Business-related events can often feel stale and predictable. But that doesn’t mean they have to be.

To avoid awkward speeches, bland catering, and a conventional setting, all it takes is a bit of imagination. Check out these six common corporate event types and learn how to make yours more memorable.

Corporate event type #1: Internal meetings

Internal meetings (whether for your company’s board, sales team, or an annual company-wide occurrence) need event planning expertise just as much as big conference or trade show does.

So how can you make your company’s next internal meeting less of a chore and more of an experience worth people’s time away from their desk? Here are a few ideas:

  • Keep the timeline tight: Depending on the purpose of the meeting, keep it as short and focused as possible by insisting on a schedule that everyone must adhere to.
  • Tell stories or use metaphors: Whatever your meeting is about, make it relatable to everyday business by using real examples, case studies, and creative metaphors. People will sit still for hours watching a movie — why not steal some cinematic tricks?
  • Sprinkle in some entertainment: Hire entertainers or performers — like a comedian or impersonator — to spice up your agenda. Since your event is for employees or people familiar with the company, you could also hire an impersonator to mimic the CEO or other people in the room — assuming you’ve gotten their approval in advance, of course!

Corporate event type #2: Product launches

A great product launch should leave people buzzing with excitement and anticipation. A powerful moment for any company looking to forward their brand, a product launch is one of the few times where employees, investors, members of the press, and even competitors come together in one place.

A launch doesn’t require a big stunt or lavish party to be engaging. Here are three ways to challenge tradition:

  • Use augmented or virtual reality: Help people experience the new product with AR or VR, like commercial van manufacturer FCA. FCA used augmented reality to show off a new line of vans and all the different color schemes with only one van physically present. It was an efficient use of space — and budget.
  • Offer unusual food choices: At the launch of its Christmas themes for 2017, 8 Northumberland Avenue set up a nitrogen ice cream bar which offered attendees unusual flavors like popcorn or Jack Daniels and vanilla. Each attendee had the novelty factor of exhalable “dragon’s breath” nitrogen smoke.
  • Pick a theme: Your theme sets the tone for your whole event, driving all of your planning decisions and helping to engage attendees. Choose a theme for your launch to brainstorm relevant experiences or activations your attendees will love.

Corporate event type #3: Conferences

When your company decides to host a conference, your reputation is on the line. This type of event is an opportunity to demonstrate that a company is truly a thought leader in its industry, capable of bringing together speakers and content that provide real value to attendees.

Registration prices often run high for this type of corporate event, so you need to pull off an experience that warrants the investment. Here’s how to get creative with this format:

  • Find better event speakers: Conference-goers are willing to travel far distances for the right speaker lineup.
  • Let attendees choose their own swag: People love free stuff, but only if it’s something they actually want. A customisable swag booth is a surefire way to send them home with swag they’ll keep. For example, a caricature artist who captures your attendees’ likeness is more likely to help them remember their experience than a branded fidget spinner.
  • Offer interactive food and drink stations: There are many ways to feed attendees and wow them at the same time — like a customisable champagne cocktail bar, live stir-fry station, or even a donut wall. Dotting them throughout your event is a delightful surprise!

Corporate event type #4: Training workshops

Putting on training workshops for employees can be a thankless task. Just like school assemblies way back when, many people aren’t excited about required gatherings — especially if the training is on a dry topic like security and attendees have a mountain of work to get through back at their desks.

Break people out of their distractions and get them participating. Here are few ways to get people engaged:

  • Change the room layout: Training rooms are always laid out in the same way – rows of tables and chairs. Challenge the convention and surprise your attendees by perhaps providing beanbags instead of chairs, standing podium tables, or tables with just a few chairs to encourage small groups.
  • Add networking opportunities: Whether a training event is external or internal, provide people with time to connect with each other. This is where an event app can come into play, helping make networking suggestions for attendees.
  • Turn audience members into participants: Encourage total participation, even from shy attendees. For those who don’t like to speak up in a group, consider using real-time polling apps like to encourage the asking of questions from mobile devices.

Corporate event type #5: Seminars

Seminars are often used to showcase a company’s expertise on a specific topic or internally to provide employees with learning opportunities. They also usually allow audience members to interact with the speaker.

To mix things up at your next corporate seminar, consider the following tips:

  • Think outside the ballroom: Sometimes the best venues are the ones that don’t feel corporate at all. Multiple nontraditional venues, for example, have helped Techweek become the nation’s leading technology conference and festival.
  • Incorporate an activity during break time: Instead of the usual coffee break, consider adding something experiential into that time. Informal fireside chat sessions, for example, can energise attendees and help their brains get the break from learning they need to focus when they come back.
  • Lean on technology: Instead of a PowerPoint presentation, consider how you can help your speakers connect with the audience better — whether that’s through an app, social media, or even a chatbot to help people discover relevant content.

Corporate event type #6: Holiday parties

Most companies throw an annual bash around the holiday season to celebrate their employees and show appreciation for their clients or customers. Although more lighthearted than the other types of corporate events on this list, they still need to adhere to work-appropriate parameters.

The trick? Finding the right balance between fun and out of control, as holiday parties are often an HR department’s worst nightmare. Here are a few tips to keep things professional:

  • Social photo booth: People have enjoyed taking photo booth selfies since 1925 and not much has changed. Today’s social photo booths, though, make it easy for people to take stills, videos, or GIFs, and share the images straight to their social media accounts.
  • Contests: A little friendly competition can liven up your holiday party in no time. Some fun ideas include a scavenger hunt, caption contest, or even a pub-quiz-style trivia game focused on questions about the business and or the holiday season.
  • Cirque show: The circus arts have undergone an image overhaul, thanks to acts like Cirque du Soleil, which have elevated the art form to an immersive experience. Add some of that mystique to your own event by hiring contortionists, acrobats, and aerialists.

The competitive landscape of corporate events

Conferences and corporate events face increased competition in 2019. Discover the most common challenges 800 even professionals are facing, plus tips on solving them from industry experts in The State of Conferences and Corporate Events.