Holiday parties can play a huge role in strengthening the community and culture of your company. Whether it’s a small office lunch or a large corporate gala, this is your chance to celebrate the people you’ve been working with all year.
While it may be tempting to stick with the same old approach, it’s easier than you think to transform your event into something extra special.
If you’re in charge of the plans this year, here are our tried and tested tips for creating an event that’ll have your coworkers talking for years to come!
1. Audience: Know Your Guests/Audience
Remember that you’re planning this for your staff or co-workers, not necessarily for yourself.
Put yourself in your guests shoes and really think about what’s going to appeal to them! You wouldn’t plan the same kind of party for a group of programmers in their 20s as you would for a group of office administrators in their 50s. Understanding your company’s culture is key.
You also need to establish early on just how formal (or informal) the event will be. Is this Staff Only or will people be bringing children and spouses? Are you hoping to party all night long or wrap things up early?
It’s crucial not to skimp on this step, so make sure you have a firm grasp of the tone you’re aiming for and who the guests are, before you start getting creative with your planning.
2. Theme: Switch It Up
Ultimately, people just want to hang out with their colleagues and have a good time. Whatever you do to facilitate that is what’s going to make your party a success. Sure, Candy Canes and Santa are the norm but they’re not a requirement. Most people will be getting their fill of the standard Christmas fare at home or at other events throughout the holidays so why not try something different?
If you’re new to the company be sure to check with your coworkers to get the scoop on what’s worked in the past and what’s already been done. Making something truly memorable means getting creative. Consider variations on Winter themes or do something completely out of the ordinary.
- Winter theme variations such as Narnia, Swiss Lodge, Ski Hill, Northern Lights, Starry Night, or White Christmas.
- Transport your guests to India, Switzerland or Hawaii (Santa not necessarily included) by decorating your venue to create a fully immersive experience.
- Rent out a skating rink and re-create Christmas in NY.
- Be bold and go with an out of the ordinary theme such as Haunted Holidays, Prohibition/Gatsby , Studio 54, or a Good Ol’ Country Hoe-Down.
3. Experience: Surprise Your Guests
The best way to create a memorable moment is to plan secret things that your guests would never expect. Creating an element of surprise adds to the excitement of the day and leaves a powerful impression that really lasts!
Depending on the size of your event, the surprise can be anything from an undercover magician who walks around making guests’ drinks disappear to orchestrating a Flashmob style dance to kick off the night. Either way, these are the kind of unexpected little surprises that lead to the “Oh my god, do you remember when…” moments that’ll have people talking for years to come.
- Conduct a big reveal by hiding the theme until guests arrive.
- Have wandering magicians conducting hand magic.
- Organize a secret flashmob style dance off.
- Add in an acrobat performer who suddenly drops in from the ceiling!
- Hire intrusive guests, they can bring an added flair to the event when a big reveal happens!
- Upon arrival have all guests pick an envelope from a wall, with each envelope corresponding to a prize or gift.
4. Activities: Offer Interactive Entertainment & Games
Rather than limiting yourself to 1 main act like a band or DJ, consider 3 or 4 smaller forms of entertainment that will give your guests options. Having multiple “stations” also helps keep things moving and prevents people from sticking to one group or spot in the room.
Again, the type of entertainment may vary depending on the size of the group and level of formality but it could be anything from casino tables, to a digital caricature artist, to an indoor amusement park filled with inflatable attractions! A graffiti or memory wall where people can draw or take pictures is another great way to make memories. It also gives you something tangible to look back on and share later.
- Everyone has a band, what about upping the ante with a duelling band!? Each has to perform something over and above the previous!
- Have an interactive photo booth where guests can draw on the photos using a paint-like program.
- Hire a caricature artist!
- Provide a photo flip book making station. Guests act out a scene while the camera takes fraction of a second photos to create a small photo flip book as a take away.
- Create a graffiti or memory wall that your guests leave their comments on throughout the night
- Add in life size games to play. Life size beer pong, jenga or connect four are a lot of fun!
- Casino games are another classic way to add fun, excitement, and activity to the party.
5. Alcohol: Go Beyond Beer or Wine
You might think alcohol is all that’s needed for a good time but creating an experience that will stick in people’s minds means going beyond what’s expected.
Consider offering a specialty cocktail or signature drink for the night. And come up with creative ways to serve it! Not everyone drinks alcohol so it’s important to make your guests feel the specialness of the night regardless of what they’re drinking. You don’t necessarily have to go to the extreme of champagne towers and dry ice but finding a unique way to have drinks served to your guests is the kind of small detail that makes a huge difference!
*Note: If you decide to go all out on alcohol, you need to think about getting people home safely too! Whether you’re arranging shuttles to skytrain stations or offering full valet service, have things set up in advance so everyone knows what will be available to them ahead of time.
- Offer a specialty cocktail or signature drink.
- Add in a flaming aspect to your cocktail list – literally!
- Integrate your theme into the cocktails. If you’re having an Indian themed event you could add some indian flavours to your drinks. (Cardamom is amazing with Gin!)
- Have a prosecco bar where guests can add in mint, raspberries or other items.
- Create a tasting bar. Whether it’s whiskeys, wines, or craft beer, tasting notes can be paired with each. Take it one step further and have food pairings.
6. Food: Make It Fun
As a catering-based company we might be slightly biased but food is one of the most important parts of a successful event and one of the main opportunities to differentiate it! Again, just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean there has to be turkey. You can still have themed food without it being traditional. (Think fusion!)
Of course, the more creative the menu the more important it is to know your guests. Aside from food allergies and other dietary constraints, some people may be put off by anything too creative. If you’re still looking to be a tad adventurous with the menu consider including interactive chef stations. Not only will it allow your guests to personalize things to their taste, it adds entertainment value as well.
- Forgo the standard Christmas fare and create a more interesting menu, ideally something that reflects your theme!
- Provide interactive food stations that add some fun and excitement for the guests.
- Create a DIY smores station!
- Offer fancy ice cream, donuts, and other treats.
7. Be Prepared
While encouraging organization isn’t the most exciting tip, it’s incredibly important for making sure your event runs smoothly. It’s easy to underestimate the time it takes to plan. Plus, the closer it gets to Christmas the harder it will be to book the things you want, so start early!
Make a checklist that includes emergency items and backup plans. And pay special attention to small details! There’s nothing worse than than having your creative idea derailed by missing felt markers or uncharged camera batteries. The smaller it is the more likely you are to forget it. Create a checklist. Be prepared.
Tips For Being Organized
- Have a checklist for all details both big and small.
- The event will take longer to set up than you think.
- Bring tape and a sharpie, they come in handy!
- Do a walk through of the site with all your major vendors so you know where they will need to set up. This ensures ample space and access to plugs/outlets.
- Have a designated MC to introduce, get attention and let people know the plan. They should also remind people of where everything is located and encourage them to visit activity stations or other attractions.
- A timeline of the evening is beneficial so no one misses anything. This can be handed out as a program upon arrival, placed on their table, or done as one large sign by the entrance.
- Make sure that alcohol is CHILLED long enough before the event!
- Always bring a corkscrew.
- Work with the venue and the vendors to coordinate load in and out.
Creating an unforgettable event starts with not forgetting why you’re doing it! Knowing your guests, understanding your company’s culture and recognizing the constraints you’re working within are key to creating a holiday staff party that truly honours the people you’re celebrating. Providing fun ways to surprise and entertain your guests also requires a willingness to abandon tradition. No matter your budget, it’s important not to limit yourself to “Christmas” or underestimate the value of getting creative and thinking outside the box.
Of course, if you’re still feeling stuck, one of the best ways to instantly upgrade your event is to bring on an event planner. While it may seem like a bit of a cheat, we’re professionals for a reason! In addition to bringing fresh ideas and experience, we have skills and resources you might not have access to. More importantly, making the success of the night our responsibility means you’ll be able to sit back, relax and actually enjoy your own party!
No matter what you decide to do this holiday season we wish you all the best! If you’ve found these tips helpful or have any other questions/comments, please feel free to contact us anytime.
The Savoury Chef Team
Partner With Savoury Chef For Your Holiday Event
At Savoury Chef Foods we know the importance of corporate events and what they can do for you and your team. Having worked as a full-service catering and events company for over ten years, we’ve made it our business to help create the kind of memories that last!
Our experienced staff are professional, passionate and dedicated to making sure you’re as stress-free as possible, not just on the day, but throughout the preparation process as well.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, just get in touch: