4 Tips for a Corporate Holiday Party

A holiday party for your company is a great way to let employees relax, have fun, and get to know each other better. A party can encourage team bonding as well as let employees from different departments who may not interact on a day to day basis socialize with each other. It’s also a nice way to thank employees for their hard work through the year, and many companies will fold in awards, special thanks, or holiday gifts or bonuses with the holiday party to make it that much more exciting.

Here are a few tips for improving your company holiday party.

Planning is Key

Like any other big event, make sure you plan it! A holiday party sounds easy – just throw together some food, some music, and you’re done, right? Wrong! If you’re providing food, you need to account for any specialty diets. If you’re providing drinks, are you providing alcohol, and if so, is it open bar or cash bar? If you’re providing a special dessert, who’s making it and what kind will it be? In fact, who’s making any of your food?

Location is crucial if you plan to have the party outside of your office. Many locations book months in advance, and December is a popular time for parties in general. Plan to book a location and secure your spot during the summer months if at all possible. If you wait until the autumn to book a venue, be prepared to shop around or be turned down. If you need to wait until closer to December to book your location, it’s a good idea to have a plan B in mind already so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute, or forced to host a larger party in a small space.  

These questions and many more will come up in the process of planning your party, so it’s best to start early. You may want to have an events committee as well to help take on tasks so that no one person is doing everything.

If you’re planning a large party and you don’t have an in-house events coordinator, consider hiring an event planner to help get things organized.

Guest List

Your employees are invited, of course, but who else do you want to invite? What’s the goal of your holiday party?

If your goal is strictly to honor employees, you may want to limit the party just to your employees and maybe their families. If your party is more open to celebrating the business or a general end of the year party, consider inviting business partners, networking associates, colleagues outside the business, or potential clients or partners.

Once you decide, make sure it’s clear on the invitation who can come. Language such as “All employees and their families are invited – children welcome!” would cover all bases for most people. Also make it clear to whom questions and RSVPs should be directed.

Holiday Gift Exchange

A gift exchange for the office sounds like fun – but account for the length of the exchange when you’re picking the game! I know of one case where the office decided to do a White Elephant exchange one year and it took over an hour to get through all the gifts because of the number of people who decided to participate. While it could be fun, it’s maybe not the best use of your party time.

White Elephant is more fun for a smaller group, but it can be used by larger offices. Secret Santa can be fun, although it has been less popular as a choice for office gift exchanges. For this one, you may want to allow departments to do their own Secret Santa so that employees who know each other better will be more likely to choose gifts the person wants.

A Grab Bag could be a practical but fun gift exchange that’s similar to the White Elephant but without the potential for a too-long game. With Grab Bag, everyone who wants to participate brings a wrapped gift, which is put into a large opaque bag. Then the participants pull a gift from the bag on their turn based on how it feels and unwrap it. There’s no stealing in this game, so what you get is what you get.

Keep Diverse Backgrounds in Mind

A holiday party for your company is a fantastic idea. But you don’t want to accidentally alienate any of your employees or make them feel unwelcome. When choosing decorations or a theme, keep the diversity of your employees in mind. My recommendation is to either honor all the backgrounds represented by your employees, or none. For example, it’s likely that your holiday party isn’t going to be on Christmas itself, so rather than having the party be a “Christmas party”, it’s OK to leave it as a “holiday party” or “winter holiday party”. This also allows the party to be a simple celebration of the end of the year and keep it lighthearted and non-specific to any one tradition.

5 Ideas for Hosting a Launch Party

A launch party is a fantastic tool to create buzz for a new company, new product, or other celebratory event. Everyone from small businesses, authors, artists, musicians, and large companies can use a launch party to announce themselves to the world and invite people to celebrate in their success. It can also be a great way to make new contacts and network with guests who come to learn more about what you have to offer. Here are 5 ideas to consider when putting together a launch party.

Location

Location, location, location! You hear it all the time in real estate – it’s just as true for hosting a party. You want a venue that will meet your needs and still be cost effective. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive venue in the area to be a great party. Hotel conference rooms are always an option, but you could also consider a restaurant with a private room (which has the benefit of built-in food and drink), a park, a theater, or other such unusual space. Depending on the size of your party, you could ask partner businesses if they have space to rent in their offices or buildings that would be appropriate as well.

Free Food

We all love free things. Offer to feed people and they will come. There are multiple options for providing food for guests, depending on your venue and budget. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Catering. Having your event catered is perhaps the most stress-free option, but it doesn’t come without cost. Carefully consider your budget and get quotes from local catering companies to explore your options.
  • Food trucks. If your event is outdoors or on a street that allows food trucks, you could consider booking one or two food trucks to be at your event for 2-3 hours.
  • Local restaurants or vendors. Involving local businesses in your event not only supports your local economy, it can create goodwill and networking opportunities among fellow business owners. Get in touch with some local small businesses and ask if they would be willing to sponsor or contribute to your event, and offer to promote their restaurant or company at the event itself and on social media.
  • Friends and family. If you’re holding a truly small event—as in, less than 50 people—then you may be able to make enough food and drink yourself and with the help of family and friends. However, think very carefully before going this route. Consider how much stress this could add to your pre-event organization, and consider how much your loved ones will actually be able to help in the days leading up to your party. If it’s going to create too much havoc, you may want to consider another option.

Giveaways or Door Prizes

Who doesn’t like to win a prize? Especially if it’s something useful, fun, or unique. A popular door prize is Amazon gift cards, or gift cards in general. However, you can also give away free tickets to an event, coupons or discounts for a product or service, centerpieces, or items from partners and sponsors who have volunteered something for the occasion. I encourage you to think creatively with door prizes, as it’s a great opportunity to provide something memorable or fun.

Backdrop

Provide a backdrop or banner for guests to take pictures in front of. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Depending on the size, you can get a relatively inexpensive banner from online print sites like Vistaprint, some of which will provide designs that you can use. Guests can take pictures of themselves with your product, with other guests, etc., and post their photos on social media. Ask guests to tag you in their posts or use a hashtag to help spread the word about your event.

You may even want to hire a professional photographer for an hour or two to take photos so you have quality images to share on your company’s website or social media. Combined with your guests’ photos, you’ll have a comprehensive view of your event that you can share.

Be You

The most important tip: Be you. Be genuine. People are there to learn more about you and celebrate you. Host an event that showcases your business, your product, or your brand, and let people get to know you in a fun, low-key way. It’s tempting to try to go over the top with a fancy party, expensive catering or location, or swanky prizes. But if that’s not your brand, it’s likely going to fall flat.