Craft cocktails, long tables and dancing lions: Vancouver’s trendiest corporate events

Director of events at Shangri-La Hotel, Vancouver shares what’s popular in the party world 

Corporate parties are much more than just a meal and evening out—it’s an opportunity to bring the team together, employees and clients alike, and strengthen relationships while celebrating the company’s achievements.

Food and beverages will always be a central part of the equation but there are countless ways to plan the perfect event. Like anything else in life, from fashion to technology, there are certain trends and must-haves not to be missed in the party-planning world.

Stephanie Lou-Hing, the director of events at Shangri-La Hotel, Vancouver has her finger on the pulse when it comes to what is trending for corporate parties and how to create a successful event.

“It depends on the client and what they are looking for, of course,” Lou-Hing said. “Especially here in Vancouver, it’s not such a formal affair. They want a different kind of atmosphere and a celebration instead of a traditional sit-down dinner.”

Customizable dinners

Sit-down dinners can be the right choice for an event, Lou-Hing added, but it’s important to know how to customize the meal so it’s the perfect fit for the occasion.

Seating arrangements can significantly change the atmosphere. Long-table dinners create a much more intimate experience than the traditional eight seats circling a round table.

Mixing and matching the menu also makes all the difference to creating an individually customized experience. At Shangri-La Hotel, Vancouver, Lou-Hing said, being able to plan the menu directly with the kitchen means that clients and chefs can come together to work out an impeccable menu.

“The majority of our menus, about 90 per cent, are customizable in some way,” she said. “It allows for so much creativity, our chefs are able to take an idea and put it on a plate.”

Casual, fun vibes

One of the big questions when planning a party, Lou-Hing said, is deciding whether to have a traditional seated, plated meal or instead opting for the more casual, ever popular cocktail reception.

“Cocktail receptions offer a different vibe,” she said. “It allows for more networking and it’s more like a party.”

The kind of party depends on the guests, of course. For some, this means a dance floor and a DJ.

For others, this can mean a themed party like Shangri-La Hotel, Vancouver’s “Shanghai Nights” that have special food stations with Dim Sum carts and barbecue pork baos, lucky envelop handouts and traditional lion dancers.

At a cocktail reception, guests can mingle and the conversation flows effortlessly. Experiential beverage stations, where mixologists create and taste-test different botanical infusions and craft cocktails, take indulging to the next level. 

Lou-Hing was quick to point out that cocktail parties aren’t only about the drinks.

“To get over the misconception that cocktail parties don’t offer enough food, we combine canapés, food stations, and dessert stations so it really replaces dinner,” she said.

Drink stations and the long buffet tables are a huge hit with social media-savvy guests, Lou-Hing said, and make for the perfect Instagrammable snap. For those less keen on selfies, she said, there is always the option of team photo stations to capture the moment.

Giving back after an unforgettable night

One of the most dramatic shifts in party trends is the desire to share the company’s good fortune with others at the end of the night.

“We’re finding that our clients are really looking for a way to give back to the community,” Lou-Hing said.

To help guests go beyond the standard “leave a can of food at the door” donations, Shangri-La Hotel, Vancouver has pledged to donate five per cent of the event spending to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.

Giving back makes the night all the more unforgettable.