There are countless reasons you may be considering hosting a corporate dinner - to celebrate your company’s milestones and achievements, to show your employees appreciation, or even to host roundtable discussions with clients or prospects. Whatever the occasion, a corporate dinner is a great way to promote your business in a casual setting. The key to planning the perfect corporate dinner is to not overcomplicate it. These ideas can save you the headache — and cost — of tackling the details for these often complex social occasions.
Schedule In Some Networking Time
Depending on when your dinner starts, consider scheduling 15-30 minutes of networking time. This will give people a chance to arrive and meet each other before they sit down. It also helps to give people who may have been caught up in traffic a chance to arrive on time. Pro Tip: Consider name tags or place cards to help aid in networking.
Print Out Agendas & Menus
Be sure to include an agenda of what the night will look like - a sample agenda could look like this:
5:30 PM - 6:00 PM - Networking
6:00 PM - 6:15 PM - Welcome Remarks
6:15 PM - 7:15 PM - Moderated Discussion/Dinner Presentation/Awards
7:15 PM - 7:45 PM - Networking & Dessert
7:45 PM - 8:00 PM - Closing Remarks/Thank You
Be sure to keep the dinner on time and try to coordinate with the waitstaff if you will need to be uninterrupted during certain times of your agenda. Having a nicely printed prix fixe menu with your logo is also a nice touch.
Limit the Menu
Most restaurants or venues will have prix fixe dinner menus for you to choose from depending on the size of your event instead of a la carte. Limiting the number of appetizers, mains, and desserts to 1 or 2 options will help even the most indecisive guests. Be sure to have alternative options for any special meal requests (vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free). You can take it a step even future have gusts tentatively select what they would like prior to the event with their RSVP and communicate to the venue beforehand. You can then have the waiter confirm after everyone is seated, or give the guest a chance to change their mind the day of.
Pre-Select Wines, But Let Guests Order Cocktails
This tip is for the budget conscience planners - one of the largest costs at a corporate dinner can be the beverages. Instead of letting guests order whatever brand of liquor they want, coordinate with the venue to the only offer that is within your budget. After networking, limit the drinks to wine only during dinner, of course, if you are giving your guests the VIP experience, be sure to still let them know they can order their drinks a la carte when the waiter comes around.
Keep the look of your event professional by eliminating having swag displayed on the table. Instead, if you would like to offer swag or a gift for attending the event, have a giftbag displayed and ready to go as people leave. This is another good opportunity to subtly promote your company by branding the gift bag, and be sure to include a thank you note. Pro Tip: avoid mass-produced plastic junk or items you typically see handed out at trade shows and opt for higher quality items.
Keep Presentations & Speeches Short
Keeping your presentations short and sweet, and while people are eating. Timing out your presentations with the timing of the food is also a savvy move. Wait until the staff has dropped the main courses to begin so that people can listen while they eat and there are no distractions. Depending on the event, you may want to forgo presentations altogether but maybe have moderated discussions instead. Whatever you choose, make sure your table set up is conducive to engaging conversations.
Reserve a Private or a Semi-Private Dining Room
Depending on what the evening entails (speeches, presentations, awards) be sure to reserve a private or semi-private dining space. Private spaces are usually equipped with all the AV equipment you need and will give your event a feeling of exclusivity. Semi-private rooms are good options if you don’t plan on having a set agenda and want to experience the ambiance of the restaurant while still remaining your own space away from the dining room.
Need help finding the perfect space for your next corporate dinner? Check out Eventfull