How to Host a Successful Corporate Dinner
Is your business celebrating a milestone? Do you want to give employees a chance to socialize with their families at a holiday event? No matter the reason, a corporate dinner is the perfect way to show your company’s best side. It can also serve as a way to reward your teams for their loyalty and enthusiasm.
If you’ve gotten the impression that these events need to be dull, stuffy, or more business than fun, consider these tips for keeping the evening fresh and the memories positive. They work for both first-time dinner planners and those who have been hosting events for decades. These ideas can save you the headache — and cost — of tackling the details for these often complex social occasions.
Make the event attractive to everyone
Since corporate dinners are largely optional, there’s a risk that your best and brightest may not attend. In addition to being mindful with your menu planning (and offering food choices for all cultures and diets), communicate guidelines for attendees so that they don’t feel caught off-guard.
If it’s a formal event, know that many employees may not feel at ease, so work to make your dinner the right balance between comfortable and classy. If family members are welcome, reflect this decision in your planning. Give plenty of room for younger guests to move about, and don’t plan for the evening to go on for too long.
While it’s a nice gesture to send everyone home with a tangible token of your appreciation, trinkets can become trash-can filler if not chosen carefully. Avoid mass-produced plastic junk or items you typically see handed out at trade shows. You want your employees to feel special and valued. Any gift to them should be a unique perk of being part of the team — something no one else but your workers can obtain.
Instead of another item to clutter up a desk or shelf, look into experience gifts, such as a gift card for dinner or an announcement for a future, company-wide day off. Your gift doesn’t have to cost a significant amount, but it should show that you value them as a whole person, with lives and interests outside of the company. Attendees should be able to associate the gift with your corporate dinner for years to come.
Remember the Mission
Turn the night into a chance for your employees to unwind and connect, while avoiding using your dinner as a chance to go on and on about what the company has accomplished. Limit speakers to one or two, keep slideshow presentations to a minimum (or not at all) and keep the focus on the people who made the moment possible: your teams.
You may choose to give a brief thank-you address to those in attendance, honor a few award winners, and then turn the mic back over to your entertainment. Music, magic, or comedy all earn high marks. Work with your event space to see what talent has worked at their venue successfully before. They can frequently give feedback as to who will be easy to work with and use the space to their advantage.
Don’t Overlook Venue Opportunities
When searching for a location, don’t settle for just those places that specialize in corporate events. Locations that market themselves as wedding locales can be the perfect place to host your dinner since they are accustomed to the ins and outs of menus and seating for a large crowd.
Use location photos to get a feel for the space, and keep in mind that few custom details can make that breathtaking wedding venue a more cozy locale for dinner and conversation. Ask the event rep about past corporate dinner events and what they would do for you.
When the event is over, the hard work for the planner or coordinator begins. It’s time to ask your guests what they loved, and weren’t so fond of, regarding your event. Feel free to gloss over those nit-picky details that don’t affect the overall success of an event — you truly can’t please everyone.
To get an idea of what your attendees value, however, it helps to identify their favorite parts of the evening. Was it the food? The size of the space? The view? Whatever your employees adored most about the dinner, use this as a tool in next year’s planning. The first year is always the most challenging, but — when done well — it can also set the stage for decades of memorable employee and client events.
The perfect business dinner is a combination of the right atmosphere, an eager crowd, and those personal touches that your teams will remember. Embrace the opportunity to get your attendees buzzing about the future of your company with a dining event you can be proud to host.