How to Plan a Corporate Event at a Hotel

    For party planners, hotels are often a dream come true. Not only do they tend to offer expansive event space, impressive accommodations, and amenities like onsite catering, but they’ve got built-in overnight accommodations for multi-day soirees or conferences. 

    Hotels are a prime spot for hosting corporate events in particular, especially given our new normal of social distancing — from grab and go breakfast and lunches to presentation-ready tech, they cover all the bases. So, where do you start when choosing a location? What perks are essential, and which are just too much?

    We’re laying out some facts about planning a corporate event at a hotel, whether you're bringing in employees from out of town, need a quiet space to host a half-day workshop, or something in between.

    Identify your Audience

    While you'll likely get a mix of participants at your event, there should be a developed audience you have in mind and are actively catering to. Are you trying to impress shareholders? Is your event meant to reward employees? Will there be networking or career development themes?

    Identify the top goal you want to accomplish, along with a few smaller mini-goals. Make sure that the smaller targets work to support the larger one, and plan everything with that significant milestone in mind. Your event can't be all things to everyone, but with an achievable goal in mind, you can set yourself up for success.

    Know What You Need (and What You Don’t)

    Hotel venues are great to work with because they have easy access to amazing features and upgrades for events of any size.  Elements such as upscale dining options, high-tech A/V, and proximity to walkable attractions and nightlife are all big plusses when booking. If your corporate event doesn't require as much, however, you’ll likely end up paying for amenities that don't apply to your group.   

    If budget matters (and doesn’t it always?), come armed with a list of must-haves, nice-to-haves, and not-necessary features. Be prepared to pay for things that you can’t go without, but the better you understand how a hotel’s package pricing works, the more you can ensure you’re getting the best for your company’s bucks. You have the advantage when booking as you’re typically shopping around between hotels, so keep that leverage in mind and ensure you’re getting quotes and plans from multiple hotels if you have the chance, this will help you narrow down your choices and make the best decision for your company and event guests.

    Hotel Sourcing

    Speaking of shopping around, hotel sourcing can be the most time-consuming part of your corporate event planning.  Knowing your budget, as mentioned above, is one of a few important factors when it comes to sourcing the hotel for your event.  Limit your search to hotels that are within your budget, so understanding your budget that includes your “must-haves” is smart to have in advance.  Next is the location, accommodations, and parking.  Where are your guests coming from? Will they be staying on-site or parking on site? Ensuring that your chosen hotel has a room block available for your group and parking if needed. In addition, location is key if this is an extended event.  Is it important for your guests to be within walking distance of certain landmarks? Is it easily accessible for guests who are driving or traveling on their own? These are a few of the things to keep in mind outside of your typical event needs such as food and beverage, AV, and space. 

    Embrace Imagination

    The hotel may not always have the best vision for how to transform a stuffy conference room into a space your attendees will want to hang out in all day. Ask about customization options, and come prepared with ideas for elevating the standard floor plan of typical conference halls into something fresh and inspiring.

    Whether you look to outside vendors to help make that happen, or you enlist internal creative teams, imagination will be rewarded when you use it to reinvent the standard meeting spaces that many hotels offer.

    The Ivy Hotel

    Venue pick:

    The Ivy Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland has continued to delight guests with its world-class privacy, hospitality, and technology. Choose from several booking areas, including a wine cellar, treasury, tasting room, and patio. With so many spaces to choose from, your corporate event is sure to impress.

    Reinvent Dining Expectations 

    Sure, some businesses pay a top dollar for a high-quality meal served during their event. But anyone who has attended more than a few corporate soirees is familiar with the standard hotel fare — continental breakfast muffins, deli sandwiches with chips, you get the idea.

    Thankfully, more hotels are branching out these days, offering ways to serve impressive dishes that don’t come with a hefty price tag.

    Whether you partner with a hotel that has a more innovative in-house menu, or you look to see how outside vendors can work into your plan, don’t be afraid to ditch the same-old hotel eats for something fresher. Ask the venue what they recommend — some have partnered with world-class chefs, food trucks, or winery tours to bring best-in-class culinary experiences to their onsite events. In addition, it’s smart to keep in mind food service safety and ways you can make your event mid or post-pandemic friendly, whether it’s served individual items or creative grab and go ideas. See what creative ideas your hotel(s) have to offer. 

    Ask About Room Block Rules

    Getting a discount for booking a set number of rooms for guests is common. But what happens if they don’t all fill up? If you overbook, will there be rooms set aside at regular price? How are cancellations handled? Can you get a discount for prepayment of the rooms?

    These are all valid questions to ask when considering a venue. Know what the standard procedure is for securing rooms for your on-site guests, and get everything in writing. If there are terms that don’t fit your needs, ask if they can be changed. Many hotels are good about tweaking their standard procedures to gain your business if the request is reasonable. 

    Stay to Play

    Even if your event is all about business, it can also be an opportunity to build relationships through after-hours activities. If this is something you’re interested in, consider booking a hotel that has space for mixing and mingling poolside breaks, or outdoor team-building games. 

    Whether you do something onsite or shuttle, everyone, to a location down the street, the right corporate event should seamlessly transition from business to pleasure and make it easy for guests to enjoy the entire schedule. That’s when location comes in handy as it may be nice to get off-site in the evening for a multi-day event. 

    Tour the Venue Early, and Often

    While it may not be in the cards to tour your venue before booking, it’s wise to be on alert for any red flags you notice. Check online reviews, and inquire about renovations that can leave certain services or amenities out of service or other events that may be happening at the same time.  In addition, many sales and event managers are prepared to do virtual tours given that most of 2020 has been virtual, ask to see if this could be an option before making your final decision. 

    If possible, you can even make an impromptu stop in the week before the event to ensure everything is as it seems. You might try popping in without notifying management and make a list of things you want to ask about later. On the day of the event, arrive at least one hour early, and give other members of your team the authority to handle last-minute emergencies if they arise.

    All too often, corporate event planners go with what they’ve always done. If you have a corporate event coming up, exploring the ways you can breathe new life into even the most traditional activities can be a real game-changer for your next business gathering, especially given the change in how events are running post-2020.  The options are endless — and often even surprising, which will leave your guests happy and comfortable.

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    Author: Jenna Ga