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Corporate event trends 2016 – an opinion piece


  1. Experiences!!! The word “experiential” has been thrown around as the new buzz word over the last few years. But not every event organiser hits the spot. If you have 3 hours to wow your guests, enhancing all 5 senses is ideal. If you’re paying so much for venue hire, why limit your guests to their one seat. Allow movement in a room with strategically placed sensory stations to allow your guests to play in the space you’ve allowed.


  1. Less prize giving. The 2016 Grammy’s lasted 4 hours. But we aren’t all hosting this annual musical event. Corporate company award categories have been slashed. Not all nominees are given props and credit. Clever AV, scripting and voice overs are being pre-produced as opposed to using presenters or MCs to facilitate this. People are there to party! Not have a glorified boardroom meeting patting the backs of their colleagues. Prize giving is great for morale, and should not be excluded. But it should be kept to 60 minutes.


  1. Themed evenings generally work best with open bar. Not everyone is capable, nor should they be forced to let their hair down. If your event is a themed one, make it practical and affordable for your guests to buy whatever attire or props have been requested. An open bar will serve as a nice ice-crusher for the introverted. But please remember to always promote an arrive-alive message.


  1. Partners by invite only. With the economy as it stands, we’ve seen less invitations extended to partners over the years. Your 300 pax event could increase by R250 000 if all 300 of your guests have their spouses in tow.


  1. Social media. Many corporate companies prohibit much social media. If your company’s just gone through a massive retrenchment, the last thing they want is to have their elaborate shindig all over Instagram with the staff they left behind.


  1. Less “away” events. We all love a good road trip, but the economy calls for a more frugal budget, and the out-of-town conference venues may see a decline in bookings, or at least in numbers. If away-conferences are booked, the open bar might be cut. Clients need to decide what extravagance is more important.


  1. Corporate gifting – gone are the days where everyone would get an engraved paperweight (we should be cutting down on printing paper anyway). Guests would rather have a cool take-home photo of their experience, or, in more and more cases, spend that R150 at the bar.


  1. Accountants party too. Don’t put the advertising agencies and the film buffs into the party-starter box. If guests are given fabulous entertainment, and interactive playful stations to release their inner arcade child, then haul out the giant jenga, the human bowling ball inflatable and the go carts.


  1. Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus. If “sensory experience” is key to your event, consider spa-treatment stations for the ladies, or Playstation booths for the gents.


  1. Family days. While some may view family days as more expensive, as the invitation is extended to spouses and children, guests tend to frequent the open bar a lot less, reducing your overall budget.


  1. Goodie bags. Everyone loves a little take-home gift. But that branded mug won’t make your guest talk about the party until the following year. While photobooths are also on their way out, something practical to remind your guest about your amazing event!


  1. Corporate Social Responsibility: if your staff is drinking on your tab, consider arranging Goodfellas and Uber drivers to get them home safely.


  1. Masterchef. For more sophisticated events, tasting tables; wine and food pairing; & sample size entrees are the order of the day. Gone are the days where giant all-you-can-eat buffet tables with butternut and creamed spinach are served in silver commercial-sized vats. There’s nothing more 2010 than standing in a queue with your heated plate, when your babysitter is charging you by the minute.


  1. Supper club. If you’re paying so much for entertainment, consider whether you would like them performing while your guests are standing in the buffet queue or cutting cutlery. A great Apple Music playlist will do just fine. Reserve your entertainment for an engaging audience.


  1. Bottom line and budgets – “We’re talking about the “E” word again here. If you thought you should spend your precious marketing dollars on “stuff” to make your event shine, think again; this year, you’ll see businesses spending less money on “stuff” and more money on creating an impactful experience. This trend follows the emerging trend of consumers doing exactly that – giving up material objects for amazing experiences like vacations, concerts or even a really delicious dinner. So if you’re getting caught up in the swag, maybe it’s time to reassess your tactics; your audience may not be looking for it”. (Ref :


  1. Music is the most important part of any experiential event. People don’t just listen with their ears. They do so with their eyes. Finding a band or DJ or musical entertainer to provide a blend of familiarity and something alternative / unique is important. Collaborations with two or more entertainers is very sought after. But not always achievable, nor affordable. A good musical director should be employed to assist in putting this together.


  1. Alternative venues. Farm yards, rooftops, the Kalahari desert. These all make for venue unique venues. But aren’t always practical for food service, entertainment provision and kitchen accessibility. Decide what kind of outcome you want and how practical the alternative venue is before booking. Pop-up food trucks and mobile bars are very on-trend for off-site events.


Morgan Ross

G Management