How to plan a stellar IT event

Within IT departments or in small IT-centred businesses, we might not always be known for our parties and events. But why not? More and more, events have proven to be a vital way to connect with your customers, employees, and other stakeholders, and the benefits can easily surpass the time and expense put into them if they are well planned and executed.

1. Preliminary planning is worth your time

Early on, if you figure out the purpose, vision, and goals of your event, your efforts will be paid off when things come together smoothly closer to the event date. For example, are you celebrating a company milestone (e.g. 10 years since opening), thanking and appreciating customers or employees, or promoting your product or service to the community? Having a clear sense of your overall purpose from the outset will help you stick with it as you plan all the details.

Similar to purpose, your vision will outline what you’d like to achieve from your event. For example, if you want to create greater awareness of your company within the community, this would be a vision.

Once you know your purpose and vision, you can figure out your goals. You might have heard of the term “SMART” goals, not just within event planning but when doing almost any type of planning, whether it is a plan to market a new product, reach a particular sales level, or create new content for your website. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely, and it’s a great way to make sure the things you want your event to achieve will actually be accomplishable (and that you’ll have a way to measure whether your event achieved those goals).

2. Figure out the main components of your event early 

Where will you hold your event? Will it be in your company’s lunch room, at an external site, outdoors or indoors? Components such as these need to be figured out from the start, because if you change one, it will impact other components, which creates extra work. Other key components include your theme (the key idea or vibe of your event), décor (decorations such as tablecloths and flowers), hospitality (food and beverages, lodging, amenities, and perks), entertainment (music, games, or entertainers), technical (microphones, projectors, sound systems), graphics (invitations, name tags, brochures, signage), personnel (hired staff or volunteers), safety (security, food inspections, bathroom facilities), and legal issues (insurance and permits). If your event is held on company property, you may not have to worry about all the above components, such as if your company’s insurance and building security would already cover your event, but it’s a good idea to consider all of these general components when you’re starting to plan an event. If you don’t need to look into a particular component, you can always exclude it later.

3. Going beyond is what will make your event stellar

Once you’ve figured out the standard components of your event, it’s time to go beyond this and make it STELLAR. In other words, what can you do to make it memorable, stand out, and blow people away with a fantastic experience. IT is often low-key: we might dress a bit more informally at the office than the HR folks, or if your company is IT-based, all the employees might enjoy being part of a more relaxed atmosphere. So you might have a bit of resistance to a very formal event, or your guests might actually be the opposite and welcome an opportunity to dress up. What’s most important is to ensure you cater the event to the personalities and expectations of the particular people who will be attending. If your office tends to step outside the mould, then cater your theme, décor, entertainment, and other event components to the things they like. Going above and beyond with the details of your event and making it feel as though it has been customized for each person will create an unforgettable event for every guest.

4. Don't be shy with marketing and promotion

Letting people know about your event and encouraging them to come is not an afterthought: it is as important as having a site where you hold your event. If you plan to create an experience for everyone on your invite list, and then most of them do not come to the event, then you haven’t created a stellar event, although you may have had the potential for one! If your event is large or you want expert advice, you can hire someone to do your marketing for you, or if you will be planning events regularly, you can take a training course on how to market your events. You can also volunteer for community events to get ideas for how similar events are organized and marketed. However you go forward, make sure you think about the components mentioned above, and aim for a stellar IT event. You never know, maybe IT will eventually be known as the trendsetter of company events!