Producing Events

How to. . . plan & produce successful Corporate & Private Events

My top 10 tips

I am often asked what are my own top tips when managing a corporate / client event or party. Below is an overview . . . and written from the perspective for those who are asked to organise events / parties inside their own organisations, but have little or no experience in the area.

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”
— Gloria Steinem

1. Set Event Goals

Ask yourself exactly why are you hosting the event and what do you want the outcome to be - eg - relationship building sales, goodwill, etc ?

Then Document these Event Goals in writing. 

I am often surprised that clients are not always sure why they are hosting an event - or what they expect post event in terms of goodwill, sales. So ask yourself why and write it down. This will give you a focus from the outset and also help in post event assessment. 


2. Set a budget, cost EVERYTHING and then set a contingency. 

Think Big and cost all the options - but then go for what you can afford and factor in a contingency of 20%. It is good practice to give a written brief for each element of the event, and then get a written quote. This ensures everyone in quoting for the same inputs. 

Watch for hidden extras (ie do the quotes specify travel, subsistence, time constraints).


3. Handpick your team

Everyone on your events team should be experienced and committed professionals. You are only as good as your weakest link. Your team includes all third party contractors your commission to work with you on the event. Do research, get recommendations and don’t hire someone just because they are the cheapest ! 

Brief your team in advance in writing and on the day verbally. Everyone needs to know what everyone else is doing. 

Remember to brief team (especially third party suppliers) if there is a dress code or a social media code. 

Written contracts should be issued to third party contractors. These should include price but also exact details on what is required. 


4. Spend time finding the correct venue

I have produced events on Yachts, Castles, Marquees, Private Homes and on Race Courses - The venue, its management and staff,  surrounds and facilities (and accessibility) set the scene and are fundamental to the success of your event. 

TIP : Avoid big dull function rooms with no windows. 


4. Guest List

This depends on what type of event you are hosting, your event goals and venue capacity. 

If you are organising an event for your company and supplier, it is more straight forward.

If you are organising an event to thank clients and attract new business, or build relationships - it is not as clear cut. 

Either way, it is essential time is spent by all senior managers on the guest list. Protocols may need to be considered (Do you invite the Mayor, Ministers, Ambassadors, Church Leaders etc). Do you invite spouses ! 

Once finalised, I recommend you send out a well designed invitation by post and a digital invitation by email. THEN follow it up with a phone call. 

Clearly state the venue, date, time, dress code, social media code and RSVP deadline. 


 UK Brit nominated THE FEELING perform at EU Registrar Night in Luttrellstown Castle in Dublin. Pix Pawel Nowak.

UK Brit nominated THE FEELING perform at EU Registrar Night in Luttrellstown Castle in Dublin. Pix Pawel Nowak.


5. Entertain- and have a WOW Factor

It is so important that your guests have a good time. They have committed their time and come to your event, so you must entertain them. Don’t skimp of the food or the good wine. Don’t bore them with speeches. 

However - It is not important that you have a good time ! (so don't get drunk or dance the night away ). However, do look like you are enjoying yourself, as there is nothing more distracting for your team, or guests, than a stressed out Event Manager. Be in control and a perfect host until everyone goes home. 

If you are managing an event, the peramaters may be pre decided in terms of event flow, but is it still important guests enjoy the experience and engage. 

If you are hosting a client private 'Party', then it is very important your guests have fun.

So WOW them!

The wow factor will depend on your budget. Many events I produce book major celebrities to surprise the audience. These works best when it is a music artist / perform (who do something) - as opposed to a well known celebrity who attends, Regardless ‘names’ add sparkle to an event and are remembered. 

A celebrity / sports star MC is also a good idea - as long as they can actually MC! If not, let them introduce the event and present awards etc, but hire a professional MC for continuity. 

Also when thinking about wow factor, consider the age of your guests and consider options from the past ? There are many talented musicians from the 80's 90's who are still available to book, but just may not be in the music charts. Often a star from 1980's can thrill an audience - and they are normally more affordable to book. 


6. Social media and other considerations

Your social media policy is important and should be stated clearly from the outset (ie when guests first receive their invite). It also needs to be communicated in writing to all third party suppliers and the venue. 

If you want everyone talking about your event (for example product launch, conference, awards) - create a simple hashtag and print in on the programme / menus, have it on signs in the venue and ask your MC, CEO to reference it. 

Designate your social media team to use all channels and to re tweet etc as appropriate. (Don't wait until the following day - you have lost the momentum).

However, if you are organising a private client party, you (and your clients) may not wish to share images with the world. This needs to be made very clear from the outset and all social media channels need to be monitored to ensure the policy is adhered too. (It is often acceptable to take photographs for private use on these occasions but not to share them)


7. Written Event Plan (EP)

My event plans have a timeline / event countdown of all activities, costs and suppliers, and then a separate EP for the day of the event. I also have two versions - one for me and my client, and the other for sharing with all members of the team. The main differences are that budgets and confidential information, guest notes, surprises are on my version and all other information relating to itineraries, event flow, timings, menus, production, transports, styling, etc are on the public team EP.


 Alison Canavan and Brian Purcell who were judges of the McElligotts Honda Ladies Day at Listowel Races. September 2015. Pix by Don MacMonagle. 

Alison Canavan and Brian Purcell who were judges of the McElligotts Honda Ladies Day at Listowel Races. September 2015. Pix by Don MacMonagle. 


8. Fluid Events

It is important events are fluid and that they flow from one part to the next seamlessly.

By this I mean once guests arrive (or if you are collecting them from their hotels) they are greeted by a designated team member, then go to the drinks reception, then to meal, post entertainment, etc. No gaps - or long periods of time standing around. Corporate events / parties are not family weddings, so a max of 40 mins at a pre drinks reception is ample. 

Keep any speeches, short and sweet and relevant. 


9. What to watch out for … 

It’s obvious, but I am always amazed how clients organise outdoor events and forget that it can rain!  Get a forecast and plan accordingly. Bring umbrellas, wellies.

I also remember managing a race meeting and it was 30 degrees - but I had the forecast and had brought both sunscreen and some very glamorous hats for clients. Weather forecasts are also very pertinent for events in marquees.

I personally hate radio microphones ! From experience it either hisses, echoes, cuts out, or simply doesn’t work. Mobile phones / social media usage can interfere with the channels sound and images are broadcast. Often sound checks do not pick up all the issues with radio mikes, so I suggest either cable or have a cabled microphone to hand. 

Another technology issue is syncing audio to screens in real time (for example at conferences or concerts). If it doesn't work in rehearsal, it's not going to work on the night - so have a plan B.

Please no cheap wine or bubbles - and have enough - but also know when enough is enough (ie close the bar at a designated name - or when the spend has reach a certain cost limit).

Recently many events I had worked on avoid having spirits freely available - limiting to beer and wine. 

Food (dietary requirements).
This is important as today many guests could be vegetarian, vegan, fruitians, coeliac, etc. There is also religious considerations in terms of meat and more and more people seem to be allergic to melon ! 

Emergency plan
What to do, and who does it, in the case of guest sickness, power failure, fire, etc

Again, I hear this a lot - So know the age and interests of your audience - but don’t patronise them. Just because they are 40 plus, doesn’t mean they want to rock instead of rave. So, if possible, do some homework on their tastes and interests. 


10. Post Event Analysis

Write a post event report and ask for honest feedback from guests and suppliers. 


The above is really only a beginners guide. There are countless checklists and reports on line you can read. However, remember there is no one stop formula as each event is always completely different because the variables are human. So it is only by careful planning, considered implementation and team leadership, that you will excel at being an event manager.

Good luck!


Online Event Support
I also specialise in offering on line support to clients globally who are co ordinating events (big and small) and require virtual consultancy.

I am available to produce events in Ireland as a DMC. 

All images used in this article are from events I have produced. Photographers are credited as appropriate.

Article Copyright : Orla Diffily