Holiday party planning tips
It’s November, which means it’s time once again to get the annual office holiday party set up. Actually, as a corporate party entertainer in Long Beach California, I’ve been getting calls already for the past few weeks from folks who are putting their events together. It’s a busy time for you, as well as for me and my fellow vendors. Unfortunately – and I know this only too well, having been in the business over fifteen years – many of these functions, no matter how well-intentioned or carefully planned, simply don’t go as well as one would have hoped for.
Put less tactfully, they suck.
I’ve written many, many posts here on my blog over the years about how to throw a holiday party for the office. Today, as I officially make my first such post of 2016, I’d like to aggregate some of the lessons, tips, warnings and proven techniques I’ve written about in the past, into one giant, useful post. The intention here is simple: to help you, the person in charge of putting together the company Christmas party, do the best job you possibly can.
Here in no particular order, I give you: fifteen ways to ensure your event doesn’t suck!
- 1. Start Planning Early – As mentioned, holiday season is one of the most in-demand times of year for everyone and everything party related. Don’t get caught flat-footed with limited options, and wind up booking a venue or entertainer which doesn’t quite impress. Get started right now!
- 2. Know Your Budget – Very often, you’ve been delegated the task to “go find some options” for location, entertainment, food, etc. Unless you know how much you actually have at your disposal to spend, you’re likely going to have way too many options to choose from. Get some clarity from the powers that be on just how much money has been allocated.
- 3. Know Your People – Don’t select an activity, setting, format or anything else that is at odds with your group’s culture, norms, or interests. You’re going to be working too hard on this to not do something that the group will really appreciate and enjoy.
- 4. Get Help – Don’t do it alone. There is a LOT of work that goes into this, believe me – any assistance you can get, be it researching, handling administration & paperwork, going on site visits, or a zillion other things. These detains sneak up on you, and you will definitely want to have others available who can assist in a pinch.
- 5. Survey Your Attendees in Advance – This goes hand in hand with “Know Your People” above. Find out in advance: what do THEY want to do? Do they want a new and different experience, or are they expecting exactly what was done last year (and the year before, and the ten years before that?)
- 6. Be Prudent With Your Venue – By this I mean: don’t try to cram too many people into a space that’s not going to fit; by the same measure, don’t select a room so large that it feels awkward. Are you going to have a performance? It’d be best to pick a place with a stage. Will it be close by to the office? If not, arrange transportation. Bottom line: don’t just go with the cheapest option. Speaking of which…
- 7. You Get What You Pay For – Same as anything else. If you want the peace of mind that comes with hiring professional goods and services, it generally helps to not go with the least-expensive options you can find.
- 8. Make a “Run of Show” – If you want it to feel like a well-organized affair, take the time to craft a detailed agenda, with time stamps for significant elements such as load-in, sound check, guest arrival, speeches, awards, etc. Even for a small or informal event, this will help you and others planning to keep things running smoothly, as well as give the participants a sense of what to expect and when.
- 9. Give Your Attendees Something to Take Home – It’s often a given that the company will be providing something to attendees by way of food, drink and entertainment. My advice to help ensure the party is a success? Give them something more. It could be a bonus, a gift, a memento or other token. Just don’t let them leave empty-handed. They’ll want something to remind them of the great time they had.
- 10. Make it Bountiful – If feasible, make it an indulgent experience. Have lots of food, lots of beverages, lots of fun times. This is a special occasion, and you want the group to enjoy themselves! Do whatever you can to make that happen.
- 11. Don’t Give Long Speeches – Nobody enjoys them. Generally, they bring the energy of the room to a screeching halt, so keep your toasts brief and lighthearted. On that note…
- 12. Don’t Have Too Many Speakers – Same as above, no one want to hear them. Keep the pontificators at bay and only schedule 1-3 speakers at most, so people can go back to socializing and being merry.
- 13. Hold It Offsite – I realize this might not be practical for every group, but just being outside of the office in a different environment has an incredibly disarming affect on people. They will relax and let their hair down, and truly be able to enjoy the moment – as well as each other.
- 14. If Held Onsite, Make It Special – If you must hold the holiday party in the office, make whatever efforts you can to transform the space into something other than the same staid environment. Rearrange or bring in furniture, bring in a bar, DJ and/or lighting, pipe in music – anything you can think of to make it feel more fun, festive and different from the day-to-day.
- 15. Remember That the Event Reflects on You – At the end of the day, your reputation is going to be inextricably linked to how this party goes. Folks will remember what went well, and what didn’t. So be sure when planning not to cut corners, do your due diligence, make smart decisions, and ask for help when you need it.
For more useful resources on planning company holiday parties, follow this link.