10 Simple Steps to Planning Your Company Holiday Party

Holiday parties are a tradition most companies participate in. According to data by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, nearly 90%  of companies offered a party for their employees in 2014. Holiday parties are ideal for gathering staff together, showing appreciation, and celebrating the past year. 

It isn't as easy as throwing everyone in a room and calling it a party, though. Planning a holiday party requires coordination and forethought. Below is a checklist of steps to plan your own corporate event. 

Feeling overwhelmed? Don't plan it alone. Contact us for help planning your holiday party.

1. Decide on the type of event.

Lunch-time events are the most common (51%), while evening parties are the second most common (38%). The type of holiday party your company is throwing will affect the date and time you select. Evening parties are often hosted on Friday or Saturday nights (83%), while luncheons are most commonly hosted during the workweek. Also, luncheons tend to be a more budget-friendly option; evening parties tend to be more costly.

2. Choose a date and time.

Most organizations plan their holiday parties for the second week (33%) or third week of December (28%). Fridays are the most popular day of the week for holiday parties (50%), with Saturdays (16%) and Thursdays (15%) also being popular days. 

3. Create an invite list.

Most organizations (61%) elect to invite all employees to their holiday parties. Some employers (30%) allow for spouses/significant others to attend.  Other companies also invite extended family, clients, partners and/or competitors. Who is invited affects the feel of the event. Not inviting all employees can lead to feelings of exclusion. Inviting employees' spouses and/or children may be a nice gesture if the budget allows. Inviting clients and partners usually turns the event more into a networking style event.

4. Select a venue and caterer.

Companies use a wide range of venues for their holiday parties. Some host the parties in their own office space, while the most popular option is to host the event at venues like country clubs, restaurants and hotels. The vast majority of organizations (74%) use a caterer. The caterer might be the same as the venue, or it might be a separate vendor. Typically having the venue and caterer be the same vendor is easier on the planning end, but may be less budget-friendly and may provide less creativity in menu.

5. Send out invites.

Once the basic details are arranged for, send out invitations at least a three weeks in advance and request RSVPs by a certain date. Email invitations are the most popular way to invite guests, as RSVPs can be easily tracked electronically. If your party is very formal or has a theme, you may want to send out a mailed invitation. 

6. Select entertainment.

Every party should have some form of entertainment. Whether it is a mix of music in the background, an entertainer, a speaker, a program, a DJ or something else, entertainment allows for the party to have a focal point and for your guests to have a conversation piece. Party themes can also make your event unique and memorable.

7. Create an outline and agenda.

To better ensure that your holiday party runs smoothly, create an agenda that outlines timing for vendor arrival, guest arrival, cocktails, lunch/dinner, the program or entertainment, employee recognition, gift-giving and a closing. When creating the agenda, be as realistic with timing as possible. Ask yourself questions like, "How will guests be arriving? Departing?" "How will people check in?" "How will people get food or drinks?" "Who will make the transitions between each part of the agenda?" These questions can help you consider what might be challenging, what might take more time or less time, or what could go wrong prior to the event so that you are able to consider all aspects of the party and try to solve timing challenges ahead of time.

8. Determine your alcohol policy.

Many employers elect to serve alcohol at their holiday parties, but employers are split in terms of whether they limit or do not limit alcohol consumption. It is about an even split between those that serve alcohol but limit consumption and those who serve it without a limit. The most common way for organizations to limit alcohol consumption is by providing drink tickets -- usually 2.

9. Give a gift.

Holiday parties are the ideal time to provide an annual gift to each employee. Over half of organizations plan to give gifts to employees. Gift cards are the most common gift (54%), while cash is the second most common gift (17%).

10. Recognize and appreciate.

An end of the year party is ideal for giving employee appreciation. It's important to recognize the successes of your staff as a whole and share how much you appreciate their hard work and contributions throughout the year. This raises corporate morale and starts the next year off stronger.

Companies with small and large budgets alike can have successful holiday parties. The quality of your organization's holiday party is more tied into how well it is done, how appreciated employees feel after leaving the event, how prideful the employees and organization are about their accomplishments throughout the year and how connected they feel to one another and the company. These components will define how memorable the experience is... and will define whether or not it is a successful celebration.

Feeling overwhelmed? Don't plan it alone. Contact us for help planning your holiday party.


Most stats and tips borrowed from this ERC HR Insights Blog.