Going on a business trip and wanting to host a networking or business event for clients, colleagues, or other industry players in their city? Follow our ultimate guide to organising an out-of-town business breakfast!
Work functions have traditionally taken the form of a business breakfast or dinner. Increasingly though, the business breakfast is gaining in popularity amongst professionals because they are:
- More informal in nature, making networking less strained
- Quicker, leaving the rest of the day free for work
- Cheaper – important in these budget-conscious times
- Easier and less time consuming to organise.
11 steps to hosting a successful business breakfast
1. Set a budget
All business networking events start with a budget! Your budget will dictate what sort of event you can host, where you can hold it, what sort of food and beverages you can serve, how many people can attend, and what corporate gifts you can give away.
2. Compile a guest list
Before you embark on your business trip, sit down and write down the names of all the people in your destination city who you would like to see at the breakfast. Your guest list can include both people you know and people you’d like to meet. Your guest wish list may have to be whittled down, in accordance with your budget, but always keep a copy of your original list. You may need to draw from these names if your A-List guests can’t attend. Nothing worse than an empty seat at a business event!
3. Select a venue
It can be challenging to find an appropriate venue in another city, particularly if you don’t know it well or have never visited. Start with the hotel where you’re staying – enquire whether they have the facilities to host a business breakfast, or if they can recommend a good venue.
If you’re staying in budget accommodation, but wish to impress your guests with a first-class event at an upmarket venue, check out some of the good hotels in town. Many have functions rooms and are geared up to host events of this nature. Check out their websites, give them a call, and chat to the in-house events co-ordinator. Ask them to email you quotations for venue hire and catering. You may even prefer to host a smaller breakfast at a good café in the city – in this case, have a look at city restaurant guides or speak to any personal contacts you may have that live there.
4. Select a date and time
This is not as straightforward as it sounds! Take into account the culture of the people and the place you’re visiting – is it a get-up-and-get-going-early type of place (like Johannesburg) or a city which prefers a more leisurely start (like Cape Town)?
Always check that the date you’ve selected isn’t a public or religious holiday, which could affect the numbers attending your business breakfast. Taking local traffic into consideration is also helpful – try and organise your event so that attendees don’t have to battle peak hour traffic.
Your venue will have several options, often based on ‘a per head’ cost. Your budget, then, will determine what you choose to serve. Remember to research and take into consideration the local customs and religions, which may present taboos on certain foods. It’s always good to have a vegetarian and vegan breakfast option for those with these personal preferences. If you elect to host a smaller business breakfast at a local café or bistro, you can allow your guests to order what they like.
6. Send out invitations
An email invitation is perfectly acceptable, although you may wish to get a graphic designer to design something professional. While having a stylish design element can create a polished image, ensure that the font is clear and all your details (venue, date, time) are legible. Don’t forget to include RSVP details – name, telephone number and email. If you can, send out your invitations three to four weeks in advance.
7. Pay deposits
If you’ve hired a venue, or booked a popular local breakfast spot, you’ll be required to make a deposit, often up to 50% of the quoted cost for venue hire and catering. Remember to pay this in good time, or risk losing your venue of choice!
8. Confirm booking and menu
A week before your event, confirm your booking with your venue. Also confirm the menu you selected to be served on the day, and any other details you may require, like special décor or table flowers. Don’t neglect to do this – venues have been known to double-book or toss a smaller booking to make way for a larger one, without letting the affected client know!
9. Confirm who’s attending
While you may have asked guests to RSVP, it’s surprising how many people wish to attend but don’t tell you they’re coming. And there’s you thinking your event was a flop! Take the RSVPs into your own hands – it’s a good idea to send a follow-up email to your invitation a week before the event, asking who’s attending and to follow that up with a phone call a few days before the actual event.
10. Confirm final numbers with your venue
The final head count may differ from what you and your venue originally discussed. That’s why it’s important to confirm final guest numbers with your venue two days before your event. Whether it’s a more formal venue which is laying on a special menu, or an informal local bistro offering a casual à la carte menu, you need to get your catering spot on – over-catering is a waste of money and under-catering will leave your guest with a bad taste in their mouth…
Arrive at your breakfast venue early and make sure that everything is running to plan. Wait in the entrance area to greet your guests, show them to the table, and make sure they get a cup of coffee, tea or juice. Once everyone is seated, thank your guests for attending and ask everyone to introduce themselves briefly.
Remember dining etiquette at all times – now is not the time to scoff down your bacon and eggs without saying a word. After some minutes of small talk and letting everyone settle, you can turn the conversation (gently) over to business. Keep things short and sweet, and be mindful of the fact that your guests are busy people with places to go and things to do.
After giving everyone an opportunity to exchange business cards, you may choose to give your guests a small goodie bag. Good corporate gifts to include are branded mouse pads, pens or caps, or even a small novelty item from your town or country, like a beaded key ring or fridge magnet – nothing too extravagant, but something to remember you by.