How To Organise Your First Corporate Cocktail Party
28 February 2023
Hosting a corporate cocktail party is like riding a bike on a freeway. Fun, exhausting, and a little terrifying if it’s your first time. However, it can also feel like a big accomplishment, if you know the what, when, why and how, of course.
Which is where we come in. At Flying Ruby Events, we’ve been organising events for over 13 years, so it’s fair to say we know a thing or two. We’ve produced gala dinners for 800, and intimate events for eight, so we’ve seen/done it all, and then some. And now we want to share our expertise and experience with you.
Maybe your boss has asked you to organise a small cocktail party for staff to celebrate a milestone. Perhaps you’ve been tasked with a bigger event that includes customers and clients. You might even be the founder of your company and want to officially launch it with a swanky shindig with your nearest and dearest. Congrats! Whatever the reason, season, or size, you can absolutely do this!
We’re not here to sugar-coat – running a corporate event is A LOT of hard work. There are so many different elements to consider, and so many things that can go south in the lead-up to the big day; make no mistake about that. But with the right preparation and people behind you, it can and will be a huge success.
The key to event management is to have a clear vision, then break that vision down into tiny little steps and considerations so every element is completely thought through. A good way to start doing this is by imagining you’re going to be a guest at your event…
You’re at home about to get ready: Do you understand the dress code? Do you have all the event details? And do you have a clear understanding of how to get to the venue? Yes? Okay, great. Now, when you arrive at the venue, do you know where to go? Is there someone to greet you? If you have a coat or jacket when you arrive, is there somewhere to put it? You want to wash your hands – where are the bathrooms? You are offered a drink, and then some food – where can you put your drink while you eat? Wait, is this canape gluten-free? Do you need a serviette, and once finished where do you put said serviette? Gosh, your feet hurt in these heels, is there somewhere to sit? Oh, the formalities are about to commence on stage – can you see what’s happening? Can you hear?
Okay, so we won’t highlight every thought process and step you’ll take, but you get the gist. Think through every possible scenario, put yourself in the shoes of the guest, go over every detail again and again, and we can ensure you that you’ll produce a seamless event. Here are Flying Ruby Events’ top 15 tips to organising your first corporate cocktail party.
The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide
1. Confirm your budget
You can’t build the Taj Mahal on a glamping budget.
2. Understand your audience (capacity and demographic) and the brand
Your venue and event need to align with your audience. Select a venue which is suitable for the style and size of event you are producing, in a location easily accessible to your guests, and shares a similar style to the brand you are showcasing.
3. Clearly define your event objective
Once you define your goal for the event, you’ll have a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve. As you work through each element, keep coming back to your objective and reflect on whether you are meeting it. This will help ensure your entire event has lots of touchpoints aligning to one key message/brand.
4. Find a suitable venue considering your budget
As you understand your audience, event objective and guest numbers, you can start to research suitable venue options. If your budget is limited, look for a venue which offers a minimum spend, rather than charging a venue hire, which will allow you to customise the food and beverage (F+B) offering to suit your needs and style. Try to avoid the cookie cutter F+B package and get creative with what and how food and beverages are served.
5. Define event details: venue, time, date, dress code, transport options or special details
It’s time to bring the event vision together by defining the finer details. Ask yourself these questions: Regarding your venue, how will guests arrive/depart? Is it straight after work or later allowing guests to go home first? Is it near public transport, uber/taxi access? Have you researched the date of your event to ensure there’s no major events/pubic holidays etc to compete with? What is the dress code?
6. Signage and styling
Consider again your audience/brand when developing styling concepts. Now you know your venue, what signage is required? How have you integrated the brand? Is there directional signage required to show guests where to go? Do you require a media wall, photo opportunities? Be sure to consider sustainability when developing your signage/styling plan.
7. Review entertainment/staffing
Consider entertainment on the night, if there are any formalities in between entertainment, and if you require an MC to keep the formalities and evening flowing. Will you need staff on the night to assist with brand activations, media wall or gifting distribution? How many event management producers will you need to assist you with running the event?
8. Audio visual lighting requirements
One of the most important elements of an event is ensuring you get the AV and lighting right. It’s a make-or-break element to a successful event.
9. Food and beverage
Customise, customise, customise. Work with your venue to curate a unique food and beverage offering which excites your guests and doesn’t feel standard and boring. Can you serve out of a unique vessel or specialty glassware? Can you design a cocktail (and a similar non-alcoholic version) aligned with the brand you are showcasing? Also, consider dietaries when designing a menu and ensure you accommodate for the most popular dietaries in your curated offering. That is, make some options vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free. This will cover most of your guests’ dietary requirements, and then you can design special order canapes to suit any other major medical dietaries you get through to suit the individual.
10. Consider guest entry experience
At Flying Ruby Events we have a saying; “You have seven minutes to create first impressions and first impressions will set the tone for the rest of the night.” Ensure guests are greeted, but with a personalised touch. Know their story: are they coming as a guest of another person? If so, note that their colleague is already in attendance, and acknowledge that you know their allergies or dietary requirements. These are all the things you will know from when they RSVPd. Ensure your door hosts are thoroughly briefed and welcome everyone personally. Make sure the guests’ entry is a quiet space where communication is easy and a cloak room should be offered on entry. First impressions really do count.
11. Event formalities
Consider your event formalities, and if you need stages, microphones, lecterns; how many people on stage at once, and what do they require for their speech/presentation? Check that everyone can see the stage and, if not, perhaps you may need screens with live camera operators. Make sure your on-stage procedures are seamless and briefings are thorough. Be sure to have a full rehearsal to ensure all parties understand proceedings and event cues.
12. Consider guest departure experience
Just as greeting guests on entry is important, so too are guest exit procedures. Consider your guests as they leave the event and anything they may require. Do you need hosts to provide gift bags on exiting? Provide information or pick-up points for uber/taxis? Can they access the cloak room? Can hosts provide parking validation for discounted event parking? Last impressions are incredibly important.
13. Pre-event supplier briefing
Set up pre-event supplier briefings so everyone is clear on what they are required to do before the day. Clearly define rehearsal times, deadlines for bump in/out, roles onsite, parking and loading dock access, request insurance and Workcover documentation.
14. The admin
So that everyone is on the same page, quite literally, produce runsheets (which will need constant updating), production schedules, risk assessments, supplier briefings and staff briefings. Ensure your staff are briefed on every single element of your event.
15. It’s Show Time!
The hardest work is done, you are ready. You’ve got this.