So You’re Planning the Office Holiday Party
office holiday party

It’s Fall. Everyone you know is sitting around drinking pumpkin spice lattes, trying to decide what they’re going to be for Halloween. But not you. No, you have been put in charge of planning the office holiday party and, as such, you know that now is not the time for ghouls and goblins. Now’s the time to get serious about sleigh bells!

As an event coordinator at the Mayo Civic Center, I too understand that this time of year is prime, holiday party planning season. And since two heads are always better than one, I’d like to share a few tips and to-do’s that can take a little weight off your shoulders and help you plan a holiday office party your colleagues will be talking about all year long.


Setting the Date

At face-value, it may seem a little obvious but you’d be surprised at how easy it is to stumble on this first holiday party planning milestone! Understanding that you can never please everyone, there are a few people you need to check with before you set a date in stone, the first of which is the boss and/or executive team. Anyone who could presumably be considered a “host” for the event needs to be there so make sure their calendars are open on the proposed date and time for the party.

Second, look into getting answers about whether or not there are any clients scheduled to be in-town and where the date falls relative to project timelines. Trust me, if the day you’ve chosen to celebrate the season coincides with a major deadline, it will not be the smash hit you were hoping for.

If you simply must move forward without sign-off on the date from key players in your company, be sure any deposits you make are at least partially refundable!

Choosing a Venue

Venue selection for an office holiday bash usually comes down to two things:

  1. Budget
  2. Size

If we’re talking 20 people and a few hundred dollars, the conference room it is! But if you’ve got a much larger crowd and your annual holiday party doubles as the primary employee appreciation event that it so often does for many companies, you’ll want to think bigger.

Things to look for in a holiday party venue include flexible spaces, a variety of high-quality food and beverage options at several price-points and spaces that are attractive enough not to require any decorative camouflage or excessive flourishes.

Selecting a “Theme”

Yes, I know, the theme is “holiday,” but there are many, many different ways to sing the same song here! First of all, is this party a little bit fancy or is it cool for everyone to show up in basic office-wear? Daytime or evening? Big, sit-down banquet meal or light appetizers? See what I mean?

All these details matter not only for you in terms of setting the date and time (during the work day vs. after-hours, etc.) and choosing the party venue, but also to your guests. It’s extremely important to clearly communicate things like dress-code, food options and guest-policies. On that note, head-off any unintended run-ins with HR by setting expectations around alcohol consumption in advance as well.

office-holiday-partyWhat’s the Hook?

Free food? (Possibly) free booze? Holiday cheer? Who needs a hook with that under your belt, right? Despite all this, you may have noticed that it can be a bit of a challenge to get people to show up to any kind of company-sponsored event, much less, actually enjoy themselves!

I’ve noticed that holiday party planners who include a little something extra to incentivize guests to show up and participate tend to enjoy more success. Ideas include door prizes, raffles and giveaways, etc. If budget is a concern, consider non-material prizes like extra vacation days or “dress-down” days – which, frankly, many employees might be more excited about than anything else to begin with. It can also work to create a competition of some sort - think: ugly sweaters - or a canned food drive to complement the party and get people involved.

Get Planning!

Whether this is your first time planning the office holiday party or the 15th, getting a few month head start is always a good idea. This is particularly true if you want to have your pick of the best party rental rooms in town! For information about space options and availability at the Mayo Civic Center, please contact Mary Britt at 507-424-0815. We’ll be happy to help you meet and exceed your hosting duties!