Corporate.holiday.party.ideas.jpgCorporate holiday party ideas

Today is the last day of October (Halloween!) meaning that starting tomorrow, it will officially be Holiday Party Season. From November through January (and event later, on rare occasions), people seeking unique corporate holiday party entertainment ideas will be reaching out to me, looking for fun and engaging ways to entertain employees, executives, clients and other stakeholders.

I love this season, and love producing holiday parties (which I recently wrote about – you can read that article by clicking here). To me, there’s just something about companies which devote the time and resources necessary to throw holiday party entertainment for the office which screams, “good place to work.” What do I mean by this? Read on!

Companies don’t HAVE to throw parties for their employees. It’s a privilege, not a right. Those of us who were in the work force in NYC and elsewhere back in 2008 remember well enough how after the markets crashed and the depths of the financial crisis became known, many companies big and small chose to severely scale back their annual bashes, if not cancel them outright. Similarly in 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast just before the holiday season began – in lieu of the fete, many offices chose instead to donate the allocated funds to relief organizations.

If you’re from an organization which has chosen to reward hard-working staff for a job well done this year, then consider yourself fortunate! If you are the one PLANNING said event, then I’ve got some important advice to share with you about what makes these events in particular unique from all others – and how to choose your entertainment accordingly. Here we go!

It Must Have Broad Appeal

With any event, when selecting the entertainment or activity it is essential that you have the audience in mind. You can’t just pick anything out of a hat, or because it “sounds cool” or you heard someone else talking about what they did at THEIR event last year. There has to be a cultural fit; whatever you’re doing has to be appropriate and relevant to those participating.

The important thing to remember, then, when planning company holiday parties is this: your audience is diverse. You will have colleagues there at all managerial levels – from interns to executives, associates to partners, the janitor to the CEO. You will also have folks there with varying lengths of employment, from just a few months, week & even days, to DECADES.

Depending on your particular organization, it’s also not unexpected to have a diversity of countries of origin, ethnicities, religions, cultures and more. Bottom line, you are not entertaining a homogenous group; it’s a broad spectrum, and if you want to engage them in a meaningful way, you MUST do so through an equally appropriate and relevant means.

That’s one of the reasons I love our corporate trivia parties – I know they work for just this reason. Traditional holiday party activities such as DJ, dancing, bowling, photo booth, murder mystery and the like are no doubt fun, however there really are very limited ways in which you can tailor these experiences to make them “fit” particular audiences. With team trivia and corporate game shows, there is no limit to how tailored and customized the material can be; you can also provide many different questions for the many different groups present, ensuring that EVERYBODY feels like they are participating, that this event truly has been crafted for them.

It’s Not Just Employees Present

It’s challenging enough planning an engaging and interactive company holiday party entertainment activity. However, things get even more complicated once you account for the fact that it’s NOT just employees at this thing.

Very often – not a given, but still a common practice – spouses and significant others are invited to join in the festivities. This can be a pretty highly-charged topic, and I don’t really want to get into the intricacies of the “should we or shouldn’t we” debate as far as having significant others at the holiday party goes. However, assuming for the moment that your event IS open to outside guests, what this does is drastically change the dynamic of the audience. Can you guess how?

When employees are allowed to bring a “plus one,” you have to assume that one-third to one-half of the total audience will now be made up of people who don’t work for the organization. Conservatively speaking, that’s one-third of your room who doesn’t work in your workplace; who doesn’t know the culture, the inside jokes, the “feel” of the place; who really doesn’t know ANYONE there. These people are suddenly being thrust into an environment where the majority of the people attending DO know one another (or at least recognize most people), DO feel perfectly comfortable, and are completely at ease.

It’s like a middle school dance, where the “cool kids” flock together and the “new kids” are stuck along the walls.

And let’s not forget clients! It’s not uncommon for companies to open the Christmas party up to key clients, to build the relationships and reward them for their loyalty. These people aren’t necessarily hip to what it’s like working at your business, but they’re darn important, wouldn’t you say? As such, we don’t want them feeling at ALL left out!

A savvy planner must be aware of this dynamic, and select a corporate holiday entertainment activity which can effectively engage this sizable audience as well. For the same reasons I indicated above, TrivWorks’ trivia events are incredibly effective at doing this. Not only do we ask industry, company and employee-specific trivia questions, but we round them out with relevant pop culture and general knowledge questions as well, ensuring there truly is something for everybody.

People Want to Have Fun, But Also to Socialize

When someone calls me up inquiring about a holiday party and wants to know how long my corporate trivia parties last, the first question I instinctively ask in response is: how long will the event be? The reason is simple: my entertainment – or ANY structured entertainment, for that matter – should not dominate the entire event.

Why? Because it’s a HOLIDAY PARTY!

Of course you want your attendees to have a blast, and to reward them for their hard work and loyal service. But it’s also one of the few chances of the year – maybe even the ONLY chance – people can truly let their hair down and get to know one another outside of the office. They simply can’t do that if the entire event is dominated from beginning to end by the entertainment.

In closing, be mindful when selecting your entertainment. It should be a blast for EVERYONE in attendance, but shouldn’t be the only thing you do.

For further reading, visit www.thebalance.com/are-you-planning-this-year-s-employee-holiday-party-1223813