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Five Tips for Organizing Business Dinners and Banquets

Whether designed to celebrate previous achievements or launch something new, business dinners and banquets tend to be more formal than other meetings or events. No matter the size of your company, you’ll need to consider some common issues when planning one of these affairs.

1. Set your budget in stone

Every event begins with an overall budget. Do not make plans, contact venues or caterers, or engrave a single plaque before you determine an absolute dollar amount. After you know what you have to spend, you can begin seeking quotes for venues, goods, and services. If you've taken on this task on behalf of management, nothing will make a stronger impression than staying within your budget—or coming in under it.

2. Choose an appropriate venue

If your company is a small business, it may be best to simply reserve a small room or a space within a restaurant. Medium-sized companies may want to engage a restaurant that also manages special events with either a buffet or a pre-determined menu.

If you’re expecting a large turnout, you have the option of a special events facility or a hotel ballroom. Keep in mind that many of these larger venues will either require you to use their catering services or will charge fees for bringing in outside vendors. There is also the potential for additional charges for everything from audio-visual equipment to stage drapery. Pay attention to the itemized proposal and don’t be afraid to negotiate for a lower price or waived fees.

3. What is the occasion?

A celebration of achievement or the launch of a new initiative or product calls for an exciting event, possibly with dancing and adult beverages. However, an annual banquet or a dinner honoring a retiring employee tends to be a more reserved occasion. Working within your budget, determine just what you’re trying to accomplish—are you rewarding your employees for a job well done? Was it a difficult year? Are you transitioning to a new management team? Make sure you choose the appropriate touches that convey the proper message.

4. Determine your guest list

The time and nature of your dinner or banquet will determine your guest list. Celebrating a big sales year can mean that you want to invite some of your biggest clients. An annual dinner or holiday party may include vendors or contractors who have contributed to your success. Some companies want to make their event family friendly, but keep in mind that a formal sit-down dinner may not be the best venue for children. You might even consider entertainment or special activities if younger family members are included.

5. Do you need assistance?

In most organizations, an individual or a committee takes on the extra responsibility of planning a dinner or banquet, which can be a burden no matter what time of year the event takes place. When creating your budget, don’t forget to assign a dollar value to every hour your employees spend on the occasion, and consider the possibility of hiring a professional meeting planner or leveraging the services offered by a special events facility or hotel. What you save in employee time and stress may far outweigh the monetary expense.