Planing a Christmas party: 18 steps to organizing the perfect celebration – Part 1
The job of planning the company Christmas party can often seem something of an unwelcome and scary prospect. You are not alone if that’s how you are feeling about it, as the time constraints and pressure of wanting to organise something that all your colleagues will enjoy can make it a stressful ordeal. One thing to remember if there is serious event planning to be done is that it is never too early to start thinking about Christmas. You may feel it is too early to start getting into the festive spirit but if you want your work celebration to run smoothly then organisation is key. You can be sure no matter how far away December 25th seems, there will always be someone who has already started planning their own event. This seemingly thankless task is often dumped on people with little previous knowledge of organising large-scale events so in this post we will be taking you through the steps needed to create a perfect party from a professional event organiser’s perspective. Whatever your level of experience we hope you will find something to help you understand the options available and to ensure you deliver a real Christmas cracker of a party.
1.SET A DATEChristmas is a busy period, the busiest of the year for many people when it comes to social events, so diaries fill up fast. That means you want to get a date penciled in as early as possible.
Send potential options around the office to get a feel for the preferred date, while the responses will also give you an indication of numbers for the event. Remember, you can’t please everybody so it is usually best to go with ‘majority rules’ when choosing your date. Typically, Thursdays and Fridays are most popular, so earlier days in the week tend to work out cheaper – but don’t expect a productive workforce during the days that follow. Some companies even organise their party in January to kick-start the year and get better value for money. To ensure a good turn out I recommend sending a ‘save the date’ email to everybody as soon as you’ve decided. At this stage it doesn’t matter if you don’t know any details about the party, it’s more important to get as many people to the event as you can. To make life easier you should also request information on any special dietary requirements or allergies that you’ll need to consider when selecting menus.
2.FIND OUT A BUDGETThe size of your budget will ultimately have a huge impact on the type of Christmas party you organise, determining everything from the food and booze to the entertainment and choice of venue. Find out how much money you have to spend. You need to know this as early in the process as possible so you don’t start planning something completely unrealistic. Allocate the budget by what is most important to your group. This will depend on the type of company you work for and the expectations of the people you work with. Remember that the Christmas party is a ‘thank-you’ to the staff, so should be organised for them and not to please directors. Leave some money aside as a back up. Unexpected costs can always crop up with any size of event, so don’t splurge your entire budget straight away.
3. ESTABLISHING THE TYPE OF CHRISTMAS PARTY YOU’RE ORGANIZINGThere is almost endless variety when it comes to the type of Christmas party that you can plan. It will be depend on many factors, including the location, budget, numbers attending and how much you want to be directly involved in planning and managing the event. You’ll need to decide whether you are planning a daytime event, evening event or both.
Do you have the budget to accommodate husbands, wives and partners? These are the people who support your people so it’s good to thank them if you can afford it – but don’t compromise the quality of the party over it. You may also want to gauge whether or not your colleagues want partners to be involved or not. Bespoke or packaged Christmas party? If this sounds confusing, here is a breakdown: Organising a bespoke Christmas party – this is where you start from scratch, finding a venue or using your own workplace (if you have the space) and booking, organising and bringing together different suppliers for all the elements involved such as activities, themes and catering. Using what’s available in your area – dinner in a local pub or restaurant is not uncommon for smaller companies, usually followed by a bar crawl or finding somewhere to dance the night away. You could investigate alternative ideas in your area combined with dinner and drinks, such as city cruises, cookery workshops, cocktail making, going to a roller disco, ice skating, bowling or watching a show at the theatre. Buying a packaged Christmas party – this is an ‘off the shelf’ Christmas party organised by either a venue or a Christmas party planner. Often they will present a theme across an entire venue or function room throughout December, with the same entertainment and the same menu being served to different companies and parties every night. This option is ideal for large companies that don’t have the time or budget to organise an event from scratch, so instead book out a pre-packaged night exclusively for their company. For smaller workplaces there are shared party nights, where you buy tables at a large ‘off the shelf’ Christmas party, sharing the event with a variety of other companies. This is ideal for those that want the atmosphere of a larger event, but don’t have the budget, time or enough guests to put something bespoke together. If investigating these ideas sound like a lot of hassle you could contact an event company to do all the hard work for you, that way all you will have to do is select the best option. Some may charge for their services and others may just take a commission from the venue, event planner or the suppliers.
4. SOURCE OF VENUE
The earlier you book the venue, the better – unsurprisingly, good venues go quickly. As we said earlier, no matter how prepared you think you are, there is always someone out there even more organised. Identify suitable venues that have availability, are within budget and easily accessible for guests – the internet is your best tool for this. Request a quote from each based on your requirements. Make the most of the events team at the venue, they’ll know the space really well and will have seen plenty of events there so don’t be afraid to fire all your questions at them. If you have a number of options try to provisionally place them on hold. Organise site visits to work out the best option (check out this post for more details on planning a site visit) and take photos to help when planning the theme. Ask the venue’s events team about what is available for you to use and what you will need to hire in, such as furniture, entertainment equipment, staff on the night, Christmas decorations and theming. Check that the venue will be willing to clear up afterwards, otherwise you may want them to hire in some extra help, rather than clear up yourself. If an overnight stay will be required, or you want to organise it as part of the overall experience, then find out about accommodation options at the venue or nearby. If you haven’t had a confirmed guestlist or are worried about ‘no shows’, ask if you will be able to book for minimum numbers and add guests later on. Before signing anything make sure you check back through the quote and ensure it includes everything you require and that there will be no hidden charges. Be willing to try and negotiate costs. If you don’t ask you don’t get, although Christmas is a busy time so don’t be surprised if they refuse your requests for a discount. Formally confirm the location and release any alternative venues on hold. Book accommodation if required.
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