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Running a Corporate Client Event - What Not to Do

Beyond Leadership Blog

Over the last 20 years I have been involved in numerous client entertainment events, either as an attendee or organiser. Product launches, guest speaker presentations or simple social networking sessions – there are a few things I have experienced or learned the hard way that will hopefully be of value to you if you’re just starting out with what can be quite a stressful activity.

Avoiding the part-empty room – it’s a numbers game

Regardless of the star factor of your speaker, the great relationships you have with your clients or fabulous spread on offer, just 10-15% (at best) of the people you invite will actually turn up on the day; if the event is free to attend.  About one third who said they would attend don’t turn up.  I recommend to not be concerned about a worryingly huge invite list.  Invite 10 times the room capacity and you’ll have a full, buzzing and vibrant room of keen people, plus you would have gained brownie points by extending the invite to those who could not attend.

Do not take a risk with an innovative venue

As boring and predictable as they may be, use a well-known conference-type facility; like a hotel.  Sure, transforming the chic bar in town or bohemian art gallery into an event space would be great, but if they do not run these events as bread-and-butter business, don’t go there. The first table getting cold, hard poached eggs 10 minutes before the end of the event will soon diminish the cool-factor of your unique venue.

Avoid sit down meals

People don’t actually want to eat much at these events, and being trapped on a table with a full English and people you don’t necessarily want to chat to is a waste of everything. Try to offer an easily consumable stand up meal in a break-out area that is separate to the presentation space and you will have a high-energy and noisy networking situation. Then shepherd folk to the presentation room where they are more likely to sit on tables with strangers that will become new business buddies.

Coffee – the make or break factor

The trick with coffee is easy access, not so much quality. Avoid an espresso service, even at a good venue. It will create dangerous behaviour as orders are bungled or lost altogether. Go for bodums or even urns of passable filter coffee, and even consider using takeaway cups. Don’t do a coffee top-up during the presentation; have bodums on the table so people can help themselves. Get the coffee thing right, if nothing else!

Breakfast is best

Having surveyed hundreds of event goers, approximately 80% prefer breakfast events to start at around 7.45 and finish by 9am. Parking is also a critical success factor. As an organiser, often the best part of the event is when it ends. Breakfast events are especially helpful with this, as in the morning people have places to be and you won’t have to deal with hangers on.      

Looking back on a successful event is a very rewarding feeling. Ruing the ill-informed decisions you made leading to a flop of an event is scarring. I hope this information is helpful and good luck with your next event!

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