The company Christmas party is so much more than an excuse for a drink with work colleagues. A good party can cement friendships, encourage team development and actually improve the company’s future profitability. So, lets make this year’s part the best ever.
Whilst the task can seem at first daunting, by following our guide to planning the perfect company Christmas party the end result is sure to get everyone in the festive spirit.
1. Set the date
Christmas is a busy time of year and diaries fill up fast with social events. The best venues get booked early so it’s also important to secure the date you want with them as soon as possible.
This might mean booking early in the year in order to secure your spot prior to Christmas. You could also consider holding your Christmas party in January (many companies do this) for more flexibility with dates and to beat the post-Christmas blues.
Once you have your date, send out a “save the date” email to everyone asking them to keep the date free. You can also use this as an opportunity for finding out dietary requirements and allergies.
2. And your budget
If you are not the holder of the purse strings, find out in advance how much the company is willing to spend per head. Be careful of falling into the trap of being asked to research everything first, only to be told that it’s out of budget once all the hard work has been done.
Get a clear idea of how much you have to spend. Then allocate this to the items you’ll need to make your party go with a swing; the band, the food and drink, the venue, the entertainment, decorations etc.
Allocating a price per head, can make the party planning easier. Particularly when many venues offer set Christmas party packages that tick many aspects of party planning off your to-do list; venue hire, food and drinks, entertainment and decorations. This is ideal when planning large scale company parties.
Whether you’re handling all aspects yourself, or outsourcing party planning, remember to leave some money aside to cover any unexpected costs.
3. Book your venue
Good venues fill up fast, so you need to move quickly to secure the date you want with the venue of your choice.
- Do your initial research on-line looking for venues that are available, within budget and that are easy-to-get-to for your guests.
- Look for something a little unusual that will provide the Wow factor to your party.
- Talk to the events team at the venue – they’ll be able to answer any questions and provide ideas for your party.
- Visit the venue to make sure it meets all your needs – capacity, layout, location, parking, furniture, equipment etc.
- Provisionally book the venue if necessary, but confirm your final choice in writing as soon as possible after making your decision.
4. Decide on your Christmas party theme
If the venue does not already offer a theme, choosing one for your party helps add an element of fun and provides a central idea on which to hang the rest of your planning such as the décor, entertainment and catering. Use magazines websites and even high street shop displays for inspiration, or enlist the help of a professional event planner to get creative for you.
Popular themes are to go formal, with black tie and evening gowns, or vintage by choosing an era and asking guests to dress accordingly (e.g. the 1950s, 60s, 70s or 80s).
Or you could simply opt for fun themes such as the wild west, a night at the circus, winter wonderland, a night in Marrakech, or a music and film genres.
Once you’ve chosen your theme you’ll find lots of ideas start flowing for tailoring your party. What’s more your guests can get in the party spirit beforehand with planning and comparing what they’ll be wearing to your event.
4. Put on a good spread
This is a night to say thank you to staff for their hard work over the year so do the best you can with the budget available.
Whilst it’s a Christmas party, that doesn’t mean you have to stick to a traditional Christmas menu of Turkey and all the trimmings. Be creative, ask for advice from your event planners or venue caterers. If you have a theme, try and match what you serve with this.
It’s not unusual for many venues to offer a menu with a number of options for starter, main and desert. But don’t forget if you offer menu options, your guests will need to confirm their choices beforehand to help your party run smoothly.
Within the menu make sure you have a couple of options for anyone with food allergies and above all, don’t forget the vegetarians.
If catering for a large group with a bespoke menu, request a menu tasting to check that it delivers on taste and quality.
5. Help guests get into the festive spirit
No party is complete without a few Christmas drinks. When planning your party think about what drinks are covered within your budget. Pre-ordering welcome drinks on arrival and with the meal is a good way of ensuring everyone gets their fair share, without blowing the budget. Whereas if money is no object then simply pay for what is consumed on the night. Alternatively provide drinks vouchers for all guests so that they have the choice of what they consume.
Remember to provide soft drinks for those driving and plenty of water on the table to help minimise sore heads the next day.
You may also want to consider how the drinks are served. To avoid long queues at the bar a waiter service may be better for large parties. Whereas allowing guests to help themselves from drinks dotted around the venue may be better suited to smaller gatherings.
6. Book your entertainment
It’s the end of a long year and your guests are looking for the opportunity to let their hair down and have fun. Selecting the right entertainment for your Christmas party is crucial to helping your guests relax and enjoy themselves.
Whether this is a DJ, a live band or both, make sure you choose something that will suit all tastes and encourage your guests to strut their stuff on the dance floor. Mix up your playlist with guaranteed floor fillers and Christmas favourites. Check that the lighting rig and sound system flows to the areas of the party you want it to reach.
To help break the ice and get the party started you may want to organise some entertainment. Getting this right can elevate a good night, to one that is remembered and talked about for weeks to come. Popular options include live performers such as circus acts, magicians and comedians; activities such as casino tables, cocktail making and murder mysteries; or entertainers that work the room such as magicians and caricaturists.
Many venues and event planners will already have relationships with trusted suppliers, so it’s worth speaking to them to help source those that are suitable for your party and the venue space.
7. Organise thank you speeches
Christmas parties are a means of thanking staff for their work and support over the year, and as such a short speech made by the MD or Director is a good way of delivering this sentiment to everyone.
Decide in advance who should deliver this, and make sure they have plenty of time to prepare a short thank you speech for delivery during the evening. If there are particular individuals for thanking or recognition, make sure gifts or awards are ready and at the venue to be handed out at the appropriate time.
As Christmas parties have a tendency to get a little more rowdy as the evening wears on, it’s a good idea to schedule the speech for a time when it’ll be heard (and not heckled). If it’s being delivered to a large group you will also want to make sure a microphone is on hand so that everyone can hear.
8. Send out invitations
When you have finalised details of your party make sure everyone knows about it well in advance so they can get the date in the diary, organise outfits and book hotels, babysitters and transport.
Within your invitation include details of:
- The party date, when it starts and ends
- The party theme
- Dress code for the evening
- Who to RSVP to and by when
- The venue location and details of how to get there, nearby hotels and local taxi firms
- Menu options with details of when and who to send final food choices to
- Who to notify of any dietary requirements
- Organised transport and how to book a place on this
9. Add a little Christmas magic
A few well thought out extras can add a sprinkle of Christmas magic to your party, providing guests with some memorable experiences. Little touches might include:
- Purchasing a small Christmas gift for each guest left at their table place, or organising a visit from Santa to hand out presents.
- Hiring a photographer (or photobooth) to capture professional shots of the evening.
- Leaving a few small games scattered around tables to help guests start mingling and having fun.
- Decorating each table with flowers, candles and decorations to match your theme.
10. Create a buzz of anticipation
As the date gets closer start building the anticipation for your Christmas party with a series wall posters or emails to create a sense of growing excitement. Be careful not to give away too many secrets! Keep some under your hat to surprise and delight guests on the night.