Menu Close

How to Really Mess Up a Corporate Event

How to Really Mess Up a Corporate Event

The internet is full of advice on how to design a great corporate event. You know the kind, one that attendees clamor to attend, transportation runs on time, on-site staff and vendors are professional and helpful, and everyone has a blast. But how boring, right? How about some information on how to mess up a corporate event?

First, vendors, don’t even show up

To really wreck an event, the best thing is for vendors to commit and then not come. After all, that’s the greatest fear of every planner—that the vendors she so carefully researched, vetted, and contracted, simply won’t come to her event. That there will be an empty spot where the tequila tasting booth was supposed to have been. That the photographer who should have been circulating around and snapping pics won’t show. Or that the DJ she’d hired to play background music will flake out.
There’s no better way to kill the event. Just imagine the poor event planner, glancing at her watch every thirty seconds, getting more and more freaked out as the time ticks away and you still aren’t there.
Have you ever had a vendor not show?

Or be really hard to deal with

Be a prima donna if you do come. Say the planner’s set up some tables for your buffet, but you don’t like the color of the runners.

“That won’t do at all, have your people find something in fuchsia.”

If the schedule’s running a little late, insist on keeping to the timetable even if it inconveniences everyone else.

“You said the buses would be here by 6:45, and it’s past 7:00. We’re going to take a break and resume our mime activities once dinner’s served.”

If you’re a musician providing background music, make sure to turn up your sound system so loud that the people at the cocktail tables in front of you during the networking segment can’t network. If the client or planner asks you to turn it down, give a sarcastic smirk and nudge the volume from 11 to 10.

How to Really Mess Up a Corporate Event
I’ll turn it down to 10, that’ll make a big difference

Dress poorly, that always works

In my line of work as a guitarist, destination management companies and agencies often ask me to dress all in black. I’m not sure if this is a vestige of when musicians wore tuxedos, because it’s slimming, or to hide food stains. In any case, if I wanted to give stress to my planner, I could choose to wear whatever I wanted. Maybe some faded black jeans with white tube socks, if I wanted to be passive aggressive.

Some other nifty outfits to sabotage a corporate event:
1. sexy mini-skirt showing lots of leg—especially inappropriate since I’m a guy
2. Renaissance Faire pirate shirt
3. brown shoes with black pants (the horror!)
4. a T-shirt and black jeans to a black-tie soirée
5. wrinkled wash’n’wear outfits inundated with cigarette smoke and body odor

How to Really Mess Up a Corporate Event
I’m told this is appropriate in some places, but not all.

Care to share any sartorial horror stories?

Bring crappy gear that you don’t even know how to use

Nothing puts a tawdry stamp on an event like vendors bringing cheap, damaged, or jury-rigged gear and then displaying they have little experience in its use. The classic error is for the AV guy or musician to generate an ear-piercing squeal of feedback during moments designed to be elegant or classy. Smooth move. Nothing wrecks confidence in the planner or venue like if the attendees notice ant-like activity and a fire extinguisher around the chafing dishes or the distinctive, insect-like clicking of people trying to turn on propane heaters and repeatedly failing.

Another greatest hit of gear failure is the gal who brings out her projector and hooks it up to her laptop once a year. People have already started mingling, but there she is, frantically adjusting the little legs on the projector, connecting and disconnecting lots of messy cables, in a race against time to get her PowerPoint presentation online before 7:15 PM like it says on the itinerary.

Professionals buy sturdy, purpose-built equipment that helps them do their job efficiently. It’s often painted black and has a solid, businesslike look distinct from consumer-grade stuff. While it may be worn, maybe even a bit dinged from years of service, copious amounts of duct tape holding it together shouldn’t be evident. And by the way, that stuff that pros use to tape down cables for neatness and safety is gaffer’s tape, not duct tape!

Help yourself to the buffet, ideally before the attendees

Corporate events are, let’s face it, a bit corporate. Professional and neat, with all the rough edges of life hidden away. People want their vendors clean and sparkly when it’s time to be seen, but at other times, they should be invisible. A great time to disrupt this unspoken rule is dinnertime. Go help yourself to the buffet, right as the caterers lift up the lids to reveal the fresh, steaming goodness of dozens of untouched chicken breasts. As a vendor bent on messing up your event, go ahead and grab a plate. Dig right in… Planners at corporate events love to see the help eating up food that was ordered for the guests.

How to Really Mess Up a Corporate Event
Stay away from the buffet, vendors!

Not messing up corporate events since 2004

Having performed at the finest venues in Arizona for many years, I’ve observed many of these worst practices. Sometimes it’s hard to understand just how these mistakes are made. Often it’s inexperience; other times, laziness. But one thing is certain: The vendors who do it right consistently blend in to give your attendees a smooth, cohesive, and high quality event, the kind that encourages experiences that are memorable for all the right reasons. Please get in touch if you’d like someone on board who won’t mess up your corporate event!