If you’ve ever seen the American version of The Office TV show, you probably remember the “Party Planning Committee.” This was a group of employees who backstabbed each other in order to gain the title of “Head of the Party Planning Committee.” In reality, not many people are that keen on spearheading the job of planning the company holiday party. As a matter of fact, the job often falls to someone with little to no experience in party planning.
Fear not, however. This article is here to provide an introductory guide to the party planning process. Specifically, this is a guide to planning a company holiday party. From inception, to venue booking, all the way to the big day, this article will walk you through the process.
The real key to planning a successful holiday party is to start right now. (Well, not right now. You can finish the rest of this article!) Starting early has numerous benefits. It allows you to book desirable venues while their dates are still flexible. It allows you to lock down caterers with enough time to poll everyone’s dietary preferences. And, crucially, it allows you some breathing room. Above all, don’t leave planning to the last minute. That’s how holiday parties get stuck at the office. And no one wants to have a company holiday party where they work.
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Creating a Viable Budget
Talk to management about your company holiday party budget. Once you’ve secured a number, begin itemizing everything you will need. Seeing as this is an introductory guide, it can’t get into the minutiae of event budgeting. However, we encourage you to check out this article from Event Manager. It details the process and provides handy budget templates. It is more about “for profit” events. However, many of the tenets and tips are still useful.
Choosing a Compelling Venue and Activity
Don’t make the same mistake as past holiday parties that opted for a conventional, conservative venue. Instead, go bold. For example, why not take everyone to axe throwing at BATL (short for Backyard Axe Throwing League)? There, everyone can let loose and let out the year’s stresses. Something like axe throwing combines a venue and an activity. This engages attendees beyond mere chitchat, which is always a good idea. Don’t be afraid to step out of the ordinary.
Floating Dates and Creating a Guest List
Once you have chosen a venue, pick a general time frame for the party. Then float the dates past your colleagues. Use a Doodle poll to gather data on which dates work best for people. Moreover, ask people to state their first, second, third (and so on) preferences. Once you have figured out the best possible date, you can make your guest list. Check with management whether plus-ones are allowed.
Booking the Company Holiday Party
With a date and a working guest list, you can strike while the iron is hot and book your venue/activity. In the worst case scenario—your venue is booked for that day—you will need to go back to the drawing board. Then, either choose a new venue or begin the whole process of polling a new date again. That’s why it is imperative that before you start floating dates, you check with the venue about general availability.
Choosing a Caterer
As dietary restrictions multiply in numbers and grow in complexity, the old order-pizza-and-it-will-be-fine mentality won’t work anymore. Where does that leave the gluten-free attendees, the lactose-intolerant attendees, or the vegan attendees? Choose a caterer, whether it be a catering company or a restaurant, that can offer a wide range of options to satisfy all possible diets.
Looping in Management
Once you have booked a venue and finalized the catering, management will want to know the general shape of the evening. That way, they can plan possible speeches, awards, team building exercises, and so on. It might be worthwhile, therefore, to draft a rough timeline of the evening. When the day rolls around, this timeline will help you keep everything moving on time, making for a smooth company holiday party.
You know your office best. Depending on the formality of the workplace, you can either go for a card, or simply stick with an email. (Increasingly, the latter mode of communication is preferred.) Let everyone know the date, the time, the venue, the dress code (if there is one), and the policy on guests.
As the Big Day Draws Near…
It’s never a bad idea to follow up. Follow up with the venue, follow up with the caterers, and, importantly, follow up with attendees to find out if you need to revise your guest list. Last-minute cancellations are an unfortunate fact of life around the holiday season, when family plans take priority.
With enough planning and proactive thought, all there is left to do on the day is to pour yourself a drink and enjoy the evening.