May 25th 2016

Planning a Stress Free Corporate Christmas Party

Planning the office party can prove a headache, particularly when the budget is tight, so here’s Liz Taylor’s advice to make it as stress free and cost conscious as possible, without losing the sense of fun!

-If you haven’t booked your venue, DO SO NOW – often the best venues are booked out by the end of the summer. If you can’t get your preferred venue, consider holding your party on a less popular day such as a Tuesday or Sunday, or even in January, both options will be less costly, enabling you to get the most out of your budget.

Take budget into consideration and work with what your company can afford. Think about what the most important elements of the night will be, along with what has been successful in the past and allocate the budget accordingly. Keep track of event budgets by using an app such as Xpense Tracker.

As soon as you have secured your booking, send out a ‘Save The Date’ email to whet everyone’s appetite, stating the date, time and venue.  This is not only cost effective but will ensure as many people as possible attend. By following this up with a more detailed, themed invitation, you should get a great response. Always make sure you include an RSVP date and a request for any dietary requirements, as you’ll definitely need this to finalise catering.

-Consider where your work-force live.  If your offices are in different areas, put forward the idea of holding one big spectacular Christmas event in an easily accessible central location, rather than smaller, less impressive parties. You will have a bigger budget to spend and will be in a better position to negotiate enhanced services from your venue and suppliers.  It will also be more cost effective for the company and is a great way for employees to mix and creates a sense of belonging within an organisation.

-Don’t go for obvious venues.  They will be the ones that are booked up a year in advance.  Consider large function rooms in museums or galleries, which can often be hired at a reasonable cost.  If your budget allows however keep your eyes peeled for more unusual venues such as zoos or aquariums.  The past few years have also seen venues such as The London Bridge Experience and The Monastery in Manchester, take on a whole new lease of life as trendy, atmospheric evening event spaces.  Seek out the unusual and make the venue part of your party’s WOW factor, it may take a little more effort but could reap rewards on the night.  If you’re after something a little less quirky but equally impressive, find something that gives your party an added sense of occasion such as a hotel rooftop cocktail party, a Winter Wonderland themed marquee or festivities aboard a traditional steam train.

-The trend for buffets, bowl foods and good canapés rather than the formality of a sit down meal will continue this year.  If your venue has the outdoor space, also consider street food carts.  They add colour, a sense of theatricality and a great variety of international cuisines including Mexican, Thai and Japanese dishes. This less formal style of catering can prove very cost effective and certainly adds some fun to the event.   Always offer Champagne cocktails – a Kir Royal made with sparkling wine & cassis – or a traditional mulled wine, rather than glasses of Champagne at the reception to trim cost and never forget to offer a non-alcoholic alternative.

-I always recommend that no matter where else you cut costs, never skimp on entertainment – hire the best DJ or band you can afford. Get it right and you will create an instant party atmosphere, everyone will be up on their feet.  Remember, people can forgive a less than ideal venue and a simple, inexpensive meal as long as the entertainment is fabulous.  Event companies such as TLC can find you the best entertainment around, ask friends for recommendations, or look for show reels on the internet.

-Sorting out your guests travel arrangements on the night is essential over the busy festive period.  Hire coaches and mini buses, rather than relying on lots of individual taxis but make sure you arrange this in plenty of time and see if you can negotiate a discount.

-Christmas is a family time – so instead of your usual annual bash why not organise a family friendly daytime event and encourage everyone to bring along partners and children? Festive games, traditional food and a visit from Santa all go down well and create fantastic goodwill among employees.  It can often prove cheaper than a party night event too.

 –As with all of TLC’s events, and Christmas is no exception, I think you should leave guests with a lasting memory of the occasion.  If your budget will allow, spend it on one spectacular surprise element, be it fireworks to round off the evening, an ice rink or a visit from Santa and his reindeer.  I recently attended an event where a real time graffiti artist created a bespoke piece of contemporary street art while guests partied.  The fantastic artwork was dramatically revealed at the end of the event and created a real stir amongst the guests.

-Rather than providing goody bags for your guests, place a present for each guest under the Christmas tree or host a surprise free raffle offering some very special prizes.  If you would like your guests to leave with a fun personal memento of the event, consider hiring a photographer, or better still a photo-booth!  Booths come in weird and wonderful guises now, such as converted VW Beetles, complete with comedy hats, glasses and props.  Everyone has great fun dressing up and comes away with a unique memento of their fantastic evening that (hopefully!) they’ll be able to display on their desk and talk about for months to come.