2 Feb 2017 | by Anthony Kelly

Simply put, a corporate event is any form of event, hospitality or social activity which is organised or funded by a business entity.

With such a broad definition, the target audience for corporate events can be equally as broad, including but not limited to:

  • Employees
  • Board members
  • Stakeholders
  • Customers / clients
  • Potential clients

Businesses organise events for many reasons, they may want to educate, reward, motivate, celebrate, mark key milestones, manage organisational change or encourage collaboration. What ever the reason may be, there is an event solution.


A recent report from 2015 suggests that the UK events industry is worth £39.1 billion with over 1,301,600 events a year, with a significant proportion of these being corporate events. As you may imagine with such a large amount of events they will take many forms. Below is a short description of the most popular formats for corporate events:




Conferences usually last for a minimum of one day and are used by businesses to provide information to a specific audience. Often used as a tool to educate and motivate attendees, they are also an opportunity to increase collaboration and engage the audience.

Conferences will often have several key note speakers and multiple breakout areas, where more in depth sessions on specific topics take place. Conferences are a popular format for corporate events as they can be adapted to suit various stake holders including employees, customers, resellers etc. They also provide an opportunity for the targeted audience to be absorbed into the brand.

Trade Shows / Exhibitions



These are large industry specific events in which businesses rent a space, within the larger event area to promote their products or services to potential customers. In some instances a business may be the overall organiser or host of an exhibition. But it is more common that businesses attend these as exhibitors. As exhibitors a business will often require promotional materials, motivated and effective sales teams, exhibition stands, a unique method of enticing and engaging attendees to your stand etc.

Awards / Gala Dinners



Whilst these are two different types of corporate event, they are often held in unison.

Awards ceremonies can be used in multiple ways. If organised by a business they can reward and motivate employees, suppliers, resellers and customers by providing awards across several categories to recognise achievements. Businesses will also regularly sponsor and enter industry awards to promote their business, improve their reputation and increase brand awareness.

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Gala dinners which usually run alongside awards ceremonies can also be organised independently for all audience groups, these are usually an opportunity to align your brand more closely with attendees and communicate a message.

Incentive Programs

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Incentive programs can often be a combination of event types linked by a teaser campaign and are most commonly targeted at employees and resellers. They may start with a sales conference, in which the sales messages and targets are communicated to the audience and allows them the opportunity to learn more about the business and the products or services.

This will then be followed by a series of communications to the attendees of a period of time usually around a year in which they are reminded of the ultimate goals and what is required to achieve them.

The program is normally concluded by an incentive travel event in which some or all of the audience are taken on an exciting and unique experience often these are once in a lifetime moments. These events can be linked together in a program as explained above or can be used independently.

Launch Events

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Launch events are pretty self explanatory and can be as simple or as complex as required. Businesses use these events to create hype and generate PR around the launch of something new including, products, services, buildings / offices etc.

They can be targeted to a varied audience, customers, press, stakeholders, employees, often mixing an educational experience with a celebration. many tactics are used to raise the profile of these events and extend the reach far beyond those in attendance.

AGM / Company Meetings

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These are typically more formal events in which key stakeholders, board members and shareholders come together to discuss business performance. Whilst many companies will keep these low key affairs, other businesses will use these as an opportunity to show off business successes and an opportunity to reward & thank shareholders.




Congresses are a cross between a conference and a trade show and are usually more topic specific. This is where specialists within a field will come to discuss their areas of expertise (they are a particularly popular format of corporate event within the healthcare & pharmaceutical sectors). Businesses will often send their employees to these for educational and fact finding purposes. They are also an opportunity for your employees to be seen as thought leaders within their field so are a great promotional tool. They often provide opportunities for businesses to exhibit, launch products and sponsor key areas.


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This is often the event type most associated with the term "corporate event" by the general public. Hospitality is usually used for rewarding, incentivising and building relationships both internally with employees and externally with customers and suppliers. It ranges from a simple dinner to VIP experiences at sporting events and music concerts. Often businesses will sponsor an event receiving hospitality packages and brand visibility across the event, this can happen on various levels, from the local rugby club or football team right through to O2 sponsoring sporting arenas.

Team Building

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Team building events are normally focused toward employees, although there are situations when they can be used for external audiences also. They usually take the format of a challenge, requiring teams to work together, in order to overcome or deliver a solution. Team building events are great for employee engagement, building moral, increasing collaboration and motivation.


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Experiential events are becoming increasingly more popular as businesses look to create a closer bond with their customers. The idea is to immerse attendees within the brand and messaging through a fun and memorable experience. By aligning positive emotions with your brand or business, customers are more likely to want to invest in your products or services as they will feel emotionally connected to them.

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Anthony Kelly

By Anthony Kelly

Head of New Business MarketingMore articles by Anthony Kelly