If you're like most people, adding another holiday party to your schedule is a pain in the rear. However, as a business owner, it's important that you don’t miss out on a chance to connect with employees and clients. By taking the time to plan a business party that people want to attend, you can improve your brand image and forge stronger connections with employees and clients.
7 tips for hosting a successful party
The annual holiday party is something that has become a staple in the business world. It's sort of expected that you'll throw one and, whether you like it or not, your brand will be judged based on the success of the event. Unfortunately, most holiday parties are hosted out of this obligation. As a result, everything is done at a bare minimum level, and the entire event is average and forgettable.
If you're hosting a holiday party for your employees and clients, why not put in the time and effort to make it an event that people will want to attend? One that gets people excited? Believe it or not, there are companies that host stellar holiday parties that people look forward to attending.
Here's how you can join this group.
1. Understand the why
Before doing anything else, ask yourself why you're hosting a holiday party. Understanding the "why" behind the event will allow you to focus your goals and foster a little extra motivation.
In most cases, leading organizations host holiday parties to accomplish one or more of the following objectives: build company culture, boost employee morale, enhance relationships with clients, celebrate the brand, and/or show gratitude to key stakeholders.
2. Be strategic with the guest list
One of the most important factors in the holiday party planning process is creating a guest list and sending out invitations. Generally speaking, you have to assume that you aren't going to get 100 percent attendance. When you remove your own employees from the equation, it's safe to assume that you'll get 30 to 40 percent of people who RSVP with a "yes" (at best). With this in mind, pad your guest list so you don't end up with an embarrassingly small attendance.
As a rule of thumb, invitations should be sent out 21 days in advance. Be sure to include all of the important details, such as RSVP requirements, proper attire, start time and whether or not additional guests are allowed. You'll spend a lot less time fielding phone calls and answering emails if you're clear about these details on the front end.
3. Choose the right time
Remember that you aren't the only party on the block. The average person on your guest list has more invitations than they can count on one hand. As such, timing is extremely important.
If you're going to host your holiday party in mid-to-late December, be prepared to send out invitations very early. The two weekends before Christmas are full of holiday events, and you'll be competing with family time. It might be best to shoot for the first weekend in December, or maybe even a weeknight (such as a Thursday evening).
4. Get the details right
The big picture matters, but success is typically found in the details. If you want your holiday party to be memorable, you need to get these smaller specifics fleshed out.
It's easy to blow your entire budget on food and drink, but save some money for decorations and favors. Customizing little details like napkins, menus, invitations, bags and wine glasses can help people remember a party and have a more favorable impression later on. Look online for some inspiration if you're unsure of what to do.
5. Prep your employees
A holiday party guest list needs to be strategically developed in order to ensure there's a proper mixture of friendly faces and good networking opportunities. If your party includes clients (or prospective clients), consider briefing employees on who these people are ahead of time. Even going as far as to send out a companywide email with headshots and brief bios could be helpful.
Your employees should walk a fine line between overselling the brand and not having meaningful business conversations. Prepping employees ahead of time gives them an idea of how to poke and prod without being tacky or overbearing.
6. Go easy on the booze
Alcohol is a sensitive topic at holiday parties.
Be strategic with how and what you offer guests. In order to avoid overserving, come up with a strategy and don't be afraid to cut people off. One reasonable idea is to limit the selection to wine only and to close the bar early. It's also smart to only offer drinks during the meal, which limits the amount of time people have to drink.
7. Be a good host
As holiday party host and someone with a significant leadership position in your company, it can be difficult to know where you stand on the day of the event. Naturally, you'll be thinking about execution and stressing over the details, but you also need to be mingling with guests and representing your brand.
In order to be a good host, consider offloading logistical responsibilities to an event planner or a designated employee. This will allow you to relax a bit and focus on engaging people and having a good time. Everything won't go perfectly according to plan, but don't get overwhelmed.
Make your party one to remember
In today's business climate, you're expected to host a holiday party, so why not make the most out of the opportunity? You can do the bare minimum and simply survive, or you can invest the time and effort to leverage this event as an opportunity to enhance your brand image and forge stronger connections with key clients and stakeholders.
The choice is yours.