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Lifestyle : Party and Event Planning Special Report 2013
1HERSA1 W003 Take special occasions to greater heights at Altitude Restaurant on Level 36 at Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney. There is no other sight quite like the panoramic views of Sydney harbour from our signature restaurant. Contact our events team today to explore the possibilities for your next event. 176 Cumberland Street, The Rocks Sydney, NSW 2000 Australia email@example.com www.shangri-la.com/sydney 02 9250 6057 THE SUN-HERALD SUNDAY, MARCH 31, 2013 3 Party & event planning Firms slice costs, not creativity Thinking big: A corporate Christmas party at Sydney Town Hall. Companies may have reined in their spending -- but they can still make a bold impression, writes Belinda Parkes. Times are tough in the corporate world. It shows in the way companies dispense their largesse. Still feeling the effects of the global financial crisis, many corporations are caught in a bind: how much hospitality should they extend to key clients and staff without giving the appearance of extravagance? Some companies are responding by adopting a more strategic approach, such as shouting clients they know have a passion for food and wine to a night at a high-class restaurant, or organising a corporate box at the Melbourne Cup for a group known to enjoy a punt or with a penchant for being seen in the social pages. But even in a tough economic environment, the need to look after staff and clients is seen as critical. Award-winning corporate event manager Mark Taylor of Belle-Laide Events has seen a trend towards cost-cutting. The all-in company Christmas party, for example, has been turned into a series of smaller departmental events -- yet he believes the disadvantages of this approach outweigh the benefits. Taylor says larger events have greater impact -- and staging smaller, independent events means some costs are duplicated. "Think about the tone it sets off across the company too," warns Taylor. "The all-eggs-in-one-basket could be a better approach." Some companies are reducing the number of events they have each year or are trying different approaches, such as making the annual Christmas party a biennial event or holding a corporate family day to recognise it is not just employees who deserve a reward for the hard work invested during the year. "For the majority of our clients it is pretty much business as usual," says Taylor who has hosted events over the past few years with budgets ranging from $10,000 to $1 million. "If anything, staff and client recognition is more important than ever,"hesays. "If you are trying to maintain image, maintain morale and inspire clients then stripping these areas of the business undoubtedly sets a tone across the business, inside and out." He says many clients are fiercely hanging on to their events but working harder to add value and justify them to senior management. Luna Park's general manager of sales, James Granter, says its corporate party business has been growing each year in spite of the economic slowdown. "The biggest change I've noticed is, increasingly, when booking, companies are looking for a full- service venue so they understand exactly what the costs will be rather than using different suppliers." He says a VIP client package, where companies use Luna Park to run all their events throughout the year -- from the start-of-year sales conference to an exhibition and even an internal senior management meeting at the company's own head office -- has given corporations a cost-effective solution to their belt- tightening. Christmas parties continue to flourish, says Granter. Like Taylor, he has also noticed more families included in end-of-year celebrations as a reward for the challenges employees have in maintaining a work-life balance. "The Christmas parties we have here are not about being lavish but providing something of value and a unique experience," he says. And a good event, he adds, also takes care of the guests' needs before and after the function -- whether it be easy access to transport or somewhere to carry on networking once the party is over. For Taylor, the key elements to get right, regardless of budget, are venue, food and drinks. The amount and type of entertainment are probably the first areas to look at when finances shrink. He says capturing people on arrival at the venue with a striking installation, welcome signage or feature piece can set the tone and may only need to be followed up with smaller pockets of activity and entertainment inside. What you shouldn't do, he says, is scrimp on the audiovisual presentation, which may look costly on paper but is often crucial in delivering key messages to guests. "If the look and feel of a space is in line with the event requirements, the decor, theme and layers of special touches can be minimised yet the space overall just looks a million dollars," says Taylor. "Nothing is worse than a pre- booked hotel ballroom and a request to turn it into a Mexican fiesta."
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