Aug 16, 2018


by Sabrina Son

As a company on a mission to spread employee happiness, we practice what we preach. And one of our favorite ways to drive employee engagement, recognition, and celebration of our culture is by throwing a company holiday party.

But we’ve all been to parties where employees stand around awkwardly because they don’t want to be there. Or ones where only the top executives get to share the company’s glory. Those gatherings are more like mandatory meetings rather than celebrations.

So here are a few tips I’ve picked up from both attending and planning our own unforgettable parties.

1. Start early

Party planning takes a lot of time and commitment. So start as soon as possible. For our summer party, we gave ourselves only one month, and it was a scramble to get everything together. This time around, we’ve given ourselves three months to take the pressure off of last-minute reservations, orders, etc.

2. Establish a party-planning committee!

Don’t let the burden fall on the shoulders of the office manager. But also don’t just leave everything up in the air and hope people will volunteer to pick up the planning.

Instead, create a party-planning committee. Have one person from each department join. It’ll foster cross-departmental collaboration and ensure each team is represented.

2. Give the Party a Title

During the summer, we had TINYluau. This holiday, we’re going for The TINYs. By giving each party a distinct name, it helps people remember exactly when it was and what all went down.

Don’t forget to give it a fun theme too. Consider a juxtaposed one like formalwear and wigs!

3. Nail the date ASAP

This is the biggest hurdle that we struggle with. Since we want the highest attendance possible, the party committee chooses four potential dates for the event. Those dates are then sent out on a Google form so everyone in the company can select which ones are possible for them.

Pester people and get them to respond. Many times we’ve sent out the form and people just ignore it.

4. Use both online and physical invitations

Getting people to RSVP isn’t as easy as you may think. Just check out what my fellow party planner, Matt Terasaki, has to say:

“Getting your coworkers to RSVP is a lot like being a dentist. You know you’re pulling teeth and filling cavities for your patient’s own good, but they avoid committing to a time as long as they possibly can. The key is to make responding more fun. Create an eye-catching event website like Splash where they can read up on the event, see pictures from last year, and RSVP directly on the site. Make sure to use language that makes it feel mandatory, not optional, and provide a deadline to RSVP by. Post the invitation/announcement in the place that you know everyone will see it. This could be in the break room, restroom, online internal chatroom, email, etc.

“It’s important to account for those who are hired after the initial announcement as well. One of the best ways to make sure they are aware of the party and RSVP promptly is to have their direct supervisors include it into their onboarding. New hires always want to make a good impression by being on top of things, so chances are they will RSVP as soon as they’re prompted to do so.”

5. Use a spreadsheet to keep track of budget

Whether your budget is $10,000 or $500, money runs out quick. Use a shared spreadsheet to keep track of expenses — from food to table rentals.

6. Order enough food

Guests are going to arrive hungry, and they’re going to expect to stuff themselves. To make sure everyone is fed, order 30% more food. If you have 40 people attending, order enough food for 52 people.

7. Book Enough Restrooms

The last thing a guest wants to do is stand in line for the restroom and miss the party. Make sure you have enough restrooms so this wont happen at your party!

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8. Serve signature cocktails

Immerse your guests in the party’s theme by serving up signature cocktails. Is that a vodka cran you’re drinking? Nope, it’s a Red Carpet.

9. Decorate to impress

There’s a reason why we always hold parties in our office — we get total control. But no one wants to step into the office and feel like they should start working.

Hide office furniture in conference rooms, hang up streamers, go all out. Make people forget they’re actually at the office.

10. Choose only one or two types of featured entertainment

It’s tempting to have a photobooth, karaoke, baby tiger, and magician all at one party. But the goal is to get employees to bond. They can’t do that when they’re off doing things on their own.

Instead, just have one featured entertainment like karaoke. It’ll encourage employees to gather in one central area and have fun together.

11. Create some friendly competition

Prior to the party, have employees team up and register for the tournament. Depending on what your office is equipped with, you can either create a poster with the brackets or use an online tool like Challonge to cast it onto a TV screen.

Of course, winners should get rewarded and losers punished …

12. Have an award ceremony

Have employees nominate their coworkers for prespecified awards (rookie of the year, MVP, etc). Make it a fun process by creating videos for each nomination. It’s a great way to showcase employee recognition and appreciation.

13. Let your employees cut loose

And finally, encourage your employees to let their hair down. Avoid creating a strict schedule or mandating rules — keep the party casual and laid-back.

Also, many companies serve alcohol at their holiday parties, so consider adding a transportation fund to your budget. Allow your employees to expense their Uber, Lyft, or taxi ride so they can avoid driving to/from the party.

What are some lessons you’ve learned from planning company parties? Or maybe your organization does something really awesome each year. If so, share them in the comments section below!