The holidays are drawing near, and so many companies are trying to find ways to celebrate their employees’ contributions and wind down after what will be the second year of change and transformation due to the coronavirus pandemic. While some employees are comfortable with in-person gatherings and other companies have opted to maintain a virtual or distributed work environment, this leaves an opportunity for creativity to shine in finding a happy medium for hosting holiday office parties. If you are in the process of planning a company gathering, keep reading as we share some of our best tips on how to throw a successful holiday office party: 

Choose a Party Date as Early as Possible

Choosing a date is perhaps the most important element when you are planning a holiday party. Even prior to social distancing restrictions and coronavirus challenges, planning a holiday party has always been difficult for many. Most planners in your region have a six-week window to plan hundreds of company parties. They are competing for availability at restaurants and hotels and are trying to have parties early enough to beat the rush of employees who take off for the holidays. That said, it is important to choose a party date as early as possible. 

Some companies are in a bit of a pickle as they are trying to hold out to see how coronavirus numbers are landing as well. There are many employees that desire to have in-person gatherings. While companies want to accommodate their requests, CEOs do not want to perpetuate the increase in covid cases in their region. We understand this perspective, but at some point, a decision must be made in order to secure hosting a party of any kind. 

We recommend that human resource managers or planners aim to set a date early, whether the party is virtual or in-person. Be sure to view your company or team calendar to find a few dates that do not coincide with end-of-year reports, meetings, or deadlines. Employees usually start to trickle out of the office for vacation around the 20th of December or the weekend before some of the major winter holidays begin. Check the calendar to see the days that the holidays fall on and build from there. 

Host the Party During Work Hours

Another option is to host your holiday party during work hours. While some companies host their holiday parties on the weekend or in the evening, other companies opt to have holiday party lunches or brunches. This not only helps to increase the likelihood of having employees attend, but certain venues offer discounts and reduced pricing for bookings that take place during their off-peak hours. Since there are so many angles in choosing the best date for your holiday party, start there and then work on the location.

Choose a Convenient Location

Next up on the list of things to do is to choose a convenient location. Convenience, in this case, must be conducive for all attendees. A convenient location should also be inclusive of elements such as pricing, parking accessibility, and whether the venue is near public transportation. 

The most convenient location could be your actual office or an area in the office building. If your company has a large enough space to accommodate all guests, you will bring a new level of availability and convenience to the planning process. If your company leases space in a more extensive business park or building, you can speak to the landlord about options to host the party in another location inside of the building. Entertainment Exchange has provided lighting and entertainment for several holiday office parties held in the lobby of an office building. Lobbies tend to have glass and marble, making for an excellent backdrop for holiday-themed gatherings that use twinkling lights and traditional holiday dėcor. 

Choose an Offsite Location

On the other hand, keep in mind that while an in-home office party is a convenient choice, upper management should consider the current climate of their company and be aware enough to make the best decision for their team because it may be better to introduce a new environment for the holiday party. For instance, it may be a nice gesture (and worth the extra expense) to host your company holiday party at a fancy restaurant if the majority of your employees work in a factory-type setting. 

Keep an Eye Out For Your Employees 

Regardless of the location, it is important to choose a place that works best for your budget and personnel. Another note on the topic of location is the safety factor. If you decide to serve alcohol at the holiday party, you want to host your party at a site that has several public transportation options. It is important to keep an eye out for your employees, and you can offer Uber credits for all employees traveling home within a certain radius. Some laws hold party hosts accountable for alcohol-related incidents, so it is better to be cautious and find a location that offers as many safety options as possible.

Keep It Non-denominational

The “holidays” have always been presented in the plural form for a reason. There are so many non-religious and religious holidays between November and early January. With a diverse staff, you will likely have party guests that celebrate one or more religious holidays during this time. It may be tempting to want to observe your religious holiday or partake in another staff member’s traditions and observances, but it may be best to keep it non-denominational. 

HR guru Fredricia Cunegin of HRinMotion, LLC says, “A holiday party is a great way for an employer to show team members their appreciation and gratitude. An expression of gratitude doesn’t need to be experienced under any specific label (like Religion) to be received and appreciated. If you take a religious approach to the holiday celebration, your efforts could be perceived as non-inclusive or biased. It is the recommendation that an employer stays away from adding denominational elements to a holiday party. Keep the atmosphere light and fun, and give tokens of appreciation if your budget allows. Employees will always appreciate these touches.”

Keep the Décor Simple & Exciting

Knowing that it is best to keep your party non-denominational, you should stay in that lane with the decorations. Lighting will always be your best friend when it comes to finding a simplistic, elegant, fun, and cost-effective way to create a unique ambiance for your party. 

We are such prominent proponents for the use of lighting and have several technicians that have illuminated venues for holiday parties in the past. We detail our advocacy for lighting in our article “Why Is Lighting So Important for Your Special Event?

“Lighting is often overlooked and sometimes undervalued when planning an event. Most people don’t realize that lighting is one of the most important and economical ways to decorate an event. If you’re thinking about the cost, it will definitely depend on the size of the space where you are hosting your event. It also depends on whether you decide to use the additional options available like giant LED letters or GOBO logo projections.” 

Provide Food And Drink to Meet All Dietary Needs

Now to the fun part ー food and libations! Hungry guests are never happy, so we recommend putting a little thought into hiring a caterer or booking a venue that has a diverse menu offering. You want to be able to meet all dietary requirements of your guests and still have guests talking about how great the food was long after the party is over. Nowadays there are so many options for providing food. You can order a catered meal from a local restaurant, hire an up-and-coming private chef to cook meals onsite or book a venue with an in-house caterer. As the host, we hope you get to enjoy doing a tasting during the planning process ー that is always the best part!

Book Entertainment for the Party 

Now on to our favorite part ーbooking entertainment! A holiday party is the time to let loose and have a good time with your employees, ーespecially if you are in upper management. Employees want to feel a level of commonality with their peers and co-workers. Music, variety acts like comedians and magicians, and themed photo booths are ways to put everyone on the same playing field to share special moments together. We urge you to hire a booking agent when it is time to book entertainment for the party. Your first thought may be booking a DJ or band, but an entertainment company can offer additional ideas for options that will liven up the party. Do your research to grab tips for hosting your party. You can also do a poll to see what your employees or guests would like to see or enjoy. A combination of a branded photo booth, DJ, and comedian may be the perfect night for one company. Still, another company may enjoy a live band and creative personalities that socialize and walk around the party to engage guests.

Whatever you do, to throw a successful holiday party, you must be intentional, create safety measures and have fun! 

Sound off below and share your best holiday party experiences! 


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