How to Plan the Perfect Office Holiday Party
We all have been to a company holiday party. Depending on the size of your company, these festivities may be a gathering of all employees in the biggest conference room with pizza and soft drinks, or they may be a gala event in a posh downtown hotel. Either way, someone worked hard on making the arrangements for the event. Keeping tips like these in mind when planning your own holiday party can spell the difference between it being a memorable success or a failure best soon forgotten.
First, decide if you want your party to have a theme, and pick one if so. Since you are planning a holiday party, your choices for the theme may of course be somewhat limited. However, that does not mean you have no room for creativity. For example, if your company just passed a milestone in sales or entered a new market, you might incorporate that fact into the theme of the New Year, signifying new beginnings for the company and all its employees. If yours is a tire or car company, a “Drive into the New Year” theme might work. Be imaginative and try to integrate your holiday party ideas to the business in an optimistic way.
While you are developing your party’s theme, you should also decide whether the party will include a gift exchange. Many companies use the party itself as a gift to the employees, but a small gift exchange can be offered as well for those who want to participate. If you wish, you can also make it mandatory that gift values not exceed a certain dollar amount.
As part of the theme, you might set up games in which employees can win prizes. One or two games, perhaps trivia or something modeled off a television game show, can be a good way to get people involved in the party.
No matter what theme you choose to build your party around, remember to be careful about using any overtly religious themes – unless, of course, your business is of a religious context. One of the quickest ways to offend people is to exclude some people’s beliefs while promoting others’.
You will likely have a dollar amount given to you when you accept the challenge of organizing your company party. How to make the best use of that money, however, will be up to you. For example, you will have to decide whether high-end food is less important than quality alcohol to your co-workers, or whether your crowd would appreciate live entertainment more than a DJ.
Factors you will have to consider when planning your budget include food, entertainment, room reservations, alcohol, security, catering, decorations and parking. Create a rough estimate of how much money to allocate to each area. You can adjust your allocations later as you reach the finalization stages of your planning.
Now that you know how much money you can spend, the next point to consider is the actual location for your party. Decide whether you want to have the party at the office itself, or at a restaurant, a bar, a convention center or a hotel. If you have the budget and you really want to wow your coworkers, check out some unique holiday venues. For example, a trip to Keystone, Colorado with skiing for everyone and a holiday dinner in a mountain chalet might dazzle your cohorts. Or perhaps renting one of the dinner cruise ships for the evening from Chicago’s Navy Pier would be more appreciated. For something a bit less extravagant, you could always reserve some or all of the lanes at a local bowling alley for the party.
If possible, ask someone in your company about how previous parties have been run. If your company has a tradition of going to the same place every year, perhaps you can hold the party at that location but add a new and interesting theme to the event this year. Be creative, but work within your budget and think of the preferences of the company as a whole when planning.
A good idea is to pick three choices of venue before heading out to look at them. When touring the venues, find out the answers to questions like these:
- What hours can you legally serve alcohol and do you need a license?
- Will you need to hire a licensed bartender or is one provided?
- Is security necessary? If so, should you hire your own or is it provided?
- Is free parking available?
- Do you need to hire a cleaning crew?
- Is there a penalty for not cleaning up after the party?
- How long you have access to the venue?
- How long before and after you does someone else have access to the venue?
Your choice of venue may eliminate some of these concerns. For example, if you choose to have the party at a local restaurant, the servers are provided, as is the parking, bartending and cleanup. This can be a significant cost-saving option and can make more money available for office awards, gifts or entertainment.
You may also opt to have the party during the workday. A catered lunch provided during the work day can be a welcome break. Depending on the culture of your company, this might even be a preferred option to a separate event. Many employees see this is a two-for-one deal; a long lunch or maybe even the whole afternoon off and a free meal. This type of corporate party may even foster more inter-department teamwork than a night-time party where employees generally socialize at the event with their family and close co-workers and friends. Of course, the downside to a mid-day holiday office party is that some employees may have to work through it; however, you can make your best effort to stagger shifts with other employees so everyone can spend at least a little while at the party. If you do have the party during the work day, it might be a good idea to also give outdoor prizes or gifts to everyone to make them feel like they are getting something a bit more special than just a meal at the office.
Once you have selected a venue, sign the paperwork and make any necessary deposit or final payment. Be sure you thoroughly understand the contract before sighing it, and keep a copy for yourself afterwards.
You will need to work out the contract details with any other vendors you may need as well. For example, if you are reserving a conference room at a hotel and the hotel does not provide food, catering or bartending, you will need to contract for those services separately. You might also need to sign a contract with the entertainment provider or providers. You may not be able to provide specifics to the food provider until you have received all the RSVP’s to your invitation. At that point, solidify the contract details. A photographer or videographer should also be contracted if you want high quality photos and/or video of the event.
You must consider several unique issues when choosing the menu for your company’s holiday party. First, many people deal with food allergies, some of which can be very serious and even life threatening. It might be a good idea to send out an email asking if anyone has any dietary restrictions prior to planning the party menu.
Another option is to offer a choice of dinners and have attendees specify which meal they would prefer when they accept the party invitation, along with the number of guests they will be bringing. A choice between a chicken and a beef dish is typical, but feel free to expand on that or change it according to your specific employees.
You might also have employees document any food allergies on the accepted invitation and collect the data that way. Once you know how many guests you are expecting, it is a good idea to add ten percent to that number to accommodate any last minute attendees or extra guests. This allows you to solidify the food budget and confirm all relevant details with the restaurant or caterer.
What is your attitude toward your office's annual holiday party?
Corporate holiday parties can be a ton of fun, giving everyone a chance to see their bosses and co-workers in a different light – even if the party is in the office, since the environment is more casual and employees are encouraged to relax and let loose. But, as you can see, many, many details go into creating a successful party. Planning and executing a successful holiday party is not that much different from planning a wedding, a baby shower or any other major event. With a little time and effort, your next office holiday party is sure to be a massive success.