Planning Cocktail Parties
Cocktail Parties may seem simple and appear easy to organise but the best cocktail parties often take a lot of careful attention to get right. When planning a successful cocktail party it is essential to have a clear understanding of your objectives before you start.
If networking is your main objective then a cocktail party is often the most effective medium for making new contacts and catching up with many existing clients. But if your event is focused around formalities and meaningful presentations then think carefully before submitting your audience to the rigors of standing around trying to maintain focus.
Timing your cocktail party
Most cocktail parties happen in the early evening and last 2-3 hours for a couple of simple reasons.: cocktail’s are traditionally served before dinner and most people don’t expect to be fed a complete meal at a cocktail party. So stick to what people expect and what works. If you plan to go longer then make sure there’s more substantial food and provide some entertainment – its really that simple.
Selecting your cocktail party venue
Perhaps more than any other event type, choosing the right venue for a cocktail party is crucial, that is unless you have the budget to create your own environment can afford to totally transform an existing space.
Firstly make sure the venue is easily accessible to your guests, with ample parking and a variety of transport options. Secondly, ensure it has the space and facilities to cater to your audience size and any entertainment or activities you have planned. Research the quality of food and beverage options, and don’t forget to check any timing, noise or other restrictions the venue places on your planed event. And just as importantly, ensure the styling and atmosphere of the space is in keeping with your brand.
Planning your cocktail party space
When planning how best utilize the cocktail party venue don’t just focus on the formalities or entertainment, consider the entire guest experience from arrivals to leaving with a prized gift.
Create an engaging guest arrival experience. Whether that be by using roving performers, or a red carpet and media wall paparazzi moment, make sure the arrival area is well branded and has a real sense of welcome – first impressions always count a lot!
Think carefully about the positioning of the stage to ensure it is clearly visible to all guests and is high enough for your presenters and performers to command presence – especially if your audience will be standing all night!
When planning the layout of the event space use the locations seating areas, food stations, bars and feature displays to encourage guests to circulate. And be careful not to affect the free flow of food and beverage – there’s nothing worse than finding yourself stranded in a corner that never gest served. But try and avoid placing everything around the perimeter – a central bar and/or amazing food station can often become the vital event hub that swarms with activity.
Finally provide some seating or lounge areas – please don’t make them stand for hours on end or they’ll likely leave early.
Cocktail party presentations
It’s often been said that timing is everything – well so it goes for cocktail parties. Keep formalities brief and don’t delay them too long into the function. Ideally hold your main presentation around 45 minutes into the event which gives the late comers time to settle in but also prevents the early arrivals from becoming bored waiting for something to happen.
Grab their attention before clobbering them with content. Employ a professional emcee, or use lighting, music, a video, or a special performance to capture your audience ‘s focus. Then once there’re engaged hit them with your message and keep it short and impactful cause they won’t listen for long, 10-15 minutes is perfect, go for more than 20 minutes and you’ve lost them.
But it’s not all just about pace and duration, if they can’t see or hear what’s being presented then you may as well have sent them an email. Your presenters must be clearly visible so set your stage high and light it well. Likewise if your audience is standing set the screens high enough to be visible above the crowd and always make sure there’s enough audio speakers so that even the gang down the back can hear everything clearly.
Cocktail Party Entertainment
Before selecting your cocktail party entertainment refocus on your event objectives. If networking is everything then keep it short and highly engaging. But don’t just think about an attention grabbing show – often its just about choosing live background music to set the right atmosphere, using roving acts to interact with guests, or adding some games or activities that foster networking and engagement between the guests themselves.
And remember that for a standing party crowd a feature act or performance should only last 10-20 minutes per set and be totally appropriate to your guest’s tastes.
Cocktail Parties – the final say
Well-orchestrated cocktail parties will always provide an excellent opportunity to foster networking and promote interaction between guests and can be very effective in building your brand. While timing, venue selection, space layout, appropriate entertainment and engaging presentations are all key elements in creating a great cocktail party there’s one even more important ingredient – the hosts.
It may be your event or your companies’ event but unfortunately if clients are present then this event is not actually about you and its success will not be about how much you enjoyed the night. It’s always, always, always about the guests and their experiences so don’t spend the night huddled in the corner with your colleagues. Set the tone, be the example, and spend the night engaging with them – after all wasn’t that why you invited them!
Even better engage Instinct Events to manage your cocktail party and you’ll be free to spend the whole night with your guests!