As I’ve mentioned previously, office holiday parties have a bad reputation. They are either terribly boring or so boozy that it’s an HR nightmare. If you have any pride as a planner at all, you will try a little harder this year and try to prevent both scenarios. While we are well into December and many holiday parties are already planned, here are some suggestions you can try to work in at the last minute, or just start taking notes for next year.
Order more food than you think you need
Food is where most parties try to skimp and the result is a bunch of super-drunk employees who haven’t had enough to eat. That’s not to say that by providing food that people won’t still overindulge, but at least they won’t just be getting tipsy because of drinking on an empty stomach.
Think about the makeup of your employees. If your group is heavily male, order more. Especially if they are youngish and male. (Sorry to stereotype but it’s true). Do you have interns that will attend the party (you should probably rethink that if you do)? Triple or quadruple your food order. Interns that are either unpaid or underpaid will consume “free” food at an incredible high rate.
If you are in the midst of planning a holiday party of any kind, you might be worried about favors. First of all, I would think about whether you need favors at all. Holiday parties were one casualty of the economy tanking – some companies eliminated them altogether, while others scaled them down to a shadow of their former selves. If your company (or association, group, etc.) is running low on funds for the holiday party, eliminating the favors might be a good idea. Most likely your employees (or volunteers, or guests, etc.) won’t even miss them.
If you still want to proceed with a favor, consider your budget. If this is a work holiday party and the guests are employees, any money spent on lavish favors could be perceived as money that could have been given directly to the employee as a bonus – so tread carefully. If you do want to spend a lot, make sure you select something that your guests would truly appreciate, such as gift cards (which is basically like giving cash). Consider several gift options – such as a bottle of wine or a fancy cheese basket – that way people can select the item they want more.
Office holiday parties have a bad reputation. On one end, they are open-bar fueled fodder for water cooler gossip, on the other they are a dull afterthought planned by an otherwise overworked staffer. If you are tasked with planning this year’s festivities, repeat this mantra: “I can do better.”
No matter what the budget (or lack thereof) office holiday parties don’t have to so dreadful and boring. They can be classy and fun. Every party is going to be different based on location, budget and office culture and demographics, but here are some theme ideas to get you started. Keep in mind that these theme ideas are a jumping off point only – if your party is on the smaller scale, you can incorporate one or two ideas into your party to make a big impact.
For those of you who gripe about seeing holiday decorations in the mall earlier and earlier, I understand that sentiment, but you seriously need to start planning holiday parties yesterday. Well, at least if you live in a market like DC.
I started working on one of the annual holiday parties that I do this week and I feel like I’m already behind. Venues are booking up fast, caterers are as well. But more importantly, so are people’s calendars – which is the one part of planning holiday parties that is trickiest to work around.
Because while YOU are planning YOUR company’s holiday party, so is everyone else. And many people get invited to multiple parties. Holiday party planning is one giant scheduling conflict to work through.