Tis the season, but a corporate Christmas party isn’t the occasion to get carried away with festive cheer. Nor is it an excuse for sloppy event organisation or cheap booze. We ask three event experts how to plan, execute, and attend the office Chrissie do without regrets.
Director of Strategic Development and Corporate Services
Sane Event Group
- Wednesday – the new Friday: Those starting to plan now are really asking for disappointment as there just aren’t enough Fridays in December. But don’t say yes to just any Friday venue unless it definitely fits the client objectives. You’ll only end up dealing with criticism if you force a ‘round peg into square hole’ solution. Sell Wednesday as the new Friday.
- Don’t skimp on the F: Do the right thing for the health of the guests and the party by choosing substantial canapés and enough food that gets to everyone throughout the event. Don’t go for the cheapest and, leave the really fatty stuff for the morning after. As far as alcohol is concerned, choose quality over quantity in beer, wine and spirits. If budget dictates to change to a cash bar, let everyone know in advance (not on the night when the budget’s dried up!).
- Let me entertain you: “Bruce is a great MC, he’s been doing the Christmas speeches every year for as far as I remember”. Well that rings a few Christmas warning bells. Get him scripted or arrange a technical malfunction. Don’t go with one person’s preference in entertainment even if it is the CEO. They may like the idea of pole dancing but maybe tasteful burlesque would be more appropriate for the mixed audience. Beware of the wrong comedian too and staff who tend to hog the microphone.
- Common sense – don’t ignore it: Don’t forget to arrange the transport home. RSA doesn’t stop at the door, so make sure there is a corporate endorsed plan to help get everyone home safely. End on a high and don’t disgorge the party into the street, with groups walking aimlessly discussing ‘where to next’. Have an after-party plan. They may not all like it but at least it gives them direction.
- Memories and balloons: If the only source of photos to commemorate the event are on social media, there could be sad endings and possible repercussions. Have a professional photographer so that some selective choice can have everyone looking good the next day. AND completely unrelated but IMPORTANT, never, never, never go so low as balloons and streamers as theming for a corporate event. It cheapens the night and it’s just wrong. Pop!
Senior Executive Assistant
eBay Australia & New Zealand
- The right kind of Christmas cheer: Use the Christmas party as the ultimate networking opportunity to meet and talk to people, especially those who may not be used to social situations. This way you can really get to know your colleagues. Keep the conversation light-hearted, colleagues have long memories. Alcohol and talking politics are usually not a good mix.
- Be seen, don’t make a scene: Make the effort to show up to the Christmas party or at least make an appearance, but be sure to dress and act appropriately – it is a business event, so dress with style and taste. Business etiquette is still important, no matter how informal the occasion might be, so don’t overload your plate (or your glass) and make sure you properly dispose of stained napkins, toothpicks, etc.
- Logistics are important: Don’t pick a venue without safe access to transport home and make it clear whether any after party is work-related.
- Know your limits: Don’t call in sick the next day, instead plan ahead, take the day in lieu, take annual leave or ask for a late start.
- Don’t mix business with pleasure: Don’t post inappropriate photos on social media and certainly don’t hit on your fellow colleagues.
- Ensure catering at the event is plentiful: It’s in everyone’s best interest the party doesn’t get too out of hand and adheres to ‘responsible service of alcohol’ guidelines. In recent years, the ‘food station’ has become a popular way to ensure guests are sufficiently fed – the important thing here is to make sure everyone knows about it! Talk to your event planner and the venue to ensure food gets around the room. Don’t skimp on the food budget – not only can it be dangerous, but at the very least, not enough (or bad!) food can be embarrassing for everyone – you, the event manager, the caterer and the venue.
- Choose an appropriate venue: My favourite part of the process – sourcing the right venue! I have heard horror stories of people who booked venues with no wet weather back up, no air-conditioning with a black tie dress code in summer, and worst of all… the surprise venue! Parties where staff are not told they are going on a boat results in guests being trapped for five hours with no escape and inappropriate attire. And always ask the venue about their noise restrictions (if any). Many a time, a party has been shut down because these restrictions haven’t been communicated till the police are banging down the doors!
- Triple check the RSVP list for final numbers: Many years ago I coordinated a large-scale event in the hundreds and it became apparent after pre-drinks when guests were being seated that there weren’t enough seats. There were about five tables (50 chairs) missing! To this day, we don’t know if it was a missing last page of the seating plan that wasn’t handed to venue or simply that all guests did not RSVP. Quick action from the operations team meant that extra tables and chairs were bought in, however not without embarrassment from the venue, the corporate host and even the guests – it really wasn’t a good look from any perspective!
- Don’t wear inappropriate attire (and be careful of your dance moves): I have seen some shockers! A work Christmas party, is still ‘work’. You still need to front up the next day in the office with your dignity in tact – and with some of the outfits I’ve witnessed, it’s hard to see that being the case! Just be careful to choose your outfit with your boss and colleagues in mind – your usual weekend party attire may not suit a corporate event. Also, watch the moves on the dance floor… you may just be filmed for everyone to watch the next day on someone’s camera phone!
- Don’t make the staff do karaoke: Ok so while you may love any opportunity to sing ‘I will always love you’ into a microphone, others may not. This is also the sort of entertainment that encourages drinking, and ultimately, increases the beverage bill dramatically! If you have a small event to organise this may be ok, as you will have a better understanding of the audience. Choosing the right entertainment is crucial to the success of the party. Think about your audience, their ages, gender, taste and also what entertainment suits the venue and theme of the party. m