Every year between October and December, I perform at a large number of company year-end functions.  These can range from intimate informal party for the company staff, to gala award dinners.  And in the past few years, I’ve seen that despite of “the recession” some companies are still continuing to spend vast amounts of money, while forgetting the core reason for hosting the event in the first place…

Regardless of the size of the event, the purpose and objective of your year-end party must be clearly defined, or you won’t be able to judge the success (or failure) of your event. If the purpose is “to show the staff how much we appreciate their hard work“, then make sure that this message is made clear not only on the invitation, but also by the quality of the food and the venue.  Or perhaps you want to introduce your company to new prospective customers – does the decor, venue, hors d’œuvres, etc, give a good “first impression” of your company?

Of course, it would be easy if you were given an unlimited event budget!  The reality is that even the biggest, most outrageous events in the world are planned well in advance and the budget forms an integral part of that plan.  But is it the correct approach to plan the function exclusively around your budget? In my opinion, the answer is an emphatic “NO!”

There should always be an opportunity to meet your customers – and prospects – as often as possible. As marketing expert Joel Bauer says, “No matter how many times you click from place to place, it will never replace face to face”.  The fact is that you should never forget that an event or function, just like a meeting, is an opportunity for you to communicate a message, spread an idea, and strengthen a relationship with someone personally.

Here are 7 reasons how a year-end event can be beneficial to your company:

  1. You have an opportunity to learn more about people outside of the typical ‘work’ environment.  This means you can get to understand the person better and have a better chance of relating to him or her in the future. (This is true for both staff and clients)
  2. You can really show people how much you really appreciate their work or their support.  Even though you can say “thank you” on the ‘phone or via an email, demonstrating your appreciation is very powerful.
  3. Your guests have the opportunity to discuss ideas, give feedback or make suggestions in an environment that is normally more ‘open’ than at ‘the office’.  When people are relaxed and having fun they’re more likely to offer an honest opinion, so keep your ears open for things that person would not normally say. You may learn a thing or two!
  4. Use the event to re-affirm your company’s dedication to it’s purpose by ensuring that everyone is made aware of what you offer, and what the benefits of working with you are.  This can take the form of a speech, presentation or even a video.  Don’t waste this opportunity to capitalize on your audiences’ attention! Since you’ve already spent the money on hosting the event, you must make sure that everyone not only remembers how much they enjoyed themselves, but also who you are and the reason for the event.
  5. Celebrate your achievements!  Use the opportunity to share results, like your sales figures, special projects you’ve completed, or client video testimonials.  Inspire your staff and clients by demonstrating the advantages of working with your company.  Remember that we live vicariously through others, so a few honest testimonials from satisfied customers will encourage clients to continue their relationship with you, prospects will see the value of doing business, and your staff will see the ‘bigger picture’ of how their work impacts on their customers.
  6. Differentiate your company from your competition by making a special effort to give something personal and entertaining, so that everyone has fond memories of the event.  “Same is lame” and if you don’t make the effort to make your function at least a bit special, your guests are unlikely to have any recollection of even having attended.  Considering how much money you’re probably spending, you’ll agree that it is of utmost importance that everyone leaves with a special reason to remember you and your company.
  7. Being part of an event is FUN! We know that happy employees are more productive and the idea of having a ‘company-sponsored celebration’ can be a good motivator for you and your staff.  It’s something to look forward to, and the promise of being able to experience something fun and different can be a good reason to reach your sales targets or to cut unnecessary expenses.  Remember, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”!

Of course, your event should not have to cost more than you’ve budgeted!  If you are particularly experienced in event planning, or are meticulous about planning a budget, you may very well work within the estimated figures; however, it is not unreasonable to plan for a 10 – 15% variance on your original budget.

Here are some ways that you can save money:

  • Don’t overestimate the value of the venue: as long as everyone is comfortable, and the venue is professional, clean and appropriate, then you should be fine.  Unless your event is being hosted at a particularly exclusive venue, your guests are unlikely to rave about your event because of the venue.  The reality is that within 1 hour of arriving, most people “tune out” to the physical environment and it does not play a major role when recalling the event from memory.  This does not mean you should not demand great customer service! Rather, you probably shouldn’t be spending the bulk of your event planning budget on the venue.
  • Don’t offer an open bar for all available liquor! There’s no need for your guests to be drinking expensive alcohol on your company’s bill.  You should be able to offer a range of soft drinks, beers, wine and perhaps a choice of whiskey and brandy (in South Africa).  A cash bar should prevent your guests from ‘abusing’ your bar tab.  Remember that the law is becoming much stricter about driving under the influence of alcohol: don’t encourage drinking to be a central part of your function.
  • Book your service suppliers early and offer to pay the full amount ‘up front’.  This encourages them to give you a better rate than they normally would.  Last minute bookings are often quoted a slightly higher than normal fee because the provider knows that you’re desperate.
  • Rather host a smaller, intimate event for a specially selected group of guests and spend more per person, than inviting everyone you know and hoping to make your event work on a limited budget.  The rule applies: quality over quantity.

Hosting an event can one of the most rewarding ways of marketing your company – just remember to set a realistic budget and spend it on the things that matter, while avoiding unnecessary spending.

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