Build a Better Holiday Party with the Right Options and Venue
by Anne Nisbet, Staples® Contributing Writer
Whether its a potluck lunch in the office or a dinner cruise on a tour boat, a great office holiday party starts with proper preparation. If party planning is unfamiliar territory, dont let it stop you in your tracks. As a small business owner, your skills identifying goals, gathering information, building a budget and developing timelines are precisely what you need to put together a successful event.
And just because youre the boss doesnt mean you have to manage the entire project, either. Tom Holland, owner of Pacific Telecom Services in Seattle, delegates the party planning to a few of his staff, providing parameters regarding budget and numbers of guests. Someone always wants to be involved, which is helpful, he explains. You need to make sure the party reflects the nature of your business and your brand, so its important to put together a team that can execute your vision.
Set the Tone & Scope
Determining the tone is crucial because the venue itself says a lot about the gathering. A formal seated dinner communicates a sense of ceremony and decorum. A bowling party conveys informality and play.
As a small business, its really important to build loyalty and nurture relationships with our employees, says Maria Stuart, co-owner of R. Stuart and Co., a winery located in McMinnville, OR. In our early years, I would bring lunch and wed open a few special bottles. Later, in an effort to make it more special, Stuart and her husband hosted the party in their home, inviting employees and their guests for hors doeuvres and cocktails.
Expectations also play a role in the conceptual process. New York City is completely different than Philadelphia, says Irene Silver, senior customer relations manager with Party Rental Ltd. in Philadelphia, PA. In Manhattan, its all about the look, whats new and what hasnt been done before, she comments. Our Philadelphia clients are much more low key in their choices.
Finally, are you including guests and/or employee family members? The number of guests determines the size of location youll need, as well as the budget.
Holland juggles several parties a year for his employees as his company has offices in Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles. Weve done a mix of parties with employees and guests and with employees only, he says. Every year is a little different. Ultimately, the choice is typically budget driven.
On Site or Off?
If you can afford it, go off site, suggests Holly Cunningham, president of Hollyberry Baking and Catering Company in St. Louis, MO. Your employees come to the office every day. Inviting them elsewhere automatically makes it more special.
Stumped for venue ideas? Most caterers have a list of venues on their Web sites, Cunningham says. All the legwork is done and you dont even have to commit to a specific caterer to access the information. Refer to these lists for ideas, and then determine which venues can accommodate your headcount and location preference.
What if going out is out of the question? You can have a beautiful office, but if its not designed for movement, it wont work well, Cunningham cautions. Too many cubicles, and people can get trapped. She recommends having an event specialist look at the space with a critical eye to determine its suitability for the type of event youre planning.
Regardless of the venue, consider how guests will arrive and depart. If they use public transportation, are bus and/or subway lines nearby? If the event is off site, what are the parking rules and valet services? If alcohol will be served, consider having a car service on standby for guests who may overindulge.
Food & Drink
The tone, scope and location all influence what you serve:
Here are some other important things to keep in mind when planning your office holiday party:
Dont forget to mark your calendar with contract deadlines, when you have to provide a headcount to the caterer and deadlines for any self-assigned to-do items, including reviewing the elements you delegate.
Use this information to plan your office holiday party and the deliverable will be fun for your employees and the boss.