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    Organising A Christmas Party

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    Organising a Christmas party for your office can be a stressful task and one which invariable falls on the PA?s shoulders because you?re the organised one!

    IOrganising a Christmas party for your office can be a stressful task and one which invariable falls on your shoulders because ?you?re the organised one? – which also means you?re usually the most over-tasked person in the office.
    The fear of disappointing your colleagues and the sheer number of choices on offer at this time of year, coupled with the looming deadline and panic to get everything booked at the busiest time of year can be overwhelming. But if you apply your organisational skills calmly it can actually be surprisingly simple.
    If you like throwing parties, organizing the office Christmas party is a wonderful opportunity to let others see you at your best. If you don?t have much experience planning parties, this would be a good time to call in reinforcements.
    So stop, breathe and follow our simple guide to organising the perfect Christmas. With only three major aspects to think about, you?ll appear to effortlessly arrange the ideal venue, food and drink and entertainment and actually be able to relax and enjoy your office party this year.
    First you need to do a little fact-finding:
    How much do you have to spend, and what are you expected to provide for that money (venue, decorations, food and drink, entertainment, goodie bags or gifts, etc.?
    How much is traditional year-to-year? Has anything been decided and/or contracted in advance: eg. time and date, venue, caterer, buffet vs. sit-down, D.J., employees only or ?include significant others??
    If you didn?t attend the company party the previous year, talk with a few people who did to get their feedback. What was good – and what needs adjusting? Are there any traditions such as secret santa or a karaoke machine that people seem to enjoy and expect?
    What is their policy on alcohol – open bar, dry, or somewhere in between? Do they have a license, and a way to manage the number of drinks each person can order?
    Next, you need to book the location and decide on a date and theme (if these have not already been determined for you). Draft the holiday invitations so that they are ready about four weeks ahead of time, so people are able to make arrangements to come.
    The perfect office Christmas party venue
    The first rule is; to have the best chance of finding the ?right? venue, start looking early! There are only two things a venue needs to be perfect ? the right size and location. Whether you?re planning a sit down meal or a stand-up buffet, look for a venue which is big enough to hold your party, but not so big that they disappear in it. You want to make it as easy as possible for everybody to get to the party and find their way home at the end of the night. Near the office might seem like the most logical location but check around the staff as this may not always be the most convenient place for people trying to get home. Bear in mind that a lot of people might drive to and from work ? something they won?t be able to do if they?ve been drinking all evening. So think central location near to public transport. If you want to hold it somewhere more exotic, be prepared to put on transport to and from the event. A fancy venue is nice but not essential to having a good time, it needn?t even have a bar or dining facilities as these can be provided by mobile bar hire companies.
    Planning Food and Drink
    Always plan to put on some form of refreshments for a Christmas party. Even if you are organising a more activity orientated party such as bowling you should still feed and water everybody.
    A good caterer is key. Check with the office to find out whether they can recommend a good one. If so, set up an appointment for her to meet you at the place where the party is to be held, and brainstorm ideas with her. Discuss menu and wait staff to be provided, making sure that everything is clearly specified in the contract. Check to find out their policy on overtime, so there are no unpleasant surprises later.
    Always survey your colleagues for specific dietary requirements well in advance and ensure there are non-alcoholic beverages and hot drinks as alternatives for designated drivers. Depending on how formal you are planning the party to be you might prefer to have a buffet over a sit down meal. Consider what the venue space (and your budget) can cater for and whether you will need to hire in outside caterers.
    Music and entertainment next. Again, it?s a good idea to find out what has been done in the past ? and how successful it was. A more formal affair might include a small chamber ensemble; a low-budget affair may have to make do with CDs over a portable stereo; a “fun” party might include anything from a local band to a D.J. or kareoke.
    Theming your party isn?t essential, but it can be a great icebreaker. If you want to try something more memorable then you could consider setting the party to a specific theme such as a historical time period or fancy dress concept. However, bear in mind that not everybody may be keen on having to dress up so ensure your theme isn?t too extreme or difficult.
    At minimum, ensure everybody knows what sort of party it?s going to be ? formal, casual, outdoors etc. If you do have a theme, remember to include the other entertainment at the party, for example the type of band or DJ.
    Remember that the catering can help contribute to the entertainment on the night, great food is always memorable and a cocktail bar can be a special ? and spectacular ? alternative to live entertainment. Guest could even have a go themselves.
    Add an element of surprise
    Instead of cheesecake, order a chocolate fountain or make-your-own sundae bar. Have someone come and teach zumba. Call upon a small group of employees to write a skit or satirical song about people in the office (be careful to keep it in good taste). Supply a tray of Christmassy red-and-green jelly shots (no hands, please!).
    Give them an experience they will be talking about until the next party!
    For more advice and ideas on organising office Christmas parties order your FREE copy of PA Life Magazine by phoning 0845 286 3042 or subscribe here
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    Molly Dyson

    Former Editor – PA Life

    All stories by: Molly Dyson