Five Holiday Party Ideas for Small Businesses

No, you didn’t accidentally land on Martha Stewart’s site.

But about a year ago, this space did – improbably – devote a few hundred well-chosen words to Surviving the Office Holiday Party.

Looking at it now, the piece isn’t nearly as cynical as the title might have suggested. There’s actually some pretty solid advice on decorum, etiquette, safety, and showing appreciation for the people who put together the get-together.

On the other hand, maybe that was putting second things first. There has to actually be a party to go to before you can attend, have fun, and conduct yourself appropriately.

But if you’re like most of us, you’re probably not sure what to do or where to begin.

So in the spirit of the coming season, here are a few tips for getting your party planning rolling, and five ideas that might make your event more memorable.

Party Planning Tips

  1. Appoint a party planner. You’ll be glad you did. And unless you work in an office full of complete duds, you probably have someone in mind already.
  2. Pick a date. It’s interesting. Depending on your industry and the part of the country you’re in, holiday parties can be informal after work get-togethers at the office, full-blown Saturday night galas, or anything in between. But whatever the norm, have your planner find a convenient date, and alert your people early.
  3. Put together a budget. Based on observations from last year, expenditures on office holiday parties seem to have bumped up from where they were at the bottom of the recession, but you still don’t need to break the bank. Decide on a reasonable figure per guest and have your planner figure out where to put it.

Holiday Party Ideas

Amuse and Amaze. Holiday parties are great for mingling, meeting co-workers’ spouses, and catching up in anon-work setting. But it can’t hurt to have the attention focused somewhere else for a few minutes.

You can hire a local magician to perform stage and table magic at a very reasonable rate. (Make sure you book early, though.) If your group appreciates good music, a local music school can probably suggest a classical pianist or jazz combo that can entertain for an hourly rate. Most performers can put together a set list combining dinner music with traditional holiday favorite. And have you ever thought of hiring a local celebrity to host, entertain, or just mingle with guests? Local TV and radio personalities, retired athletes, and other high profile personalities are often available, and most are great story tellers with engaging personalities.

Give. One of the best holiday party traditions we’ve heard of involves an accounting firm taking a group of children from a foster facility to lunch, and then to a visit a local fire station, where – of course – Santa is waiting with gifts, compliments of the partners. After dropping the kids off, the partners and staff go to dinner.

The experience must be rewarding. They’ve been doing it for 15 years.

Bet. Just so you don’t think we’ve gone too soft, we’ll mention that many race tracks, and nearly every casino on earth, are open during the holiday season.

Most of these facilities can cater parties of almost any size. After dinner, you can hand each employee a starter bankroll, and let them hit the betting windows or gaming rooms. Not everyone will hit it big, but they’re sure to have a good time.

Compete. Take the group to the laser-tag arcade, the bowling alley, or the indoor volleyball courts. Divide up into teams, but try to make them balanced in terms of age and athletic ability, and if possible, put people together who don’t normally work with each other during the week.

Above all, keep the emphasis on fun, and reward both the winners and losers with dinner and refreshments after the games are over.

Destination…anywhere. Charter a bus, or buses, and take your group off-site. If it’s during work hours, that’s all the better.

Where exactly you end up depends on what’s within a reasonable bus ride from your office, but toboggan chutes, a matinee performance of a hit show, or any other diversion that your staff might enjoy is fair game. The key is to try to pick something they would enjoy, but probably wouldn’t normally do on their own.

What party planning tips can you share? Leave them in the comments below.

Image courtesy Moet & Chandon Champagne

On behalf of everyone at MP Star Financial, have a safe and enjoyable holiday season and a successful 2014.

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