How to…….Start Planning your Christmas Party

That time of year is upon us where we start talking about how fast time has gone and ending our conversations with “Let’s catch up before Christmas”!

If you’re the person organising an end of year celebration, you also have the added stress of knowing you have a lot of planning to do!

Even if you have booked a venue, you will very soon be getting calls asking:

“Have you picked a menu?”

“What’s the theme?

“Have you noted that I am a gluten free intolerant vegan?”

Here are my tips on how to plan a Christmas Party:

Set an objective – Regardless of whether your objective is just to have a great night out – every event needs an objective and a return on investment and your Christmas party is no different. If the objective is to celebrate an amazing year of top performances, the decisions you make will be very different to if your objective is to bring the team together after a tough year of budget cuts.

Do market research – Pick a small, but diverse, group of colleagues and ask a few simple questions about what they would like to see at the event. This might include venue, theme, food style or entertainment. Be careful though – don’t get too many opinions or you will become overwhelmed and someone will be offended that you didn’t do their “Under the Sea” theme they were so passionate about.

Work out your numbers – chat to your core team and find out their thoughts on the invite list. Is it core team only? Does it include peripheral services? Are partners invited?

Count the dollars – Once you have an idea of the size event you need, give yourself a bottom-line budget on what you can spend. This may be a figure given to you by the powers that be; or if you are the business owner it may be a number you are comfortable with. By having your end budget in mind, you can very easily work out the scale of your event.

Think about a theme – I am of the belief that all events need a theme – this doesn’t mean fancy dress or prop pieces, but your event should have a name, a theme or a design element that gives it definition and can help take guests on the event journey. It could be an actual theme, or it could be as simple as a colour palette. Always go back to your objective – if it was to highlight the achievements of your team maybe “Heroes” would work!

Pick a venue – I have purposely put this after the objective and theme – there are so many great venues out there that lend themselves so well to a theme; but many people pick a venue first and then get boxed into a theme that doesn’t achieve their objective. That’s when themes run the risk of not being well received because it feels like having a theme for the sake of it rather than for a purpose.

Design for your demographic – Work with a bunch of builders? Focus on food. Work with affluent colleagues who enjoy finer things? Focus on surprises and wow factors! Always go back to your overarching objective but remember the people who are coming and make sure you make design decisions around the look and feel, and the food especially, that will engage and impress your guests.

Involve suppliers early – Once you have picked your venue, figured out the basic costs like venue hire and food, you will have an idea of how much money you have left and can start to think about other suppliers. Regardless of your budget, make sure you prioritise and always go back to your objective. If you give away awards at your Christmas party, the AV set up is going to more important than if your objective is to let you team just switch off and dance – in which case entertainment will be more important. By involving your suppliers early, they will go on the journey with you and will add value and ideas you may not have thought of!

Have fun with it – by being clear with your objectives and knowing where you want to focus your spend, you will find things will fall into place and you will enjoy the process! It can definitely be stressful, particularly if organising events isn’t your full time job, but be strategic and surround yourself with people who will make you look good……..then kick back and enjoy that glass of sparkling!

Megan Peters

Event Director at International Productions and has been recognised as MEA National Event Manager of the Year.

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