Producing an effective dinner party for a company or brand takes more than just beautiful decor and good food. Here are some tips from event planners who have been there.
Small, seated dinners have long been a popular way for companies and brands to thank their employees or entertain V.I.P. clients in an intimate setting. But as any event planner knows, hosting an effective dinner takes much more than just gathering guests for a great meal.
While social dinner parties might be focused on reconnecting with friends, corporate dinners are usually a bit more strategic—the company wants to convey some sort of message to key stakeholders. As such, ease of communication is crucial, and that goal should bleed into everything from the decor and the catering to the seating chart. Keeping in mind there needs to be a certain return on investment for the money the company is spending [on this dinner].
But that doesn’t mean the dinner needs to be all business. Just because it maybe in a setting with fellow professionals, don’t forget to soften the space. Dim the lights, add beautiful decor pieces—anything that communicates to the guests they are appreciated and highly valued as employees and colleagues.
Here are some more tips for creating effective dinners for corporate groups.
Design everything with the goal of facilitating conversations.
For seated dinners, centerpieces should either be below or above the sight line, so guests can talk throughout the meal. If you place your elbow on the table and sit your chin on the palm of your hand, low decor should always be below that height. If you raise your arm all the way up, tall decor should be above palm level there as well.
It’s also important to avoid super-wide tables. You want to be able to speak with the person across from you in a natural tone. Comfortable chairs are also key, and something with a cushion is always appreciated.
Entertainment-wise, it’s nice to have ambient noise in the background to cut down on awkward silences such as live jazz music, or light music piped in through an audio system.
Lighting is also an important consideration. It is one of those things that when done well, it transforms the environment. With corporate dinners, you need lighting that is not so dim that it feels like a club, but you don’t want it so bright that it feels medicinal.
Think through the seating arrangements.
While assigned seating may be a good idea for dinner parties in general, it can be especially crucial for corporate dinners. Meaningful business conversations and networking is one of the most important outcomes of the event. Seating configurations, the makeup of the guests attending, and the purpose of the gathering always dictate who is close to whom, and should always be considered separately from one event to the next.
Ask for dietary restrictions in advance—and keep catering simple.
In a corporate environment, it is especially important that guests with dietary restrictions don’t feel uncomfortable in front of their peers. It is almost a given nowadays that you ask for restrictions such as allergies, gluten-free, or vegan. Asking up front sends the message that you care about the guests’ experience.
Like every other aspect of the dinner, though, food should never take away from the conversations. You’d never want to be left ‘holding a skewer’ or having appetizers that take more than one easy bite in a corporate setting. It can cause for an awkward moment when needing to have a professional conversation.
But the dessert course may be a chance to get a bit more creative. After a large meal, get guests up and moving around. Make the dessert course something more relaxed and interactive. With space permitting, instead of serving the final course at the table, make it a couple stations scattered around the room.
Images – Bizbash