Creating an event to celebrate 25 years

We know how to hold a party so we were delighted to be asked by Focus LLP to organise an event to celebrate their 25th anniversary. The celebration for 250 guests was held at Rhodes House in Oxford on 7th July 2016. Guests were treated to champagne and fine dining followed by the very best entertainment with music filling the rooms all night long. The event was a complete success with the client stating that it totally exceeded their expectations.

Of course, corporate events are a little different to personal parties and attention to detail is the key, so we worked to a 10-point checklist to make sure that every aspect was just perfect.

  1. Planning: Give yourself enough time to plan, research, book suppliers before the event date. We started planning the Focus party almost 6 months before the actual event. Walk through the event in the guests eyes, from the moment they arrive to when they leave - who will greet them, who will take their coats, who will show them to the event, who will serve them drinks, how many drinks will they have, what will keep them entertained and make them smile - ultimately think about the whole experience you want guests to take in, and what you need to do to make that happen.
  2. Budget: Set a realistic budget and keep it updated throughout the planning process as suppliers are booked.  Ensure that you always let the person who holds the purse strings aware of any changes to the budget so there are no nasty surprises when it comes to paying the bills. Always allow a slush fund for those little extras that almost always come along to add that special touch to the event.
  3. Venue: Find a venue that reflects the occasion, has the capacity for the number of guests and provides everything that your event might need. One of Focus’s requests was for a summer reception outside in a WOW venue that could progress inside for eating and dancing. After site visits with many venues, we chose Rhodes House in Oxford, which has a stunning garden, plenty of internal rooms, the ability to comfortably hold over 250  guests, a PA system and an excellent events manager who we could liaise with and we felt confident would help deliver the event in the right way.
  4. Food and drink: Work with a caterer who understands your requirements, can inspire and delight with their culinary creations and can deliver perfectly on the night so that you don’t have to worry. Ensure you meet them face to face and run through your requirements, and follow up with regular meetings so that you are completely clear and comfortable with the dining experience being offered. Oxford Fine Dining were the perfect partners for the Focus party as they are highly experienced in event catering and were full of ideas that we could narrow down and share with the client. We were confident of their ability to run the bars, the drinks and the food whilst interacting with the guests impeccably.  
  5. Guest list and invitations: Decide who you want to invite, and always work on 10% not being able to make it on the night. Send out the invites in good time – this largely depends on the type of event but some people can get booked up months in advance, particularly if the event is over the Christmas season. Ensure the design of the invitation is in line with your companies branding and messaging and also communicates the purpose of the event. Postal invitations have a more personal feel rather than an emailed invite, and we would strongly suggest you follow up with an email and / or phone call to ensure guests received the invite and that you can determine numbers. Agree who is coordinating the RSVP’s and get regular updates as to acceptances, so that you can invite more people if necessary to hit the numbers.
  6. Entertainment: From speeches to magicians, bands to background music, there needs to be a schedule of entertainment from the moment guests arrive to the moment they leave. Ensure you have spoken to each of the entertainers and that they are fully briefed on what is expected of them throughout the night. Also, don’t forget to share telephone just in case an entertainer urgently needs to get hold of you.
  7. Branding: Do you want your branding to be subtle or bold? Can you find different ways of branding that has a wow factor for guests? Using FOCUS25 is 1.5m high letter lights made a real statement at the Focus event as did the branded ribbon on the flower arrangements.
  8. Little things make all the difference:  Try to think outside the box about what little things would make a big difference at your event. For example, the wives of the 6 partners at Focus really appreciated the bouquets that they received as thank you for their 25 years of support.
  9. Last minute hitches: Keep calm and carry on! Remember, it’s only you and not the guests who know if something isn’t quite in the place you intended it to be in or that the food is served 10 minutes early or that the speeches are 5 minutes longer than planned.
  10. Event managers: for you to be able to enjoy your own event, it is good to have event managers there on the night to operate behind the scenes, liaising with the venue, the caterers, the entertainers and you, the organisers, to ensure that your event exceeds all your expectations and those of your guests.

Planning an event whether it be a party, a conference or a ball takes a considerable amount of time, requires good project management and a great deal of inspiration, passion and flair all of which we have in abundance, so call us on 01865 883578 if you are planning an event and need an event manager – as we said, we love a good party – especially when they exceed expectations!

"What a great night, a truly memorable evening enjoyed by everyone. We’ve had so many emails say they had a great time. Jo and Rachel did such a fantastic job!” Nick Jones, Focus LLP

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