Planning for a stress free silly season

At the pointy end of each year, pubs, bars, restaurants and venues are chock-a-block. The weeks leading up to and just after Christmas are without a doubt the busiest in the hospitality business.

To help you avoid the rush of the silly season we have put together a comprehensive guide to planning the perfect end-of-year celebration. With this guide you can get started right away. Creating an event that suits everyone can be a headache, but following a few key steps will help make sure the event is a success.

1. Establish a goal

Business events, such as a conference or an executive retreat, all have goals. An office Christmas party is no different. Sure, these goals might not directly lead to sales or innovative new ideas, but celebrating a year of hard work can have many advantages.

A great Christmas party can perform a number of practical functions. First and foremost it’s a reward for the commitment and hard work of your team. The office Christmas party is a celebration of everyone’s joint effort to keep the ship sailing smoothly.

The event is also a great platform to acknowledge the dedication of a specific team or individual with opportunities for speeches, acknowledgements and even a small awards ceremony.

A memorable Christmas party is a huge motivating factor. A positive group experience will stay with employees and encourage them to push through the tough times. A truly great event can be the light at the end of the tunnel that keeps employees around for longer.

At their core, Christmas parties are a social event. They’re an opportunity for the team to share an experience and bond in a less professional environment. Also, that experience and connection can be shared with key customers and suppliers, and can potentially generate more business.

Establishing a clear set of goals will help frame the rest of the planning process. Running each decision through the filter of a goal will help ensure that the event is not only fun, but also has a tangible benefit.

2. Theming

A Christmas event has the most impact when it’s memorable. Employees aren’t going to make it through the mid-year slog with a dull party to look forward to. A theme can create the kind of impression that will keep people talking right up until next year.

An end-of-year event doesn’t necessarily have to be Christmas related, it’s more of a celebration than a religious event. There are a million-and-one theme options and ideas out there and narrowing something down can be tricky. Create a short-list and take an office-wide vote to help narrow down your choices.

Once a theme has been set, it can be used to help you make decisions on anything from table settings and entertainment, to a menu or even a venue.

3. Lunch, dinner or drinks?

Each option has its own benefits and drawbacks. Choosing what type of event you want will hinge on what suits your team the most. A long lunch is a great option for employees that have after-work commitments or young families. Letting them celebrate without missing family time or footy practice is important to making sure they have a positive experience. However, this option won’t work if you need to leave poor Jenny or Jeff behind to man the phones.

If the office can’t afford to switch off during the day, an after-work event is a better choice. A sit-down dinner is a longer time commitment, and it helps if your office is a social bunch. If a glass of wine or a beer is needed to loosen the screws, then a stand-up cocktail event might be best.

Listen to your staff and get to know them, this is the easiest way to decide what type of event will best suit your employees.

A word on drinks policy

Christmas events are a great opportunity to celebrate and let the staff blow off steam. But it’s still a work event, and attendees are under the organisation’s duty of care. It’s always best to err on the side of caution when allocating drinks at the event. Here are a few simple measures to prevent a fun event from turning a little too messy:

  • Allocate each guest a limited number of drink tokens
  • Limit the bar tab to wine and beer
  • Make sure dinner is served early or canapés are available throughout the event

If everyone is kept busy by activities, entertainment, food and good company then heavy drinking will be the last thing on their minds.

4. Sourcing a venue

As we discussed earlier, Christmas is the busiest period of the year in the hospitality game and good venues will be booked well in advance. This means you need to start narrowing down your options as early as possible.

When you have a short-list, organise site inspections at each venue. Hunt down their events team to discuss your event, and how you can best use the space. They will also be able to answer questions and give advice on theming, catering, activities and entertainment. Take plenty of photos to bring back to the office to help you decide.

After you have chosen the venue, double check the quote to make sure it covers everything you require. You can always try to negotiate a discount, but being a high-demand period, getting something knocked off the top in November or December is rare.

5. What’s on the menu?

Deciding on the right catering option for your Christmas event is more than just making sure you have everyone’s dietary requirements catered for. Food is an essential part of any event experience, and a really spectacular menu will dominate the water-cooler chat for weeks.

There’s a significant practical element to catering. Once you have chosen the type of event and the venue, food should be the next item on the list.

Canapés for cocktails, a buffet for lunch, and an ala carte menu for a sit down dinner are just the beginning of your options. Food trucks, carts, dessert walls—the list is endless. Choose a caterer and a food service option that suits your event’s theme and type—don’t be afraid to get creative. It’s all about making memories.

6. Hiring entertainment & music

Entertainment is key to any successful event. It can help break the ice, fill in those awkward gaps in conversation and take your event up a notch. Once again, your event type and theme will determine which acts will work best.

For a seated celebration, stage shows and live bands are an excellent choice. Your guests can sit back and enjoy the show after a year of hard work. Roving entertainers, such as jugglers, magicians or performance artists are more suitable for standing cocktail-style events.

Finding the right music option can also make or break an event. Choose music that matches the mood of your event and liaise with the venue to set up the PA system. If possible, having the music playing throughout the event space is a great way to create an immersive experience.

7. Organise transport

You may or may not need to organise transport for your Christmas event, depending on the location. If it’s a long lunch at a venue in walking distance of the office, then organising a shuttle bus might be considered overkill. However, arranging transport for guests is a good idea if there are drinks involved or the event is scheduled to finish late at night. You don’t want people walking home through town after dark, or having to sort out their own cabs after a big evening of celebrating.

8. Send invites, quick!

As soon as you have confirmed and booked the date, time, venue and transport, send out invitations. Christmas is a busy time for everyone, and by getting the invites out as soon as possible you can secure your event in the calendar.

Having an invitation stuck to an employee’s fridge or on their cubicle wall also serves as a constant reminder that they have a great event to look forward to, and will help keep them motivated and working hard. Include entertainment or planned activities on the invitation to build excitement.