6th October 2015
Dan’s 10 Easy Steps to Planning a Corporate Christmas Party
Organising the company Christmas Party can be overwhelming, especially alongside everyday responsibilities. Here at Vivid Event Group, organising Christmas Parties is our forte so to help you to ease the pressure, we have created this handy checklist.
First thing’s first, wait patiently for your CEO or manager to give you the go ahead. If this in not forth coming and you feel you and your colleagues deserve a party, start a campaign. Nothing too disruptive. Try to avoid picket lines. Maybe start with a quiet chat in the kitchen. Stress how the team have really worked well this year and an office wide event might just be the pat on the back everyone needs. They deserve it after all. It would also be another chance to see Keith from Finance cutting shapes on the dance floor. It’s been two years since Keith has had a captive audience and he needs an outlet (his office pirouettes en route to the office scanning machine are starting to be a distraction). If not for the betterment of the company morale, do it for Keith.
Then, once you have received the green light from the powers-that-be ask if you want an intimate dinner where the team get a chance to improve relations with other co-workers or a full blown themed party to say thank you and celebrate a successful year. Having a clear idea of the event objectives really helps and this will ensure the event reaches its potential.
Keith will be happy either way.
First off find out which dates the key people in your company are available, such as the CEO or board members you’ll want there. This will minimise the date being re-arranged. In order to help choose an available date for attendees, you could send a questionnaire to employees using an easy online survey tool such as Survey Monkey and simply select the most popular date.
Traditionally Thursdays in December are the dates everyone wants for corporate parties. It’s not taking up any personal weekend time and hints at an unspoken agreement - that management want you in the next day, but only to giggle and swap notes on the previous night. This is very important, as it doubles the goodwill with only the slightest dent in productivity. Fridays in December come in a close 2nd in popularity with the benefit of giving the staff a chance to explore their own sofa on Saturday. However days earlier in the week offer more flexibility. Having a few dates in mind will give you more options, especially when the key venues start to book up. If you feel you work with a sensible bunch, or those with great metabolisms you could look to booking a Monday or a Tuesday. This is where deals can be had. Good for Keith also, as he has badminton on Thursday nights.
Once you have a date for your party, send a save the date email out to employees, you may want to create a teaser to start building excitement. Don’t offer up everything straight away, as you’ll want surprises on the night. But certainly a date and time. You can come back to location and dress code at a later date, usually no more than 6 weeks out.
A bit obvious, but we understand that booking the Christmas party is an exciting task. Yes, we all want to dance with dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum, but numbers and budget might prove prohibitive. Find out how much the budget is for the party this will help to determine the type of package and venue available to you. If you are negotiating the budget with the CEO or Financial Director and feeling bold, it might be worth reminding them there is a tax allowance for staff entertainment of £150+VAT per annum. Keith will back us up on this.
It is tough to please everyone on this front, but it is safe to assume everyone will know their transport routes to and from the office, so as a location this is a good place to start. Particularly if you wish to encourage everyone to head straight to the venue from work for an early starting event. However, if your dream venue is a bit further away you could always organise unique transport such as a double decker bus or limos.
Please be mindful of everyone’s return journey so it is also important that you choose a location that is easy for your guests to get home from, especially if your party finishes in the early hours of the morning. We always advise hiring a taxi marshall to help guests return home safely. We live in an age of Uber, so less of an issue these days. Though we can assure you that you will have trouble flagging a cab on that 2nd Thursday in December. Keith lives in Balham, so he is well served by most overland train routes. Fear not.
Research undertaken by Vivid Event Group, found that the venue is one of the most important factors to a Christmas Party, and rightly so. If nothing else it will be the identifier in years to come “that time Keith finally pulled off his backflip was the year we had dinner under the Cutty Sark…..”
Take into consideration the type of company you are and the personalities of employees and senior management when choosing a venue. Likewise budget and theme. It would be a shame to stage a barn dance at the Savoy Hotel for instance (though if you would like details how to do that please get in touch).
There is a vast range of venues available for Christmas parties you might not have considered… museums, warehouses, chapels and masonic temples. Speak to your account manager here at Vivid about the hidden gems, if you want a stand out venue that will set your party apart from other companies.
Our detailed proposals can paint a realistic picture of a venue, however we always recommend site visits to any of particular interest. We call them ‘venue safaris’ and they are obviously very useful.
Once a suitable venue is selected, ask your account manager to place it on provisional hold whilst you gain approval from senior management. This will ensure you do not lose your chosen date. Key dates will get snapped up early, beware.
Once you have chosen the venue you will need to decide on the food offering, whether this is a formal seated dinner or an informal buffet or bowl food. This might seem daunting, particularly if you are going to be catering for several hundred differing tastes and culinary expectations. Speak to the caterer about the seasonal menu available or you could work with the chef to design a bespoke menu to suit your theme.
Caterers will always take dietary requirements into consideration such as vegetarian, vegan, halal or coeliac, so make sure you ask your guests if they have any special requirements. Don’t worry if you come across a very detailed and specific request, we will have before, as will the caterers and it will be given special attention. We will take care of Keith’s “nothing that had eyes” request, the chef has prepared a lovely tortellini for him. We’ll also let the service staff know where Keith is seated.
In regards to the all-important drinks, unlimited drinks packages are a great way to make sure that the bar does not run dry. Beer, house wines and soft drinks act as standard for most drinks packages, however these are often available to upgrade if you wanted to include spirits for instance. If you are keen to present guests with an open bar, we would always advise that the food menu is substantial, by way of responsibility. Make sure there are some good old fashioned carbohydrates present through the menu. They are all adults, but even the most sensible drinker will be a bit wobbly after two large glasses of white wine having been offered nothing more than a scallop.
Ask if you can try some of the upgrade wines at your menu tasting. A seasonal champagne or cocktail reception is also a great touch. If you have a theme, you might want to consider rolling this out onto the drinks menu. In addition, a great way to ensure the bar isn’t overloaded all evening is to have bottles on tables and waiter service topping up glasses when needed. If you know your team are fairly enthusiastic drinkers, be mindful of this at the point of venue selection (see 6.) and look for a lot of bar frontage. Keith loves a cider so check if that is included in the drinks package. If not we suggest you just run his drinks on account.
Christmas theming can take inspiration from both the traditional and the contemporary to transport guests to a winter wonderland or futuristic masquerade ball. Ask your account manager to send over an assortment of theming mood boards to give you some inspiration, alternatively our Vivid Pinterest page has a plethora of theming boards to keep you busy for hours. If you can think it, we can do it. Involve your committee or trusted colleagues for ideas – they will feel valued by being included. Keith will want a Star Wars theme again, but there is no need to repeat themes.
Pick out the focal points of the venue to decorate such as the entrance, pillars lit with uplighters or a stage backdrop. Impressive lighting can transform a room, and extraordinary sound systems combine to create an unbeatable party.
Providing engaging entertainment creates a real buzz among attendees. Depending on your budget, the options for entertainment are endless, ranging from circus performers, musicians, cabaret acts, aerial hoop-performers or ‘drunk and abusive Santa’s’. These things exist. Alternatively, a string quartet is a great option for background music for a more formal occasion.
Most inclusive packages include a DJ, we find a lot of our clients like to send a playlist over to their DJ prior to the event to ensure the genre of music suits the employee’s tastes and style. As you’ll know Keith is a real David Hasselhoff fan, the DJ will have some of the Hoff’s work on his hard drive.
If the venue permits, live music is great. There are many corporate event bands working these days, we will only suggest the very best of them that are tried and tested.
10. Additional Extras
It’s the little things that matter… speak to your account manager about adding special touches to your event….
Follow these simple instructions and you will organise a Christmas Party you and your guests will be talking about for months to come.
Once the party begins, leave your stress at the door and let your hair down with the rest of them.
Let the event manager handle the organisation on the evening and most importantly have fun!
…eek - look, Keith’s doing the caterpillar!