You envision the perfect party to celebrate and promote your company’s philanthropy. As guests file into the beautifully decorated room, they can smell the fragrant flowers on every table. Your bartenders stand ready to mix any cocktail, and the band fills the air with enchanting melodies. As the night rolls on, your waitstaff will make their rounds and tempt the guests with the most delectable appetizers.
While the guests mingle and enjoy themselves, your company begins sharing its message of the night. When the evening wraps up, your guests will depart with great memories and solid reasons on why they should donate even more this year. The evening is a success and your donations spike to an all-time high.
The question is, how do you make that vision a reality?
“The success of an event is not just about the food or the cocktails; It’s about the total experience,” says YPO member Britt Whitfield, CEO of The Revel Group, an agency of independent, event-centric businesses made up of Revel Global Events, Revel Decor, Revel Space, Limelight Catering and Spotlight Chicago. “Some events might not be successful because the plans were focused too much on the content of the event and getting all the details right. Those details are certainly important, but don’t forget about creating an atmosphere in which your guests feel engaged. They need to feel great in the space.”
Whitfield says the top priority to planning a truly memorable event is to establish the event’s mood and purpose. “The first step of event planning isn’t about flowers or food,” she says. “It’s about answering a question: Is the event about celebrating something or someone? Perhaps it’s to teach people something, or to get them to meet and bond with each other. Maybe it’s just for fun. What is the event’s takeaway message for your guests?”
The answer is as important to the event’s success as the venue choice and the décor.
“It’s critical to think through an event’s content and theme,” says Sarah Banasiak, Chief Creative Officer at The Revel Group. “The event planner must be clear on the message of the event so that it can be thoughtfully pulled through all the aspects of the event.”
Just like a great first date, Banasiak says your guests must feel comfortable and excited to be at the selected venue celebrating your event. “Setting the mood is as key to the event’s success as all the other elements,” she explains.
Creating an event experience
Whitfield points to the success of YPO special events noting that what sets those events apart is the engagement of the guests, not the selection of food. “Guests are looking for an experience. There are some interesting trends that are making guests feel more actively engaged in the event as opposed to feeling they just had a night out with cocktails.”
While food isn’t the No. 1 priority of the event, it’s not something to neglect until the last minute. Whitfield says food presentation helps create the atmosphere for your guests. Planners need to look at current trends in food design and presentation, which are more energetic and engaging than, for example, buffet lines and serving on flat surfaces.
“Food design brings another element of creativity to the event,” she says. “For example, we recently did a garden-themed event and served the food out of custom-made wheelbarrows and moved the food around the venue instead of moving the people to the food. Finding innovative ways to serve food adds a level of entertainment and excitement to the experience.”
Ultimately, both Whitfield and Banasiak say when planning a corporate special event, trusting the event planner is essential.
“Choose an event planner whose party you’d want to attend,” says Whitfield. “Think through your message and purpose, and ask yourself how your guests should feel when they leave. If you focus on making the event experiential, they’ll have a truly memorable evening.”