Christmas is coming. I know this because the clocks went back. And there’s an unspoken rule that when the clocks go back, other certain phenomena happen almost simultaneously. The heating comes on; card shops are wall to wall red, white, green and glitter (if your birthday falls in November, forget getting a card); your email is full of daily shopping-day countdowns to the Big Day; and you can’t find a TV channel without back-to-back ads with cute kids, big jumpers, sparkly objects and more snow than Ski Sunday.
So Christmas must be all but upon us and doubtless we all have everything organised. Including the office Christmas party.
What do you mean “no”?
OK, fear not. MOI’s quick guide to office Christmas parties is here to help. So with a bit of single minded determination and planning, you can pull off a festive do that a pro would be proud of.
1. Set your budget
Everyone likes to be valued and one of the ways an organisation can express its appreciation of everyone’s efforts is with a nice do at Christmas. If you’re the one doing the negotiations with the FD or CEO, it’s worth getting them to specify their objectives. Chances are, words like “bonding”, “improved employee relations” and “breaking down silos” will crop up. Play your cards rtight and you’ll be amazed how you can turn a perceived frivolous money-spending exercise into a lesson in increased employee productivity.
2. Choose your type
To an extent, this will be dictated by budget. When your purse strings are challenged you’ll probably sway towards small and cosy. With a more generous pot, you can go for big, themed and lavish. On the other hand, when budgets are tight, there’s always the option to share the event with another local company. Not only can you spread the cost, but it gives you the chance to meet, network and build fruitful business relationships with organisations which may have similar issues and vested interests as yours.
3. Pick your theme
The right theme can be fun, memorable and a great unifier. If a key objective is to get the various different company departments mingling and bonding, this is the way to do it and it’s limited only by your imagination and sense of party spirit!
Of paramount importance here is your audience. It’s rare for all the employees of any organisation to be of a similar age or have completely shared interests, so choose carefully. Get your best ideas-people on the case and take advice or inspiration from professional event organisers to determine popular themes that work for most. You could go murder mystery; 1920s glamour; 1930s Speakeasy; Christmas Past, Present or Future; Hollywood, complete with red carpet and Oscars…
4. Send invitations
Sounds like a small thing, but this sort of detail makes your party special from the outset. Use an imaginative email if budgets are small. This is your chance not only to get staff to save the date, but to get them talking about your party and looking forward to it from the word go.
5. Select your menu
Formal, sit-down and with seating plans? Informal, standing and buffet-style? Something in between? Again, this will be influenced by budget, audience and personal preferences. A seated arrangement, complete with set menu can feel a little more special than mingling around the buffet, but it can mean that you’re stuck with your last choice of people for the best part of the evening! On the other hand, it can make individuals from different departments talk to each other – and you can always enforce a move just before pudding to break up those awkward silences. And the cliques…
6. Find the right entertainment
This could be home-grown, bought in or a combination of the two. Bigger budget productions might invite magicians, comedians or a band. More modest affairs might simply stick to DJ and dance floor. Don’t get me wrong, the latter can be a fantastic way to burn off the calories you’ve all just consumed and most DJs worth their salt can judge an audience pretty quickly and be able to pick the tracks that get the most guests eager to show their best moves.
For an extra warm glow, the Christmas party is a good time for prize-givings and thank yous . And for maximum interactivity, why not introduce a quiz or competition? Or how about organising a Secret Santa element. It takes a mean old company Scrooge to turn down the idea of spending £5-£10 on a present for a colleague – especially when they know they’re going to get one in return too.
7. Have fun
Once the party begins, leave your stress at the door and let your hair down with the rest of them. If it’s big and formal, you’ll have used event organisers to run the whole shebang anyway. Let them get on with doing what they do best; if it’s small and cosy, your colleagues will expect you to have as much well deserved fun as the rest of them.
8. Take photos
Fantastic pick-me-up for the morning-after hangover and a guaranteed giggle (as long as you don’t include anything embarrassing). Share the good ones on social to show your company’s human face and bring them out for another airing in your spring or summer newsletter to foster that new, inclusive company spirit.
Sounds do-able? You might think that all the ingredients of organising the office party are a recipe for disaster. But keep this checklist in mind and soon it’ll be a piece of cake. Christmas cake (sorry).