For many companies, the modern holiday party
has become more of an obligation than a celebration. Happily, even
if the venue has long been booked, there still is time to give such
year-end events a more meaningful and memorable twist.
With a little extra thought and planning, holiday parties can
provide firms with a tremendous opportunity to foster unprecedented
networking and team building.
The key is to throw an event that encourages interaction,
connections and discovery. Following are some planner-tested
Mix it up
Appoint ambassadors. Ask staff extroverts or
long-time employees to act as social directors during the party.
Their role: to seek out the shy and/or new employees and pull them
into the fold, invite them to sit at their tables and/or introduce
them to others during the course of the event.
Level the playing field. Ask managers to be
servers or to assist the paid wait staff. Putting top brass in
service roles can help to reduce intimidation the rank and file
might feel in their presence.
In this regard, try using a democratic dress code. Supply caps
and gowns to celebrate the “graduation” to a new year, or provide
kimonos for all, so the suits and grunts will be on equal
Engineer the seating to enforce cross-functional networking and
discourage any possible hierarchical cliques.
Forgo round tables to promote creative
congregating. Some ideas:
" Set up TV trays around couches for a living room feel.
" Have picnic tables and benches brought into the ballroom.
" Arrange thatched tiki huts (available from party suppliers),
camping tents or even large beach umbrellas around the room (all
furnished with pillows and mats for seating) for cozy, intimate
Ditch the dishes. Ditch the formal plated
dinner or buffet in favor of family style dishes on tables or, if
seating is less formal, individual picnic baskets.
Rethink the bar. Rather than an open,
all-you-can-drink bar (along with the financial and legal
considerations of such), consider some alternatives.
" Offer a wine-tasting by giving attendees several petite
flights (glasses) of varietals from the same vineyard, typically
from different vintages.
" Serve just one type of trendy alcoholic drink, such as cold
sake or Hpnotiq, the neon blue-hued elixir made from vodka,
tropical fruit juice and cognac.
Give the event a charitable twist. Is there a cause that
would be particularly meaningful to the company or individual
Consider asking employees to do a “pantry purge” and bring
nonperishable food items to the party, to be delivered to a local
shelter or food bank. Or, have the staff participate in a coat
drive via the Salvation Army or other organization.
If you have not yet announced a date or booked a venue, why not try
the novelty of throwing a holiday celebration after Jan. 1? Not
only will you have a greater choice of venues, but prices typically
plummet in the low season following the holidays.
Another financial consideration: The new fiscal year might
allow for a larger budget for festivities.
Rather than limit the event to your firm’s employees, why not throw
one with strategic colleagues, such as vendors or customers? Shared
costs can allow employees of both firms to enjoy a grander
celebration, and employees can build relationships with people they
typically don’t get to see in a social setting.