Much like Christmas itself, the office Christmas party is all about generating goodwill. It’s an opportunity for employers to show their appreciation to their staff for a year of hard work, and it’s an opportunity for staff to get together and bond in a relaxed environment as they close out the year.
When viewed from this perspective, planning the office Christmas party takes on a whole new meaning. It puts added pressure on event organisers to pull together an event that both reflects the organisation’s budget as well as the company’s attitude towards celebrating the contributions of its workers.
Here’s a straightforward guide to making the planning process simpler for you and the end result the most fun for everyone else.
1. It’s not rocket science – it all starts with a goal
As with anything in life, starting with a clear goal in mind can make the journey significantly easier, so the very first thing you’ll need to determine is the goal of the Christmas Party.
Now this may sound counterintuitive, but it’s important to know that the goal of a company Christmas Party can vary across organisations and industries. The best people to answer this question are the people who are paying for the event.
(a) Your employer
If it’s your employer, find out what they have in mind for the event and what sort of budget you will be working with. Your employer will either want the party to be a fairly lavish event that rewards everyone for a year of hard work, a low key event, or something in between.
If your employer hasn’t given you guidance, ask them for some specific direction.
- What is the budget?
- Will the employees be making a contribution?
- Do they want partners and children to be included?
- Does the party need to be on premises to minimise Fringe Benefits Tax?
- Do they want to offer alcohol, food, canapés or live entertainment?
- Most importantly, what sort of event do they have in mind?
(b) Your social club
Social clubs often use employee and employer contributions from throughout the year to pay for, or to subsidise, the Christmas party. So if your Christmas party is being funded and organised by a social club then your best starting point is asking fellow committee members and staff members what they want to do.
This approach leaves people feeling that they have been consulted in the planning process and that their membership fees (or the price they may end up paying for tickets) is being well spent. A common issue with asking larger groups for ideas is that reaching a consensus on party ideas can be difficult, so you may need to include a few options that a majority would be happy to attend.
The idea of a Christmas party can mean different things to many people. It can be as diverse as lavish cocktails by poolside at some swanky location, dinner and drinks at a local restaurant or a family friendly event such as a Christmas BBQ at the park. So asking the event funders for their views will make your job easier.
2. Venue Selection
Once you know what sort of Christmas party you will be organising, it’s time to start looking at venues. This is a crucial stage to organise ASAP because the earlier in the year you start, the more choices you will have available to you.
The most efficient way of sourcing suitable venues is to email them with your;
a) Total number of guests (staff, suppliers, family members etc)
b) Style of event (e.g. cocktail party, sit down dinner, dinner dance)
c) Preferred dates, and
TIP: Some companies’ book the same night each year. As a rule the first two Friday and Saturday nights in December are the most popular, so look at alternative nights of the week or having your Christmas Party in November.
(a) Finding the Right Venue for your Team and Event
Hotels are traditional venues for Christmas parties so they’re a safe choice to start with so you can get an idea of how far your budget will stretch. As noted above, disclosing your budget can save everyone time, but try and keep 15% to 20% of your total budget up your sleeve for unexpected or last minute costs.
Keeping some budget up your sleeve will save you having to say no to proposals from venues that are way beyond your budget, plus it makes it easier for venue managers to come back to you with a proposal that works within your limits.
TIP: Depending on how late you leave your planning, some venues might not have their premium rooms available, so you may need to negotiate with them to find something else that works for you, or you could consider alternative venues.
For those times when you can’t find a suitable hotel that meets your particular needs or budget, it’s worth considering ‘alternative’ venue choices such as restaurants, function centres and themed venues, as they can add that little bit of extra fun to your party.
These days, zoos, public parks, play-centres, laser tag, go-kart centres, movie theatres, boats, tourist attractions and amusement parks are all experienced at hosting Christmas parties, so give them a call or visit their websites to see what packages they can offer.
Originally published 12 February, 2016
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