Commonalities of Wedding and Corporate Event Planning

Throughout the course of my career, I’ve been involved in event planning from a fairly diverse variety of roles.  From planning annual staff meetings to technology seminars and now marketing an event venue, I’ve had the opportunity to develop a complex perspective on the essential components of successful events.  It wasn’t until I began planning my own wedding that I started to realize how many shared skills could be utilized in planning a private party like a wedding, and in planning a corporate function.  In either scenario, planning a successful soiree really boils down to (2) things- guest experience and organization.

Guest Experience

If you’ve been involved in planning a wedding, you can appreciate the overwhelming volume of detail that goes into every aspect of the day.  You have also likely realized that in many ways, the wedding can become more about the guests than the couple joining together.  It’s important to choose the food, entertainment, and venue that your guests will enjoy but also reflects who you are as a couple.  This underlying need to show value to your guests is equally important when planning a business event. Your team should be focused on creating an experience your clients will value in a setting that complements your brand. In that same vein, the content, schedule, and even seating arrangements of the day can positively influence your guests.  In creating a seating plan for my wedding reception, I’ve been mindful to put family and friends together who will jive well or who share common interests to help ensure they enjoy themselves. We certainly won’t be seating the political family rivals together and we’ll do our best to balance the introverts with our more outgoing friends to keep the tables a little more lively.  I’ve used these same strategies for corporate events and seen great results.  It’s worth noting that the political rule is still a good one to follow any time you have that luxury in planning a business event. Other tactics include seating business representatives in related industries together, pairing individuals who would benefit from networking relationships, or merely seating guests together that have similar personalities and temperaments.  However you approach it, your guests will know within moments that you put a concerted effort into making them comfortable at your event and this will bode well for you for that day and in the long run.

Organization

If you know me at all, you know I am a bit of a perfectionist and incredibly organized in everything that do.  I honestly love lists and am extremely conscientious when it comes to details, scheduling, and logistics.  This has served me well in my career and has been quite helpful in planning my wedding.  And while weddings and corporate events may seem starkly different, here are three organizational tricks that I promise you will find helpful in planning either.

1) A Timeline – Whether you use a project management software, phone application, or paper calendar, a timeline is essential in planning an event.  When you first start the planning process, map out all the hard deadlines of the project.  For my wedding, I used Google Sheets so that I could update it as I made progress from anywhere.  I particularly like this method because I can share the list with my fiance and mother as needed, as well as sort my tasks and deadlines based on when they need to be completed. Not to mention, it provides a nice visual for what tasks are yet to be completed as well as the order of operations. My wedding timeline has everything from DJ payment due dates to dress appointments, work deadlines, and personal commitments. This helps me map out each month of the year so that I can prioritize my time and schedule all of my to dos in a way that wouldn’t negatively affect the wedding plans.  When mapping out a timeline for a corporate function, I would suggest following the same process.  Start with your event date and work your way back, filling in deadlines for product orders, invitations (to order, address, and send), RSVP dates, vendor contracts, marketing material design and production, and so on.  Don’t forget to factor in lead time for orders, unrelated organizational commitments and deadlines, and even vacation days that may creep up in between and throw off the schedule.  Among the many benefits to this, one of the best will be that it helps ensure your invitations are distributed with enough lead time to get your intended guests in the door.  Beyond that it can also help with vendor availability, preparation for keynote speakers, and many other aspects of the event.

2) A ‘To Do’ List – As I mentioned earlier, I really do love ‘to do’ lists.  They help me prioritize, plan, and ultimately feel more accomplished.  Since I started planning my wedding, I’ve had a running “to do” list, also in Google Sheets, and have been updating tasks and checking things off as I go.  I follow the same process when planning an event for work, but with the added bonus of sharing the list of responsibilities with my event team. Creating a ‘to do’ list has many of the same benefits as a timeline but also helps delegate tasks and paints a more realistic picture of what each task truly entails.  For example, a task for a staff meeting may be to ‘come up with a fun team-building activity.  This may sound like a simple brainstorming exercise where you mentally pick an activity and check a box but in reality, there is much more to it.  Perhaps your group activity is to write a song about the organization (I’ve done this before) where group members write lyrics about your company to an existing song melody. Well now you have to make sure each table has a pen and paper, music for the song to be played to, possibly a written printout of the activity, a microphone for the groups to use to perform….you see where I’m going with this?  It’s now evolved into a much longer list of tasks that encompasses AV equipment, printing materials, etc. and therefore the time you allocate to complete each task will be modified accordingly.  Lastly, ‘to do’ lists are also essential building blocks for your event “to bring” list.

A ‘To Bring’ List -EVERY event should have a ‘to bring’ list.  For my wedding, this list is looooong.  It has everything from the decorations for our reception to checks for the vendors, an emergency kit, clothes for 3 days, my written vows….it really just goes on and on.  But as much as that list can seem overwhelmingly lengthy, it’s truly a lifeline for planning any event.  For past business events I’ve planned, the ‘to bring’ list included giveaways, contracts, supplies for breakout sessions, easels, phone chargers, pens and paper, printed handouts, contact information for key vendors, snacks so I can stay alert throughout the day, scissors, tape, a USB stick with a backup of my presentation, and everything else one might think of.  Going through the exercise of documenting these items against your timeline and ‘to dos’ can help each event component go off without a hitch.  And while you can’t control everything, being prepared can be the difference between a minor setback and a stressful situation.

With that said, I’m off to check “post article” off my to do list for the day… 🙂

-Kathryn Kell

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