You may be surprised to hear that in terms of event planning, Christmas is literally around the corner. The festive period is the busiest time of year for the events industry. With so much pressure on venues to deliver bigger and better Christmas packages every year in the face of ever rising demand, the best ones get booked first. Which means that if you’re hoping to impress the boss with sumptuous surroundings, glittering entertainment, and fine festive food options at this year’s Christmas do, you had better get cracking.
Organising a corporate Christmas party is no mean feat. There are hundreds of variables to think of and a lot of time and effort goes into planning every little detail in an effort to ensure a "wow" result. Where do you even start? At the beginning, obviously, by making a list. Here are 10 things that should definitely be on it.
Your first job is to sit down and make a checklist of everything you can think of that needs to happen in the run-up to the big night. Depending on the size and complexity of the party you’re planning, you may be okay with a simple list or spreadsheet that you can update manually, or you can use an online tool.
Event management software is a relatively new industry, but using an online service to help you automate and streamline the entire planning process can be a time save and a godsend. Some, like Billetto, let you create and plan your event online including social media promotions, guest list management, and even ticket sales.
Before you can get stuck into the particulars, you need to fix a few parameters for your Christmas do. (Probably in consultation with your line manager, the department head, and anyone else needing to have input or holding the purse strings.) Depending on the size and format of your festive outing, you can go down different routes.
Are you looking for a daytime or evening event? Drinks, dining, or the full entertainment package? What about the location, and would a minibus hire be a good idea? Is the Christmas party for staff only or are significant others also invited? How many guests, ballpark, need to be catered for? Are you looking at an exclusive, bespoke event?
Obviously, the bigger the Christmas party budget, the more extravagant the festive celebrations can be. From low-key office drinks at the local wine bar to extravagant bespoke luxury in one of London’s premier Christmas venues, make sure the style of festive do suits your company and your co-workers.
Work out your requirements for food and drink, music and entertaining, venue hire and decorations, marketing and communications, transport and logistics...and anything else needed. With careful budgeting and using your savvy negotiation skills, you should be able to secure the maximum budget from your company while getting the best value for money for your Christmas event.
Put your chosen party format and the available budget together as a starting point for choosing the right venue for your Christmas party. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve got ages to select a venue. Did you know that many companies book their Christmas parties a whole year in advance? Book early to avoid disappointment, as the mantra goes.
Whether you’re looking for a prestigious dinner hall in the City of London, a quirky riverside venue or a local restaurant, make sure you organise a site visit to all the shortlisted venues to verify their facilities and suitability before you make your final decision.
Get a quote for your chosen date and find out exactly what’s included in the price, so there are no nasty surprises later on. If anyone needs overnight accommodation or a taxi home, now is the time to investigate this too.
If you’re planning to have your Christmas party in December in the run-up to Christmas - especially if you have your heart set on a Friday or Saturday night - be warned that you’ve picked the busiest possible time. These dates sell out many months in advance, and the more popular the venue, the quicker it will fill up.
Once you’ve decided on the date, make sure you let everyone know to "Save the date" as soon as possible. That way, if too many people are unavailable, you'll still be able to change the date before you make a firm booking. Again, time is of the essence. Unless you’re quick off the mark and manage to book your favourite venue on your preferred date, it’s a good idea to have a reserve date just in case it’s needed.
Food and drink are key for any corporate event, particularly at Christmas time. Without wishing to add to the pressure of organising a memorable event, suffice to say that a successful party menu can make or break the night.
Whether you go for minimalist festive canapes or the full traditional sit-down turkey dinner - or prefer to instruct your own caterers - different venues will have different options ranging from affordable to extravagant. If you opt for an in-house catered package, all you have to worry about is getting everyone to choose their three courses. Then it’s up to the venue to deliver on the night. Don’t forget to take account of any dietary requirements for your guests.
Drinks can be pre-ordered, paid for on the night, or a mixture of both. A good way to keep control of the drinks consumption is to have a set amount of bottles for each table, after which everyone pays for their own.
Christmas is the time to go all magical with the décor. Whether you prefer a traditional Winter Wonderland theme, Victorian Christmas, Fire and Ice, Three Kings from the Orient, Narnia, or Vintage, the only limitation is your imagination. There is an abundance of innovative décor ideas online to get inspiration from. The Arabian Tent Company is one of many professional party planners in the UK that supply breathtaking Christmas party décor. Visit their gallery here.
Whichever way you choose to go, make sure the venue looks 100% professional. This is no time for budget DIY interiors. Get a professional team of Christmas decorators to transform the space into a spectacular venue that will wow your guests, or choose a Christmas Party package event in your preferred style. Either way, don’t forget to tell your guests what the dress code is and whether to come in full costume!
After everyone has wined and dined in style, it’s time for the party to begin. Depending on the tastes and preferences of your co-workers, not to mention their age, you could book traditional cabaret entertainment, a close-up magician, a live rock band, or a hardcore techno DJ! Best to ask around first to see what people will like.
Some venues will have in-house entertainment as part of their Christmas package, so it’s worth finding out what type of entertainment is on offer. If you do wish to book your own act, again book early to avoid disappointment. Christmas is a busy time for performers, and the best ones will get snapped up fast.
If you are organising a Christmas party for more than a handful of people, a seating plan is a great idea. Mix up colleagues who always sit together so that everyone gets a chance to mingle with co-workers they may not know that well. And while it’s always important to discourage any inappropriate behaviour at office parties, it’s an excellent opportunity to increase team bonding.
Be sensitive to people’s feelings and potential clashes of personality. There’s no point provoking conflict just for the sake of it- especially at Christmas - when a minor seating plan tweak could keep the corporate peace. If you are going to do a seating plan, make sure there are festive name cards, so everyone knows where to sit straight away.
Once party invitations have been sent out, it’s a good idea to send periodic reminders. This can be done by email or social media group posts, to get people in the festive mood and keep the event front of mind. Keep a close eye on the number of guests who have confirmed, and chase those who haven’t, so you know the exact number of party guests.
For your own peace of mind, keep a file, folder, handbook, or software programme that contains all your party planning details. This should include contact names, numbers, and emails of everyone involved: the venue, the caterers, the entertainer, the taxi company, the lot.
That way, should anything run the risk of going wrong, you have the information at hand to resolve any problems in advance, ensuring that everything goes smoothly on the night.
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