The Holiday Party
Ever been to an absolutely horrible holiday party? If Hollywood is any indicator, most people dread the mandatory corporate holiday parties. In the Army, we used to call these types of activities “mandatory fun”. So when I started Access Ventures, I made it my goal to create the best holiday party anyone had ever been to! I made it my goal for it to be a “night to remember.” Over the years, I can proudly say…I do believe it is a well-regarded and annual event everyone looks forward to (perhaps ask them if you don’t believe me!). I do think these sorts of events will always have an air of “have to” attend…but we might as well do our best to make them amazing!
Here is what I tried to do…
Top-notch food and drink.
Because the holiday party is a way to enjoy one another and to thank team members, it was always important to ensure that wherever it was, the atmosphere and the food was amazing. To do this, you have to plan ahead (ie reserve the place 6-9 months in advance – which is really why I chose to post this in April and not November) and budget for it! Doing a holiday party is going to cost you but if done right, people feel seen and appreciated.
As much as possible, YOU plan everything.
I know the common practice is to delegate the details and the planning but remember…this is the one time you can shoulder that burden so every member of your team can simply show up and enjoy. Resist the urge to assign this duty to your assistant or office manager. If you need help, consider outsourcing it instead of delegating it. Trust me, if you are involved personally, you are able to put personal touches on it that your team will see.
Be generous and have fun.
Again, this is a great time to show your team members how much you care about them. Bonuses are nice (and something we also do) but for the party, think about gifting something…gifting them something perhaps they would really enjoy but probably not purchase for themselves. The way I did this over the years was to actually make the gift giving into a game. Again, like I said in the last paragraph…doing this yourself and not delegating will allow you to make this even more thoughtful. I relished every Fall as I prepared to be “Santa Claus”. I also thought to redeem the age-old holiday white elephant game. Instead of leftovers or trashy gifts, I created 2 tables of gifts: one that was more expensive (average value of $2-300) and one that was less expensive (average value of $50). We used all of the white elephant rules (yes, stealing included) but each couple at the end of the night, got to walk away with one more expensive and one less expensive gift (and for our single team members without a partner, they got one of the more expensive gifts).
So for me, I would spend hours scouring all of the top gift lists each Fall in preparation for the party. I’d take into consideration the individual interests of team members and look at things like “top tech gifts” “top food gifts”, etc. I also loved running my own social experiments too—to see what would go fastest. I would have family-oriented gifts, couple-oriented gifts, adventure-oriented gifts…and at the end of the night, regardless if you walked out with your first choice or not, there was always something right behind it you also wanted. I avoided too many gift cards because for me, it lacked a bit of creativity but I would always have essentially cash cards (Amazon gift cards) as one option.
Over the years, I would change up the rules to keep it interesting; or add in an icebreaker game that had even more prizes; or randomly tape gift cards under chairs to keep it fresh.
Whatever I did, I tried to pour myself and my affection for each of my team members into the evening. Again, remember this is an opportunity to truly make it about your team members and to express how much you have appreciated their contributions through the year. Again…as with all of these posts, I have benefited from the ideas of other people. What do you do to make it a special occasion? What should I consider adding in this next year? Drop it in the comments or shoot me an email – I’d love to hear from you!