NYC Holiday Party Trends: Is Your Office Hip With the Times?

I read an article this week in BizBash, the leading media resource for the professional events industry, that I really enjoyed: “5 Trends Shaping Company Holiday Parties in 2012.” Based on their research – as well as observations from my fellow event planners/producers from around the country – this holiday season is shaping up to be quite different from any we’ve had in the past, and is likely to set a lasting trend for years to come.

Among the big findings:

  1. Huge bashes are out, intimate gatherings are in – This itself isn’t a surprise, ever since the economic meltdown hit in late 2008. But what I did find interesting was that within the event industry, these over-the-top affairs are not expected to come back at all. I suppose in their heyday, the annual holiday blowout was intended primarily to show off and flaunt success, rather than actually reward hard-working staff; this season – and I hope for many seasons following – companies are now focusing on what’s important: saying thank-you to employees for their efforts.
  1. Formal is out, informal is in – Again, no real shocker given the new budgetary realities many companies have faced since the financial crisis. The fully-seated & served dinner seems to be getting replaced by stations and passed hors d’œuvre, a trend I’ve seen up close over the past few years as it works so nicely for live trivia holiday party entertainment in NYC (people can “graze” and socialize in between rounds, rather than be stuck at their table all night).
  1. Focus is turning from company-wide to individual departments – Again, another trend I’ve noticed, and one that I like. At every monstrous firm-wide party I’ve ever been to, there’s inevitably this feeling of anonymity and even isolation as you’re thrown into a room with hundreds of people – most of whom are strangers – and just wait out the speeches before grabbing more food & leaving. By keeping the holiday party “within the family” by having it just for your department or group, it becomes that much more personal and meaningful an affair.
  1. Philanthropy is a big thing – Especially here in NYC, where the effects of Hurricane Sandy are still present, people are clamoring for ways to help out – and a huge, self-congratulatory holiday party seems to be rubbing many the wrong way. Companies want to strike that balance between rewarding employees and helping out – which is exactly why we recently committed to donating 50% of our holiday party revenue this year to charity.

I think I liked this article so much because it really reaffirmed a lot of the hunches I’ve had about the state of office holiday parties, especially in the wake of Sandy. My advice to those who are planning company holiday parties this year? Keep it simple, keep it meaningful – but most importantly, do SOMETHING – your staff deserve it!

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