‘Tis the season for office parties! If you’re planning yours now, don’t fret. We’ve got everything you need to know (including our past experiences and what we took into account) below.
Figuring out the date of your office holiday party is the first step to planning the perfect event. If you’re a medium-sized agency like we are (we have 30 employees) then you can pull up the office calendar and start talking dates at least one week before Christmas. We scheduled ours this year on the Thursday before the holiday. We typically choose a Thursday evening because it’s much cheaper to book a venue on a weekday than it is on a weekend.
What we took into account: vacations, out of office requests, and when our remote employees would be in town. This helped us schedule close enough to the holiday while considering those who would be in town during the party.
Choosing the right venue for your office holiday party is crucial. It’s important to pick out a place that a). Has enough room to accommodate your party b). Has good food and c). Can provide a good place to entertain. In the past, we have chosen restaurants to hold our office parties because they provide all the food and most of the set-up and clean up afterward. If you choose to have it at a venue that doesn’t cater on-site, be prepared for the extra people you’ll need to hire (like servers, a bartender, clean-up crew, etc.)
Something we learned early on when planning office parties was to pick a place that also allows you to get up and move around. We once had an office party at a small restaurant in Downtown Chandler. It was great until we realized the area was so small that nobody felt comfortable getting out of their seats to visit with others. After this experience, we were sure to plan our future parties at larger restaurants that offered large secluded patio areas where we were free to roam and play.
What we took into account: somewhere that could fit up to 100 people (our staff and their plus one), somewhere close to the office, that fit within our budget, and someplace that offered a variety of good food and beer.
What would a good office holiday party be without the people? To encourage coworkers to attend your office party, it’s important to allow each person to bring a plus one. This could be a spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, friend, whoever! Last year, one of our graphic designs brought his twin brother. He was new at the time so we had a hard time figuring out who was who. I’m just joking. But in all seriousness, allowing each coworker to bring one guest for a night of good food and laughs is the best way to get them on board and to actually show up.
What we took into account: those who were married, those who were single.
Figuring out what food to order is simple with the help of the restaurant or catering team you’re working with. All you’ll need to provide them with is a guest count, preferences, and any allergies and dietary restrictions. Typically, we order a wide variety of appetizers to accommodate our crowd of dairy-free, vegetarians, and meat lovers. Make sure to give them your food budget with some room for gratuity.
As far as providing your guests with full meals vs. finger foods, we’ve done both, and honestly, we’ve had no complaints from any of our coworkers in the past. They’ll just be happy with food they don’t have to pay for.
What we took into account: Final guest count. Dietary restrictions.
Similar to ordering food, the restaurant or venue can provide drink recommendations that will cover every guest’s thirst requirements. If you’re throwing the bash elsewhere, you can’t go wrong with options like white and red wine, light and dark beer, 7up and of course, water. To add a little holiday flair to your party, consider offering a peppermint coffee or cocoa with dessert.
We typically give out 2 drink tickets per person as they arrive. Some companies prefer to set drink limits, while others aren’t as strict. It’s really up to you how you want to handle the alcohol, but we would recommend setting reasonable limitations.
What we took into account: Non-alcohol and alcohol drinkers, setting up limitations.
It’s always a good idea to plan a game or two towards the end of your party. It gives people an incentive to stick around for awhile longer, especially if surprise gifts are in order. Each year, our company participates in a Chinese gift exchange, which is similar to a White Elephant gift exchange, except we buy new things that people might actually want. We’ve also done an ugly sweater competition, provided a photo booth, and this year we plan on playing cornhole and ping pong.
What we took into account: Games that were easy to participate in and encouraged engagement. One or two games is plenty, no need to fill up the evening with back to back activities.
If you’re planning to host a gift exchange at your office holiday party, keep reading. For larger companies, I’ve heard it’s best to choose a name out of a hat and provide a gift for them only. For medium to small companies, a Chinese gift exchange or White elephant encourages more engagement and creativity. Whichever you choose for your game plan, it’s important to pick out a gift that the recipient will actually want.
If you’re doing the gift buying we suggest checking out Amazon’s lightning deals closer to Black Friday. We’ve always found random gift ideas by going that route. Things we’ve purchased in the past are gift cards, mini speakers, headphones, electric toothbrushes, Amazon Alexas, coffee makers, card games, and bath sets. Some more ideas include laptop cases, insulated water bottles, portable charging stations, and gag gifts like the toilet golf set, mini violin, or nerf guns.
What we took into account: Budget, what people would actually want to receive.