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Tue 19 Apr 2016 01:30 PM

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Planning a corporate event in the UAE

With years of experience honing their skills in places as far flung as Hong Kong and New Zealand, Jane Sabugueiro and Victoria Hepworth, co-founders of Corporate Affair Event Management, brought their expertise to the Middle East. Here they share some of their top tips and words of wisdom for budding event-organisers in the region.

Planning a corporate event in the UAE
In 2012 Dubai saw the first ever UAE Corporate Rugby 7s tournament played out at the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence.

The two women behind The Zurich Corporate Touch 6s tournament advise on the checklist to follow when organising a corporate event.

Purpose of the event?

Prior to organising any kind of event, you need to have a clear idea as to how you will measure its success.

For example, is it a ‘thanks’ to clients? Is it a branding or exposure exercise? Is it for team building purposes? Or, is the main aim to make it as big as possible or, indeed, a small, exclusive VIP event?  A lot of consideration needs to go into what you want the guests to leave with, in terms of their impression, information gained and experience had.

Just as important, is how you can capitalise on the event for the future of your own business.

It could prove highly beneficial in terms of generating sales’ calls, business development opportunities, or for your own data collection. Be smart about following-up post-event as this provides a good excuse to reach out to the guests again, but only once you are clear on why you would do this and what there is to be gained from doing so.


How long is a piece of string?!

It is so easy to get carried away in this area and spend an inordinate amount of money, particularly if you are trying to impress a new client. But, the key question you should ask yourselves is, do you actually need to?

Have a clear idea of an appropriate budget to meet the objectives of the event and take it from there. Factors to consider include, the importance placed on the quality and quantity of food and beverages, and how central the brand needs to be - this will determine how much needs to be spent on branding, such as flyers, pop-up stands, gazebos, flags, and similar.

Above: Jane Sabugueiro

The ‘image’ of the event is often created by the venue you choose, so consider this as a key point of budget. Don’t forget to factor in costs for entertainment, audio-visuals, staging, invitations, and the all-important goody bags – these always go down extremely well with guests!

It is important to note how all entertainers will need permission from the DTCM (Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing) to perform. The application process is straightforward enough, but this can add significantly to the cost of an event.


First and foremost, does the venue successfully portray the image, brand and theme of the event, while also falling within budget?

Always consider where expected attendees are coming from and ensure there is easy access for all concerned. It may sounds obvious, but you will need to consider rush hour traffic and which direction people will be travelling in from the Sheikh Zayed Road.

For large events, check on the availability of valet-parking – it may seem like an unnecessary outlay, but there is nothing more frustrating that having to queue for parking prior to an event, which can also have a negative effect on the mood of the guests from the outset.

Guest List / RSVP

This has proven to be one of the most difficult areas to manage as Dubai is, on the whole, rather non-committal when it comes to event RSVPs.

We always account for a 40 percent drop out of those who have RSVP’d for events such as business conferences and seminars, but then you may get 20 percent extra turn up on the day for a sit-down dinner. Frustratingly, there really is no way of second-guessing here.

Above: Victoria Hepworth


We always keep a detailed checklist for each event and use it as our main point of reference throughout. This will include everything from what has been agreed between us and our client, to contact details of all the people we are working with.

We will always ensure we follow-up with everyone involved one-two days prior to the event, to check everything is running to plan and to discuss any last-minute changes or unforeseen issues.

Wrap up

A post-event evaluation is so important in determining what went really well and, likewise, what you would not consider doing again.

First and foremost, was it successful? If yes, why? If no, why not? Ask yourself other questions, such as, did it come in within budget? Was the client happy?

Follow-up with guests to thank them for attending and for any data-collection opportunities. Make sure you request a post-event meeting with the client. Here we always present a ‘wrap up’ report, which provides a detailed overview of the event, including feedback, ideas and discussion points regarding what we would do differently next time round. In our experience, clients really do value this and it shows your commitment to the event moving forward.


Event management is not rocket science at all, but it is incredibly time consuming and attention to detail really can make or break an event.

A successful event-manager is able to think through the running-order and pre-empt any issues that may arise, in addition to having the ability or back up to put out fires quickly if something doesn’t go to plan.

Making sure you understand exactly what the client wants and managing their expectations is key. As an event management company we plan other people’s events - they come to us for our expertise and understanding. However, at the end of the day, it is their event so they need to be happy with the plan and end result.

The Zurich Corporate Touch 6s tournament is an annual event and really is our company’s ‘baby’.

We put its success down to growing it little by little each year and having total ownership as to how we want it to work and look.

Having been to so many events, we are lucky in that we can cherry-pick the very best aspects from them and incorporate into the tournament.

We also take heed of team feedback year on year which we actively ask for and believe companies appreciate greatly.

Being run on a limited budget, the event really puts our monetary skills to the test. We need to be extremely clever about how we move forward and continue to improve the event with minimal funding.

Our challenges include: many, many moving parts, limited budget, plenty of deadlines to follow for all involved, the incredibly time consuming nature of it, chasing, chasing, and then chasing some more for responses, managing our own expectations, and keeping on top of the never-ending lists!