How Do I Make My Company Holiday Party Inclusive & Engaging? holiday party ideas NYC

It’s that time of year again, when companies large and small assign committees and individuals to oversee the planning & execution of the annual holiday party. Being a corporate entertainment vendor in NYC, TrivWorks receives many inquiries for just this sort of thing – but what I’ve noticed over the years is, the request is usually for something more than simply, “we want to have a party.”

What are people who call me up looking for? Oftentimes, they want something different – a unique holiday party idea, New York City or elsewhere. Maybe there was feedback from the masses, or perhaps the planner is new to the firm – whatever the reason, the objective is clear: let’s do something other than we’ve done for the past year, two years, ten years. No more bowling, no more DJ – let’s do something new!

Now, there’s a lot out there that’s different – but what kind of different? The next thing I’m almost always told: we want something engaging. We don’t want to have another passive activity (or no activity); rather, we want to use the annual office fest to get people out of their shells, to interact and talk with one another, get out of the day-to-day working group silos which naturally form at any company, and really get a chance to engage with one another in a fresh and meaningful way.

Oh, and one more thing: it has to be inclusive.

Everybody has to participate. EVERYBODY. From the client-facing front-line salespeople to the administrative staff, from the CEO to the interns – we’ve got folks here in their 20s and folks in their 60s, and they ALL should feel like they’re participating.

Not an easy challenge – especially for the person(s) charged with pulling the event together. However, with some ingenuity and creative thinking, it can absolutely be done!

I would suggest the following if you have been asked to plan this year’s NYC company Christmas party entertainment, if you are specifically looking for an inclusive office activity which will engage the entire group:

  • Ask the Staff What They Want – So simple to do, yet so often overlooked. Ask the constituents whom you will be entertaining directly! Whether by polling every employee, selectively reaching out to key individuals or by simply asking around informally, get in touch with the pulse of your organization’s workforce and find out: what interests them? What type of experience do they want? Maybe they’ve got some ideas or suggestions which you hadn’t even considered!
  • Think Outside the Comfort Zone – When I produce NYC team building activities using trivia, we encourage attendees to relax and not take everything so seriously. It’s the same with festive annual parties as well: get people immersed into a fun, positive environment which they are not used to being in, and your colleagues can feel more comfortable stepping out of their “work role” and just be themselves. This will naturally foster more interaction and socialization, just by being in a completely novel situation!

In my experience, the engaging part is really more about it being compelling. Will the group find this to be an awesome thing to do during the event? Will it be interesting, enjoyable and hold their attention? Will they get to literally DO something, versus just be a spectator? These are all questions you should be asking when hunting around for ideas.

Inclusive can be a bit trickier. It’s no easy thing to find one activity which EVERYONE can do, regardless of age, physical ability or number of years with the company. You will want to be particularly sensitive to cultural issues such as country of origin (stay away from American-centric pop culture if your group is heavily international), as well as age – nothing alcohol-centric like mixology for corporate groups if you’ve got a lot of underage interns to entertain.

Will you always be successful in your quest to find an activity which appeals to everybody? Of course not. Is EVERYBODY guaranteed to interact in the way which you would like? One can hope (as I do), but there’s no promises. If the decision makers are particularly traditional or risk-averse, your fresh and original idea may never even make it off the ground (I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve been told by frustrated planners that even though the committee loved the idea of a competitive office trivia party, The Boss just wants to go bowling…again).

Don’t be daunted if you or your team wants to find an interactive activity for the workplace which can be enjoyed widely by everyone in attendance. There are plenty of options out there, and you CAN make it happen – this I can absolutely guarantee!

For more information on how to plan a killer office party for the holiday season, I’ve pulled together the most practical articles from the TrivWorks blog over the years, and compiled into one helpful page – I hope you find it useful!

Click here to learn more about TrivWorks!

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