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Tough task: expectations, planning keys to entertaining success

Planning the perfect corporate holiday event can be a daunting task. It’s an opportunity to show employees appreciation after a year of hard work. But it can be a huge undertaking that requires many hours of careful planning and preparation.

If you try to do it yourself, you may succeed in pulling it off, but because you’re busy, and because you may not be experienced at planning large functions, you may leave many important stones unturned. It’s the little details that are so important.

Covering the details

Professional event planners can take care of all the details, such as the music, food and drinks, locations, logistics, etc. It’s important that the event coordinator is someone you can trust to put the details together on your company’s affair.

Susan Newcomb, owner of Capital City Consultants, has planned many corporate holiday events, and says that having basic information going into the party planning process is critical. “We need to know approximately how many people will be attending the party, and what type of party you want to have,” she said. “Will it be a cocktail party, or will it be a sit-down dinner? Will it be formal, or casual? And will there be a theme? All of those issues will be considered when securing a venue for the party. And of course, budget is a very important consideration as well.”

A holiday party is an opportunity for people to gather in a setting outside of work and enjoy visiting with others in the company. “The host should know what the guests like and need, and work within their budget to accommodate them,” said Newcomb. “A corporate holiday gathering is an opportunity for business owners and management to give back to their employees in a festive setting.”

Sometimes the theme dictates the venue, according to Newcomb. “A holiday party most often has the holidays as the theme. But sometimes, companies want to do something a little more fun than a traditional Christmas party.”

Newcomb said it’s best to have one point person at the company to work with the party planner. “That is the person who coordinates the RSVP’s and keeps up with the party list. It’s also the person who the planner can call if he/she has questions.”

Putting it together

There are many things that a planner must do to create the perfect holiday affair. “We can do everything from invitations to hiring caterers and entertainment. What we tell our clients is that it’s important to define the event for the guests, including starting and ending time. If it’s an early cocktail party, your guests can plan to meet friends for dinner afterwards. If it’s dinner and dancing, they’ll know to hire a babysitter for the night. But to make it easier on everyone, always define in the invitation what the night will entail. Spell out that there will be drinks and appetizers at 6 p.m, dinner at 7 p.m., and a band until 11 p.m.”

It’s also important when changing an event to let people know. If you’ve done the holiday party a certain way for a number of years, that’s what people expect. If you are changing things, let everyone know so they won’t expect otherwise or be disappointed. And Newcomb said it’s important to define to employees who is invited. “Most holiday parties include spouses; however, a few may be for the employees only. Don’t leave your employees guessing. Instead, spell it out for them by how the envelope is addressed or within the invitation itself.”

Serving alcohol at a business function is a decision you’ll need to make. Know your guests, which in this case are the company employees, and know what they like. If you do serve alcohol, be sure to have an alternative for those who don’t drink. “A sparkling beverage is always a welcomed alternative,” said Newcomb. “And you may want to consider having a cab service available, just in case.” She said that it’s always a good idea to have an off-duty law enforcement officer on hand for security as well, particularly if folks have to park a ways from the party venue.

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