How to plan a corporate event or staff party

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How to plan the perfect work ‘do’

Step 1 – Know your budget

We’ve all watched Grand Designs and know what it is to come in way over budget. With a well-planned event, that really doesn’t need to happen. The first step is to know what your budget is, or at least an upper limit or a guide of how much you have to spend.

Then give us a call, we can help you put together a plan that’s just right for your celebration and come in on budget. Do you want some ideas on how to save a few dollars and make your budget go further…yes we can help you with that too.

Step 2 – Book your venue. Now!

The weird thing about events & parties, is they always sneak up on you when you’ve been put in charge. So, bit of advice – book your venue as early as you can. At least that way, the important part is done. You may be surprised how quickly venues book up, weddings take those key Saturdays and if you are looking for the best date for a Christmas party, guess what every other business is too….so get in early.

And if you’re wanting a band, book that at the same time. If you want a good one. Speak to the venue, they may have a list of tried and tested local ones.

Step 3 – Remember the KISS PRINCIPLE – Keep It Simple Stupid

When it comes to parties, it’s easy to overwhelm yourself by over-complicating things. If in doubt, pair it back and… literally… keep it simple. Here are the few simple things to focus on:

  • Venue. Somewhere to hold the party.
  • Food. Delicious and plentiful food.
  • Drinks. Preferably something to keep everyone happy.
  • Entertainment. This may be as simple as background music for atmosphere. Or perhaps live entertainment, some games, or just a great view and green space to be enjoyed.
  • Transport. How are people getting there and home again? Own transport may be fine. But add a bus to the to do list if needed.

A great venue manager can be a huge help. Someone who seriously knows what they’re doing, bends over backwards to ensure everything happens smoothly as planned.

Step 4 – Write a list and keep crossing things off

Write it all down, all your questions, all the things to consider, all those niggling worries, keep adding to it until you have one definitive list to go to. Break it up under heading, perhaps use the five things to focus on in the previous step as a way to organise it. This list will become your blueprint for running all future events for the rest of your life.

Here are a few questions for you to consider:

  • What’s your budget? How many people approx. are going to come?
  • Does your party need to be kid-friendly? Is the entire family coming or employees only?
  • Do you have a theme in mind, that will work with your crowd (consider the range of ages, cultural backgrounds, personality types)?
  • Do you have an idea on a menu and what you should go for? Or do you need advice from a good caterer or venue.
  • You’ll likely have dietary requirements to consider – allergies, intolerances, cultural considerations? Ensure you can ask all attendees for their dietary requirements and have a list of their names and requirements.
  • How will you all get there and home again safely?
  • Do you need some form of entertainment? Do you have a budget for it?
  • Will there be speeches, does that warrant a mic? Will there be a presentation, and do we need a projector or electronic equipment?
  • Do you need to have flowers or gifts ready as a thank you for certain people? Can the venue organise that and have it ready for you? One less thing to bring with you.

Once you’ve got this enormous list broken down into chunks with sensible headings, set up a meeting with the event manager at the venue you’ve booked. It’s time to start making decisions. If you’d like to have a chat or a meeting with me about Bulong – get in touch.

Step 5 – Food is essential – Get it right

You know your crowd. Would they prefer a really simple and no frills BBQ with plenty of beer? Or are they a more sophisticated group that would expect something to wow them and some good Pinot Noir to go with it. Food can be a bit of a minefield can’t it. So many opinions and likes and dislikes. If you have a mixed up crowd then having plenty of options for people to choose from can be the best way to approach it.

One way to give your crowd plenty of options is a finger food menu that covers a range of styles, sausage rolls and chicken skewers through to charcoal dusted prawns. Or our Street Food Hawker menu is popular, you can select 3 or 4 food styles to be served from “Hawker” stands. These are themed and decorated and your guests can go and select the food they want to eat, festival style.

We also find a non-seated style menu is best if you want your guests to mingle and mix. This is great if your guests are from different locations or don’t get to know each other during regular work hours, they will feel more comfortable being able to move around and meet different people.

Mix it up a bit – if last year you had a casual BBQ buffet, opt this year for street food, hawker style. Don’t be afraid to really go into detail with the venue’s event manager, the food is important. Feel free to discuss any dietary requirements, you may have a large number of vegan or vegetarians, or want to have your menu complete free of pork products.

Here at Bulong we know how important your food is and that’s why we only use the amazing chefs at The Essential Caterer – they are local to us; we’ve worked with them for years & they always over deliver. Dietary requirements are no problem and any guests with special requirements will have just as a delicious time as everyone else, for no extra charge. And you need that certainty – you’ve enough to be aware of on the day without worrying about the food!

Step 6 – It wouldn’t be a party without drinks

You’re right, not everyone drinks alcohol, so this aspect of the party will be of less interest to them, but you will want to ensure you have some options for those who do like a boozy beverage at a party.

You will have to work with your budget for either a beverage package or a bar tab. Have a chat to your venue and see what the options are. Check out the beverage list and make sure there is a range of beers, ciders and wines.

Not everyone is into wine, but everyone likes to think they’re ‘drinking local’ and supporting small local producers, so it would be great if the venue has a range of local options to choose from.

Here in the Yarra Valley we are spoilt with the choice of ciders and beers grown just over the hill. We serve Hargreaves Hill Pale Ale, an excellent local beer. And of course being a winery we serve our own excellent wines grown, made and bottled onsite. For your guests who do like a glass of wine, imagine if they were given a glass of Pinot Noir and told it was grown on site in a block of vines they can see right there! And then the winemaker comes out to chat to your group about how the grapes are grown and what makes a good vintage. A great experience for the wine lovers of your group, and we are happy to do that for you, no extra charge.

If your group is more likely to be interested in non-alcoholic or low alcoholic drinks you can make sure they get something special. Non-alcoholic beers and ciders are gaining popularity and are often on the beverage list now, as are Australian made soft drinks. How about a mocktail or a non-alcoholic punch? Ask your venue if they can organise this.

We make a point of having flexible drink options – you can have a package or ‘pay on consumption’ or ‘purchase at the bar’, we offer options that will suit your event and budget. Ask us more about our drink options for your party.

Step 7 – What will everyone do? We’ll need some entertainment!

At Bulong guests tend to relax as soon as they arrive, with so much greenery around them and the beautiful outdoor environment. Especially if your crowd is used to city streets, being able to enjoy a far horizon , mountain views and the long rows of green vines, may just be enough. Add some excellent food and drinks and your job is done.

But if you’re worried that some of your people will need entertaining, you could consider a few options.

Music gives an instant atmosphere. Ask your venue what options they have available. They may play music for you, or have a system that you can plug your own play list into. If you want the music to be more than background music, make it the centre of attention by hiring a DJ, a juke box or live music. Your venue should be able to recommend some good musicians or band. We certainly can at Bulong Estate. Check your budget to see what you can afford.

Also ask your venue if they have a microphone available for you to use for speeches. Otherwise your DJ or Band may be able to lend you their microphone for that. If you are able to give your speech givers a time limit and somehow keep them to it – do it!! Speeches that go on for too long are a sure fire way to remove the sparkle from any party.

Warm weather and a green lawn is a great place for lawn games. You might want to setup Croquet or Bocce. There are plenty of companies that hire out lawn games, or maybe your venue has some ready for you to use. And if your event is a kid-friendly/bring the whole family type of affair, the lawn and lawn games will be a life-saver. And if you have a lot of kids coming you may want to go one step further for kids entertainment, consider jumping castles, face painting, clowns or musicians.

Step 8 – Transport, is that a good idea?

Put simply. Yes. Getting your group on a bus from the office not only adds to the fun, it also means no-one has to drive. If you are expecting your group to enjoy the free drinks, then having a bus ride home for them is helpful for everyone.

It’s also a great stress-reliever for you as everyone arrives and leaves at the same time – so it’s one less thing for you to worry about.

If you don’t have the time, let us organise transport for you.

Step 9 – Relax and enjoy

Finally, make sure you enjoy the party! You have done all the hard work, now your suppliers can do their job and you can relax and enjoy. The venue, the caterers, the bus driver and the entertainment you have hired are all professionals and they will take over from here.

You may feel like you need to get heavily involved as the event organiser. My advice is to do very little other than introduce yourself on arrival to the venue manager and then let them take it from there. If there are any problems they will come and find you. You have told them all what you want, and if there is an event schedule give it to them all before the event, and now you should just party!

Here at Bulong Estate; I will be your point of contact throughout the organising and then I will be there on the night making sure it all goes as planned. And look, everyone likes to feel they’re being treated like an individual, not a number, and that is what happens here at Bulong Estate, you will get absolute continuity of service throughout your experience, which is seriously important.