Planning an event or company party is never the easiest of matters. But there are ways to make the process less painful.

First off, never hesitate to consult the experts: that is, professional meeting planners. Just about any sizable conference facility or hotel has on-site meeting organizers who’ll walk you through the steps of selecting the right facility.

What are those steps?

Local planners and meeting hosts advise you to immediately start preparing a budget and pin down the goal of the meeting. Is it meant to be motivational or for learning? Or is it a celebration, something fun and exciting?

If it’s fun you want, the venue is critical.

One example of an exciting place to hold a meeting is onboard a Destiny yacht, a 110-foot vessel that is U.S. Coast Guard-certified for 149 passengers and sails the Ohio River hosting company meetings, family celebrations, even weddings. Destiny Yacht Charters will take you and your employees on a three-hour tour. While the staff won’t be able to provide you with Gilligan or Skipper, they will provide you with great customer service.

“If it’s not illegal and won’t hurt the boat, we’ll do it for you,” notes Captain Shawn Somers. A variety of packages exist, such as murder mystery evenings, and the staff will work with you, adds co-owner Mike Shirley and cruise coordinator Nancy Perry. “We want people to come back,” Shirley says.

All this goes to prove a corporate assembly never has to be boring. Indeed, one economic research study notes that the top-winning characteristic in the meeting space industry has been the introduction of themed environments.

Locally, other themed environment options include the Newport Aquarium (a penguin strolling into your event will certainly stifle yawns), Kings Island (your employees can cavort with cartoon characters), Drawbridge Inn (a medieval moat, anyone?) and Great Wolf Lodge (make your meeting a big splash).

Shopping for the Venue

Armed with a budget and a clear idea of the purpose of your meeting, you can shop for the venue and gather proposals. To get the best idea of a space and how well it will lend itself to an event’s size and tone, most advisers recommend touring it first. Touring provides the perfect opportunity to ask about catering (in-house or out), break-time features (spectacular views or beautiful gardens) and technological capabilities.

Also, you certainly need to consider such factors as audio-visual, accessibility, meeting room sizes, ceiling heights, proximities to other meeting rooms, types of air walls, sound and lighting, types of tables, chairs and other equipment, in-house services, other events taking place in the facility, adequate parking and so on.

Find out in advance what the facilities include in their packages and pricing, from having a wireless environment to having enough microphones, podiums, teleconferencing or webcasting abilities.

You should also consider such details as whether you’ll need a coat checkroom and registration table. Creating a checklist and a written timetable is a terrific idea. (Ask your meeting consultant for samples of both from other, previous events.)

Setting Up the Room

Most facilities offer different ways to set up a room, and here it’s vital to know how the speakers plan to get their message across. For instance, if you have round tables and a speaker who will stay stationary at a podium, some attendees will have to turn their chairs around to see and not have anything on which to write. But if the speaker plans to walk around the room, that setup may work fine.

About one to two weeks before the event, you should meet to go over agendas, lighting and AV. You should also make sure everything’s covered. Some facilities will even let you sample examples of the food being served.

Also, ask for the cell phone number of the manager who will be on duty during your event. There is nothing worse than having a question, or a mini-crisis, and learning the night manager is in another part of the building.

Another idea to consider: Hold a post-conference to learn what worked well and what didn’t in preparation for the next year.

TOP TEN THINGS TO DO WHEN PLANNING AN EVENT

1) Determine your objectives.
What do you hope to accomplish at the event and what do you hope your guests will take away?


2) Location, location, location.
Narrow your venue choices down to a handful or so based on your objectives. Then list the pros and cons for each, including location, parking, space and availability. Always consider more than just price. Service can prove to be far more important.


3) Consider your presentation needs.
What do you need for your event? Make sure the venue you choose has plenty of AV options, including data projectors, LCD screens, CD players, flipcharts and laptops (if you’re not bringing your own) for PowerPoint.


4) Ask about food options.
Never host an event without providing your guests with something to eat and drink. A snack or lunch break will help them refuel for the next presentation or session. Does the venue have an on-site caterer? Do they allow outside food? Don’t forget about coffee and snacks.


5) Meet the on-site coordinator.

Make sure you meet the person you’ll be working with as the event grows closer. Are you able to work with this person? Ask for his or her contact information, including a cell phone number you can call after business hours in case of an emergency.


6) Don’t forget the contract.

You should always have a contract with the venue, not just so you know how much you have to pay, but so you know what is expected of you and your organization, as well.


7) Make a checklist.
This will help you stay organized as you plan the event. It would also help to share the checklist with the event organizer, so you can make sure you’re both on the same page in terms of what needs to be accomplished when.

 
8) Have a contingency plan.
Things don’t always go exactly as you envision they will. When the unexpected occurs, make sure you have a backup plan in place and that it’s one you’ve shared with the event organizer and AV technicians, if necessary.

 
9) Give feedback.
Make sure your event organizer knows how you thought the event went. Feedback allows the venue staff to better serve you, and others, next time.


10) Relax.
It can be tricky when you have 101 things to think about, but on the day of your event, try to be calm and go with the flow. It will help you better adapt if you do need to put that contingency plan into effect. It will also show your guests you’re confident with the event you have planned for them.
 

 
Resource Directory
 
Davis Catering
Whether hosting a private wedding reception or a corporate event, the Cincinnati Club, located in the heart of downtown, is a convenient and elegant setting. Add the top-rated cuisine provided by Davis Catering and you have a combination that is second-to-none. Large, elegant European-style rooms, each with its own unique décor, have served the Cincinnati community since 1923, when the building originally opened as a grand hotel and private club. Call (513) 241-3464.

Chef’s Choice Catering
Chef’s Choice Catering is one of the area’s premier caterers, offering close attention to detail and customized menu planning. Chef’s Choice caterers are experienced in all aspects of the business and can plan everything from beginning to end. Chef’s Choice can also orchestrate events ranging from a grand-scale dinner to a festive family celebration. Call (513) 489-6006 or www.chefschoicecatering.net.

All Occasions Event Rental
With nearly 30 years in the business, All Occasions has built its reputation on outstanding customer service, a knowledgeable staff and an impressive array of rental products, including tents, tables, china and tablecloths. Call (513) 563-0600, (800) 670-4899 or visit www.aorents.com.

Executive Transportation Services Inc.
Executive Transportation offers more than 45 years of ground transportation experience in the Tristate area. The family-owned-and-operated business provides 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week service. Executive provides private ride service in sedans, vans, SUVs and 47-passenger or 55-passenger motor coaches. It is the exclusive hotel shuttle provider for the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and area hotels. Call (859) 261-8841, (800) 990-8841 or visit www.executivetransportation.org.

The Alleen Company
The Alleen Company is an event rental company serving the Tristate since 1951. Alleen has an extensive inventory that includes tents, tables, chairs, china, linens, dance floors, stages, bleachers and Monte Carlo equipment, as well as festival supplies. Alleen’s staff has more than 200 years of experience in creating events. Call (513) 769-0393 or visit www.alleencompany.com.

All Seasons
All Seasons has served the Greater Cincinnati area for more than 30 years. The family-owned-and-operated business carries a full line of party goods, including tenting, tables and chairs, and concession equipment. All Seasons is an economical solution for events and parties. Call All Seasons at (513) 791-5800 or visit www.allseasons-rentall.com.