By Joanna Nehra Events Planner and Founder of Special Events UK
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You know the feeling; you skulk into the office the morning of the work Christmas do, trying to avoid making eye contact with the poor soul who has been given the dreaded task of organising the sorry affair. Yet again you are heading off to the local boozer to have worse food than they serve at the work canteen and pay an extortionate amount for it!
For the most part, employers underestimate the importance of these types of events. A great party or informal dinner can work wonders for team morale, employee retention and in turn increase business productivity.
Workplace culture and social events always rank as one the most important elements in employee surveys. We spend more waking hours with our co-workers than we do with our loved ones. Encouraging friendships through a strong culture and social activities can increase productivity by 20% *
Christmas parties, in particular, are seen as a thank you from management for hard work throughout the year.
My top tips for a successful event, whatever your budget!
1. Who are your guests?
This is THE most important thing to think about. Much more so than budget. For clients? you will need to use some ingenuity to make it impressive. Don’t scrimp on the venue but if you can’t afford dinner, go for drinks and carefully chosen canapés.
Booking entertainment? make sure fits your brand. A good cover band usually goes down better than a tribute act. Sandra from Finance may love a Rod Stewart look-a-like but don’t limit your audience. If it is a choice between good food or entertainment the food wins everytime!
Don’t forget there are deals to be made at parties and building good relationships with clients. If it is an event for employees it can be a little more relaxed. If your budget is small a private room with some decoration can be enjoyable. I would advise having a party off-site to allow a change of scenery and a change of clothes.
Never book a venue that hasn’t been tried and tested. I wouldn’t book a venue without a site visit and a menu sample. Can’t visit in person? recommendations from people you trust are vital. Decoration, music a few games to break the ice around the dinner table all go down well.
Employees must feel some effort has gone into making it special so booking the same venue year in year out is a big ‘no no’.
3. The Details
A personalised handwritten thank you note from the boss goes a long way. A fun ‘award show’ with a mixture of sincere and jokey prizes is often a winner. I can’t emphasize this enough but EMPLOYEES SHOULDN’T PAY FOR THEIR XMAS PARTY. If you are on a tight budget going to the local pub for drinks and nibbles is better than employees contributing when it should be a demonstration of how you appreciate them.
Don’t forget your employees will be discussing with others how good or bad the Christmas party was and sharing pics on social media. See this as an opportunity to grow your reputation as a great place to work and have fun. HMRC even give you a tax break for Annual Christmas Parties…what is not to love?!
Working out the best time to have your event is crucial to determining its success. In our industry, our planning starts in September to ensure you get the venue on the date you want it. I always prefer the first week in December. Having a Christmas party in Jan just doesn’t cut it (sorry) and makes you seem like a tight arse.
For some, having a lunch works perfectly fine with their business as it doesn’t encroach on family time but for business continuity, evening is usually best. If people can go straight from work all the better as you will inevitably lose people if they go home and change first.
This is the thing most people forget, especially for a small affair, but this is the moment when people determine a) if they are going b) the theme and what to expect and c) if it’s something worth going to and get excited about it. If it’s an office-wide event, put up some posters about it. Get them properly designed, or if you can’t, design them yourself with a personal touch. Not great for the environment but, a printed invitation will be much better received than an email. Only print what you need though obvs.
If it’s for clients try and hand out the invites in person and make all the details clear in the invite including the dress code, finish time etc… Give people plenty of notice. Social calendars fill up quick this time of year.
6. Post Event
Don’t be afraid to ask what your guests thought. There is always room for improvement but be aware that you can’t please everyone. For larger events a survey monkey is a quick and easy way to get feedback.
Have a good time but don’t drink too much. You don’t want to be the one everyone is discussing over the water cooler, or maybe you do!!
• Source: McKinsey Global Institute