When Thanksgiving rolls around, imagine feeling calm and collected (instead of panicking) because your office holiday party has already been planned for months! How great would that feel?

To avoid the stress that often comes with the holidays, start planning your office festivities as early as you can.  By starting early, you’ll have more options.  Venues and vendors will still have availability, and you may even be able to book them for lower rates before busy season hits. You can create an office holiday party team or committee, and recruit interested colleagues to help you out. That way, you don’t have to shoulder the whole burden of party planning. When planning the party is a team effort, you can encourage collaboration between people in different departments, be transparent about your party budget, and keep each other accountable – so that no detail is overlooked. Here are some guidelines to help you plan the perfect holiday party for your office.

Select the Right Food and Drinks for Your Team

Refreshments can make or break a party, and it’s one of the things your colleagues will likely remember the most.  What you serve should be based on your budget, theme, and office member interests.

Ordering food for a party is always tricky. You want to make sure to order plenty of food and drinks, but try to estimate how much each person will eat so you don’t end up with loads of leftovers. Think about the timing of your office holiday party. Will party-goers expect dinner or are appetizers enough? Are you serving alcohol? Also, consider the dietary needs of your colleagues and their guests (i.e. vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian). As you consider caterers, look at reviews and ask people you know for recommendations. Taste isn’t the only thing that matters here.  Look into how they rank in regards to punctuality, delivery, set up and service.

Find the Perfect Venue

Once you’ve taken care of food, it’s time to decide on a venue. Call upon your office holiday party task force to create a list of potential venues that have the right vibe and capacity for your group. Other factors to consider when choosing a venue include: location, budget, sound system, and whether you can bring in your own food/caterer, or if they have an exclusive contract with a specific catering company.

Reach out to venues for pricing as soon as you can (three to four months ahead is ideal). Find out what is included as far as packages, bar service, and food.  Before you sign anything, be sure to discuss liability, insurance, deposit amount, and what is expected in terms of setup and cleanup. If you decide you’d rather have the party at your office, then you have one less thing to worry about! You can focus on  food, activities, and decorations.

Choose Fun Activities Your Whole Team Will Enjoy

Once you’ve secured your venue and decided on food, you can concentrate on the fun stuff- planning the activities. If your party centers around food, music, and chatting, you may not need more activities. You want people to be able to relax without too much of an agenda. On the other hand, games may create a more interactive environment or help break the ice if your team isn’t already well-acquainted.

Work with your party task force to define what type of activities your team would enjoy. Make sure the activities will fit within your budget. You may want to select a smaller group of 2-3 people to weigh in on activities.  Too many opinions and ideas may make things more complicated.

Make a Plan for Setup and Cleanup

This aspect of party planning can be easy to forget. To be honest, it’s also easy to avoid.  But it will come back to bite you if you don’t have a plan in place. You’ll be glad you made a plan when the party rolls around! Be sure to schedule time for load-in, setup, and cleanup. You may want to think about hiring help to do things like clean and move furniture before and after the party. If your budget allows for it, this will give you the freedom to relax and enjoy the event you have planned.

Time to Party!

I cannot stress it enough – the earlier you start planning, the better off you will be. Save yourself time, stress, and money by solidifying details early so everyone can relax and enjoy the party. There are many planning and to-do list apps that are great tools to use as well.

To help your party planning, I’ve included a checklist from ‘Managed by Q’ below to help you stay on track and plan things one step at a time. Don’t forget, it’s a party – the main goal is to have fun!

Here’s Your Party-Planning Checklist:

3 to 4 months in advance:

  • Set approved budget
  • Recruit a party planning committee; designate responsibilities
  • Identify a theme (if applicable)
  • Create a guest list and headcount
  • Find and secure a venue
  • Set a date
  • Decide on food type, secure caterer (if not offered by venue)
  • Find and secure entertainment/music (DJ, band, playlist, etc.)

2 months in advance:

  • Collect addresses or email addresses for your guests from team members and vendors
  • Create or order invitations
  • Book or rent games and/or activities (i.e. photo booth, arcade games, etc.)
  • Review and submit all contracts and deposits

1 month in advance:

  • Confirm head count
  • Place food and drink order
  • Send invitations
  • Order or make decorations (if applicable)
  • Put swag bags together (if applicable)
  • Hire or assign any additional day-of roles (check in or greeters, coat check, security, setup and cleanup, etc.)

1 week in advance:

  • Send reminder to invitees
  • Confirm timeline with all vendors and venue
  • Confirm roles with all volunteers or staff
  • Pick up any last minute decorations or supplies
  • Take a deep breath and relax because you have everything under control

Office Holiday Party day!

  • Double check your logistics
  • Remind your colleagues about the party location and start time and share how excited you are
  • Arrive at the venue early to set up
  • Check in with all volunteers and staff before party time about timeline and expectations
  • Celebrate!

For a more detailed checklist, download Managed by Q’s office holiday party planning checklist.

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