
Choose entertainment that suits your party theme and venue. There are hundreds of options available to you from singing waiters and casino tables to cocktail making and photo booths
Speeches and Awards
If you are having speeches and awards, make sure they are planned in advance. Both are always best done early in the evening so things don’t get too rowdy.
You will need to organise:
- The Speakers and their speeches
- Microphones for the speakers
- Awards/Prizes – make sure there is also somewhere safe to leave them!
- A rehearsal
Add that little Something Extra
Picture your party from a guest’s point of view so far. Is there anything extra you can do to make the event just that little bit more special? Simple things you could consider adding to the event are…
- A free cloakroom
- Special drinks on arrival (queuing for the cloakroom is far more fun with a mojito!)
- Upgrade the toilet facilities as much as possible (fresh flowers, nice paper towels etc.)
If you’re expecting a large amount of guests, make sure someone is on hand to manage when they arrive and leave. You could organise staggered arrival times so you don’t have too many people queuing up or waiting in the cold.
Yes we all have access to Instagram, but having a professional photographer at the event will guarantee there are quality pictures to document the night.
If you need security at your corporate party book friendly staff that will make your guests feel welcome.
Decide whether you need to organise transport to and from your event. If you are organising coaches make sure they are booked for suitable times so your colleagues aren’t forced to leave early or left hanging around.
Though we live in the age of Über, it’s important to still be mindful of everyone’s journey home, especially in London. It’s a good idea to collect local taxi numbers and information on last trains and buses to circulate before the event.
Create an Itinerary
Your itinerary will help keep things running smoothly on the night. It should include a full breakdown of the event, including contact names and information for everyone involved. Build in time for late arrivals and plan plenty of time for food to be served.
Here are our top tips for organising your invitations:
- When picking an arrival time make sure you give your guests plenty of time to leave work and get ready for the party
- Get invites designed to fit your theme
- Decide whether your invites will be emailed or printed
- Ask your committee or reps to help deliver invitations
- Make sure your RSVP date leaves you plenty of time to confirm the menu with the caterers/venue
- Be prepared to chase people for RSVPs
- A checklist for what to include on corporate party invitations
If you’re organising a ticketed corporate party, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to market and sell tickets to your colleagues.
Now you have a definite number of guests it’s a good time to organise the seating plan if you’re having a sit down meal. This can be a tricky task to get right, but it’s worth the effort. You can either choose to organise tables by teams or mix your colleagues up to encourage mingling. Make sure the table plan is easy to find at the venue and print place cards for the tables.
On the day don’t forget to…
- Get there early
- Meet the event planner and check that everything is as you expect it to be
- Double check the venue
- Introduce yourself to any suppliers/entertainers before the party starts so they know who to come to if they have any questions or problems
Managing the event
Keep your itinerary with you and remember after all that pre-planning, make sure you enjoy the party too!
Ask For Feedback
Make sure you ask for feedback after the party to find out what guests enjoyed and what can be improved on for next year.
Hosting a corporate party with University of London Venues
At University of London Venues, we strongly believe in working hard and partying harder. Our flexible event venues are based in central London and benefit from fantastic transport links, so your guests won't have much trouble trying to find us. Our art-deco themed rooms can be adapted for any event.
If you’d like to find out about hosting your corporate party with us, enquire about our venue space today.