For a few years in corporate holiday culture, largely due to the recession, chestnuts were left to roast and gone was the holiday office party and traditional champagne toast. A study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management in 2015 showed that 30 percent of companies declined to host any kind of holiday party.
Don’t blame the loss of the holiday office party on coal in the stockings of HR employees. Cast responsibility on the recession. And, even though the economy has improved as 2017 wraps up and the corporate planning scene appears to be experiencing a Renaissance, budgets and time constraints still pose real restraints for many. So how do the Valley’s holiday hosts recommend reviving the holiday spirit without draining company resources?
Nix the nog
“Alcohol consumption is often underestimated,” cautions Paul Rossi, director of food and beverage for the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa.
If removing alcohol from the menu seems too Scrooge-like, there are options to help keep the booze budget from skyrocketing.
For example, Rossi suggests exclusively offering beer and wine rather than a full bar.
Another means of keeping alcohol consumption under control is providing drink tickets for guests. Distributing two drink tickets per guest (or even couple) can significantly reduce the bill for booze.
Simply having a discussion with the venue point person can also help to limit gray areas.
“We prepare a detailed cost sheet for the planner and estimate a higher number of drinks per person, so there are no big surprises with the final bill,” Rossi says.
Be adventurous with your advent calendar
There are other ways to maximize corporate holiday party cost savings.
“One of the ways that companies can still recognize their employees and celebrate the holidays would be to host a holiday luncheon,” says Melanie Volkers, director of sales and marketing for the Hermosa Inn. “Not only is it more cost-effective than a dinner, it’s also beneficial to the employees since it doesn’t interfere with their personal time since it can be held during work hours.”
Being flexible, not only with the timing of a corporate holiday party but with dates is another tactic for which experts unanimously agree can be a budget saver.
“January and February are more affordable months to throw a holiday party,” says Lee Smith, Hotel Valley Ho’s director of catering and conference services. “While not traditional, we are seeing more and more companies go this route. It’s a fun way to kick off the New Year and also helps eliminate conflicting dates on a busy holiday calendar.”
If the idea of managing mistletoe beyond the traditional festive months is too taxing, there are still ways to be creative when it comes to the calendar – even if booking a venue outside of the recommended six-to-nine month, holiday-booking window.
“If you are flexible and can consider a weekday, you can wait a bit longer to book,” Volkers says. “We always have a push to re-sign our holiday clients in January and then again in June/July to guarantee they get the dates they want.”
Yuletide with fun on the side
It’s one thing to be creative with budgeting. It’s an entirely different matter to keep employees “eyes all a-glow.” How can holiday inspiration be infused back into the holiday office party?
“A great holiday party needs a well-thought-out theme,” Smith says. “Some unique themes we’ve seen are murder mysteries, statement balloons, tech-focused events and chef stations. Guests love the interaction element and it adds a special touch.”
Consider another 2017 company party trend: holiday movie themes. Since classics such as “A Christmas Story,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” cross generations, forming a theme that centers on one of these movies will appeal to many, while not being overly cumbersome to pull off.
For example, if a corporate party planner picked “A Christmas Story,” the movie could be showcased throughout the event, with 1940-inspired décor complete with the infamous “leg lamp.” For a fun twist, instead of traditional festive fare, Chinese food can be served.
The important thing to remember is not to be overwhelmed at the prospect of party logistics. An open conversation with a potential venue operator can eliminate unnecessary worry, and consulting with a professional party planner can make all the difference.
“Think of the flow of how you would like the event to go,” Volkers says. “Will there be any announcements, celebrations or giveaways? If so, work with your catering manager so that the flow of your evening pairs nicely with the flow of service.”
Experts also encourage remaining open and flexible – even before the initial holiday office party planning takes place.
“There can be a misconception that resort hotels are too expensive for a party,” Smith says, “but it really is the best deal. Once a planner gets the costs for renting chairs, linen and décor, they quickly appreciate the value we provide, not to mention the great service and locale.”