The Five Secrets
of Success for Corporate Events
(First in a three part Guide to Corporate Event Planning)
One of the most daunting tasks in the corporate world
is the planning and execution of the meeting or conference.
Some companies have a full time staff who organize all
company events, but more often than not it is an employee
who is a novice to the world of meeting planning that
is volunteered for the job of putting together the next
event. This is Part One of a Guide to lead you through
the complex task of planning a successful corporate
What are the Five Secrets to successfully planning
a corporate event ?
There are so many details when planning your event.
How long is your event? Is it one day or is it a weeklong
conference? Who will attend? How many are attending?
What food? Which lodging? Transportation? Budget? Scheduling?
The list goes on and on.
This guide will focus primarily on one aspect of the
event…. The Program.
Here are the five secrets to successfully planning
the program of your next corporate event:
One dark night a police officer came upon a
man who had obviously been drinking. He was on his hands
and knees crawling on the road beneath a street lamp.
“What are you doing?” asked the police officer.
“Lookin’ fer my keys,” slurred the
man. “Oh”, said the cop, beginning to search
the road for the lost keys, “You dropped them
somewhere around here?” “No”, said
the drunk, “I dropped them further down the street.
But the light is better here.”
Before you do anything else clarify your objective.
You will never achieve your goals if you don’t
know what they are or where you need to go to succeed
in achieving them. Be clear on what it is you hope to
accomplish. What are the expectations of the group?
What are the expectations of management? What are YOUR
expectations? Distill and define your objectives/s into
one simple statement.
There are a myriad of goals a meeting could focus on.
Sometimes the goals are dictated to you by management.
“This year’s meeting is simply to tell our
people to sell more!” But frequently the goals
are not sent down from on high and most times they are
far less straightforward. The more defined your objectives
the easier it will be to plan the event and make all
the 1001 choices needed to make this event a resounding
A woman sitting at a bar heard a tiny voice. “Nice
dress.” She looked around but couldn’t see
anyone. A few moments later she heard the tiny voice
again. “I like what you’ve done with your
hair.” “Excuse me,” she shouted to
the woman at the other end of the bar, “Were you
speaking to me?” The woman at the far end of the
bar shrugged and left. Again the tiny voice whispered,
“You have beautiful eyes.” “Bartender”,
called the woman, “Is this some kind of trick?”
“What’s that?” asked the bartender
as he walked over to her. “I keep hearing this
little voice saying things like, ‘Nice dress’
and ‘I like your hair’ and stuff like that.”
“Oh", replied the bartender, pointing towards
a bowl on the bar, “It’s the nuts. They’re
Once you have clarified your goals you need to select
a complementary theme. The purpose of the theme is to
emphasize the goals, add fun to the meeting and motivate
the participants. You need to take careful consideration
of your group when selecting a theme.
I once did an event that had a 1920’s speakeasy
theme for a company where 90% of the staff were under
the age of 30. Needless to say, they weren’t as
enthused with the theme as management (most of whom
were over 40). I also helped put together an event for
a company of computer designers. The theme of their
meeting was “Where technology meets imagination”.
I created a role playing fantasy game with a high tech
theme just for them. It was a resounding success. However,
as successful as the game was I would not recommend
this game to most of my customers. A group where the
individuals are much more logical in their thinking
and conservative in their style would be mortified at
the idea of participating in a role playing fantasy
An example of a very successful complementary goal
and theme was an event I worked on for a large telecommunications
company. Their theme was simply “The Future”.
Their goal was to stay “The leader in our field”.
In keeping with both their goal and their theme all
the events were high tech and futuristic. The Emcee
of the weekend event was a Starship Captain in a Star
Trek uniform. We used state-of-the-art technology to
project a live image of their President (who was in
another country at the time) via satellite. All the
corporate speeches and workshops were focused on the
future and the development of new technology. The corporate
entertainment and the team building games were all futuristic
or sci-fi in nature. And then the closing speaker at
dinner on the last night was a US astronaut from NASA…
very inspiring indeed.
Select a theme that is fun, inspirational and positive.
A playful theme makes the business aspects of the meeting
so much more palatable.
“Variety is the spice of life”. It’s
also the thing that will keep life in your event. The
most successful and memorable events are the ones that
use a wide range of activities: speeches, workshops,
discussions, entertainment, team building events, ice-breakers,
physical as well as mental challenges, awards and recognitions,
good food, nice surroundings (off site) and plenty of
free time as well. Not all these programs will reach
all your participants but if you have a wide variety
of activities then the chances are pretty good that
everyone will be touched by at least one of them.
Having said that, however, don’t try to do too
much all at once. Spread the different events out over
the length of the conference with some free time between
programs for participants to socialize or just relax.
I once performed a murder mystery where there was an
open bar, an auction, a casino, a wandering magician
and a DJ all going on at the same time. It doesn’t
work to saturate your participants with too many activities
all at once.
True story. A truck that was too high for the clearance
became lodged beneath an overpass in NYC during rush
hour. Engineers were called in to urgently figure out
a way to remove the firmly wedged vehicle that was causing
a major traffic jam. After more than an hour of discussions
about damage to the bridge, dismantling the truck, etc.,
it was, in fact, the young daughter of one of the engineers
who came up with the solution. “Daddy, why don’t
you just lower the truck?” The lightbulb went on for
the engineers and they let some of air out of the truck’s
tires releasing it from it’s predicament.
Studies have shown that the more diverse a group the
better they are at problem solving; which, of course, makes
perfect sense. The more diverse a group the broader your knowledge
base upon which to draw for ideas. If everyone on the team has the
same background, knowledge and experience then everyone will, more
than likely, have the same perspective. Add a little girl
to the mix and you have a different perspective, a new
set of eyes and, possibly, a new solution.
When inviting your guests, diversify. If possible,
invite different levels, different departments, different
territories, etc... Invite sales and implementation
to the same meeting or allow customers and suppliers
to attend. And when dividing groups up into teams, mix
it up! Put an HR person on the same team with a project
leader, a customer service rep. and a financial controller.
Be original! In their corporate lifetime employees
will attend a multitude of events including sales meetings,
appreciation dinners, product launches, President’s
Choice, conferences, etc., etc., etc. Consequently,
employees can become jaded after their umpteenth meeting.
Some even consider it time wasted that could have been
more productive doing the actual work. That is a formidable
obstacle facing the person planning the next event.
But the obstacle is not insurmountable. A well organized
and innovative program can convert even the most staunch
cynic. Find out what was done in the past and then break
new ground. Find a team building company, a corporate
entertainment company and/or a meeting planner who has
innovative new ideas and original products and services.
They will be your best ally in this daunting task.
John Cleese said, “If you want creative workers,
give them enough time to play.”
In the second part of this three part guide to planning
a successful corporate event we will examine the tool
that can excite, teach and energize your group all at
the same time. What is the most powerful tool in the
meeting planner’s toolbox?
I sincerely hope that this Guide offers you valuable
information when planning your next company meeting.
If you would like more information about myself, my
company or the unique programs I have developed, please
visit my web site at www.AntGrasshopper.com
. If you have any questions regarding planning an event,
please don’t hesitate to email me at Kevin@AntGrasshopper.com
The Ant and the Grasshopper
(Mixing business with pleasure.)
If you would like to learn more about any of our
programs please don't hesitate to contact