corporate party entertainment ideas

This past weekend, I threw a surprise birthday party for my wife. It was such a blast, not just the event itself, but the planning as well. You see, it was a complete surprise for her! I took great pains to keep the fest under wraps for at least a couple of months – no small feat, especially when trying to keep a secret among a group of friends, in the era of Facebook no less.

But I pulled it off, and it was a huge, huge success – she loved it, and so did everybody else!

I realized afterwards that there was a nice parallel between what I’d done with this small party in my home, and what you can do with your corporate event entertainment – especially as we approach company holiday party ideas season. So many times, company entertainment just isn’t…fun. It’s cheesy, it’s lame, it’s awkward. Here are five tactics I employed which you can absolutely use, to make sure that your next event – be it big or small – is a total win!

1. Make It a Surprise

This is both the simplest and the hardest way to create fun corporate party entertainment. It’s the simplest way because people love a great surprise! That’s not to say that EVERYONE loves surprises, which isn’t true – but people DO respond extremely well to a well-executed surprise which they can delight in, be it an exciting entertainer, funky venue, offbeat menu or countless other aspects which you could play with.

It’s also the hardest thing you can do, because let’s face it: keeping something a surprise takes effort. A LOT of effort. It also requires diligence, clandestine operations, and an abiding trust that no one will ruin the reveal. All of this creates a ton of stress on you, the planner, which you may just as soon say you don’t need. But trust me – the reward is well worth it!

For my wife’s party, probably the biggest reason it was a success was because it was a surprise. Instead of having her expecting a big to-do at the end of the day, we had arranged for her to have a fun girls’ day out with some friends, while I then used the time to get the house ready. When she came back home for what she thought would be a quiet night…BOOM! Surprise!

2. Keep Expectations Low

Here’s another tactic you can use to maximize the event’s effect and enjoyment. It’s a delicate one, however, so please take what I say here with a grain of salt. If expectations are low, then it’s relatively easy to exceed them. If the annual corporate holiday party entertainment is usually a total bomb year to year, then you should line up something FANTASTIC (like TrivWorks, perhaps!) – but here’s the catch: KEEP EXPECTATIONS LOW. That way, they’ll be blown away (for more on company holiday party entertainment, follow this link).

This is tough to do in the workplace, because keeping morale high is of such critical importance. You have to balance keeping people happy, with making a delightful “splash” at the event. It’s different with my wife’s birthday party – I just let her think that we weren’t really doing anything, so she wasn’t really expecting anything. However, for the office party you’re planning, there’s a fine line between deliberately lowering expectations, and genuinely bumming people out for an extended period of time – even though they’ll eventually have a fantastic experience in the end. Just use caution and your best judgement here.

3. Provide an Engaging Activity

There are many different ways to occupy a group’s attention. Some are passive – think performances, such as concerts, plays, stand-up comedy, etc. Some are active, such as bowling, ping-pong, and the like. However, if you really want to make your attendees leave with smiles on their faces and awesome memories to talk about afterwards, then my advice is to make whatever it is you’re doing ENGAGING.

There are plenty of engaging corporate event entertainment ideas out there: not only my beloved trivia events, but also murder mysteries, scavenger hunts, cooking classes, casino nights, escape the room-type experiences and so much more. Anything where guests aren’t just passively watching, but are actually DOING something fun and pleasing to the senses will generate the kind of cool and exciting experience you’re seeking. For my wife’s party, I chose perhaps the simplest yet enjoyable option for a house party: karaoke! It’s also our go-to hobby, as well as how we met…!

4. Make it Quirky

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with keeping things traditional. However, any way you can spice things up and make the experience as a whole something outside of “normal” will not only make it more memorable, but more fun as well!

I’ve been planning and producing events for a long time, as you can imagine. Once while in college, I was tasked with putting on a spring social event. Rather than simply have it on campus in the social hall, as had been previously done for many years, I somehow managed to have the thing hosted at the Boston Children’s Museum. I organized a bunch of school buses to take about 200 students from our suburban campus to downtown Boston; once onsite, the entire museum was open to our use. We had college kids playing with the bubbles, going down the slides, all that stuff – while a DJ spun and karaoke was pumping. Totally different, and a total blast!

5. Remember to Have Fun, Too    

As the organizer, there’s an understandable inclination to make sure that each and every portion of your event kicks off smoothly, and runs perfectly (click here for some current event planner tips & trends). Again, I’ve been doing this for a long time, and can say with certainty that NOTHING runs perfectly. You’ve got to be able to roll with the punches and deal with the unexpected. As the planner, you set the tone – folks will be looking to YOU to decide how much fun they’re “supposed” to be having, and if you’re lost in a stressed-out funk, that will affect them for sure.

At my party this past weekend, just as guests were starting to assemble in advance of my wife’s arrival, I dropped an entire crate of ginger beer in my kitchen. CRASH! Instantly, my kitchen floor was converted into a frothy lake of sticky carbonated liquid and glass shards. Did I freak out? You bet – but only for like, 3 seconds. I soon got my grip, and forced myself to deal with the unexpected crisis in a calm and efficient manner. Why? Because my guests were watching how I was behaving, to take cues about how THEY should behave in the lead-up to a big surprise. If I was a stressball, they’d be as well.

In summary, you can take the above steps to help make your corporate event entertainment as fun and memorable as possible. While there is no recipe for success, no guarantee that EVERYBODY will have a fantastic time, you can certainly help to guide your guests in that direction!

For more information on how to make your company event unique, visit