The annual Christmas do is the biggest social event on the work calendar – and it’s down to you to arrange the office party. Whether you’re the managing director of an established organisation or the leader of a vibrant young start-up, how can you keep spirits in the sky?
Well, if you don’t think there’s much pressure on this decision, think again. Potentially, the consequences of a thoughtless, higgledy-piggledy, mishmash of a party include the demoralisation and demotivation of your staff; maybe even encouraging them to start scouring the job boards over the festive period.
Here’s a quick run through of how to throw an amazing Christmas party; one that your staff will love, and still be talking about this time next year.
Venue and décor
Choosing a unique venue with character and class is the first step towards a happy workforce. Your employees have been working hard all year – give them a place where they can dress up and feel special; a venue that will make your competitors jealous when they see the photos.
“Guests can visit a local restaurant or club anytime. Choose a venue that offers something completely different to what your staff is used to,” says Simon Lockwood, Creative Director at historic London venue The Brewery. “This gives you the opportunity to build suspense amongst employees in the run up to the party.
“A great venue will also remove the responsibility and stress you’re burdened with by including all arrangements in a package deal. That way, you can concentrate on your guests and having a great time.”
Then there are the decorations. Perhaps you have a theme in mind for the night? Whatever your plan, if you can book a venue that is dressed to impressed and makes jaws drop upon entry, you’re onto something.
"First impressions count; from the minute your guests walk through the door, welcome them in style,” says Alex Head, founder of London catering firm, Social Pantry.
Once you’ve booked an incredible venue, the next thing to think about is food and drink. This all depends on the type of party you want to throw – is it an evening affair or will the festivities stretch over an entire day?
Whatever you opt for, dinner and drinks are essential. A great festive meal needn’t be your standard Christmas dinner; after all, the majority of staff will be having one on Christmas day anyway. This means you can get creative with your food choices; for example, head chef at The Brewery, Tom Gore, designs new dishes every year “intended to surprise and delight”, according to Simon. Make staff feel spoilt, and they’ll be happier at work.
“Attention to detail is key,” says Alex. “Shower them with delicious welcome canapés and drinks; try coating the rim of champagne glasses with edible gold dust to add a touch of sparkle to your event.”
Ahh yes – drinks. What would a work party be without a little of tipple? If there’s a lot of people attending the event, Smirnoff brand manager Kizzy Lilburne recommends keeping it simple: “Order something which looks impressive but can be made quickly like a Jam Collins, Moscow Mule or a Cosmo – they always go down well.”
Ultimately, if you really want staff to have an amazing time, you should foot the bill where possible. As WKD says, there are only a couple of things required for a great office party:
@J_W_Stanton Two things: 1) Crates of WKD (obv) 2) Your boss saying the immortal words: "The company's picking up the tab tonight".
— WKD (@WKDOfficial) November 11, 2015
You’ve booked a great venue, and your staff members have all gorged on dinner and drink - now you have to keep them entertained. Aside from music and dancing, what else could you provide?
“I‘m currently organising my Christmas charity ball, and in my opinion the best parties offer fun activities that are interactive and create great photo opportunities,” says Anna Kennedy OBE, founder of UK autism charity Anna Kennedy Online. “Try a photo booth with props. Live auctions/raffles can be great fun too, raising money for your favourite charity. People love to donate at Christmas.”
Simon at The Brewery agrees with the photo booth suggestion, saying: “They’re always popular. We’ve also brought in Lucky Voice karaoke booths for guests, letting them sing and take photos at the same time. We can even build Christmas-themed crazy golf courses!”
You should consider entertaining guests during the sit-down meal too. “Close-up magic is one of the best ways to add a personable touch,” says London-based professional magician Oliver B. “Getting the whole party involved in an activity brings everyone together and adds a little sparkle and goodwill to your part.”
The guys at Christmas UK had a couple of interesting boozy suggestions:
@J_W_Stanton Drunk backgammon and mini ping pong is fun and a great spectator sport! — Christmas UK (@Christmas_UK) November 9, 2015
That’s all there is to it. Good luck with your Christmas party planning – we’ll give the last word to Kizzy at Smirnoff: “Remember that the people make the party – especially when everyone can relax and be themselves (yes, even if it means wearing the jumper).”
Jack Stanton is a brand journalist with Vertical Leap.