Tips on Planning your Corporate Event

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Laurel Sass, general manager for the Watermark 920 event and conference center, said lunch gives businesspeople the chance to build personal relationships.

Business Basics: Planning a Business Lunch

BY GARY SCOTT BEATTY, PUBLISHER AND EDITOR, MUSKEGONONLINE.NET

Eating lunch at your desk every day may gain you a reputation as an industrious worker, but you're missing out on the social advantages a good business lunch offers.

Breaking bread with potential clients remains an excellent way to network and connect with people who could help further your career, said Laurel Sass, general manager for the Watermark 920 event and conference center. "Enjoying a meal with another person creates a casual and intimate connection. Nothing beats face-to-face interaction for building positive bonds."

Sass coordinates events at the Watermark 920, including business lunches and corporate meetings. She said most of these meetings are overwhelmingly beneficial. "Hosting a business lunch can leave you vulnerable, though, if you're not prepared. Preparation is key."

Before setting up a business lunch, make sure key people are going to attend. People in prominent positions in the community are often invited to lunch meetings and they may be booked or overwhelmed with invitations. Have your pitch ready so you can clearly state the purpose of the meeting.

The invitation should also clearly state the meeting's purpose. Make sure it is clear that you, as host, are handling the check. ("Have lunch on me," or "Let us buy you lunch," not "Let's have lunch.") Make it easy for people to decline.

Be sure the location is suited to your presentation. "We always say forward-thinking ideas should be reinforced by forward-thinking surroundings," said Sass. The Watermark 920 features wireless internet, iPod docks, state-of-the-art sound system, projection capabilities and more so you can present with confidence and deliver your message with impact and style. "We not only hold your audience of 10 to 360 people, we help you hold the attention of your audience as well."

Quiet is important when you need your audience attentive. Sass said businesspeople have told her stories of restaurants with loud music, distracting crowds or long waits for tables, even with reservations.

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Food is important to the satisfaction of your guests. The Watermark 920 offers preferred caterers -- Above and Beyond, Fatty Lumpkins, Harris Hospitality, and Hearthstone -- to provide a number of options from boxed lunches to sit-down meals and buffets.

Arrive early to your event so you do not appear rushed. Go to the bathroom ahead of time. Turn off your cell phone.

If you choose to serve drinks, go easy. The three martini lunch is so '50s, and you want to be sharp for your presentation. Watermark 920 provides a variety of beverage services from water and coffee to soft drinks and juices. Several options are available from hosted bars to cash bars.

Greet your guests as they arrive and introduce them around so they feel comfortable. Don’t launch into your proposal as soon as you meet people. Enjoy casual conversation to build rapport. "I've seen everyone is having such a good time being social, the host nearly forgets he is there to make a presentation!" said Sass.

Don't eat anything too messy. You can choose to skip eating altogether and visit each table during the meal, making sure everyone is comfortable. You're not there to eat, you're there to host!

Practice your presentation so you can give it with clarity and confidence. Keep it short and be casual. If you are relaxed, your audience will also relax.

After your business lunch, write everyone, thanking them for coming and taking the time to meet with you. A mass BCC to 200 email addresses is unacceptable. Mail notes or email one at a time -- it's more personal and shows your guests you are thinking of each one of them.

A lunch meeting is an investment your business can't buy in an ad. Keeping your nose to the grindstone through lunch may actually be standing in the way of your career advancement. "We spend too much time emailing and talking on our cells these days," said Sass. "Lunch give us the chance to build personal relationships."