Like most entertainers who perform regularly at corporate events I’m frequently asked what’s the secret of a truly memorable occasion. It’s fair to say that there’s no single answer, but one of the contributing factors that I’d like to focus on in this blog is the concept of knowing your audience.
At first sight, this may seem a tad obvious. You might reply that “it’s for our sales team” or “it’s for our clients”, but this is a very general descriptor that doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter.
Without really knowing who your audience are, it’s difficult to decide on issues such as:
Time of year and time of day.
Are your attendees singletons or married? Do they have kids that they’d like to take into consideration? Are they prepared to give up a weekend for a sales conference?
Will your guests prefer going to a really swanky venue that they might not usually get to check out, or would they be more at home somewhere more familiar? And does the chosen venue make sense, in terms of getting there and back, for the majority of your guests. You’ll never please everyone, but if the majority of guests are from Dublin, it makes very little sense shifting the event to Athlone to satisfy a handful of out-of-towners.
Stay over or not?
Some corporate events have a dual purpose. There may be a very important series of presentations to the national sales team by day, but the evening is set aside for a good old-fashioned knees-up where staff morale can be boosted and a sense of unity and commitment can be supported. If you’re planning a party element, with the likelihood of a late finish, it probably makes sense to book rooms for a stayover. Apart from anything else, it means that nobody will be tempted to drink and drive, while the addition of a stayover can often add a sense of special occasion to an event.
It’s one thing planning an event for your own staff, but it’s an entirely different kettle of fish when you plan an event for clients or prospects. For a start, it tends to increase the level of formality, but you also need to ensure that you don’t commit any unintended gaffes, perhaps seating two clients beside each other who may have rival products, or maybe having international clients who don’t speak great English sitting beside Irish guests.
Form of presentation.
You also need to know your audience if you want to choose a form of presentation that will be most impactful. If you work in the digital sector, for example, you’ll really disappoint your audience if you bang out an old-fashioned PowerPoint presentation. They’ll probably expect a slick, video-led presentation, so make sure you don’t disappoint them. Also, it’s a good idea to make sure that your presentation format can be truncated and then sent on to your guests a few days later – as a reminder of the content you covered.
Form of entertainment.
If you plan on having some form of corporate entertainment in place at your event, you need to have a long, hard think about what type of entertainers would best fit the bill. If your event includes a drinks reception, for example, it could be really powerful to have a mentalist or close-up magician on hand to mingle casually and break the ice between attendees who might not know each other. If your event is more formal, however, with a clearly defined time for presentation, dining, entertainment, a good quality comedian can work very well. But remember to brief your act well on whether ‘blue jokes’ are acceptable, or if there are any taboo subjects (such as the Managing Director’s bald pate, for example).
All of the above points may seem to suggest that it’s a bit of a minefield when you’re planning a corporate event, this is very definitely not our intention. Rather, we’re suggesting that you should do your homework and make sure you know as much as possible before you sit down to design your event.
For example, you could ask your own staff what they know of clients you’re planning to invite – are they social animals, will they like to head off early, etc?
And on a practical level, if there is a dining experience at the centre of your event, it’s much better to ask your guests in advance if they have any special dietary needs rather than having an embarrassing situation in the night when you find out they’re vegan.
Most of this is just plan common sense, and the more thought you give to your event, the better it’s likely to be. And hopefully, when those compliments are pouring in over the following week, you’ll be really delighted that you went the extra mile in getting to know your audience.
Not alone does it provide a more rewarding experience for them, but it speaks volumes about the type of company you are, and the levels of professionalism that underpin your product or service.