In this section we'll look at corporate event planning and meeting planning, including what is corporate event planning / meeting planning; a complete guide to the different types of corporate events and meetings, a corporate event planner / meeting planner job description, how to become a corporate event/meeting planner, career advice, employment information, and the pros and cons of being an event planner in the corporate sector.
Corporate event planning is about more than just meeting planning. Although conference organizing and meeting planning often make up the majority of corporate event planning, other events include corporate hospitality, client entertaining, conventions / exhibitions, and employees events—such as incentive travel reward programs, team building / motivational events, holiday parties, and charity fundraising days.
Corporate Hospitality is a form of client entertaining. This involves a corporation partnering with a third party event to either sponsor it or purchase tickets to it—which they then use to entertain clients. This might be arts events, such as ballet, opera, theatre, museum and gallery exhibitions, or sporting and music events.
Typically there is some form of separate VIP area included, a box or a private dining room, where catering is laid on so that guests are being treated to something more than just the regular event.
Often corporate firms will lay on transport or arrange some form of special VIP access, such as backstage tours, or meet and greets with artists and performers, in order to make the experience as unique as possible. In many cases, dedicated corporate hospitality agencies build packages around well-known events and sell these on to corporations so that the end client doesn’t have to piece all the different elements together themselves.
The downside of corporate hospitality events is that they aren’t unique; a corporate firm might buy hospitality tickets to a major sporting event, such as the US Open, with a view to inviting clients, only to find their clients have already been invited to the same event by another corporation who is offering the same or similar package.
Alternatively, a corporation might create their own event within an existing one. For example, if New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art had an exhibition of paintings by Matisse that was sold out, then Coca Cola, as a corporate sponsor of the museum, may be entitled to host a special evening event when the museum is closed to the public. Not only would they be able to invite their clients to an exclusive preview of a sold out exhibition, they would also create a private dinner within the museum.
In addition to corporate hospitality, corporate firms also organize their own ‘stand-alone’ events for the purpose of entertaining clients. These often take the form of receptions, dinners, award ceremonies, and holiday parties.
These are different from corporate hospitality events because they are not attached to or associated with an existing third party event; they are private bespoke events created by the corporation.
Often these are in connection with a particular project or deal they firm is working on.
For example, when I worked at the investment bank Credit Suisse they would often throw a ‘closing dinner’ following a client’s IPO (initial public offering—when shares are sold to the public). All the people involved in the project—the bankers and their clients—would celebrate the deal with a drinks reception followed by dinner—usually involving entertainment, speeches, and gift bags/corporate gifts.
Alternatively, corporate firms may hold their own dinner and award ceremonies, such as Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year, which spans 25 regions in the US and 50 countries globally.
A large proportion of corporate event planning involves meetings—of which there are many different types and the number of attendees can be anything from 50 to several hundred, or even several thousand.
Meetings can be used for any number of reasons and the purpose will vary from company to company. They might be used to educate and train people, to launch a new product, to discuss business strategy, to share information and expertise, or to sell something.
Most people assume meetings are just boring business events, held in a hotel conference center, with a bunch of suited and booted speakers giving deathly boring PowerPoint presentations, before everyone breaks for a rubbery-chicken buffet lunch in a dreary function room.
While some are definitely like this, many meetings and conferences are held in interesting locations away from the usual place of business, or even overseas—sometimes in luxury beach and ski resorts. They often comprise of an entire program of events, drinks receptions, dinners, entertainment, activities, and excursions.
They can also be rather elaborate affairs. Walmart’s global shareholders meeting for 16,000 people was hosted by the Hollywood actor Will Smith and featured a performance from The Black Eyed Peas. Similarly, Google’s Zeitgeist conference has included speakers such as President Bill Clinton and TV & film producer JJ Abrams (Star Trek, Star Wars The Force Awakens), and attendees were given the opportunity to experience zero gravity ‘flights’ that mimic the weightlessness of space.
I'll examine these in more detail in the Meeting Planning & M.I.C.E sector of the industry.
Employee events may consist of social events, such as holiday parties, or training and motivational events such as team-building activities, charity days, and incentive programs.
Depending on the size and type of corporate firm, holiday parties might involve booking a venue, such as a restaurant or nightclub, for exclusive use, or it might involve creating an entirely bespoke party from scratch where the event planner is responsible for organizing all the components, such as the invitations, venue, catering, theme & decoration, entertainment, and transport. Some companies even throw summer parties in addition to the more traditional holiday parties.
Motivational events, such as team-building or charity days, are often activity-based events. It could be anything from treasure hunts around the city to helping a charity build a school.
Incentive programs are events designed to improve employee performance in some way—to increase sales, boost morale, or create loyalty. These typically take the form of group vacations—often overseas—where travel, accommodation, and an entire program of events and activities has been arranged by the company for its staff.
Incentive travel programs are not only employee events, they can also be aimed at customers and dealers/re-sellers. Incentive travel makes up another sub-sector of meeting & corporate event planning, and we’ll look at this in more detail in the Incentive Travel sector of the industry.
Depending on the type of corporate firm, their business might also involve them taking part in conventions and trade shows (also known as exhibitions outside of the USA).
These conventions / trade shows / exhibitions are typically organized by third party associations, such as Global Systems for Mobile Communications Association (GMSA) who organize the Mobile Word Congress,
A meeting/corporate event planner will then be responsible for creating a presence for their firm at these existing events. Typically, this will be in the form of a 'stand' or 'booth' in the exhibition hall / trade show floor, however it might also include creating branded conferences, workshops, and seminars as part of the program of events taking place during the convention.
As such, meeting/corporate event planners who specialize in this sub-sector of meeting/corporate event planning will often be experienced in both conventions and conferences. In fact, in many countries outside of the USA, these types of meeting planners are referred to as 'conference & exhibition organizers'.
Although these sit under the umbrella of meeting/corporate event planning, they also make up an entire sub-sector of the events industry which we'll look at in more detail in the Conventions and Conferences sector, which also includes trade shows and exhibitions.