Planning a corporate event can seem like a headache (and an expensive one at that), but with thrifty new trends in event planning, guests can have their steak and eat it too.

With myriad location choices in the Tristate, companies must first decide what assets they need in a venue. Many include budget-friendly food, technology and amenity options at an all-inclusive price.

“Everyone’s trying to do more with less and get more value out of the experience. It’s important to make sure to keep things all-inclusive when planning an event. Event planners are often willing to work with people’s budgets,” says Marianne Cafaro, director of private event sales for TRIO Bistro and Embers restaurants.

Another essential first step is deciding between large and small venues. Cafaro credits her establishments’ smaller sizes with their attention to detail, ability to deal with crises, and accommodation to customer needs. On the other hand, larger venues can allow for
customizable spaces, which is a recent option for business events.

“One of the big trends for corporate events is making them more interactive. It’s not just the old-fashioned sit-and-listen meetings. We see a lot more breakout sessions and having separate rooms for meeting, eating and small group interaction,” says Jennifer Clarke, an event sales manager for Manor House Banquet and Conference Center in Mason.

Once a group decides on the ideal location, the needs of hungry workers should be considered. While corporate events of the past went all out with showy, decadent meals, that isn’t necessarily the case today.

Cafaro says event planners can work with budgets and still create impressive meals, though it might mean serving 8-ounce steaks over their 14-ounce counterparts (waistlines and wallets can rejoice at that). Adding crab and asparagus is a favorite way to upgrade their appeal.

More companies are choosing to serve sushi, which gives a high-end flair at a cost-effective price. Sea bass is another popular option, as it makes the menu feel trendy and expensive, giving a perceived value for guests, Cafaro says.

For daytime events, Clarke sees people leaning toward continental breakfast buffets, healthy lunch options and filling snacks. The Manor House’s “Energy Burst” snack offers trail mix, fresh fruit and energy bars.

Technology is another crucial element to a corporate event’s success. It is important to check with a venue before booking to make sure they include technology setup as a service. No one wants to worry about how to hook up a projector while simultaneously preparing for a presentation.

“We get a lot of requests for teleconferencing and Skype setups,” Cafaro adds. “This is an inexpensive option, because instead of flying someone in from London for a presentation, they can do it virtually. It saves companies money, and it’s also a green option.”

Additional amenities that might be included are transportation, decorations, outdoor spaces and bar options. Many sites already have attractive décor built in, such as the crystal chandeliers, wooden bars, fountain and gardens at the Manor House. These attractive details save money on added decorations for companies.

Finally, when choosing a date for the event, consider an “off time.” Booking during the week instead of the weekend can save you money. Depending on the venue, weekend events can be in higher competition with weddings, making for a costlier booking.

With all these details taken care of, companies can focus on enjoying and learning from their events. While the trends point toward penny pinching, there’s no reason to skimp on style for corporate events this year.