Over the years we have attended and provided entertainment for a huge variety of office Christmas parties. The pressure of organising an event that has such high expectations can be daunting! Here is our useful guide to planning a Christmas party.
In this article we offer tips for those tasked with organising their office party this year.
Save The Date
It’s never too early to get planning and ensure that everyone has saved the date in their calendars. Send a “save the date” calendar appointment around to all members of staff so that everyone has it in their diaries. This is also an early opportunity for anyone who has already made over plans in advance to let you know that they can’t attend.
When considering the best days, most companies opt for a Thursday or Friday but don’t expect maximum productivity if there is a working day the next day!
Know Your Budget
Find out as early as possible how much money you’ll have available to spend. It’s always advisable to do this before you go too far down the planning stages. There is nothing worse than putting a huge amount of effort into planning an event only to find out the budget won’t stretch that far and you need to start again.
You’ll know from previous parties what the general expectations are. For example, some companies may always have a free bar for some or all of the night. Other may put more emphasis on quality entertainment. Budget accordingly around these areas but make sure you always keep some in reserve for the unexpected expenses!
Christmas Party Options
When it comes to organising your party there is an array of options available to you. Here are a few examples:
- Organising Your Own Tailored Christmas Party – This is where you start from the ground up and find a venue, entertainment, catering and everything else yourself. You manage the whole organising process and deal with all aspects.
- Buy a Pre-Organised Party – This is where you “buy-in” a Christmas party that is organised by a venue or events company. In this instance they will tend to run a series of Christmas party nights for companies that have a consistent theme. Some of these events are shared where a number of different companies will buy tables at the same event.
- Local Options – This may be suitable for smaller companies and could feature a meal at a pub or restaurant with some drinks afterwards. Alternatively, it could be bowling, cocktail making or even a river cruise!
Finding Your Venue
If you are creating your own event, securing a venue early is critical.
- When considering venues, location is key. If you are based in a city centre you’ll have a number of options open to you but you may need to consider pre-booking taxis to ensure that everyone gets home safely.
- If you decide upon a venue a number of miles away from the office you should consider organising a coach/mini-bus to the venue straight from the office. At the end of the night, you may want to consider whether this should go back to the office so people can make their own way home from there. Alternatively, you may organise taxis from the venue.
- Attend the venue to get a feel for the size and facilities. Do listen to the staff there as they will have seen dozens of events and know how best to organise proceeding once everyone gets to the venue.
- This is a good time to consider how any themes could work in the venue.
- Some people may wish to stay overnight so ask the venue if there is any preferential rates available (if a hotel) or the best accommodation nearby.
- If you are looking at hiring in your own entertainment/equipment ask the venue about any rules they have. Most venues will need to see an electrical PAT safety certificate and/or public liability insurance from your suppliers. Make sure your suppliers hold these before booking anything with them.
- When agreeing the details and contractual element with the venue do ensure you can add additional guests later on as you may want to start with a minimum number and the add people when they’ve confirmed. At this stage you will also want to clarify costs and check the small print for additional charges.
Food and Drink
After organising the venue, selecting the various food and drink options can be daunting. However, there are a number of steps you can take beforehand.
- You will need to decide whether the venue will provide the catering or whether you bring someone in to do this. Some venues may insist on using their own catering. Either way, ensure you do some research on the quality of food from your providers. If the venue has a great reputation for food it’s advisable to stick with them for the catering rather than the extra hassle of bringing in someone else.
- Food can be served in a variety of ways so determine what will work best for you. Are you going to have a sit down meal with waiter service or a buffet instead? If you are providing people with a menu to choose from you will need to distribute and take their choices well in advance.
- If you are providing menu choices it is quite likely that people will have forgotten what they chose by the time of the party! A good tip is to use place cards at tables that as well as having names, also has their menu choice on the back.
- Make sure there are additional food options available for people with special dietary requirements.
- Do ensure you have the option to hold a food tasting session, poor food will be remembered.
- Arrival drinks need to be chosen. You could serve sparkling wine, cocktails or something more seasonal like mulled wine.
- If you are offering a free bar for staff you may want to consider how you ensure you don’t go over budget. You can provide drinks tokens or even limit the bar to only certain types of drinks to keep costs down and avoiding the whole budget been blown on prosecco within minutes!
- Some companies provide buckets of drinks placed around the venue so staff can help themselves.
Music and Entertainment
Music is usually an integral part of any Christmas party. There is an array of things to think about when it comes to music. For example, when and how do you want music played. Should music be playing on arrival, during the meal or other specific parts of the evening?
How should the music be played – is the sound system in the venue available in all the areas you want music and are you going to have a DJ, live band or performer?
- If you are bringing in a band or similar you will need to ensure that the venue has everything they need.
- If you plan to do speeches or make announcements you may also need to ensure the venue has an adequate PA system or hire in your own.
You may also want to consider some other forms of entertainment. Magicians are a great way of keeping people entertained before meals or at the table between courses. Photo booth hire is always lots of fun and has the added advantage of giving attendees a printed reminder of the evening. These are also the source of much fun in the office when the photos are uploaded to the intranet the morning after!
Over ideas can include giant games such as head to head arcade racing or even a comedian (though you need to be careful who you select).
- Ensure your entertainment suppliers have a reputation for being reliable. There is nothing worse than getting a great deal on entertainment only to find they let you down on the night.
- Check their Facebook page for reviews and ensure they hold public liability insurance where appropriate.
Additional Items to Enhance the Night
There are many things you can do to add an extra element to the evening. Here are a few ideas:
- Awards/Speeches – this is a time for the company owners to thank staff for their hard work and provide recognition.
- Make sure speeches are short and don’t do them too late so at least everyone provides attention.
- Hand out some awards, these can be done as some fun if you prefer. For example, you may want to hand out the “Drama King or Queen Award” or the “Most Spectacular Scene Award” (great for a movie themed night)
- Goody bags at the end of the night are a nice touch. You could put in a bottle of water, a chocolate bar for late night munchies or aftershave/perfume samples.
- A photographer can be great for professional quality images that can be used on social media after the event but also provide attendees with some great shots of themselves with colleagues.
Extra Tips for Organising and Managing the Christmas Party
Each Christmas party is a mini-project in its own right. Here are some additional tips for ensuring everything goes smoothly:
- When sending the invites make clear the venue address, date, start and finish times and dress code. You will also need to make clear whether transport home is provided. Also include a menu advising when you need any choice back by. Finally, advise that you need to know whether people are attending or not by a set date.
- Invites can be emailed but make sure they’re in a format that is easy to print.
- Create table plans (if necessary) but do try to do this in a way that places people with those they don’t normally get the opportunity to speak to.
- Ensure the table plan is visible at the venue and put place cards on tables.
- Create a personal itinerary that details what is happening, when it is happening, where it is happening and who is responsible. It is a good idea to include supplier contact details and when they expect to be arriving.
- It is a good idea to confirm your understanding of timings with the venue and suppliers beforehand.
- Ensure you are aware of your supplier’s requirements beforehand. For example, if a photo booth needs an hour to set up before its start time ensure there will be space for them to set up and bring equipment in without navigating a large crowd of people.
We do hope this guide is useful. Feel free to share it and provide your own tips on ensuring your Christmas party is a success!