An Experts Guide To Planning Your Company Christmas Party
So, you’ve been given the task of organising this year’s Christmas party… and you’ve never done it before…so the question is, where do you start, and what are the things you need to make sure you cover off so that this year’s Christmas party is the best ever?
At Bistro Live, we’ve been hosting Christmas Parties in Leicester, Christmas Parties in Nottingham and Christmas Parties in Milton Keynes since 2001, entertaining over 400,000 Christmas Party revellers, so we think we’re pretty well placed to give you some hints and tips to avoid any Christmas party disasters!
Anyone who has ever volunteered to organise the work Christmas Party will know that what seems like a relatively straight-forward task can soon turn into a major hassle. BUT, don’t fret – with our top tips, you’ll soon be a Christmas Party-organising expert!
This seemingly thankless task is often dumped on people with little previous experience of organising events. Whatever your level of experience, we hope you will find something to help you understand the options available and to ensure you deliver a real cracker of a Christmas Party.
So, where to start…?
Ask for Feedback on the Previous Year’s Christmas Party
It’s sounds like a really obvious thing to say, but if you want to find out what people are looking forward to in their Christmas Party, why not simply ask them? Put together a simple questionnaire and ask questions like:
- What did you enjoy the most about last year’s Christmas Party?
- Is there anything you would definitely like to see again?
- Anything you really didn’t like?
- Any preferences for this year’s Christmas Party?
A word of Warning: You CANNOT please everyone and you will never be able to take everyone’s suggestions into account. Try to go with the consensus and try to include the elements most people found enjoyable.
Here’s an idea: Don’t send the survey to everyone…send it to a few key people.
Get answers from a cross-section of people - it will make it easier to gauge the overall mood without having to wade through hundreds of responses.
Decide what type of Christmas Party you’re going to be organising…
You’ve had everyone’s feedback, now it’s time to decide exactly what the plan is…
It will depend on such things like:
- Daytime event or evening event
- Numbers attending (do you invite partners? These are the people who support your people so it’s good to thank them if you can afford it – but don’t compromise the quality of the party over it. Also, you may also want to assess whether or not your colleagues want partners to be involved or not)
- Do you want a ‘Bespoke’ Christmas Party or a ‘Packaged’ Christmas party?
Not sure? ...Here’s an explanation:
Organising a ‘bespoke’ Christmas party – this is where you start from scratch, finding a venue or using your own place of work (if you have the space) and booking, organising and bringing together different suppliers for all the elements involved such as entertainment, themes and catering.
Using what’s available in your area – dinner in a local restaurant is not uncommon for smaller companies, usually followed by a pub or bar crawl or finding somewhere to boogie the night away. You could look at alternative ideas in your area combined with dinner and drinks, such as river cruises, cocktail making, ten-pin bowling or watching a show.
Buying a ‘packaged’ Christmas party – this is an ‘off the shelf’ Christmas Party organised by a venue such as Bistro Live. Often, they will have a special Christmas theme throughout December, with the same or similar entertainment and the same menu being served to different companies and parties every night.
This option is ideal for large companies that don’t have the time or budget to organise an event from scratch, so instead book out a pre-packaged Christmas Night exclusively for their company.
For smaller workplaces there are ‘Shared’ Christmas Party nights, where you buy tables at a large ‘off the shelf’ Christmas Party, sharing the event with a variety of other companies. This is ideal for those that want the atmosphere of a larger event, but don’t have the budget, time or enough guests to put something bespoke together.
But Hold On…What’s about the budget…?
So, you’ve decided on what type of Christmas Party you’re organising but perhaps the most important element to your event, the budget will determine whether you can afford to do what you plan to do, so getting the budget nailed down early is fundamental to your planning.
Find out how much money you have to spend. You need to know this as early in the process as possible so you don’t start planning something completely unrealistic.
Allocate the budget by what is most important to your company or group. This will depend on the type of company you work for and what the people you work with are looking for in a Christmas Party. Remember that the Christmas Party is usually a ‘thank-you’ to the staff, so should be organised for them and not just to please the bosses.
Handy hint: Spend on the most important elements first. Most people will enjoy a Christmas Party as long as there is great entertainment and plenty of food and drink. These are the things that matter most, so most of your budget should go on making sure these things are included as the minimum. Any extras should all come at the end once you’ve got the basics covered.
If you’re planning a ‘bespoke’ Christmas Party, it’s a good idea to have a contingency budget as a back-up. Unexpected costs can always crop up with any size of event, so don’t spend your entire budget straight away.
For smaller parties, ask around your group to see what everyone is prepared to pay for their Christmas Night Out, and then set the budget accordingly.
Hint: It’s always a good idea (for smaller parties) to include a little extra to pay for your first round of drinks in advance – the start of any Christmas Party night is always very hectic, and you don’t want to be waiting around for your drinks – so ordering your first round in advance is a smart move…
Save the Date
Christmas is a busy time for everyone, both from a work perspective and also personally, so it’s important to set the date nice and early.
Confirm the numbers
Send an email to let everyone know the proposed date, and ask them to RSVP within a week so that you can move on to…
Set the date and stick to it
There are only a limited number of peak dates, especially Friday and Saturday nights from mid-November through to early January, so pick one and stick to it.
Be An Early Bird
So, your budget’s sorted, you’ve decided on the type of Christmas Party you’re looking for and you’ve got your date sorted…it’s now time to get going. Venues get booked up quickly so don’t drag your heels. Get online nice and early and scope out some different venues to run past your colleagues. You might even bag yourself an early bird discount.
For example, here at Bistro Live, if you book your Christmas Party before the end of June, you qualify for an Early Booking Incentive of 25% off the ticket price (Sunday – Thursday).
Choosing the perfect Christmas Party venue
Do you want to venture out or stay close to home? If you’re considering a Christmas Party venue that is a drive away, you may want to check that they have overnight accommodation, especially once the drinks get flowing!
TIP: Don’t have time for a night time event? Why not organise a Christmas lunch instead! Many venues offer Christmas lunch packages to suit all party sizes and can be just as fun!
Shared or Exclusive?
Shared Christmas Parties come with the fantastic opportunity to mix with groups from other companies, allowing you to benefit from the high end production and entertainment of a big event. Choosing an Exclusive Christmas party however, can be as simple or extravagant as you like, giving you complete control over your own event.
Make the most of the sales and event-planning team at the venue, they know their ‘space’ really well and will have seen plenty of events there so don’t be afraid to fire all your questions at them.
If you have a number of options, try to provisionally place them on hold until you’ve made your final decision.
Exclusive Party Hints:
- Organise visits to venues to work out the best options - take photos to help when planning the theme
Ask the venue’s events team about what is available for you to use and what you will need to hire in
Here are a few things to think about:
★ Do they have their own sound system or will you have to hire one in?
★ Do they have an in-house DJ?
★ Do they have recommended party bands or other entertainment?
★ Can they provide a dance floor?
★ Will the venue be exclusive to you?
★ How do they charge: venue hire fee or minimum spend?
★ Do they have their own dedicated event manager to support you?
★ In-house caterers or external?
- If an overnight stay will be required, or you want to organise it as part of the overall experience, then find out about accommodation options at the venue or nearby
- If you haven’t had a confirmed guest list or are worried about ‘no shows’, ask if you will be able to book for minimum numbers and add guests later on
- Before signing anything make sure you check back through the quote and ensure it includes everything you require and that there will be no hidden charges
Be willing to try and negotiate costs. If you don’t ask you don’t get, although Christmas is a busy time so don’t be surprised if the venue refuses your requests for a discount.
Formally confirm the location and release any alternative venues on hold.
Book accommodation if required.
If you’re looking to blow your colleagues away for your bespoke party, a themed Christmas Party may be the way to go. From the sophistication of a ‘Glitz and Glamour’ night to the ‘raucous’ atmosphere of a ‘Bier Keller’ night, and everything in between, theme nights can be a fun, different way to entertain your colleagues.
Booking entertainment for your Christmas Party can cost anything from £200 to £20,000 so a lot of people choose to leave it out and supply background music. However, great entertainment really makes a Christmas Party, so it’s something definitely worth having. Putting a live party band into the mix as well can really bring the party to life.
One of the best entertainment agencies in the business is Henderson Management (www.henderson-management.co.uk ). They can advise on a range of entertainment from party bands to tribute acts, comedians to named acts. With their 38 years of experience in booking acts for all sorts of events, you have the comfort that the entertainment they select for you will be a tried and tested professional act, that will blow your guests away…
Deposits and Payments
Most Christmas Party venues will usually require a deposit on or around the date of booking, followed by full payment before the event.
If your party members are paying for their Christmas night out individually, don’t wait until the last minute to start collecting money... set your own deadline a few days earlier and avoid the embarrassing phone call to the venue asking for more time.
Did You Know: Bistro Live has a unique payment system so that individual party members can pay directly for their share of the costs. Each party has a unique payment link enabling everyone to pay online. Organiser’s receive an email every time one of their group pays meaning they can keep track of who’s paid…
Food & Drink
The exciting part – choosing your meal!
If your venue offers a menu choice, it’s likely they’ll need to know what people will be eating ahead of time. Put everyone’s choices on a spreadsheet and bring it with you on the night – you can guarantee that someone will forget what they ordered!
At some venues (like Bistro Live) you can order your food on the night from a choice of several dishes on each course.
Most Christmas Party venues only offer a set menu with one or maybe 2 alternatives for people with special dietary requirements.
Speaking of menu choices, remember to ask colleagues if they have any special dietary requirements and let your venue know in advance so that they can prepare an enjoyable meal for everyone.
As much as you want to believe your employees are at the party for the sake of company morale, really, they’re there just to party. And make no mistake, most of them are there because they’re looking forward to eating and drinking on the company expense account!
So, give them what they want!
Choose a venue provides delicious, high quality food.
BUT, don’t take the venue’s word for it…check out what their customers have said about the food on review sites such as Trip Advisor (www.tripadvisor.co.uk).
Drink and be merry…!
As for drink options, be nice and organised and order a drinks package. Many venues offer a discount so you’ll save some money, and your drinks will usually be ready and waiting for you when you arrive.
Or, you will probably have the option of a bar tab…BUT if you are worried about spiralling costs or making sure that everybody gets their fair share from the bar tab then you could limit the choices available or organise drinks vouchers to be given to the guests so that the budget isn’t blown on doubles and shots within the first hour…
…choose what you think is best for your party.
Do you need a table plan ?
I guess it depends on the size of your party, but just like with a wedding, a table plan can be a ‘nightmare’ task to get right but can be worth the effort to make sure everybody gets the most out of the event – and that any awkward ‘situations’ are avoided.
(If you’re going for a table plan, don’t forget the place name cards – most venues will provide these for you…)
Your itinerary is what will help you stay organised and ensure everything remains on the right track for a smooth-running event…but it’s only for the larger company parties or the very, very organised!
That Final ‘Touch of sparkle’
If you’re going to go ‘all out’…and really go for the wow effect, then consider some of the following options to make your Christmas Party a night to remember: -
★ Transport – why not ‘glam it up’ with a limo?
★ Why not organise a Prosecco reception with a glass of ‘fizz’ for everyone?
★ Enhance your menu with additional extras such as canapés
★ What about your own personal waiter for the night?
★ How about goody bags for everyone…chocolates always go down well at Christmas..
Corporate Christmas Parties are a great way to create unity within your business. This is especially beneficial if your company operates under a number of different departments. Just remember the number one rule….no photos after 10 pm!
Don’t forget to book your taxis…!
You’ve had a fantastic night, you’re full of festive cheer, then the evening comes to an end and you realise you haven’t thought about how you’re getting home. Standing in the cold, ringing around taxi firms is no fun on a cold December night, and is guaranteed to get you feeling like The Grinch.
Book taxis in advance!
AND FINALLY…the top 5 things NOT TO DO at the Office Christmas Party
- DON’T Drink TOO much
(It’s No 1 for a reason…!)
We all know we shouldn’t, but it’s so hard not to when it’s all free isn’t it?
But, don’t forget…it’s a WORK event, with work colleagues…and work rules still apply.
We all think we’re: more desirable; much funnier; got better dance moves AND much more entertaining when we’re drunk…well, the bad news is that we’re not!
So, the last thing you want to do is to make a fool of yourself and be the centre of attention…for the wrong reasons!
- DON’T Arrive Late
There’s no such thing as ‘fashionably late’…you’re just late, and that might give people the impression you don’t care much for the Christmas Party, or by association, the company who is paying for it for you. Be on time, and spend time getting to know other people in other teams or departments.
- DON’T ‘Have a Drunken Snog’ with one of your colleagues
Beware of the urge for a drunken snog…pouncing on one of your colleagues is definitely NOT the thing to do at the office Christmas Party!
‘Beer goggles’ make people much more attractive than they really are…it really is time to leave if the person you’ve seen every day in the office for the last year and not looked twice at suddenly becomes the centre of your attention! Go home…NOW.
- DON’T ask for a pay-rise or promotion
Not at the Christmas party…not the right time…talking ‘shop’ with the boss at the Christmas party is OK, but don’t make it an opportunity to further yourself!
Make an impression for the right reasons…
- DON’T Post anything on social media on the night of the Christmas Party
That video you’ve just taken of your boss doing the embarrassing John Travolta impression – you should post that on Facebook now, right…
If you MUST post something about the Christmas Party, wait until the morning after…when you’ve had your morning coffee, and your judgement is sounder.