5 Tips for a Successful Holiday Party

At many companies, the annual office holiday party is a time-honored tradition. Whether it’s big or small, lavish or simple, your holiday party is more than just an end-of-year celebration. It’s a great opportunity to gather your employee for recreation, motivation, team building, and recognition. Indeed, your company party can shape both your reputation and corporate culture–and it doesn’t need to break the bank. With careful planning, you can throw a memorable event even on a limited budget.

Making your company holiday party a success comes down to a few simple steps:

First, plan early and communicate the date and time to your employees. You likely want to avoid the latter half of December, when many employees take unused vacation time or have family plans. Bypassing the end of the month also helps accommodate any sales or reporting deadlines, and may make it easier for out-of-town employees to attend. Be sure to consider the travel requirements of any off-site employees as you’re scheduling. You might also check with relevant managers and department heads to see if they’d like to fold in meetings or training for out-of-area employees to capitalize on their time in the home office. Other things to consider, depending on your budget and wishes, are a day vs. nighttime event, whether you’ll host on- or off-site, and whether your party will be limited to employees only or will include spouses, significant others, or family.

Next, get creative. You need not be confined by the traditional cocktail event or sit-down dinner. Think about hosting your party at a museum, or take a “field trip” to a popular concert or show. Hire a local chef to host a mini cooking class for your team, or engage a stand-up comic to perform during the meal. Alternatively, you might opt for a family event such as a bowling party or a make-your-own pizza outing at a local restaurant. If families are in the mix, have plenty of kid-friendly activities such as crafts, face painting, or cookie decorating on hand. And don’t forget the photo ops, with a dedicated photographer on-site or a photo booth stocked with colorful props. While the possibilities are endless, a simple gathering also works–a team that typically toils at their desks through the lunch hour will appreciate being taken out for a leisurely meal at a nice restaurant.

Third, make time for team building. Having your employees together is a great time to engage in a few fun activities that foster teamwork and bonding. You can divide guests into groups for a short trivia competition; play some party or ice-breaker games; and award small gift cards or other prizes (such as a preferred parking spot) to the winners. Some companies choose to award bonuses or gifts in conjunction with the holiday party, but even without these, the holiday party is an ideal time to recognize your employees and personally thank them for their dedication and hard work.

Also remember to focus on food and fun. Whether it’s formal or casual, make sure your party is one you personally would want to attend. In every case, this means making sure you have enough food and drink, with a variety of options to accommodate dietary restrictions and potential allergies. Depending on your venue, music can also add to your event. If space and budget allow, set up a dance floor and hire a professional DJ to keep the party moving.

Lastly, serve alcohol safely. If you want to minimize the chance of over-consumption, skip the traditional open bar. Instead, provide a limited number of cocktail tickets then move to a cash bar. You can also offer only beer and wine, which have lower alcohol contents. Of course, you should also be sure to offer a nice variety of non-alcoholic drink options, and stop serving alcohol at least an hour before the party ends. Finally, whether the party is at the office or off premises, provide alternative transportation home via a cab or car service to anyone who has had too much to drink to help minimize your liability in the event of an accident.

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