Party Time? How to Plan the Perfect Christmas Party

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It’s that time of year when someone is given the job of putting together the company Christmas party. Of course, nobody cares at the moment and there won’t be any real support until the last minute when suddenly this party will become the most important thing that has ever happened in the history of the business.

But hey, I’m sure it’ll be fine.

So here are our top tips for creating an amazing event, without having to ask for budget increases.

Venue First, Then Everything Else
No, don’t listen to Karen and accounts who, “used to be an events planner.” You certainly do not need a theme before you decide on a location, you need approximate numbers. Also, don’t listen to Jeremy in IT. I mean, he probably doesn’t have anything constructive to contribute to this conversation but I’m really just suggesting that you don’t listen to him in general.

Your venue is like the foundation for building a house – you start with a solid base, and everything else has to work around it. Otherwise, you will end up a month out from Christmas, with no venue, and as a result no party and then everyone will hate you.

2. Consider Everyone, but Please the Majority

Being an event planner is not a democratically elected position, and you have no requirement to please the people. It’s not like they can vote you out, and there won’t be a revolution to overthrow you. Most likely.

Consider yourself a dictator. It’s wise to listen to the people, but make sure you don’t work too hard to please marginal groups. In event management, there are always those who would rather complain than apply common sense. Those people who will insist that the party should start early and finish early, “because it’s impossible to find a babysitter over Christmas.” And the ones who have really good, overly insistent ideas somehow based in philosophy, “why does it always have to be so alcohol-fuelled? Couldn’t we just go somewhere and spend time together?”
Whenever you hear ideas, no matter how much you may agree with them it is important to consider the masses. As dictator, they form the basis of your power and may not be a revolution, but they could well be some violent protests.

3. If You Can Tentatively Book, Then Do

Don’t be a perfectionist at the wrong moment. The right time to be a perfectionist is a few days before the party when you’re making sure plans are on track, and the right promotional staff are doing the right work. Event staff love being bossed around by panicking event managers by the way.
The wrong time to be a perfectionist is a few months out Christmas when event locations are filling up fast. If the location manager asks if you would like to tentatively book and confirm and 24 hours, then say yes…for goodness sake, say yes. Otherwise, you will spend the next six hours thinking about whether you should use that location and get that problem solved and then you will ring them back and this conversation will happen:
“Hi I would like to book the area we discussed for a Christmas party.”
“Unfortunately it has now been taken.”
“Oh. I feel like a complete idiot.”
“Yes, you should have tentatively booked.”

Event planning and creating the perfect Christmas event is a lot of work, but if you have a location and a bit of support you can make miracles happen.

2 Mistakes that Event Staff Always Make

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In events, almost every failure can be traced back to one of these two mistakes:

1. Someone not taking enough responsibility
2. Someone taking too much responsibility

The first issue of someone not taking enough responsibility involves a failure to allocate work to specialists combined with a failure to follow up on that work. In this instance, event staff are assigned general tasks rather than specific responsibilities and as a result, perform those specific tasks perfectly. The problem is that most of the roles required by events staff are far more detailed than a specific task. For example, asking bar staff to serve drinks will mean that competent staff will do exactly that – serve drinks to attendees. The failure is that the person who assigned the task has failed to communicate the importance of the type of communication, which drinks should be prioritised and the manner in which bar staff should present themselves. We have all experienced an event where the event staff simply do not fit with the “feel” of the event; a slightly scruffy brand ambassador at a formal event, or a promotional team member that acts with almost pretentious politeness at a casual party. All of this can be rectified by ensuring specific event staff have responsibility for more than just minor tasks. Supervisors who have an awareness of what is expected of their team at a more fundamental level can rectify issues in presentation, communication and methodology. Without that level of responsibility, there is no system or procedure for rectifying ad-hoc problems.
The other issue of event staff taking too much responsibility involves event managers, supervisors or individual contributors stressing themselves out by trying to achieve everything themselves without allowing other people to take any responsibility for the event beyond the most basic assignments. The most common occurrence is when supervisors are tasked with, “managing” staff, but that management ends with checking their start times, telling them when they can take a break and asking the event manager to sign their timesheet at the end of the event. This type of robotic behaviour creates a flow on effect to other members of event staff, who behave in an equally robotic fashion. The event becomes less enjoyable for the event staff, which in turn reduces the enjoyment for the attendees. The event manager uses solid project management techniques to make sure that everything happens on time, but timeliness is only a small portion of creating an event that engages clients or prospects and gets people talking. With too much responsibility being taken by the event manager, those responsible for direct interaction with attendees cannot use their own skillset and intuition to adapt to circumstances as they arise. A member of waitstaff wants to engage with attendees at a more meaningful level, but it has been communicated, through clear and functionary directives, that this is just a job, not an opportunity to shine. Had the event manager allowed responsibility to filter down and created an environment where individual team members could use their own initiative to spot opportunities and be proactive in improving the event, the performance of the event would exponentially increase without any additional work having to be done by the event manager. Sadly, in these circumstances, the event manager has confused working hard with creating an effective event.
The sensible allocation of responsibility involves an awareness of where proactivity is useful and an understanding of where it is not. Good event managers should seek to understand the link between effective task allocation, communicating the importance of productivity and bring it together with the recruitment of event staff that have the relevant skillsets.