We’ve all heard the story of the 3 little pigs. The three little pigs each built a house. One was made of straw, one was made of sticks and the last one was made of bricks. Two of the three pigs didn’t plan ahead and did things with a small budget. The third pig knew his reputation and in his case his life depended on having a home that was made sturdy. He took the time to work on it and make everything perfect as his brothers goofed off and didn’t do much. We all know some people that just goof off and don’t plan ahead and others that plan things out way ahead of time.
Over the past 25+ years in this business I’ve worked with many corporate event planners that either planned everything perfectly or waited until the last minute to try to create something that their guests would enjoy. Many wasted their time and money on things that didn’t give their party a good foundation to stand on and didn’t have much, if any money left for the entertainment, speakers, awards, etc. The ones that planned ahead were like the little pig that made his house out of brinks. They knew they had to plan ahead to focus on the task at hand in order to make their event the best it could be. The ones that didn’t plan ahead had their parties come crashing down like a house of straw because they weren’t prepared.
I worked with a company in Houston a number of times that plans incredible corporate events out for their clients. From the entertainment to the silverware, everything is the top of the line. They’ve even rented out castles in Europe and flew all the guests in to make an event extra special. The owners knows that everything matters when you are trying to impress your guests. This company’s owner goes above and beyond for this clients. As you can probably tell, his clients have an incredible budget for their events. Each and every time he’d hire me for an event it was months or a year in advance. He knew he had to plan ahead in order to be sure to secure all the elements he needed for a perfect event.
Other companies over the years have called me last minute begging me to lower my rate by 70-95% so I could take the place of their speaker or entertainer that canceled last minute. They hired a discount speaker or entertainer that wasn’t professional and they canceled on them last minute. The speaker or entertainer didn’t have a replacement lined up for them and left them high and dry. I feel bad not being able to help them, but it’s kind of like calling the top steak and lobster place in your area and asking them to give you a meal at the price of a McDonald’s combo meal since the local McDonalds was closed due to a power outage.You aren’t going to get a limousine to take your guests to the airport when you don’t even have a budget for an Uber. Their lack of planning or low budget isn’t the fault of the professional they are calling for help.
You spent all your budget for your event on other things, didn’t have any money left for a quality / professional speaker or entertainer and got what you paid for. If you don’t have a budget for a professional speaker, I’d highly suggest not hiring one that not professional. You want your guests motivated, not depressed. 🙂 If you have a low budget it’s sometimes best to buy a raffle prize to have a drawing for rather than hiring a discount motivational speaker or cheap entertainment. This way at least one guest will walk away happy. With discount speakers and entertainers, odds are everyone will walk away disappointed.
There are things you can do to make your event great while still usually staying within budget. You can go for simple / elegant centerpieces on the table rather than a huge expensive bouquet of flowers in a 3′ tall crystal vase. People can’t see over the high centerpieces anyways. What good is it to pay for a great speaker or entertainer when people can’t see them past the centerpieces? See the video at the bottom of this page for suggestions on setting up a banquet room.
You can also cut down on having too many appetizers. You need enough to make people somewhat full for the moment, but don’t need to go overboard. Remember, dinner is right around the corners and the appetizers could totally eat up (no pun intended) your speaker / entertainment budget. In my blog post about skipping the meatballs I talk all about this. (Click here to read that blog post.)
Don’t feel you need to plan the party alone. Even if others don’t want to be on the committee, most people love to give their input. Put out a survey online or print one up asking your co-workers or guests what’d they’d like to have at the party. It never hurts to ask at an end of an event what people liked and what they didn’t. Have an option to let them keep the form anonymous. Sometimes you’ll get input that it totally honest when they don’t have to attach their name to it. Once again, most people won’t be honest if they know they’ll hurt your feelings. How many times have you told someone how wonderful a meal was that they made for you when in all honesty it wasn’t that great? You didn’t want to hurt their feelings. That was nice of you. In the case of planning an important event, you want the truth.
My daughter recently went to her school’s homecoming dance. When her and her friends got in my car after the dance to be taken back home, they were all complaining about the DJ. Everything about the dance was perfect, but the DJ seemed to be rude, kept stopping the music to yell at the guests for being too loud and ruined the evening for many of them. I told them to let the principal know so he wouldn’t hire that DJ again. Little things could upset your guests at your event, but they might be too shy to let you know or not want to hurt your feelings. As a party planner you need to know what people thought of the event both good and bad so you can be better prepared the next time.
“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” – Paul J. Meyer
You don’t want the same exact party with the same exact entertainment and speaker over and over and over again just because it went well the year before. Change things up a bit to keep it fresh while still focusing on the types of things that people raved about. You’ll never make everyone 100% happy at large events. Some people just love to complain. Just because 1 person said the food was bad doesn’t mean everyone hated it. Some people hate sushi and will complain while the other 99.999% of your guests loved it, but didn’t voice their opinion to you. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Ask a number of people for their advice, not just one. Ask people from different departments at different levels of employment, too. There was one time I lost a speaking booking to a speaker that designed golf courses. Why? The boss loved to golf and the event planner thought it would be great to make the boss happy. In that case not many people in the company golfed and the only one that loved the presentation and got motivated was the boss. They hired me the following year after numerous complaints about the speaker the year before. Yes, you want to make your boss happy all while looking at the big picture and having the event a win/win situation for everyone.
What’s in your budget? An incredible event at a top hotel / convention center in Phoenix, Arizona or a small potluck in your company’s meeting room? Don’t feel bad if you can’t have the party at the castle in Ireland and only have a budget for a party at a Holiday Inn Express. It’s all about the content of the meeting or event you a planning. If you can’t afford an event this year, plan way ahead for a better one to make up for it in a year or two. Sometimes less is more. It’s sometimes good to put a lot of money into a sales conference to motivate your top sales team instead of throwing a holiday party many employees would rather not go to. Find out what your employees want. Maybe they’d rather have cash instead of a party. Maybe they’d rather have a party instead of a small bonus. You’ll never know unless you ask.
One thing you can count on with me is if I feel like I’m not the perfect fit for your event, I’ll let you know. I don’t want you to spend money on something that isn’t going to be right for your event. If you are looking for someone to motivate and entertain your guest with a presentation that is full of audience participation and fun, I’m your guy. If you are looking for someone to talk about the joys of building golf courses, I’m not the one you are looking for. I know that contacting me well before your event will make your odds better of having me available for it. No need to even have the event hall booked yet. As long as you know the location of the event (for example you know you are having a sales conference in Orlando, Florida on August 15th, 2018) I can hold that date for you. Even if you don’t know the exact location, you can still confirm the date.
Start planning your corporate event now. Finding a top motivational speaker, convention center, banquet hall or other things you need for your event should be your top priority. Put the things that are most important on the top of the list and go down from there. If you use up your entire budget on all the little things the great things won’t be able to happen. Just like the Three Little Pigs, be the brother that used a strong foundation, bricks and a lot of planning to make your event the best possible.