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8 Steps to Planning a Successful Christmas Party


We have all been there. The annual Christmas party slog. You work your tooshy off the whole year and are greeted with a sub-par event. There might be a single drink token, or the venue won't have airconditioning, or that one person you despise got wasted and caused a mess. Either way, these Christmas parties are often remembered as the worst.

But now that you have been added to the team to ensure the success of a party, you are going to make sure it is remembered as the best party ever.

And we are here to make sure you do so, with 8 easy to follow steps to planning a Christmas party. Chances are, if you are reading this, you know the time to plan is right now, if not a few months ago!

Planning a decent Christmas party takes time and effort and the fact you are here means you want to ensure it remembered for all the right reasons.

There are 8 steps to creating a memorable Christmas party:

  1. Define the company objective
  2. Select the right venue
  3. Theme and decorations
  4. Catering and beverages
  5. Entertainment
  6. Internal communications, marketing and promotion
  7. On-site management
  8. Evaluation and feedback

By following these steps, you should be confident the Christmas Party will be remembered as a huge success with decent attendance and great reviews.

1. Define the Christmas Party objectives

Christmas parties don't come out of the blue. Every year your CEO, leader or social committee will determine whether or not the party will go ahead. Normally this is an output of the company performance and the proposed budgets are often reflective of this.

In order to plan a successful party you need to be know what the desired objectives are. Is the party to create a festive atmosphere, build teamwork, enhance company culture or simply providing a fun and enjoyable experience for all staff. You might think you know, but ensuring you are aware of the expectations will help you with all the next steps.

Consider a company that says they want a Christmas party, but really want to use it to improve teamwork or remove silos. This would flow on to your entertainment options further down, or might mean you need a microphone to ensure the CEO can talk to the whole company before the party begins.

2. Select the Right Venue

If you have ever gone to a friends birthday party, or a function and the venue is so large that everyone has a huge amount of room to themselves, and nobody mingles? Yep, you don't want that. 

You also don't want to book a venue that is so small that people are cramped, uncomfortable and, as a result, leave early.

Balance is key here. Finding a venue for your party doesn't have to be hard. If you know what you want, have estimated how many staff are going to attend (hint: it likely won't be everyone who says RSVPs yes), then the next step is to find the venue. You can use the BizziEvents Platform to find your venue, or you can reach out to the team for additional support. 

If your event needs things like a microphone, separate zones for dancing vs presentations, ensure you have checked if the venue offers these, has a partner AV company, or open to you bringing your own props.

Check the time the venue is open, whether or not it is exclusive use and what the process is like on the day for decorations. Ideally you want to have booked the venue for at least a few hours before the expected arrival so you can decorate. The earlier the better.

3. Theme and decorations

Adding a theme to your event is a great way to build buzz and ensure people buy in... as long as it is inline with your objectives and different to the weekly dress codes. 

If your office is a formal collar shirt, dresses below the knees type of place, having a dress up where people need to wear something similar isn't special, it is just another day at the office.

Consider a theme that is fun and can be taken with a twist. 

Christmas Party Themes

There are plenty of themes you can choose from, and all could have a fun twist:

  • Christmas around the world: You can have a white Christmas with fake snow, frozen margies and an ice cream cart. You can take that winter Christmas idea that other countries have and use it in Australia to ensure you have cool foods and drinks.
  • Hollywood: High Glam with decor such as glitter, lights and Hollywood style signs. Add a twist by incorporating a red carpet and paparazzi
  • Born in the year: Everyone is encouraged to dress up in the decade they were born in. 
  • Prohibition: with the rise of non alcoholic beverages, consider an alcohol free event set in prohibition times. If you want to add a twist set a bar tab that is unlocked with a special code - just make sure the rumours about the code are shared well in advanced.
  • Christmas Movies: Dress up as a character from any Christmas or holiday movie. Expand it out without the word Christmas as you could have a star studded event that caters to all religions and interests

Consider adding prizes for best dressed individuals, teams and those who vote. A gift card is one thing, but what about the winner or winners getting a few hours early mark anytime in January! You can bet a bribe like that will get the whole office talking.

Decorations

Decorations should compliment and align to your theme. You shouldn't be clashing themes and decorations or people will notice something doesn't match. Consistency is key with decorations and sometimes less is more, depending on your theme.

4. Catering and Beverages

If your Venue doesn't include catering, or allows for BYO, as many do on Bizzievents, you are free to hire a caterer.

Hire a caterer that can provide a variety of food options, including vegetarian and vegan options, to accommodate the dietary needs of all guests. 

For beverages, you need to consider this as part of your Venue selection. If you are planning on having alcohol there are rules and regulations specific to the responsible service of alcohol. Your venue will need to be licenced and aware that you will be consuming alcohol on premises.

There are so many options to be inclusive at a Christmas party. Not everyone drinks alcohol and the rise of sober  or mindful drinking has boomed, with dating apps even dedicated to sober curious. The rise of non-alcohol booze has already chipped away 3% of the market, and is expected to take a 31% share by 2024, according to IWSR research.

Consider adding soft drinks, zero percent alcoholic beverages or mocktails on arrival. If you aren't putting an open bar down, consider having free soft drink for those who are driving or sober for the evening.

5. Entertainment

Choose entertainment that will keep guests engaged and entertained throughout the event. This can include live music, a DJ, or games and activities. The entertainment should be in line with the theme and appealing to the target audience.

Entertainment Tips

Entertainment doesn't have to require a huge budget. There are plenty of ways to increase the levels of fun that don't cost too much:

  • Hide and Seek: This is one of my own favourites and saw the whole office engaging in a search. Buy or obtain from work 10 items (I used mini movie characters like spiderman and wonder woman). Hide those around your venue. Be imaginative and think about bringing sticky tape if the venue will allow it. If you really want, you can get them involved too. Whoever finds the toys and brings them to the bar gets a drink of their choice. For my Christmas party, this meant 10 cocktails were pre-ordered, while everyone else was still on standard drink packages. Best bet is to also share a few with your bosses.
  • White Elephant or Bad Santa gift exchange: Ensure you have set clear guidelines with the team on what is acceptable and what isn't. Best practice would be that all who want to be involved need to hand in their gift to a dedicated person, so any bad behaviour is tracked.
  • If team building is on the cards, consider an Amazing Race style event and entertainment, where teamwork is key to unlocking clues and winning a prize.
  • Garden Games: ring toss and bocce are classic summer games for outdoor Christmas parties.
  • Hire a Host: Hire a professional MC to be your host for the evening. Ensure they are in charge of speeches, with jokes to lighten the mood (often at the CEOs expense).
  • Magicians, caricaturist or other entertainment: didn't you hear that Magicians are in? Magic Mike (not a stripper) is an incredible well known Magician. Be warned, good talent is booked well in advanced and Christmas time is peak busy, make sure you are booking in your entertainment as soon as you have your location.

6. Internal Communications, Marketing and Promotion

You have gone to all this work to get the event sorted. But what good is it if you aren't promoting it well. 

Internal channels such as email, posters, internal social media and all staff updates are all required. But these are just the basics. 

Chances are you know a few of the best rumour mill employees and these are the ones you want to start leaking information to. Chances are these are the people who are already trying to get that information off you anyway. 

Be very strategic with what you are sharing. Don't over promise and don't give away everything.  With the theme maybe consider pointing out things that could fit the theme and then cover your mouth, whisper 'I am not supposed to be sharing that' and walk away. Get that rumour mill stoked and ensure the loudest people are engaged.

Don't just have your CEO talk about the event, leverage managers, leaders and even consider asking people at the lunch table what they think the event is going to be and what the company should do. Take these suggestions seriously, as it could help adjust your event.

Read through a full guide on internal event promotion.

7. On-site Management

Have a team in place to manage all aspects of the event, from registration to cleanup. This includes managing the guests, ensuring the event runs smoothly, and addressing any issues that may arise.

You should be engaging your HR team to see who, if anyone, they have allocated to be a on-site manager for the event. They may be doing this as a preventative measure to ensure they aren't going to have any complaints as a result of the event.

This should also be a reminder for them to be sending out reminders around Work Health Safety regulations, travel between the office and the venue, guidelines on inappropriate behaviour and a selection of Cab Charges for any emergency exits.

8. Evaluation and Feedback

Collect feedback from attendees after the event to determine its success and identify areas for improvement. This would act and inform your own reflection and identify those growth opportunities.

This can be conducted through surveys, focus groups, or emails to stakeholders.

Use this feedback to provide recommendations for the next Christmas party, and will ensure those who are in charge next year will have their own 8 step guide to planning a Christmas party.

Christmas Party on a Budget

Have a limited budget this year for your Christmas party. We have created a guide specifically for those needing to cut back on their spend. Read our guide on creating an exceptional Christmas party on a budget.

Want to get more return from your events?

BizziEvents is dedicated to enabling corporate event planners to invest more time into creating exceptional event outcomes. Whether you are running a sales presentation, hosting your Christmas party or looking to run an offiste workshop with your executive team, we are here to help. 

Enquire Today

Video: 8 Steps to Planning a Work Christmas Party

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About The Author

Founder of BizziEvents, Matt is passionate about all thing corporate events from an business and attendee perspective. Matt is on a mission to help event planners create exceptional events by unlocking more time for higher value work.

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