Event Management

9 Ways to Ensure Your Office Party Isn’t the Same as Last Year

Skift Take

Last year’s Christmas party was amazing. While it’s tempting to copy that recipe for success, doing so can lead to a disappointed audience. No one wants to attend the same type of soiree every year even if they enjoyed the last one. A big success is not an invitation for replication. It’s an incentive to do something even better. But with budgets being cut and the approval process what it is, how can you plan a party that truly stands out?

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The key to creating something truly unique is learning to say “what if?” more often than “no.” If you’re a creative person, that will come easy for you. If you’re not, you’ll need a little assistance. Keep reading for some interesting ideas (and a few mixed-up Christmas song titles).

  1. We Wish You a Merry Venue

There is nothing in the book of corporate event planning that states your event must be held at the office or in a hotel ballroom. There are numerous options for fun, out-of-the-ordinary locations to host your event. In addition to trendy bistros, you could host at the zoo, a miniature golf course, an escape room, or even an alley (weather permitting) twinkling with holiday lights. Again, if you start asking what if,  you’ll likely come up with a number of other places that would be perfect.

The one thing you don’t want to do if you want your event to be different from last year is to host it at the same place. You can argue all day that your event will be different because you’re serving starters instead of a sit-down meal but people will see the invitation and assume it’s a holiday re-run.

  1. Joy to the Activity

Christmas parties needn’t be boozy shindigs either. In addition to a choice of venue, you can choose to host an activity that doesn’t lend itself to hours of drinking at an open bar. For instance, the Active Transportation Alliance went ice skating in Millennium Park in Chicago several years ago.

If you have a lot of telecommuters who miss out on the yearly Christmas party, consider giving them an amount towards a nice holiday dinner at a place of their choosing. That way everyone enjoys a little merriment. Just as you can be creative about the venue, you can create an event that fits your employees’ lifestyles.

  1. Rockin’ Around the Technology

A lot of admins are tasked with the Christmas party and must juggle the organization of such along with their other daily duties. This can become overwhelming. But if you introduce event management technology, you’ll have more time for the creative parts of event planning you love with the ease of in-app event creation. Plus, peace of mind knowing the administrative tasks like response management, check-in, and a landing page with FAQs are under control.

It’s also important to note with event management technology that you’re not alone and you don’t have to coordinate the event that way. With tech, you can easily assign permissions and tasks to people to help. You can track progress and send reminders. It streamlines everything. Don’t be surprised if you experience that nostalgic feeling of adoring party planning again.

  1. The VIPs Are Coming to Town

One of the difficulties in planning a Christmas party is not throwing a crazy bash. That’s easy enough to plan. It’s coordinating the schedules, appearances, and needs of the company VIPs. Catering to this group means that they’ll remember who you are, which will help your event stand out from the previous one. After all, this is the group that usually signs off the budget. Use technology that will help you manage their preferences and can also notify you when they are on site.

  1. I’m Dreaming of a Change in Hours

Sometimes all your employees want is a break from work. There’s no reason – other than one management gives you – why you can’t host a daytime Christmas party. These tend to be less drunken affairs, which will delight your risk department and insurance carrier, and more about employee bonding. Daytime events are less stressful for working parents because they needn’t choose between spending time with family and the office Christmas party. Plus, daytime events offer an enjoyable chance to play hooky from work around the holidays when everyone is thinking of being somewhere else anyway.

  1. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like a Different Month

Holiday times can be extremely busy for everyone. If your employees are feeling the stress of that time of year or if year-end is a particularly busy time that would prevent certain departments from attending, like sales or shipping, consider a different month like November or January. The point of a Christmas party is to bring everyone together. You can do that at any time of year.

Need a new idea? A summer food truck rally or even a Christmas party in July could be a lot of fun.

  1. I’ll Be Home for the Mission

Instead of a big blow-out, you could organize a company-wide volunteer day or afternoon. You could contact local organizations that are in need of help or allow volunteers to choose who they support that day. Perhaps employees would love to volunteer at their child’s school or maybe they want to hug puppies for the Humane Society. Perhaps there’s a company mission that you believe strongly in and a nonprofit that you support.

Other options include hosting your holiday party somewhere that you can also be doing good at the same time like cooking up a meal at the Ronald McDonald House or serving food at a soup kitchen.

  1. Oh Christmas Theme, Oh Christmas Theme

At this point, you’ve probably attended plenty of Christmas parties with themes – the ugly sweater contest, the white elephant giveaway where you have that gift that still graces your desk or many others. But what if you selected a theme that had very little to do with Christmas or one that contained a strange juxtapositioning of Christmas and an idea decidedly not Christmas? Ideas include:

  • 90’s Christmas
  • 80’s Rocking Christmas
  • Christmas Costume Party
  • Christmas in Vegas
  • Mad Men Office Christmas Party
  1. Eating in a Winter Wonderland

A sit-down meal is nice but there are so many other more creative approaches you can take to feeding your employees. Host a party where they cook their own. Choose the colors red and green and only serve foods in that color range. Host an employee chili cook-off. There are so many fun ways to add food as part of the event, not simply the meal.

In Conclusion

While it’s sometimes tempting to replicate last year’s Christmas party, especially if everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, you’re missing an opportunity to impress your management and delight your coworkers. In order to do so, simply leave your preconceived notions about Christmas parties behind and create something that is truly reflective of your company and its employees. With these quick changeups, you can create an event they’ll remember, assuming you keep the beverage service to a minimum.