They say ‘the early bird catches the worm’ – well if you are going to have the best Christmas party in history: the reality is you need to start planning now. Otherwise it will be the same old format, same old venue, same old cracker jokes. Emma Wellstead, from Warwick Events shares her top 10 tips to create your perfect Christmas party
1. Where to go
There’s more out there than hotels and conference venues. They’ll tease you with their ready-made packages but without lots of budget it’s hard to get away from the fact you are in a conference room. Look at spaces with character like town halls, museums, pubs or even an historic sports’ club. Or get everyone wrapped up warm and take them outdoors with firepits and tipis – BBQs aren’t just for summer.
2. To theme or not to theme?
We always recommend a theme – it neatly ties all elements together and helps your budget go further. But chose the theme after you have decided on your venue. Then you can work with the building’s assets/décor/colour scheme rather than fighting against it.
3. Exclusive use
You’ve organised your party and you’re in the venue’s largest, most opulent room. On the night of your party you realise there are other small parties happening in ‘your’ venue – nightmare. Before booking, check with the hotel how many other parties are taking place on the same night. How do other guests enter the building? Will they be sharing the same facilities (toilets, cloakroom etc)? And can they gate crash yours?
4. Hanging around
That’s what you don’t want at the end of the night. You want a quick and efficient cloakroom. A perfect party can be ruined with a long queue for coats. Always ask to see where their cloakroom is; if it easy to create a one-way system; find out how many staff will be working (ideally you want a ratio of one member of staff : 25 guests) and what system they use etc. If you need to, hire a pop up cloakroom or add extra staff to the rota.
5. Turning the tables…
Lots of rounds. That’s the standard offer. Have you ever managed to speak to, or more importantly hear, the person sitting opposite you? It’s almost impossible, they are just too far away. So, you are stuck talking with the two people on either side of you, and that can be good… or really, really bad. You want a room full of chat – ask the hotel to change the tables to ‘banquet style’ on long tables. Then you’re more than doubling the number of conservations you can have.
“But chose the theme after you have decided on your venue. Then you can work with the building’s assets/décor/colour scheme rather than fighting against it.”
6. What’s on the table?
Christmas décor usually means taking the standard dining set up and adding a cracker to everyone’s place. But you can really add personality to a table and transform the look of the room. In the USA, this is known as ‘tablescaping’ and if you need ideas, Pinterest is a great source of inspiration. We hate waste, so we often use seasonal plants or fruit when we’re decorating tables and then donate them to a local school or charity at the end of the event. Just remember ‘eye-line’ needs to be kept as clear as possible – so go low or high.
7. I’ll drink to that
First impressions count. So, what are you serving as your welcome drink? This is your opportunity to shine. Create a cocktail to represent your company, serve it in a glass to match your theme. Prosecco is passé; Buck’s Fizz belongs in the 80s and a flute glass is uninspiring. If budget doesn’t stretch to a cocktail, then go for something warming and wintry like Gluhwein or a mulled punch and have the scents of cinnamon and spices adding to the atmosphere.
8. Let me entertain you
And why not? Give the opportunity to your employees. Perhaps someone you work with is in a band, or in the magic circle? It is impressive to see one of your colleagues on stage – and you’re guaranteed to get a great reaction. Hold auditions – if you’ve got lots of budding singers, we’ve started using a great ‘Rock-eoke’ band – think Karaoke but you don’t just have a mic you have your own band and stage set.
9. Your dream party
It’s not your party, it’s your company’s. This is a very common mistake. If you want everyone to think your Christmas party is the best ever, you need to think about matching the event to the personalities of the people going. You might love small talk but perhaps your colleagues don’t relish the idea of sitting down to a meal for three hours. Create different ‘entertainment’ zones within your party so there’s something for everyone and why not go for street food? Our clients love that their guests can choose what they want to do. Especially when there are many different departments within a company. Sales folk are quite different to those in accounts…
10. Talk to an expert
Rather than spending weeks on Google and Pinterest and ‘being on call’ all night through the party you have spent months planning, talk to an event company. A good company will have new and exciting options to choose from. We’ve just finished designing an alternative Christmas party. Think Hell’s Kitchen combined with Masterchef. Your directors or managers will be cooking and serving your Christmas dinner. Taking over a gorgeous country pub in the Cotswolds, the directors will be thrown into the deep end as take their stations in the kitchen, behind the bar and as waiting staff. Under the instruction of our celebrity chef, will they cope with the heat of the kitchen or will we be calling for a takeaway?