Editor's Note: The following is a guest Marketing Mulligans post by Jessica Levco, a staff writer at Ragan.com and the editor of Ragan's Health Care Communication News, and that originally appeared on Ragan.com's events channel. There's a ton of planning and attention to detail that goes into the orchestration of a successful event, whether it's purely a social affair such as the one described in this article, a press conference, a media and analyst tour, or a high-end dinner for important clients. So what are some of the most important elements of an effective event? Read on to find out.
I figured this would be a perfect opportunity to get a glimpse of what it would be like to enter Don Draper's world, 21st Century style. (Note: It involves a lot of plaid and aviator sunglasses.)
Waltzing into the party was easier than expected. After saying the name of my employer and getting my ID checked, I was given a wristband and was greeted by throngs of artsy-types: digital media directors, graphic designers, and copywriters. I watched them all checking out each other's texting ability, color sense, and grammar, respectively.
But as it turns out, I wasn't the only party crasher. Apparently, everybody else was, too. This party was open to the public—including a few tourists, who said they just happened to stumble into the party and had no idea what it was for.
Slightly disappointed that I didn't technically crash a party, there was only one thing left I could do —report.
If you want to throw a kick-ass company party, here's what I learned:
1. Invite Everyone
Limiting a "work party" to just "work" people isn't much fun. Just imagine the conversations you and your co-workers can have when you open up your party to the streets of Chicago. Ok, that might be a bit much, but you get the idea.
Picking a theme for your party is essential. Go with something that shows the vibrancy of your company. The Optimus party centered on that feel-good neighborhood block vibe, with lots of hot dogs and beer. In a city of more than two million people, this block party felt very homey.
The party was on a Friday night, on the eve of Lollapoolza, a three-day music fest in Grant Park. Already, the environment was ripe for dancing, talking and listening to music. If you're going to throw a party, don't just pick an arbitrary date. Plan wisely.
4. Swag That Stays
Not only did I write this story on a free notepad and pen from the agency, but I also took home a beer koozie and a fake tattoo. If you want people to leave with a positive impression of your company, give them a tchotchke they can show their friends.
5. Special Guests
Each year, Optimus invites a guest to attend the party. Illinois ex-governor Rod Blagojevich went to the party last year. This year, party-goers were entertained by the Chicagoan who won the U.S. Air Guitar Championships. Why promise a special guest? Because the buzz and anticipation lasts longer than two glasses of Chardonnay. Your guests want to stick around and see who it will be.
6. Be Transparent
If you really want to show off your company, open your doors. I was free to roam the ad agency's headquarters, peek into offices, and sit in the cafeteria. Inviting people in is a great way to give people a feel for your company's culture.
7. Clever Signage
Even though the block party was in a confined area, there were a lot of signs to point out the essentials: bathroom, food and beer.
8. Crowd Control
Friendly staff in blue shirts helped party-goers find the bathroom or beer, just in case they couldn't read.
9. Brand Ambassador
One person at the party was unmistakable: a guy dressed in a brown bear costume. Word on the block says the "bear" attends the party yearly. Make sure your party has someone that party-goers can look forward to seeing every year. You want someone who stands out — against the vintage tees and plaid shirts.
10. Free Beer and Wine
Need I say more?
© 2011 Ragan Communications, Inc.