Planning the perfect office holiday party is a tightrope walk. What seems like an innocent party can be rife with potential for disaster on a professional level. As the organizer, you will be under the spotlight to perform this feat, on time and under budget. There are a few steps between success and failure. That’s a lot of pressure.
Your focus is your guests’ happiness. Our focus, as always, is to help you achieve your goals. So let’s look at some of the most time-tested, reliable tips in party planning that will help you impress your guests with ease and still leave time for you to revel in your own success.
Impress the management team and coworkers with these practical and cost-saving tips for improving any holiday office party.
11 tips for the BEST HOLIDAY PARTY EVER!
1. Figure out whether you have input as to where it will be held
Some companies insist upon the event occurring at their office, while others have always used the same country club and have a standing reservation with them. If you have options, a cool venue can make a big impression but book early because they fill up fast.
Cost-savings tip: A non-traditional venue like an outdoor space, or another spot that won’t get priced higher because of the holiday, can be a good option. However, if you choose a non-traditional venue you’ll likely be in charge of bringing things you wouldn’t have to with your average hotel ballroom such as seating, tables, dishes, cutlery, and AV equipment. Make sure you also follow any licensing laws for the space.
2. Nail down the date as early as possible
There are only so many days preceding the holidays and many businesses in town are competing with you for space. If you haven’t started organizing your event, get started now.
Not only are you competing for space but you have employees’ calendars to be concerned about as well. They likely have obligations at this time of year outside of the company party. Send out a ‘save the date’ email if you know the date more than two months out. Otherwise, secure the venue and tell employees about the timing as soon as it’s confirmed.
Cost-savings tip: Book early and if you have a future event that you could use the space for in the upcoming year, see if the venue will give you a discount if you book them both at the same time. If they say they can’t discount for the holidays, see if they’ll discount your later event instead.
3. Decide whether you need a committee to help
Not only do many hands make for light work, but some holiday helpers can bring additional ideas to the table. Including others makes them feel part of the process. It’s engaging and they’ll be more likely to support something they helped build. Not to mention, they’ll attend and insist that all their coworkers and friends do the same.
If you’re using an event management platform, you can manage administrator access on the back-end and assign permissions as required for each role on your committee.
Cost-savings tip: People on your committee may have connections that could help you negotiate a good deal. Brainstorm possibilities including venue, food, decor, entertainment, etc.
4. Select a theme and decor
Yes, your holiday party will already have a holiday theme but why not add another theme for a more memorable experience? You can use a silly theme like an ugly Christmas sweater contest or a much more serious one like future company growth and innovation. Themes can be fun ways to organize menus, select entertainment, and swag.
Cost-savings tip: Use a theme you already have decor for or can quickly put together.
5. Build the guest list; work with food and beverage
Know your headcount and who will be included. Will partners be invited? What about employees from other offices? Some companies invite loyal customers or prospective big accounts as well. Find out exactly who should be included so you can secure a caterer quickly. Don’t assume it’s an employee-only function unless you’re told so. If it is, are guests invited? What about families?
Once you’ve gotten a preliminary headcount, secure your caterer. Like venues, the good ones book up fast. Keep in mind that you may have special food needs like vegan or gluten-free needs. Talk to your caterer about drink options. There are many budget-friendly ways to minimize the expense behind this. You’ll also want to work with your risk assessment person to understand your insurance liabilities, or create your own, particularly if you’re hosting the event on-site.
Cost-savings tip: Serve tapas or starters instead of a sit-down meal. Use a cash bar with a few free drink tickets instead of an open bar for hours. You can also host the holiday event at a time where food is less expensive, like breakfast or lunch, versus dinner.
6. Send invites and manage the guest list
You’ll minimize your administrative headaches if you use technology for the registration process. Send e-invites and manage them through an online event management platform. Allow others to see who has RSVP’d. When people see friends and those they want to network with as part of the group in attendance, they’ll likely sign up as well.
Cost-savings tip: Go electronic, ditch the paper invites and paper table plan. You can handle both of these with an app/software. While there will be a cost associated with the app, you likely can use it for other areas of your company or for other events. The cost may also be offset by the amount of time it saves you or the value behind engaging your attendees in a more effective way.
7. Select the entertainment
There are many options: a band, DJ, comedians, dancers, etc. You may also be surprised just how entertaining your own coworkers can be. Karaoke, anyone? I’m thinking about an Evenium’s Got Talent for this year.
Cost-savings tip: Check with local schools that may have groups that are just getting started in their profession or those who do it on the side. As mentioned earlier, your event committee may also know someone who can provide discounted services.
8. Include photo opportunities
People love to take and share photos. If you outfit your event with photo ops and props and designate a hashtag for attendee use, the sharing could potentially result in greater interest in your business. If you have an event app, you can activate the photo wall widget to add to your corporate holiday ambiance. Another option is using a professional photographer to take formal pictures of those who would like it and give them a print or the file. Many working parents have few pictures of themselves in their holiday finest.
Cost-savings tip: Make your own props (or ask your design team to do it) and take your own pictures. Make sure your employees have signed a media release so you may use their picture. Share these photos with your marketing department or whoever does social media for the organization. These images alone could provide content for a few weeks around the holidays.
9. Organize “thank you” speeches
Someone from the leadership team should thank the employees for their efforts for that year. Some companies use this time to give bonuses, awards, or company swag.
Cost-savings tip: For speeches, you’ll most likely need a mic at the very least. Check with your venue on an AV package. Find out if they allow outside AV companies to come in as well. You may get a better price by shopping around for your AV needs but it’s important to know ahead of time if that is allowed.
10. Create an experience
Do something memorable by making your attendees feel good and appreciated.You can do this by catering to their needs by offering something like free on-site dependent care. Now, no one has to worry about lining up a sitter around the holidays. Or add games to your holiday festivities. Check out our Pinterest board for additional information on Christmas party games, decor, and more.
Cost-savings tip: Booking sitters through an agency will ensure they are background checked and you may also be able to negotiate a better rate if you’re hiring several for the evening.
11. Make an impression with tech
A holiday party is the perfect time to wow with tech. If your budget allows, try something unique like projection mapping. It can make a big impression.
Remember that ugly sweater contest we mentioned earlier? An app provides a fun way to vote for the winner. With live polling, attendees can vote for their favorite company moments of the year, future company party ideas, and more.
Another fun option is creating a photo wall of attendee curated pictures of your event. No more waiting for a marketing person to upload photos. Now your guests can do it seconds after they take them. These photos will likely become part of the holiday party entertainment, especially as the night wears on!
Cost-savings tip: If you’re going to splurge on something like projection mapping but can’t afford a big-budget Hollywood production, use it in an area that will get lots of notice like the entrance or near the food.
To save money on an app, make sure you’re clear on what each option does. Sometimes an all-inclusive pricing option is less expensive than a cafeteria-style choice plan if you will be using all of the interactive features. If the tool helps you create a culture of engaged employees who enjoy working together, the ROI could include higher quality candidates being attracted to your organization and less employee turnover in the future.
Whether you’re new to event planning and nominated to organize this year’s festivities or you’ve done it before and want to make this event the best ever, concentrate your efforts on providing the biggest experience possible for the budget. Partygoers will ultimately forget most of the meal you painstakingly chose but how you made them feel at the party will resonate with them throughout next year.
Holiday parties are an excellent time to make employees feel valued and a part of something larger than themselves. If you don’t seize this opportunity to show them something special, you’ll miss out on a moment to impress them and connect with them.