7 of the Biggest Mistakes Made When Planning a Corporate Event (and How to Avoid Them)

Devastating Mistakes to Avoid when Hiring a Motivational Speaker for your Corporate Event
“Right guys, today we need a stock photo for an office party. Let’s make sure we’ve got everything…pretty blonde…check. Photocopier…check. Alcohol..check. Broken PC…check. That’s everything! Good work. I’m off for lunch.”


There are many mistakes you can make when planning a corporate event.

And while you could listen to some experts on some podcasts, or sit down and ask yourself some really important questions about your event, to minimise these corporate event mistakes, actually finding out what the biggest blunders other people have made is probably much more helpful.

What mistakes have they made, so that you don’t have to?

Here are 7 of the biggest mistakes made when planning a corporate event (and how to avoid them):

1. Too many cooks

The ease of organising an event is directly proportional to the number of people who get involved.

That’s not a scientific fact, but it is a good guess.

The more people involved in the decision making, the more slowly decisions about your corporate event will be made (if at all).

Sure, you want to make sure you get input and ideas from colleagues and take those into account, but don’t try and get everyone involved, especially if you’re only doing it as a way of spreading the blame if it goes a bit “kaka” (that’s a technical term, you understand) on the night.

Choose a few people to help, and choose wisely. The “few” element will help ensure decisions are made quickly, but the “wisely” part will make sure that any decisions made will, more than likely, be the right ones.

Click here to learn the best time to start planning a corporate event

2. Lose the ego

After spending months thinking about a corporate event, you’d be forgiven for aligning yourself – and your sense of self-worth – with it; seeing it as part of you or your work identity.


Often people get given the task of planning an event, but it consumes so much of their working time that they begin to lose all sight of their primary goal – to make the event as great as possible for the guests.

They create a monster of epic proportions, to highlight their own skill and creativity, rather than an event that does what it should.

Corporate Event Mistakes - Too Much Glitz
The guests were formal, the pool was ready, the light show was prepped. Gemma was proud. No one could throw a “we just bought a new kettle for the office party” as good as her!

After a while, it becomes YOUR baby. YOUR party. Part of YOU.

When this happens, you can start making bad choices. “Your baby” becomes something you need to protect or build up to serve as a testament to all of your hard work.

It’s easy to lose track of what’s important, but try to keep in mind what you’re trying to achieve with the event.

  • What’s the goal?
  • Who is it for, and
  • How can I best achieve that, regardless of how awesome the event makes me look?

Remember, you are not your event.

Here are the 5 keys to getting people involved with charity or fundraising events

3. Make your event like Christmas

A corporate event can appear like a blip on a radar – here one minute, gone the next, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

In fact, it probably shouldn’t.

Christmas is only one day a year, but it’s not REALLY just one day a year is it?

There’s a big build up – where we do the Christmas shopping, put up the tree, hang decorations and send cards – all of this before the big day.

It gets us prepared, psyched up, for the big day.

Then it’s the big day. The event. The day we’ve all been looking forward to. The pay off where it all happens.

Afterwards, we have a wind-down. We have boxing day, where we eat leftovers, remembering how good Christmas was yesterday. We keep the decorations up for 12 days before boxing them up back into the attic.

Christmas is just one day, but it’s so much more than that.

What can you do to make YOUR event more like Christmas? How can you build it up in a way that makes it enjoyable for your guests and how can you wind it down in a way that makes it memorable?

4. Not setting a goal for the event

“Let’s have a party!”, says someone in the office.

“Why?”, says another.

Good question.

You could have a party because:

  • it’s been a good year,
  • you haven’t had one in a long time,
  • it’s Christmas and you should have one, or
  • because Dave is leaving (FINALLY!)

Having a clear, defined goal for an event is essential – it acts as a rudder to keep you on track for success.

After all, how can you have a great event if you don’t know what one looks like?

“Why are we really having this event?” leads to “what do we want to achieve because of it?”, which leads to “how will we know that we’ve achieved it?” thinking; all fabulous questions that would never have been on the table if you’d never have come up with a goal.

5. Poor budgeting

Note that I didn’t say “low budget”.

The level of budget doesn’t need to have a direct result on whether your event is successful or not. Sure, if your task is to produce the Academy Awards this year for the film industry, and they’ve given you £5 to play with, you’re going to have your work cut out, but, by and large, the amount of money given to organising a corporate event won’t be a determining factor in its success.

Running out of it, however, will be.

“How much is in the budget?” is the second question you should ask after “What would it look like if this event were to be a success?”.

Get an answer to the budget question early and stick to it.

6. Going with the norm

“The norm” isn’t a bad thing. Some norms are good.

Corporate Event Mistakes - Going With The Norm
This is a good Norm.

All norms are safe.

When you’re organising a corporate event though, norms can be the kiss of death.

When your neck is on the line, it can be easy to go for the “norm” – to offer up the same standard event that everyone else is doing. After all, if it goes wrong, you can blame “the norm” (“it’s not my fault, this is the way it’s done!”).

If you’re only running a few events every year though, your guests want something special and “the norm” isn’t something special.

You need to remember and have faith in, your knowledge of your colleagues and your goal(s) for the event. You know these people better than anyone. What would THEY really love at this event? What would give THESE PEOPLE the most successful experience possible?

Don’t start with “the norm”; start with your guests and work from there.

If it turns out that the event isn’t as successful as you would have liked, “I thought about our guests…what has worked well in the past…and what didn’t, but it wasn’t quite right…” is a whole lot better than, “it’s not my fault, I just did what everyone else was doing!”.

7. Perfection

Perfection is a myth.

I don’t care if that’s true or not, but when you’re planning a corporate event, it’s the perfect ideal mindset to have.

Things will go wrong. There may be delays. Something will be forgotten. Something extra may be added.

It doesn’t matter.

The team building event isn’t going to be for nothing if the bibs for the duck herding don’t quite fit.

The awards ceremony won’t be a laughing stock if the lapel mic breaks and they have to use a handheld mic instead.

And the lunchtime pie and chips meal to celebrate Janine’s pregnancy isn’t going to get you fired if they run out of chairs (although, hopefully, Janine managed to grab one).

Perfection forces us to believe that event planning is all or nothing. That it can only be a success if everything goes right.

Disasters bring us closer together.

Don’t try to be perfect.

Do your best, and then run with whatever happens.

And, if by any chance, you need a corporate magician to help you cover for “whatever happens”, you’re in luck. I think I may know one…