Before moving into large corporate events & conferences, I spent over 20 years in the wedding industry, working both with brides & small businesses alike. I learned very quickly that planning a wedding is strikingly similar to the effort & strategy of executing a successful corporate event. 

Similar to planning a wedding, details matter. Here is what I’ve learned to be the most important (& sometimes the most overlooked!) details: 

1. 1st impressions are EVERYTHING.

One of my favorite authors & friends, Lee Cockerell, says, ” It’s not “magic” that Makes Disney World work, it’s the way we work that makes it magic.” When you think about anything really special in life, especially events, the details are really what make that experience truly magical. 

Imagine going to a friend’s home for dinner. Upon arrival, the front lights are on, the front door is propped open, the hosts are waiting to greet you with a big smile. Walking in, the house smells incredible, and you’re offered a fresh drink & some appetizers. All the details have been thought of in advance & executed to make you feel welcome, wanted, special.

Now imagine the same dinner party. The front lights are off, you have to ring the doorbell and wait for the hosts to open the door. They are stressed, and hurry back to the kitchen to finish preparing the food. You stand waiting in the entryway wondering what to do next. How do you feel?  Same event, very different experience, just within the 1st 60 seconds! And from this moment on, the rest of the evening is set for a different course. Even if the dinner was delicious, the way the hosts made you FEEL determines the quality of the experience more so than the quality of the food. 

Now take this “1st impression” observation to your event. How are your attendees greeted when they arrive or login virtually? Is it overwhelming & confusing, or is it clear where to go & what to do. Are there warm smiles and helpful employees, or poor signage & no sign of event staff. Take the time to determine how you want your guests to feel before you start planning anything else. 

2. Stay on theme (yes, even corporate events should have a theme!) 

From the 1st moment your guests hear about the event to the marketing, the arrival, and the message throughout, there should be a strong theme that your audience can connect with. This doesn’t have to be over the top, like a themed-kids birthday party, but there should be a message or a concept that embodies both the messaging and the visual components. 

After determining Step 1 of “how do we want people to feel,” now ask your team “what do we want our audience to walk away with, what will they have learned? What was the core message or purpose of this event?” 

3. The weakest link.

Every partner you choose to help with your event directly impacts the overall experience of your guests, down to the caterers & the production crew. A beautiful, sophisticated wedding can be instantly tarnished by an inappropriate DJ, or a lazy photographer, or a rude bartender. 

Take the time to learn about the people & the core values of the vendors you hire; do they value customer service? Are they willing to go the extra mile for your guests? Sometimes the way a person does a job can be as important as the job itself. Again, who cares if the food is delicious if the experience was terrible?!

4. Always have a Plan B (& C, & D, and sometimes E!!!)

Any bride who has ever planned an outdoor wedding knows you need a Plan B. And if we have learned anything from the past year, it’s that things can change at the drop of a hat! Now more than ever we need to be flexible and learn how to move forward with lots of options, rather than be stunned by indecisiveness. 

I used to tell my brides: “If you strive for absolute perfection on your wedding day, and ONE thing goes wrong, you might spend the rest of the night in the bathroom crying! However, if you expect that about 5-10 things may go not-as-planned, and only 3 things go wrong, you will be thrilled!”

Going back to Step 3, make sure your partners & vendors can handle the stress of an event & know how to problem solve on-site. The best in the biz will have backup plans already in place, and will seamlessly execute a solution with the audience never even knowing. 

Happy planning!