The Most Common Types of Corporate Events

The Top Types of Corporate Events Every Event Planner Should Know

According to Meeting Professionals International, more than $122 billion is spent annually in the U.S. meetings industry. This money is most commonly spent at resort hotels, city hotels, suburban hotels, conference centers, restaurants, country clubs, and convention centers, but at the end of the day, some of that corporate meeting money is spent at nearly every unique venue imaginable. It's no surprise then that corporate event planning and all that goes with it is big business. While some larger corporations and organizations have corporate event planners on staff or contract with an event planning agency, many others (particularly the smaller companies and organizations) simply pass along the job of planning corporate events to someone in HR or another department.

Whether at a corporate environment, association, non-profit, or government agency, the most popular corporate events typically fall into one of the following programs:

Seminars and Conferences

Conference. Chip Somodevilla / Staff / Getty Images

Purpose: Organizations plan and hold these meetings with targeted audiences, and provide them with relevant information.

Description: Seminars are usually shorter events, lasting a couple hours, ½ day, or even a whole workday. They have single or multiple speakers and generally keep all participants together in the same space. Conferences, on the other hand, typically have multiple sessions that occur concurrently that are geared toward different interests, different positions or roles, and even skill level. They are typically held at hotels, begin with a keynote session and then hold breakout sessions by topic. A conference is usually planned for at least half of a day though generally conferences span the course of one to two days or sometimes longer.

Trade Shows

Trade Show
Trade Show. Sean Gallup / Staff / Getty Images

Purpose: Organizations attend trade shows as a lead generation activity. They may also choose to host or sponsor a trade show to reinforce their image as an industry leader among those who attend, such as members, customers, prospects, and suppliers.

Description: Event planning for trade shows involves negotiating sponsorship rates for trade show booth space, advertising and promotion at the event, and sometimes speaking opportunities at the event for the leadership at your company to speak. Many logistical details exist to assure that the trade show booth, promotional materials, giveaways, and staff arrive on time for your company.

Executive Retreats and Incentive Programs

Resort. Paula Bronstein / Staff / Getty Images

Purpose: This is where the big bucks are spent on a per person basis. Executive retreats and incentive programs are often held at luxury resorts in exclusive destinations, and they receive the most visibility in an organization. Business development and organizational planning are typically the topics of the agenda, but equal weight is given to enjoyable activities as part of the original incentive and reward.

Description: Executive retreats and incentive trips typically last between three and five days and require attention to site selection, lodging, transportation, catering, business meetings, and golf and other activities. Negotiation skills must be sharp because these programs involve all aspects of event planning.

Golf Events

Golf. Stuart Franklin / Staff / Getty Images

Purpose: One favorite event at every organization is to hold its annual golf outing. Relationship management is the primary objective; however, business content must always drive event planning, not the other way around.

Description: Most golf courses prefer their clients to reserve tee times either first thing in the morning or at 1 p.m.​ if you are not renting out the course and clubhouse for the whole day. That can cause scheduling issues as it relates to the business meeting content. During the planning phase, it is important to keep internal clients on track, and not allow them to minimize the business time.

Appreciation Events

Holiday Party
Holiday Party. Adam Berry / Stringer / Getty Images

Purpose: These programs allow an event host to spend informal time with its guests in a non-traditional environment, giving both parties an opportunity to build a rapport and learn more about mutual business priorities. Appreciation events can range from programs geared toward employee appreciation to those for showing client appreciation, both of which have become a staple in corporate America.

Description: There are limitless possibilities and types of appreciation events that organizations hold throughout the year. Common programs include:

  • Dinner and theater
  • Day at the race track
  • Suites at sporting arenas
  • Day and evening cruises
  • Private parties at music festivals
  • Holiday parties
  • Tickets to the most popular events in town

Company or Organization Milestones

Purpose: Company milestones provide a business or organization the opportunity to celebrate a grand opening or other major milestone or anniversary. 

Description: Company milestone events vary significantly in their execution, but tend to follow similar programs as employee and client appreciation events. These types of events tend to be celebratory in nature and can be limited to company employees or expanded to include clients, vendors, and even the local community depending on the company's size and stature in the community.

Team Building Events

Ropes Course
Rope Course. George Frey / Stringer / Getty Images

Purpose: Team building events are meant to build upon the company's strengths while building employee confidence, goodwill, and morale. Team building events also provide the unique opportunity for employees to spend time together in a non-work environment working together to solve puzzles and complete activities. Team building events are meant to do just that - build stronger teams. 

Description: Corporate team building events have been epitomized by outdoor and physical group activities like a ropes course. In fact, there are companies all around the nation that specialize in hosting team building events in their intricate indoor and outdoor courses. That said, team building events can also focus on other types of team building activities from workshops to sensitivity training.  

Product Launch Events

Purpose: Product launch events can include internal product launch meetings to inform all employees across the company about any upcoming products to full-blown product launch parties to create a buzz surrounding the product's release among customers and the media. Product launch events are most common for business to consumer (B2C) companies.

Description: Product launch events are generally meant to generate media coverage and industry buzz prior to a product's release. The launch event may include a flashy introduction to the product along with an address from the companies most important executives. Large product launches also tend to be very much a big party with well-known guests, dinner, and entertainment depending on the industry. 

Board Meetings and Shareholder Meetings

Boardroom. Shaun Botterill / Staff / Getty Images

Purpose: Board meetings and shareholder meeting both server extremely important purposes for both private and public companies. Board meetings serve as an opportunity for board members to meet to review business performance and meet with company executives to make important decisions. Shareholder meetings, on the other hand, provide companies the opportunity to share recent performance, targets, future goals, and business strategies with its shareholders.

Description: Annual, bi-annual, or even quarterly meetings can be small internal meetings of board members or large-scale prestigious business events for shareholders that range in size depending on the size of the company and shareholder turnout.