How to Throw an Office Party that Sizzles

Oh yes, it’s that time of the year.  ‘Tis the season of peppermint mochas, ugly reindeer sweaters, and office parties.  Since we know that a lot of our municipal clerks and school and utility personnel are in charge of throwing their office shindigs, we thought we would provide some tips for creating a holiday party that sizzles–not fizzles–this holiday season.

How to Throw a Sizzling Holiday Office Party

Review the Policy on Holiday “Spirits.” For government offices and schools, make sure to check policies about serving alcohol on the property well in advance.  You might decide to hold the party off-site if that’s an important factor for you. If alcohol is not an option for your party, make sure to have alternative activities to keep everyone busy.  For example, a white elephant gift exchange or interactive Christmas games (i.e., a City Hall version of “Catch Phrase”) can help keep the party going and encourage people to hang around longer.  If alcohol is available, prearranged designated drivers or keeping the number of a cab company on hand are good ideas.

Celebrate the Season of Giving.  ‘Tis the season of presents!  You can have gifts and giveaways at your event too, without breaking the budget. Ask major vendors to contribute door prizes or cash for one of your staff members to shop for door prizes. This encourages attendance, and everybody loves prizes!  Company swag, homemade treats, and coupons for office perks (such as a lunch with the boss or an extra 1/2 day off work) also make for great prizes!

Make Your List (and check it twice). Decide well in advance exactly who is invited. Is it just staff, staff and vendors, staff and spouses, or families? Have someone else view the list to make sure no one was accidentally left out.  Plan your activities according to who is invited.  For example, if families are invited, be sure to offer child care and fun activities for kids so that parents can actually enjoy the time socializing with coworkers.

Potlucks Can Ruin the Cheer. DON’T ask your staff to bring food to the party, ESPECIALLY if the party is on a weeknight after work! Seriously, everyone has enough on their “plate” so to speak, and no one wants to spend the night before cooking or have to rush home from work to whip up something for the party that evening!

Be a Traffic Buster. When deciding on a venue outside the office, choose a location nearby.  Asking people to commute to where they work is one thing, but fighting traffic across town during the holiday season is quite another.

Variety is the Spice of Life (and the key to happy noshing). Food can be tricky depending on the dietary needs of fellow staffers.  Check ahead to see if anyone has specific dietary needs, such as vegans, vegetarians, and diabetics, and be sure to offer a variety of foods.  Request that some of the dishes or appetizers be vegetarian, gluten-free, or kosher, if possible.

Set expectations ahead of time. How do you expect people to dress? Is attendance required, expected, or completely voluntary? Do you need people to RSVP by a specific date? You may have a million great party ideas but before you let your creative side take over, keep your accounting clerk hat on a bit longer and do a little calculating to determine what your budget truly allows. To avoid spreading disappointment instead of cheer, announce plans only after you’ve determined they meet your budget. And finally, now is the time to delegate responsibilities and let people know how much help you expect from them toward organizing the office holiday party. Not only is it too much stress and work for one person to handle alone, it’s more fun to plan a party as a team!

Holiday Party Veterans: What are your tips for throwing a great holiday party?  Share them with us by making a comment below!

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