I know, we’ve barely said goodbye to summer and here I am talking about Christmas already. It may seem a little premature, but if you take some time to plan ahead, as December draws near and other people are running around like headless turkey’s, you’ll be able to sit back and relax, knowing you’ve got it all in hand.
1. Set the date
It may seem obvious, but the first rule of planning a party is to set a date. It doesn’t matter how much thinking you do about what type of party you would like, or how much time you spend bouncing ideas around – until you have that all important date, you really can’t get any further. Depending on numbers involved you might want to do a quick poll of suitable dates, but remember you’re unlikely to find a time to suit everyone. Go with the majority and once decided let people know so that they can pencil it in before diaries start getting filled up.
2. Decide on a budget
How much you have to spend per head will determine the type of event you can organise. Make sure that you are clear about how much you have to spend but don’t stretch to that because with any big event there can always be unexpected costs. If people are paying for themselves, ask around and choose a budget that is reasonable for anyone who will be invited. Christmas can be a heavy time for people financially, so make sure that you get deposits by a set date and make sure people know what is left to pay and that there are no hidden costs.
3. Choose what type of party it will be
Once you know how much money you have to play with, start thinking about the type of party you would like. The main decisions will often be controlled by the number of people involved. For large numbers you can tailor make an event by choosing all aspects of the party. However, sometimes even those with big staff numbers like to keep it simple by buying a venue’s packaged Christmas party. This way, you get the atmosphere and extravagance of a large event, without needing the numbers or budget to support it.
4. Pick a location
Choosing the right location is key to a successful event. The best choice is somewhere central, i.e. the nearest town or city to your work place, where there is access to car parking and good public transport links. If you do opt for somewhere further afield, you may want to consider organising a bus or other transport from a more central point to get people there and back.
5. Find a venue
When you know your location you can start to explore the different venues available in the area. Think about what is appropriate for your workplace and where people would feel most comfortable. If you are hiring a room, don’t forget about décor, lighting and entertainment. Some venues will have party packages that include this, but you need to check exactly what you are getting for your money when you book. Some venues will give discounts or throw in extras, such as free welcome drinks, if you book early. If possible avoid holding the party in the office. Even if you have enough room, a few strings of tinsel and party hats is not going to be enough to take people’s mind off the fact that they are technically still at work.
6. Eat, drink and be merry
Food is one area of your budget where you can’t skimp. If people are going out after work they need a decent meal, so sit-down is often preferable. If you do opt for a buffet make sure it is plated rather than finger food or choose fun food stations around the room offering different cuisines – Indian, Mexican, Spanish and so on.
Many companies offer some free drinks. For this it is best not to have an open bar. For alcoholic options bottled beers and wine is fine, but remember to include a soft-drink and water on the tab as well. Also offer a pay-bar for any other drinks, so that people who want to drink spirits or other beers can order and pay for them.
If the budget allows, offer a welcome drink. Mulled wine or warm mulled cider are good. Or opt for a festive cocktail with sparkling wine. Towards the end of the night, I often serve hot chocolate with individual flavoured syrups of a shot of brandy. Serve in branded mugs that guests can take home afterwards.
7. Making memories
One of the best bits about a work’s party is sharing memories after the event. People will always take pictures on their mobile phones, but, if your budget will allow, it is worth hiring a professional photographer. This way you can get better quality photos both for the staff to enjoy later, and for the company to use on its website and any related social media. Photo booths are popular and fun, and I also suggest setting up a twitter feed/Instagram account for photos taken on the night.