Throwing a successful office holiday party is not an easy task, and the busy holiday season can make planning a killer shindig even more difficult. Trust us—The James Agency is not known to do anything halfway. This goes for our work and our parties!
Believe it or not, holiday parties don’t have to be something you dread planning as a boss. Here are 8 tips I’ve learned over 15 years of office party planning to help you “sleigh” your event and create an experience your employees are guaranteed to talk about for years to come.
1. Pick a FUN, non-Holiday theme
Themes that are too holiday-specific narrow your options from infinite themes to only a few. At The James Agency (TJA), we like to skip the basic holiday party theme and pick unique ideas that our employees can have fun with, from activations to dress code. We recognize that not everyone celebrates a specific winter holiday, making the generic Christmas theme an unfitting pick. Your holiday party should be a way to create unique memories. In 2021, our agency celebrated the holidays with an ’80s Après Ski-themed celebration, complete with neon ski gear, a professional ice skater and themed cocktails. The result? Endless memories for the team, and an enviable social media presence when the “ski lift” photo booth pics were posted to our employees’ Instagram feeds.
2. Pick activations to go along with your theme
Engaging on-theme activations for your guests are the best way to break the ice early in the night and create fun memories. While your employees get along and know each other very well, their partners and plus-ones might not be as familiar. Giving partners and employees a chance to interact in a comfortable, engaging situation allows for conversations and connections to flow easier throughout the course of the night. A few examples of some “totally TJA” activations we’ve had in the past include s’mores stations, cigar rollers, trapeze artists and snowball fights.
3. Provide transportation
One of the biggest worries with a company party is safe transportation. Transportation is often a dilemma when partners and plus ones are in attendance, as they typically tend to be designated drivers. We recently started partnering with Lyft to create customized codes for our guests, where their ride is paid for by our company when entered into the app. This takes the weight off their shoulders and gives them the ability to let loose for the night.
4. Pick a centralized venue
When it comes time to choose a venue, there is one ultimate tip to keep in mind—location. Venues that are too far away from popular party destinations make the ability to throw an after party that much harder. If you are choosing a venue and plan on having an after party, make sure the venue is within walking distance or a short Uber ride to where you want your guests to end up.
5. Transitions and spatial planning are key
You don’t want your guests to feel trapped in the same space for 4+ hours. That’s why transitions and spatial planning are incredibly important when planning a party and often go hand in hand. We choose venues that allow our team to flow through different spaces throughout the night. For example, hold your cocktail hour in a different location within the venue from where your guests will be sitting down for dinner for the night. It’ll make them feel less trapped and like the event flows more naturally.
6. Be mindful of plus ones
Holiday parties are great for your employees, but they also give partners and plus ones the chance to experience the culture of your company. Part of holiday parties for partners, unfortunately, can leave them feeling left out, from Secret Santa exchanges to inside jokes from the office. Leave the smaller, intimate parties and gift exchanges for the office and give your guests the chance to bond over a great company culture, without leaving anyone out of the loop.
7. Send out post-event surveys
The making of a great holiday party involves learning from past mistakes. We send out a post-event survey a few days after the party (so the event is still fresh) asking for satisfaction scores of the food, venue, music, activities, decorations, cocktails and more. This allows improvement year-to-year—not only for our company, but for our vendors as well.
8. Establish a positive relationship with your vendors and planners
Something we have absolutely loved about our holiday party over the years is that a majority of our vendors and planners have returned. They know what we look for, what to expect and have nearly perfected the holiday party. It’s great to have a positive relationship with the people you look to for help, as you are able to take less time worrying about the event and more time trusting that everything will work out.
Make sure to follow @thejamesagency on social media for an inside look at our fun-filled holiday party this year!
Author: Veronique James is the founder and CEO of The James Agency, an award-winning, full-service advertising, public relations, and digital firm in Scottsdale, Arizona specializing in hospitality and lifestyle brands. A southern California native, Veronique earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Visual Communications from the University of Arizona and worked for highly reputable advertising agencies before opening the doors of TJA in 2005. Actively involved in the community, Veronique served as Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) third female president in 2017/2018. Veronique lives with her husband and two children in Scottsdale.