Advice For Booking Corporate Functions Entertainment
So you have been given the task of arranging an event and you don’t really know where to start right? Relax. The seemingly endless possibilities and choices for corporate entertaining can be extremely daunting, hopefully these little tips and hints obtained from years of experience and professional contacts in the industry, will guide you a step in the right direction.
A good party doesn’t ‘just happen’. With planning, your special occasion will run smoothly and be a memorable success, no matter what size budget is involved. Everybody loves a party, but more to the point, everybody loves a good party.
Consider your aims first of all, and what you must achieve from the function. Is it a party to let your hair down and relax? Perhaps you are celebrating a specific event, arranging a post conference party or even a product launch where you have to put across a message or particular point? What budget have you been given? Have any restrictions been imposed on you that immediately prevent you from exploring all possibilities?
Once you know why you are having the event you can begin to work out where it will be held, who will be invited and what sort of entertainment would be most suitable. Here are a few thoughts…
When planning your event, whether it’s your company annual dinner dance, a wedding party or even a product launch, the location and choice of venue can make or break the whole day.
The Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane may not be the best choice for a rave party. Equally a celebrity masquerade ball wouldn’t go down too well at the local scout hut! Your number of invited guests and their ‘profile’ will immediately suggest certain venues and rule out others.
Consider the number of covers that a venue can handle and find out whether the figures are for receptions or a sit down affair. A venue that can quite adequately handle 1000 people for a stand up buffet/reception would most likely only seat 350-400 for a sit down meal with room for a small dance floor.
Find out from the venue whether there are parking or noise restrictions. What time are they licensed to sell alcohol until? Do they allow smoking? Would this be a problem for the majority of your guests? Do you want to run a free bar? Will they let you run a free bar? If the venue is out of town are there accommodation facilities? If there are, will there be enough room for everybody?
You may consider a marquee as an alternative to hiring a hotel or banqueting suite. These days’ marquees can be very elaborate and sturdy. Some even have double glazed windows, doors with wooden frames and proper heating facilities. A marquee could be the perfect choice for a small venue that has ample land to utilise.
If the prospect of booking a venue is still too confusing there are many professional companies that specialise in arranging venues and have huge databases that can search for your perfect place.
Themes and Decoration
You function may simple be a straightforward black tie affair, in which case you are already well on your way. However there are still many aspects to consider.
Party themes are all the rage at the moment and the great thing is you are limited only by imagination, and don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be yours! There are many companies that specialise in themes for every occasion from Hollywood nights to Caribbean evenings and Masquerade balls. Dressing up is exciting, fun, and an instant icebreaker – in many situations games can also be incorporated to the theme, adding a unique angle for your event.
Theming can also be subtle in that you may opt for just a little décor on the tables and specially printed menu cards. When deciding on decorations consider appropriate props to place in the room and use balloons – both on the tables and possibly a balloon arch over the dance floor.
Why not consider an ice sculpture? They come in many shapes and sizes and can even be carved to your requirements.
Food and Drink
When you decided on a venue you will have hopefully had some idea whether you were planning a sit down meal, a finger buffet or even if you are going to have food at all. Whether you did or didn’t, now is the time to think about the other important decisions to make regarding food and drink.
Finger food is quite usual for a conference or business lunch but make sure the food is not messy or too difficult to pick up. Do not include any food that needs a knife or fork. When ‘networking’ with colleagues, the last thing you want to worry about is how on earth you are going to manage a potato salad!
If you are having a buffet, chances are that your guests will be standing with a glass in one hand and a plate of food in the other. Many caterers now supply special ‘adapters’ that enable a wineglass to clip onto the side of your plate. If this is not possible ensure that there is adequate seating or bar style tables to put down plates. Don’t forget to cater for vegetarians and provide a variety of ‘plain’ foods. Remember that some people do not like fish and others, whilst not vegetarian do not eat red meat.
If your function is on a theme you may wish to consider providing food that matches and compliments the style of your event.
If you are planning a sit down meal your chosen venue will probably be involved in this process. They will usually have in house caterers or a preferred choice of outside companies. They will probably present you with a choice of dishes from which you can compile your menu.
If you are left to your own devices, ensure that the caterer is established and reputable. Again, party-planning companies will have worked with professional caterers and will know not only the reputable ones but also which ones would be suitable for your event.
Some caterers will provide ‘general’ party food whilst others will concentrate on silver service dinners or Haute cuisine. Check with both the venue and caterer about corkage if you intend to supply your own wine or champagne for toasts, etc.
Be creative with your beverages, a vodka luge not only serves drink, it is also a great novelty and will be a great talking point. How about cocktails named after or themed around your function.
Bands and musicians are always the initial choice for entertainment, but they are far from the only choice or indeed the most important one.
The style and purpose of your function will largely determine what music you book. Christmas parties and weddings are great for having an all round band that plays music from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Whilst you many prefer a lounge singer and pianist or a string quartet to play background music throughout your meal. If you are arranging cabaret style entertainment you may opt for a tribute band such as Abba, Shirley Bassey, Boney M or possibly the genuine article…depending on your budget.
Consider how long you want the band to play, many live musicians will play for a maximum of 3 hours and will insist on a 10-minute break every hour. Maybe you could incorporate a DJ to play similar music after the band have finished and during their breaks.
Space is normally the biggest question on any musical act’s mind, followed quickly by the question of access. Your performing area should be large enough to comfortably fit all the different activities you want to do in an evening without requiring everyone to move equipment. Nothing spoils the flow of an event more than a extended pause while the band struggles to clear drum kits etc off the stage before the next stage occurs in the proceedings. On a practical note, entertaining your guests is the key focus for your musicians energy, not carrying their gear up ten flights of stairs or through the crowded kitchen etc!
Meal times and drinks receptions can cause an uncomfortable emptiness, especially if guests are unfamiliar with each other. Having a table (close up) magician and or a caricaturist to entertain is a perfect icebreaker and talking point. Your guests will treasure a cartoon of themselves or the thought that the magician performed right in front of their eyes. For many corporate events, especially trade shows, the magician can tailor his patter around your product or service and caricaturists can add your company logo to the bottom of their sketch pad.
Other types of entertainment can include an after dinner speaker, a comedian, illusionist or a singer for a cabaret style show. Prices vary enormously for cabaret acts and you would do best to use a professional party planning company or agency to book this as they will have the experience to fit the right entertainer for your particular event.
Remember that a large percentage of events run late and overtime. Plan for this in advance and try to minimalise the set backs as much as possible. When the start of a function is delayed that not only inconveniences the caterers whose cooking timings will be out, but it will also interfere with any planned entertainment for the evening and also carriages home, whether it be limousines, coaches or taxis.
A well-planned running order is essential and ideally a rehearsal or run through on the day. Party planning companies and agencies often operate with precision ‘military’ style to ensure the function runs smoothly and according to plan. The larger your event the more planning and time you will need.
Always book everything well in advance. “If you know you want it, Book it! Don’t wait till tomorrow. Chances are someone else will probably want it too!” The most popular venues can be booked up to 2 years in advance for special occasions such as Christmas. Bands, magicians and other live entertainers will also be booked some 3-6 months in advance and some events will require negotiating between the artistes and the venue, this all requires adequate time.
If you book a magician to entertain at the tables, consider that he or she has to communicate with his audience. Many a time will an entertainer arrive to find the band or DJ playing their music full blast.
Make sure when booking a cabaret that the act is suitable for the audience and the event. If you are booking a comedian, will the material be clean or blue? Does the after dinner speaker have any relevance to your company or the audience? Will he or she connect with them?
Christmas more than any other time is when everyone wants to let his or her hair down and have fun. It is a time when groups of people will get together that do not usually mix and the alcohol tends to flow that little bit quicker. If you are thinking of a cabaret prior to the DJ or band, consider the how ‘intoxicated’ your guests are likely to be at this stage and whether they will appreciate anything other than having a boogie on the dance floor!
Ensure that table plans are clearly labelled and numbered so there is little or no confusion as to who is sitting where, this will save much time and ensure the continued smooth running of the event. Once everyone is seated do not remove the table numbers. If you have booked entertainers they may rely on the table flags or numbers to establish who has or hasn’t been entertained.
With the above knowledge and the help of some of the UK’s top corporate hospitality specialists at hand, your final ‘tip’ is to relax and enjoy the party yourself!