Unfortunately, the ongoing economic downturn of recent years has meant that, for many small businesses, the corporate event, staff mixer or new customer initiative has become a thing of the past. But don’t think you have to wipe them off the calendar altogether! With a little more creative thinking and a lot of research you can still enjoy a great event with terrific business potential.
There is no doubt that the smaller the budget, the more creative you will have to be. Try using your social media network for some word of mouth venue suggestions and think a little outside of your usual comfort zone for themes and ideas.
If you run a small coffee shop, how about hosting an open-mic night for budding writers or stand-ups? Owners of a ladies boutique could liaise with the local beauty store and offer free make-overs or manicures during the evening. Think about you client base, their lifestyles and interests and try to marry them to the services or products you offer.
Facebook and Twitter are great for free promotion and to get the buzz about your event out there. Also remember to post photos and a blog after the event to let all those who didn’t come see exactly what they have missed!
When it comes to the guest list, think strategically. If you are hosting an office event for management and colleagues, consider who you are inviting and what they can offer to the evening. Decision makers and those who the decision makers pay attention to will always have a lot to give.
However, it is not always the guys (and girls) with the fancy titles and their own offices that really have their finger on the pulse. Be ruthless and cut any deadwood from your list – if they won’t enhance the event, dump them!
A major mistake when planning an event is to under-staff the evening. Nobody wants to stand in line with 100 other people for a drink or have to use a dirty glass because there are no staff to bus the tables. Local colleges and universities will have a supply of willing graduate and undergraduate students who will be only too pleased to staff your event for a few dollars pay.
Also, while considering alcohol, try to get the right balance between ostentation and cheap! Leave the Dom Perignon to Donald Trump and provide a good Cava or Prosecco for a fraction of the price. Stemware can be rented or use a high quality plastic range and save on the washing up! Most people will find this perfectly acceptable for a small event so don’t worry!
Limiting the choice of drinks to beer and wine will certainly save on the budget for spirits and mixers and, if you are brave enough, you could be even more frugal by advertising the event as ‘just cocktails’ and letting guests fill up on food before they arrive or when they get home.
If you feel you really would be happier offering something to eat, you could approach your local deli, catering college or bistro and ask them to cater in return for some free advertising on your website, a recommendation to your customers or a donation to the school funds.
Finally, remember to have fun. Whether your event is for colleagues, current or new customers or business contacts, it will be a reflection of your company and everyone will be much happier doing business with bright, creative, innovative, happy people than with the corporate wallflower!
Photo Credit: Flickr/Canadian Film Centre