"Big" isn't always better when it comes to corporate event planning.


Picture it: You’re doing your Q4 wrap-up and looking at the year in review, and all the data is saying the same thing – your company is growing. Whether you see this reflected in impressive revenue, a burgeoning customer base or swelling demand for your products and services, the message is clear that the organization is ready to reach the next level.

After a blockbuster year, it’s natural to think big. The tired old cliche “go big, or go home” comes to mind – a vaguely inspirational business aphorism that is likely being tossed around in executive board rooms at this very moment. It’s a cliche for a reason: part of fostering growth and change is being able to convey to consumers, clients and fellow industry insiders that, yes, your company is making big, bold moves.

When it comes to corporate events, “big” often translates literally. Visions of a huge, convention center-based conference may already be appearing in your mind as you read this.

However, before booking a larger hotel ballroom or convention center, it’s time to consider what “going big” really means. The jump from a small- or medium-sized event space to a larger one certainly has its right place and time, but the goal is to more broadly make a splash. Chief Marketing Officers’ mental calculus has changed dramatically over the years when it comes to event planning, and yours should too. Not only may bigger not be better when it comes to events, the very definition of “bigger” is completely relative to the nature of your business.

“The very definition of ‘bigger’ is completely relative to the nature of your business.”

Smaller halls with big reach

One of the main reasons not to immediately scale up corporate events during growth is the questionable appeal of huge halls and long presentations. Attendees initially wowed by the sheer scale of an enormous venue may soon find the event impersonal and overwhelming. Event Marketer suggests that the TED talk model, designed to encourage snappier and more intimate communications, is having an influence on keynote planning.

Of course, one cornerstone of TED talks is the use of online video content to get ideas to mass audiences. Event organizers who harness the live streaming or on demand model can unlock their own value and not only provide unparalleled flexibility, but also impact how audiences absorb information. No longer are you limited to delivering a message to attendees crammed into an exhibit hall: Your executives could be physically speaking to hundreds of people, with thousands more tuned in on monitors elsewhere around the venue – or around the world.

Finding the right venue and presentation for your company’s remarks could involve staying with the same size venue, or even downsizing. By putting resources towards improving production values and developing an event content distribution strategy, a business can communicate its newly authoritative role in its industry without budgeting for a huge hall rental. Professional-grade tech and visual elements, along with organizational successes such as an ability to keep rigorously on schedule, have the power to impress attendees, even if the venue’s size isn’t an upgrade over past years’ gatherings.

event hallAn event hall holding thousands isn’t always the right venue.

Align company culture with event planning

There is another reason to consider many different physical scales and styles for your next corporate event – maybe your brand simply doesn’t do “huge.” If you’ve built a successful business model on the values of intimacy and directness, jumping to a big, impersonal event center can be jarring. A company losing its recognizable identity can be a serious setback, and an oversized conference that allows the brand’s message and voice to be swallowed up in the noise isn’t likely to win people over.

When your business model thrives on one-on-one connections – especially with high-level executives – a larger, broader list of attendees can be counterproductive. Companies may have more success with a smaller, more exclusive conference, potentially using a relatively high attendance fee and selective invitations to ensure that only serious prospects make the trip.

These small gatherings can even reach an audience beyond the walls of the venue, using the streaming-focused model described above. Executives’ short presentations can become valuable on-demand marketing collateral, having already reached a hand-picked audience in person.

When your organization’s branding and business model thrives on a large scale, however, large events remain a viable option. A company hoping to make an impact on a huge group of professionals or debut a new product with wide appeal may thrive among the flash of a big convention center. That said, if your business decides to go big, it mustn’t lose sight of the need for meticulous planning and high production values. Technical or organizational failures will still be felt at a large venue.

event planningA presentation to hundreds can be more valuable than a bigger keynote.

Being true to your base

When corporate event ideas and input come from within, rather than outside your walls, alignment between brand and gathering can remain strong. Business News Daily underlines the importance of polling internal employees to see what type of experience and information the event should spotlight.

When you speak with representatives who talk to clients every day, you get a clear snapshot of the prospect’s mindset. Combining this with perspectives from marketing, sales and product development can give you a target to aim for. The result of these discussions may point to the advantages of a smaller, more contained event for key customer stakeholders.

Being true to your base also means giving them the insight they crave – even if it means bringing in speakers from outside of your company. These could be key customers or thought leaders in the space. Too often, growing companies lean heavily on their own staff when booking event speakers, turning what could have been an opportunity to showcase broader industry relevance into a glorified sales presentation. Audiences tend to reject this kind of self-reflective talent booking, and it can quickly become self-indulgent.

A good rule of thumb is to think long and hard before allowing any employee beyond your CEO, and possibly CTO or Head of Product Development, to see the main stage. While many companies may feel reflexively uncomfortable ceding some of the spotlight to outside parties, this actually goes a long way towards building authority and trust, as well as diffusing the feeling of being “sold to.” If audiences want the sales pitch, they know where to go. More and more, people attending events want to be entertained and enlightened.

Selecting the right partner

Picking a strategic partner for corporate event tasks from overall strategy to production or content distribution is a pivotal driver of success or failure. Here, too, going with a bigger firm may not mean receiving a better result. Big-box organizations may be low on flexibility or unable to execute a strategy closely attuned to your brand’s sensibilities.

When you run the numbers, your company may be a similar size to others in its space, or expanding at an equal rate. That data alone shouldn’t drive how big or small your event should be, because it doesn’t reflect all your firm’s unique qualities. No two organizations are quite the same, so figuring out what type of corporate gathering suits your objectives, positioning and personality can lead to the ideal fit – big, small or just right.