Holiday parties aren’t always everyone’s favorite, but they’re a staple on many company calendars. And for good reason.
If your company holiday events consist of bowls of supermarket snacks and takeaway pizzas in your conference room while watching a PowerPoint of this year’s achievements, you’re not helping generate enthusiasm and you’re certainly missing out on the team building opportunities the holidays offer. Company holiday events can be so much more.
When office holiday parties are properly executed, they’re an effective way to boost employee morale, deepen employee engagement and connection, and make up for any postponed team celebrations over the past 18 months due to COVID-19.
Planning may sound like a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be. No matter how big the event, we promise if you start early (and we mean more than a few weeks in advance!), you can significantly reduce the chance of last minute decisions, budget blowouts, and disappointments. It also means you’ll be able to have more fun with your team on the day.
As seasoned event planners, below we’ve pulled together some of our top tips for organizing an awesome holiday party that everyone will enjoy!
☐ Review Last Year’s Holiday Events
Or, in this case, perhaps the year before… This may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked as an intentional and useful step in the planning process. Take some time to reflect on the company’s past holiday parties to understand what worked well and where you could have improved. Where were they held? How was the turnout? How was the timing? Were there any issues around food/alcohol? Did you go over budget?
Did you conduct a survey or take notes after last year’s event? If not, make that part of your plan this year to set yourself up for success in planning future events.
☐ Define The Goals For Your Event
Clearly define the goals for your holiday event. If you don’t have a lot of time, that’s ok. Even a quick thought exercise on the outcomes you’d like to achieve can go a long way.
Why are you planning this event and what will make it a success? For example, an event focused on team building skills will look quite different to an event focused on employee appreciation. Programming geared toward sharing information is going to look different than one designed to celebrate success. Knowing what you (and your leaders!) want to accomplish and how much you want to spend will help get you started off on the right foot.
☐ Brainstorm Some Ideas
With a small group of folks from various departments, demographics, shifts (if you have more than one in your office setting), etc... start to brainstorm event ideas around timing, location, activities, and format.
Here are a few of our favorites for in-person, hybrid, and virtual teams. Once you have a list, start to narrow it down to a few, feasible, cost-effective, and FUN choices and also meet your goals. Including people who work different types of roles, different shifts, have differing access to childcare and transportation, among other factors can help you gain perspective on how to ensure the most attendance and engagement with your event.
☐ Poll Your Team
Once you have a general idea of the event’s timing and format, you can solicit help and input from the event’s participants on a larger scale. Send out a Typeform poll to get a feel for what sort of event everyone wants to have. You can keep things general or ask more specific details around activities, timing, catering, and more. Getting broader buy-in and help make sure you’re on the right track with regards to your planning.
When you make your selections, especially after soliciting feedback, be sure to inform your team about what motivated those choices. People will remember their own preferences, but may not have awareness of barriers or preferences of others. Also share why some choices may or may not be based on a majority rule, but accessibility or other variables AND stay open to feedback.
This is a step that is often overlooked when decisions makers that solicit feedback to guide decision making, leaving employees feeling unhear, misunderstood without a chance to clarify, or both.
☐ Send Out Your Save The Dates
Before you finalize all of the holiday event details, make sure you send out save the dates to all of the participants. Use a digital platform that you can update as event details are finalized. This step is important for setting the tone of the event, giving everyone an early heads up to plan accordingly, and also getting everyone excited!
Electronic invitations are easier to update when plans go pear-shaped (thank you pandemic!). Remember, you don’t just have to create an Outlook or Google invite. Consider designing an invitation with a fun tool like Canva and then embedding them in a calendar invite or a third party invitation service like Eventbrite.
☐ Plan Out The Details
Organizing an event of any size comes with a long list of ‘to-dos’. Depending on if the event is in-person, hybrid, or completely virtual, there are the basics you’ll need to cover like time, venue (or videoconference platform), theme, decorations, and event agenda. Then there are the additional details around activities, supplies, hosts, awards, and more.
Regardless of the depth and complexity, we recommend breaking this list into manageable pieces so you can avoid last minute planning and decisions. Keep the list in Google Sheets, Airtable (a free tool that lets you assign owners and upload files), or another project-planning software like Asana and try to cross off a few items or topics every week.
☐ Enlist Some Help
Depending on the size of the holiday party, you may want to solicit the help from other team members to help organize the event or even from an external events company. Both options can help to reduce the burden on you and also execute an event that’s more cost-effective and efficient than you doing it by yourself.
Using a tool like Airtable can keep this simple with their Event Planning templates. If you’re familiar with spreadsheets, you can use this tool effectively to manage roles and integrate with other platforms with just a few clicks.
Here at tinyB Chocolate, we’re experts at organizing unique turnkey company holiday events. Once we have the date locked in, we’ll organize the rest. Literally everything from sending your team the delicious chocolate kits to hosting a fun chocolate-making session. These types of turnkey events are perfect for simplifying your planning so you can focus on having fun instead.
☐ Create Some Hype
If you’re busy planning the event of the year, create some excitement beforehand! Some ideas include creating a countdown timer to embed into your intranet or calendar invite or scheduling a series of friendly email reminders. It’s also a great way to communicate any changes or required preparation.
☐ Have Fun!
If you started planning early and you’ve crossed everything off your list, it’s more than likely you’ll just need to deal with last minute tech issues, late attendees, and other small problems. Just take them all in your stride and make sure you enjoy your well-deserved company holiday party!