Celebrating a milestone, rewarding your team and clients or celebrating Christmas. Whatever the reason for your company annual dinner, if done right it can be wonderful celebration for all.
Planning such an event can be a significant task though. That’s why we’ve put together a guide to help you plan and enjoy your company’s annual dinner event. So, without further ado…
The ultimate guide to planning your company annual dinner
TL:DR - We’ve put together a checklist of things to consider when planning an annual company dinner, they are:
- Set an event budget
- Be smart about managing the guest list
- Choose the best venue
- Set a theme and choose decorations
- Choose your food
- Choose your drinks
- Set a suitable dress code for the event
- Share the table plan where everyone can see it
- Provide some entertainment
- Work out how to travel to and from the event
10 Steps to the perfect corporate dinner event
Before you do anything else, set a budget. Having a budget will make the rest of the process much easier. It will naturally guide you to limit your options and will save you valuable time that could have been lost reviewing marvellous ideas that although exciting, were never really in reach.
There are a couple of ways to decide on your budget. The first is simple; whatever your finance department has specified for the event is your budget. The second approach is to work out how many people will be attending the event, then set a cost-per-head, or total budget based on what’s reasonable for that number of people, which moves us nicely onto our next point...
2. Guest list
In order to manage who’s invited and who has responded to confirm they are coming, you’re going to need to manage a guest list. The most simple way to do this is to use an Excel spreadsheet. It can be as simple as having a list of names, potentially including contact details (being sure not to contravene GDPR guidelines along the way!) and then columns for marking whether the guest has confirmed their intention to attend and whether they have any dietary requirements. In addition to this, your spreadsheet will become the basis for your table plan later on.
Spreadsheets are great, but when you’ve got more than one person working on planning the event you may find issues with files becoming out of sync as people save copies of the guest list. Luckily we now have cloud computing which enables people to share access to spreadsheets and to edit the same file alongside colleagues in other locations / on other machines, all in real time.
The best solution we’ve found for this is Google Sheets. It lets you create a simple spreadsheet, if you’re au fait with Excel, you’ll pick it up with no problem. Once created, you can share the document with colleagues who can then log in and access the same file, meaning it stays synced up across everyone who has access.
Finally, if you’re inviting people from various organisations across various locations, having a unified way of collecting RSVPs is important. The best solution here is Eventbrite. It’s easy to setup your event, send the link out to your guest list and let them confirm attendance by booking their place through Eventbrite. Everything will be saved on Eventbrite allowing you to easily manage the attendance list. You can even issue tickets if it’s that type of event!
Next up you need to choose a venue. In fact, you’ll want to do that before you invite any of your guests! The venue very much depends on the type of event you are looking to run, but working on the principle this is a company dinner, you’ll need somewhere that can seat and feed your guests.
A venue like ours, The Great Barn is a great option for an event that is held somewhere completely away from the usual corporate environment. Our venue has two interconnected rooms which seat up to 140 for dinner and hold up to 200 for informal events; The Croughton Room is where dinner and dancing happens whilst The Aynho Room is where the bar is!
Beyond that, your venue options will be plentiful. The best way to choose is to identify number of guests, then think about ideal location. Also consider whether you want the venue to be in a city, or an escape into the country. Does the venue need to be modern or classic? Would you like the venue to have wow-factor or would you rather it be a blank canvas? Just considering some of these things will help you to build a shortlist and choose the perfect venue for your event.
4. Theme & decoration
Next up, it’s time to choose a theme for your event. The theme will help to guide two things: how you run the format of the event, and how you decorate the venue.
Starting with the most basic theme; a good meal! If it’s a simple case of bringing together people from within an organisation and other guests for a good meal, then the theme doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that.
Many organisations however will take the opportunity to use the event to provide additional benefits. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to hold a company briefing, a mini-seminar or to present some awards? If that’s the case, you’ll want to make sure there’s a good space for someone to stand up and make an announcement. If your guest list is large, you’ll need to consider a PA system so that all guests can hear what’s going on.
Taking things up a notch, after dinner you may want guests to continue celebrations with a party space and dancefloor. You’ll want a venue with a bar so that guests can help themselves to drinks. You’ll need an open space for music and somewhere for music to come from, whether that’s a DJ, band of simply a phone connected to a playlist!
Getting really creative, you can embellish your event with all sorts of entertainment. You can hold an auction. This is particularly popular for organisations looking to raise money for charity. Another popular trend is ‘kidult’ events. Before sitting down to dinner you can encourage your team to become kids again, playing games and letting their hair down.
Another shameless plug, but The Great Barn is great for this type of event, we have a whole host of activities from axe throwing to hovercraft driving. Events like these will put a huge smile on your guest’s faces and they’ll work up an appetite ready for dinner afterwards!
Choosing food for your event is often a case of choosing caterers. Good caterers will take care of everything, from setting a suitable menu to managing special dietary requirements. Many good venues will partner with external caterers, or will have in-house catering. In those cases it’s often best to go with them. They’ll understand the venue and be able to plan the food to work perfectly with the format of your event.
With food you’ll also want to serve drinks. This will be a decision of what type of drinks you serve at the table. You can choose to have red and white wine at the table, you can also serve beer to those who prefer it.
Cocktails are a nice touch and when the theme fits, having someone making cocktails in front of guests is entertainment in its own right. It’s not all about alcohol as well, depending on where your venue is, you may have guests who are driving. Other guests will simply choose not to drink alcohol. It’s a good idea to make sure there are plenty of non-alcoholic options available. Most people also like to finish a large meal with tea or coffee, so make sure your caterers factor this in.
7. Dress code
Now that your event plan is coming together, it’s a good time to decide on the dress code and let guests know in good time. This is really a question of formal or smart-casual. The answer will come down to considering the type of event you are running, the theme and the venue. If it’s a glitzy awards dinner, then formal is the way to go. If you’re event is a relaxed company celebration dinner and party, smart casual is fine. Either way, make sure you make it easy for guests to plan their outfits in good time for the event.
8. Table plan
The mystery of the table plan rears its head in two places. The first time is before any guests have even seen it, often weeks before the event itself. Guests will think to themselves ‘who will I be sat next to?’, ‘who else will be on my table?’. It then also becomes a primary focus when guests arrive at the venue.
The idea of guests wandering the venue looking at where everyone is sat and what their menu choices are isn’t really practical. Fix it straight away by printing multiple large table plans and putting them in easily accessible places. Make things easier by listing guests in alphabetical order, surname first. With any luck, guests will quickly find their names, sit down and be pleased with who is sat next to them!
We’ve already touched on this as part of considering the theme for the event, but it pays to think about entertainment for your event. There really are many great ideas when it comes to choosing entertainment, so here are a few to get your started:
- Food based entertainment where perhaps the chef prepares something at the table
- Book a band to play
- Book a band to walk around the tables and play!
- Book a magician to visit tables to perform tricks
- Book a comedian
- Book a speaker
Need some venue specific ideas? Speak to your contact at the venue and they are sure to have seen all sorts of entertainment and will be able to provide you with some great ideas suitable for your type of event.
10. Getting to & from the venue
Logistics, it’s the final thing on your list to consider. Answer the question; how will my guests get to and from the venue? If the venue is near your usual place of work then you’re in luck, guests will be well practiced in getting to and from the venue!
Most of the time however, your venue is going to be somewhere different to the place you all work together. If it’s well out of the way and budget allows you can lay on mini-bus transport to pick up guests. Alternatively provide taxis.
Make sure there’s provision for parking for guests who will be travelling by car, and likewise make sure there’s a good pick-up point for guests who are going to be picked up by family or friends afterwards.
Finally, make sure guests don’t have to traverse mountains in gowns and suits in order to reach the venue. Make it easy for guests to access the venue in their chosen attire.
If you take care of these things, we’re sure you’ll have a fantastic dinner that everyone will remember. If you want to know more about holding an event with us, please do get in touch to speak to a member of our team!