The job of planning the company Christmas party or end of year function can often feel very daunting and overwhelming – especially because everyone starts counting down for it as soon as the last one is over. To add to the stress there are often time and budget constraints, even though everyone expects it to be bigger and better than last year. Fortunately we are here to help! It all starts with finding the perfect venue.
Below is 6 steps to help you get prepared and secure the right venue for your Christmas party.
1. Set the event date
Christmas is a busy period, in fact the busiest time of year for many people and venues, so diaries fill up fast. That means you want to get a date pencilled in as early as possible. The best option is to select 3 – 4 possible dates so that you have flexibility when you find the perfect venue. Typically, Thursdays and Fridays are most popular, so earlier days in the week tend to work out cheaper – but don’t expect a productive workforce during the days that follow. Another trend we’ve seen is office parties behind held in January to kick-start the year and get better value for money. Either way, the earlier you start the better your chances are of securing the best date and price.
2. Confirm the event budget
Once you have a handful of possible date options the next thing you need to confirm is the budget. The good thing about starting early with your planning is you increase your chances of getting more bang for your buck. The size of your budget will ultimately have a huge impact on the type of Christmas party you organise, determining everything from the food and theming to the entertainment and choice of venue. Find out how much money you have to spend. You need to know this as early in the process as possible so you don’t start planning something completely unrealistic. Once you have the whole amount, allocate the budget by what is most important to your group. This will depend on the type of company you work for and the expectations of the people you work with. Remember that the Christmas party is a ‘thank-you’ to the staff, so should be organised for them and not to please directors. A piece of advice is to always leave some money aside as a buffer. Unexpected costs can always crop up with any size of event, so don’t splurge your entire budget straight away.
3. Determine the type of end of year function
Now that you have date options and the budget breakdown, before you can approach venues you need to determine what type of party you’re after. It will be depend on many factors, including your company demographic ( mostly married with children or young professionals?), desired location, time of day, likely numbers attending and what formalities you’ll need to include such as awards etc. On top of this you’ll need to consider if partners or spouses, children are invited to come.
If you’re not sure what event type is best, seek advice from a professional event planner or someone you know who’s always throwing parties - they’re likely to give you a fresh perspective and help point you in the right direction. If you find organising events typically stressful then go with a packaged Christmas party where all the hassle is taken out of your hands.
A lot of venues offer semi-customisable event packages where you’re able to make a choice from a small selection across
- Styling and theming
- Entertainment and performances
- Food & beverage
- Table arrangement
This gives you the best of both worlds – whilst you’re given the freedom to choose, you can sit back and relax knowing your event is in safe hands.
4. Find the perfect venue
By now you should have a pretty tight brief for what your ideal end of year party looks like. Before you can get into the nitty gritty of the event you need to secure the perfect venue. The earlier you book the venue, the better – unsurprisingly, good venues go quickly. As we said earlier, no matter how prepared you think you are, there is always someone out there even more organised.
The internet is your best tool for identifying suitable venues that have meet your criteria. Make a selection of about 7 and request a quote from each based on your requirements.
Once you’ve culled your initial options down to 3 (based on quote price) you should:Organise site visits to work out the best option and take photos to help when planning the theme.
- Ask the venue’s events team about what is available for you to use and what you will need to hire in, such as furniture, entertainment equipment, staff on the night, Christmas decorations and theming.
- Check that the venue will be willing to clear up afterwards, otherwise you may want them to hire in some extra help, rather than clear up yourself.
- If an overnight stay will be required, or you want to organise it as part of the overall experience, then find out about accommodation options at the venue or nearby.
- If you haven’t had a confirmed guest list or are worried about ‘no shows’, ask if you will be able to book for minimum numbers and add guests later on.
- Before signing anything make sure you check back through the quote and ensure it includes everything you require and that there will be no hidden charges.
- Be willing to try and negotiate costs. If you don’t ask you don’t get, although Christmas is a busy time so don’t be surprised if they refuse your requests for a discount.
- Formally confirm the location and release any alternative venues on hold. Book accommodation if required.
- Once you’ve secured the venue, send our a ‘save the date’ calendar invite to all your guests. This should maximise your turn out but giving them plenty of notification. Don’t worry about including information in the invite – mainly because at this stage you’re unlikely to know, but it adds to mystery and excitement of the event.
One thing which you should include though is asking your guests to send a response when accepting the invite with any dietary requirements or allergies. This is vital information for when you’re planning the food and beverages.
5. Source the right AV partner
Smart AV has the power to transform your venue and bring to life your theme.
AV is often left to the last minute with only shrapnel left in your budget – even though it is the most important element for transforming your event and bringing to life the theme. Everyone knows lighting and sound can dramatically enhance the atmosphere of an event so it is crucial to get this organised early. The most successful events start with the audio visual requirements and then plan the styling and theming to work in harmoniously. Being smart with your AV can often save you a lot of money in theming and styling as well because you can easily create an event theme with great content on screens, lighting projected onto the walls and floors, smoke machines, sound effects...the list goes on. Of course, as with any service business, there is a great difference in what money can buy when it comes to an AV partner. Being such an important part of your event we recommend doing your research and allocating a decent chunk of the budget pie to AV. The age old saying, “it’s too good to be true” applies to the AV industry. You’ll want a reliable AV partner who you feel confident in placing the success of your company’s party in their hands. We won’t remember (or care) if the drinks weren’t imported, the table’s too squished or the styling a bit off, but you will remember if the music cut’s out, not enough ‘mood lighting’ or heaven forbid the projector screen or microphone fails during your CEO’s address. A lot of venues have an in-house AV partner so make sure you ask who they use when scouting. As mentioned earlier, Venue Locator is a great tool because all venues have Staging Connections as their in-house AV provider. When you get a packaged event deal AV will be included, so again, another hassle is taken out of your hands.
If you’re going with a bespoke option (organising everything yourself), choosing the right AV partner is even more important. They’ll need to be experienced and flexible enough to work in an unfamiliar venue and creative enough to bring to life a new theme. Don’t skimp on price, generally all AV costs the same but it’s the quality of service you’re paying for. The cheapest quotes often mean they’ve made savings by reducing head hours (operation costs) or they’re using ancient and often unreliable equipment. So if you’re not a whiz with an audio mixer or vision matrix switcher, trust us and leave it to the experts. You want to be remembered for organising the party of the year and not the year’s biggest party fail.
6. Decide what event theme or styling you want
Styling and theming isn’t just about the odd draping here and there with some flower/candle centrepiece design, it should be integrated throughout every aspect of the event. We’re experiencing a shift towards immersive events where AV and styling become one, creating an unforgettable experience for your guests.
Choose a theme and research it thoroughly. Some popular ideas include traditional Christmas, Vintage Circus, the Great Gatsby, Hollywood Awards, Mad Hatters Tea Party, James Bond /Casino Royale and Winter Wonderland. See here for more information on styling.
Top Left to Bottom Right: Casino Royale, Winter Wonderland, Vintage Circus, Mad Hatters Tea Party
Choosing a well-known theme is a great way of getting everyone involved in the event. It makes way for on-theme performances (roaming magicians, James Bond imitators) or interactive booths (taro card readers, festival games) and all your guests can come dressed up. It’s important to consider your guests’ journey –
- What will the entrance look like?
- What do they first see when they enter the room?
- Are the toilet facilities themed?
- Can we design a themed menu?