Believe it or not, it’s November, which means its time to start talking about the holidays. And for many event planners, that includes planning the office holiday party. We have heard time and time again the major dos and don’ts for holiday party guests (be mindful of the dress code, have fun, but not too much fun, etc.), but there are unspoken holiday party rules for planners too.
Holiday Planning Dos
- Encourage mingling: If your company is large or growing, employees may not know the people outside of their own department. Icebreakers serve as a fun activity as well as something to help people mingle. Your guests just might find a new office buddy!
- Think outside standard themes: Just because it’s the holidays, doesn’t mean “winter wonderland” is the only theme you can explore. Get creative! Repeating the same theme year after year not only gets boring but thinking outside the box will result in more engagement. Something like a casino night will get guests moving around and interacting with everyone.
- Splurge on food & beverage: F&B matters, maybe more than you think! If you are going to cut the budget somewhere, don’t cut the food and beverage. It is important to keep in mind the holiday flavors and trends and to perhaps offer a few holiday specialty drinks. Whiskey-based drinks or warm beverages such as hot toddies are great for the holiday season.
- Find a cute stocking stuffer: Everyone loves free swag. Give something that’s a little more exciting than a water bottle or stress ball, such as a portable charger, embroidered blanket or company branded headphones. These premium options feel more like a holiday gift and less like a tradeshow giveaway.
- Give back: Tis’ the season for giving! There are plenty of ways to give back this holiday season. You can have a toy drive or a silent auction at your holiday party or even better, tie it into a volunteer opportunity (volunteer during the day, party in the evening). Either way, if it benefits the less fortunate, it helps spreads the holiday cheer!
Now you know what works, here’s what doesn’t:
- Putting off planning: Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to start planning for a holiday party. Venues, restaurants, and caterers often start booking up in the middle of the year. (While it may be too late for this year) Start planning at the beginning of the summer. This way, there is room for any changes that need to be made. Having the important elements such as venue, F&B, and the music should be set in stone well before the holiday season.
- Focusing too much on decor: There are a lot of elements involved when throwing a holiday party, so don’t waste too much time on decor. Simple decor goes a long way, and things like food and music are way more memorable.
- Wasting space: Make the most out of the space you have. You want people to mingle and have fun, so formal dining at a long table probably isn’t your best bet. Set up food stations and let guests roam free. If your venue has an entry hall or outdoor area that you can utilize, use it! Set up a s’mores bar or have a custom cigar rolling station in the foyer, and if it’s not too cold, an outside area can include a fire pit or a heated smoking section.
- Overlooking customer service: Venues usually come with their own caterers and waitstaff. Make sure their staff is experienced and knowledgeable. Servers should be able to answer any questions about the food and bartenders should know how to make your specialty cocktails.
- Forgetting about safety: Keeping guests safe this holiday season should be your number one priority. Your guests want to have a good time and relax, and usually there’s an open bar, so make sure your guests get home safe. Arrange for a hotel room block and/or a shuttle service, or provide discount codes for services like Uber or Lyft.
Above all, remember that your office holiday party is meant to bring people together and spread joy while keeping everyone happy and safe. Encouraging engagement and promoting new connections in the workplace makes for a happy and productive team in the new year!
Written by: Sara Erdos