What do we think of, when we think of event planning? Chances are the first images that pop into our heads upon hearing these two words are of gala dinners, red carpets, conference halls in luxury hotels and exclusive parties. While there is plenty of room for all these in event planning, the everyday reality of working in corporate events can be quite different. As it happens, the most interesting challenges for an event planner consist in creating engaging events in venues that were not originally designed to host them, and in achieving outstanding quality on a limited budget. In September, we planned the opening of a new facility for two international firms. Stolt Nielsen and Merenzana are both in the business of providing integrated transportation and storage solutions for specialty and bulk liquid chemicals and a wide range of other liquid products. The facility we were to work with is a depot located in Vado Ligure and used for cleaning tanks by both companies: a complex and important process that requires state-of-the art equipment.
Event planning: what to do when your venue isn’t a venue
1. The Venue
How do you work with a venue that is not meant to be a venue? We knew we had to plan this event from scratch, starting with a bare open space, mostly outdoors. This meant that, when planning how to invest our budget, we had to factor in everything that a traditional venue might have included, such as stage, lighting and sound system. The client provided the entertainment, in the form of a pianist, a singer and a band and, on our suggestion, a tensile structure to use in case of rain. Having a “plan B”, after all, is the best way to avoid needing one. As well as the basics, of course, we had to provide the more obvious elements of a corporate event, such as catering and a crew of technicians. One thing our venue didn’t do particularly well was provide a scenic backdrop. Industrial facilities are drab at best, but a depot on this scale really doesn’t leave much room for scenic effect. The solution we came up with was based entirely on lighting and colours. Atmosphere and visual impact, if needed, can be achieved with a carefully thought through use of lighting and little else. We also made sure that the catering was set up according to a general design idea, so as to constitute a decorative element in itself. Eventually, we managed to turn a grey concrete facility, full of industrial tanks, into an elegant venue, in which every detail was designed to provide a comfortable experience for the attendees.
The less the venue has to offer for itself, the more an event planner needs to be careful when handling the allotted budget. We managed to fit all the logistics, materials, equipment, staff and catering into the client’s budget without ever compromising on quality. Now, no matter how clever and resourceful an event planner is, there is only one way of accomplishing this particular feat: experience. Suppliers usually offer varying degrees of service for different prices and it takes an extensive network of tested connections to find the right ones and get outstanding value for money. Our network was built over years of corporate event planning and allow us to source the best suppliers for any kind of event, all over Italy. Once the right team is assembled, the planner’s role is very much a managerial one: we coordinated tasks and efforts, making sure that every aspect is planned as carefully and in as much detail as possible.
3. Giving our full attention to everyone
The key to successful event planning is giving people attention. This applies to everyone: from attendees to speakers, from hosts to performers, everyone’s needs must be heard, acknowledged and catered for. If this aspect is taken care of, the overall event experience will be a positive one. Our speakers, in this instance, were the CEOs and managers of both companies and a few representatives of local institutions. The audience was largely composed of the speakers’ colleagues and employees. We made sure to provide the same, high level of hospitality for all attendees, with our staff working constantly to make the event experience comfortable, enjoyable and entertaining.