Plan a memorable corporate event, despite economy

In today’s economy, many meeting planners feel that they have their hands tied. But even small budgets can create an event that attendees will remember while reinforcing your organization's brand.

Event planners want to create a memorable event for their attendees, but they know they have to be more mindful than ever of expenses. They also have to watch perception. So even if they stay under budget for their meeting, if attendees perceive the event to be filled with wasteful spending, then all their hard work will be criticized.

Unfortunately, “entertainment” is often the area that people cut corners on during their planning. They perceive entertainment as a luxury item that they can eliminate or get for very cheap. In reality, your entertainment is the one thing you should never cut, no matter how meager your budget.

Why? Because the entertainment is what attendees will remember. It’s what evokes emotions and memories in people. It’s what brings people together and what ultimately strengthens your brand.

Essentially, your entertainment can be anything – a comedian, a motivational speaker, or anyone who adds value to your event. And yes, sometimes you hire an act for pure entertainment purposes only and not to deliver a message, but that entertainment must also match your company’s image.   

The bottom line is that people won’t talk about the signs or the centerpieces after the event, but they will remember and tell stories about the entertainment, as that’s what delivers the “wow” factor to any meeting. So whether you’re planning an internal company meeting, an association trade show, or an event for the general public, be sure to use the following guidelines so you can create a memorable event – without breaking the bank.

1. Lock in your entertainment first.
Most people do this step backwards. They first decide on their location, food, centerpieces, promo items, etc. They then try to hire their entertainment with whatever money is left over. But if you’re paying more for your cheese plate than for your entertainment, you’re making a big mistake. Since your entertainment is what moves people to action, you need to make finding just the right person/act your first priority. You can always scale back your food or do simple centerpieces, because attendees really don’t care about those things. They care about the message they walk away with – and that’s what your entertainment provides.

2. Look for entertainment that is “self-contained.”
If possible, hire a one-man/woman show as opposed to a band or group that requires several people to perform and to operate the sound. Aside from the fact that group entertainment typically costs more than a single person act, you also don’t want to keep tabs on or worry about multiple people showing up and doing their job. A one-person show also goes a long way toward perception. Your audience will naturally assume a multi-person entertainment act is more expensive than a single person performing. Therefore, this is one simple way to get more bang for your buck…and a lot fewer headaches in the process.

3. Hire someone unique.
Rather than simply hire a “comedian” or a “speaker,” get specific with what you really want. You likely want someone who can help you deliver a targeted message and who has a certain style that matches your company’s image. Do your research to find that person. For example, if your company is fitness-oriented, you’d likely want someone who does high-energy performances rather than someone who is more subdued. When you spend the time to find an entertainer who can enhance your company’s brand, you help create that “wow” factor for your audience.

Also remember that corporate entertainment is completely different from regular entertainment. An audience for a night club or cruise ship act will be much more relaxed than a business audience. Corporate people expect the entertainer to speak their language-to use acronyms and to name drop. They’ll be much more critical of whoever is performing. Therefore, your goal is for attendees to say, “That entertainer was perfect for us.”

4. Look for rising stars.
There are countless entertainers who are not household names (and who don’t have the extravagant price tag attached with those names) but who will still do a fantastic job. These are your rising stars. Find these people and you’ll look like a hero. Just because you can’t afford to pay $20,000 for a well known performer doesn’t mean you can’t have a good show. Ask around, be specific in your searches, and you’ll find the person who makes everyone say, “Wow! Where did you find this guy?”

5. Don’t forget the MC.
A professional MC is an essential part of the event planning process. In fact, the MC could make or break your event. Whatever you do, don't allow the company “funny guy” to MC the event. Just because someone is funny at the water cooler doesn’t mean he or she will do well on stage in front of hundreds (and possibly thousands) of people. Your MC is part of your entertainment budget, so you need to think about this role from the beginning. Who will be the best person to keep the evening or event flowing smoothly and who can connect with the audience? Get the right MC and your job during the event will be much easier.

A Lot of “Wow” for a Lot Less Money
While planning a meeting or event these days is a bit more difficult than it was just a few short years ago, you can still deliver a meaningful and memorable experience to your attendees without spending lavishly. The key is to focus on your entertainment. Hire the right person who can best deliver your message and move your audience to action, and you’ll have an event that people will be talking about for years to come.

Jeff Civillico’s highly engaging program, “Comedy in Action,” blends comedy, juggling and audience participation.  As a featured entertainer and a Master of Ceremonies at corporate events Jeff explores themes of communication, goal setting and teamwork during his workshops.  He is also an honors graduate of Georgetown University.  Working with companies of all sizes, Jeff’s clients include Disney, Wachovia, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Verizon, and The American Heart Association. To learn more about Jeff, please visit