Organising a major corporate or private event can be a nerve-wracking affair for the uninitiated.
Experienced events planner Emily Christopher from London-based iconic events company Camm & Hooper offers her top tips for event success.
Location location location
While the choice of venue is often dictated by its capacity, you should consider other elements. Location is key. If it’s a post-work networking drinks, then it needs to be easy for your guests to access. If it’s a wedding or private dinner, is there transport after hours? It’s also important to understand your preferred style of event. Is it formal or more casual? At Camm & Hooper we have a variety of venues from the elegant formality of Banking Hall to the opulence of the Victorian Bath House and Soho’s party spirit at Six Storeys townhouse. Some will work for certain events but not others. What are you looking for your event to achieve? If it’s a regular event, such as an annual summer networking party, or monthly client dinner, where have you held it before? What are your competitors doing and do you want to stand out? Does the venue have an interesting history which you can weave into your event?
What is the event for? What do you want your guests to feel, think and experience? A good events planner will ask you these questions to ensure that the experience lives up to expectations, so be ready with answers. An internal staff training event is going to be very different from an intimate client dinner. An awards ceremony will need a separate approach to a networking evening. A 50th birthday bash and a wedding are poles apart.
Timing is everything
Once you’ve booked your venue, you’ll need to create a schedule of what you need to do when, for example decisions on menu choices, layout, décor and guest numbers by certain dates so you can inform the venue and caterers. No venue wants to run out of your bespoke cocktail because you missed the deadline to arrange 1,000 glasses of eggnog.
Being realistic about timings on the day is important. Your events team will want your day to run smoothly. Building in extra time is always a good idea. Guests don’t like to feel rushed.
There’s no such thing as a silly question
Don’t hold back on asking your event organiser or venue contact any questions. The clearer you are about the event and what can and can’t be done is going to help the person planning it. And your question could help to spark some new and interesting ideas.
The guest journey
Visiting the venue in advance of the event is essential. Take the time to walk through it in your guests’ footsteps. What will they see when they first arrive in terms of branding and wayfinding? Working out the guest touchpoints throughout their journey and ensuring that their experience is smooth is an important part of the planning process. If it’s not possible to visit in person, then many venues will have a 3D walkthrough process, as Camm & Hooper does, so you can experience the venue from your desktop.
Meet the person you’ll be dealing with on the day.
If you’re working with an events organiser or venue company, you may liaise with a number of different people in the lead-up to the event. From the sales person to the event planner to the chef, waiting and bar staff. While you may spend much of your time talking to the event planner, it’s important to meet the person who’ll be running your event on the day. There’s nothing like looking someone in the eye to make sure that they know exactly what you need.
Be prepared for last minute changes
You can spend weeks planning the perfect event, only to find yourself dealing with last-minute requests which can substantially change your plans – from significant changes in guest numbers, thanks to poor weather or illness, to being told on the day about serious dietary requirements, or someone’s boss suddenly having a great idea. It may be that you need to rejig the layout to ensure what was planned to be a large event doesn’t get lost now that numbers are lower. Or you may need to create additional space or time for the activity the boss has demanded. Last minute changes are the nature of events and your events team will be used to responding to anything and everything that’s thrown at them.