Tips for planning your company’s holiday party

Fall in South Florida means cooler weather – and an onslaught of events. From Art Basel to the South Beach Wine and Food Festival and countless other affairs, the coming months will present a never-ending string of occasions to fill your calendar.

For many businesses, one of the earliest events on the schedule is the annual holiday party. Organizing a holiday party can be an overwhelming and time-intensive endeavor, especially if you lack team members with event planning expertise.

The good news is that it’s easy to plan a high-value, stylish event that supports your company’s goals without breaking the bank. Here are five recommendations that we’ve offered clients over the years.

Determine your event’s objective. The success of your party all depends on your overarching goal. Do you want to encourage camaraderie among team members? If so, then consider an employee-only affair. Do you want to partner with a community organization? Maybe a fundraiser makes sense. Holiday parties can also be a chance to entertain clients and potential clients, which opens the door to an entirely different type of event.

Choose an appropriate venue. This goes hand in hand with your goal for the event. If you want to build company culture, consider a social venue, such as an upscale bowling alley, a paint-your-own pottery store, or something sporty like Top Golf. These options are turnkey and are a fun way to get team members out of the everyday routine.

If you desire something more structured and formal, check out restaurants or hotels. Many offer packages that include everything you need. Choosing a venue largely comes down to your company’s character and your event objective.

Spend money on the right things. We always ask clients, ‘what are your top three priorities?’ For some clients, it’s food and drinks, for others its music and décor. Think about what you want your guests talking about the day after the event and that will help guide where you spend your money and time. For example, if your event is part of a corporate giving initiative, then perhaps you want to allocate some dollars to a community donation. Or maybe you want to give out employee prizes or bonuses to mark the end of the year. All these items should factor into your budget.

Manage the alcohol risk. It can be difficult to gauge how much your guests are going to drink, especially if they plan to ‘let loose’ after work hours. Tips for avoiding problems include providing interesting non-alcoholic beverages and encouraging alternate forms of transportation through discount codes

or free rides with Uber and Lyft. My advice to corporate clients is simple: drinking should never be the primary focus of the event, and that point should be clearly communicated to employees ahead of time.

Set a clear budget. It’s easy to get hung up on budget, especially when the price per person can vary anywhere from $20 – $200 depending on a range of factors. If you are budget-conscious, then consider a more social event, such as bowling or a cocktail reception with light bites. Offering beer and wine is a cost-effective alternative to a full open bar.

If you are entertaining clients and want to make a statement, then a sit-down dinner at an impressive venue may be in the cards. Handling things like photography, invitations and decor internally is another way to manage costs.

In the end, I tell clients that ‘the event will feel right if you make it your own.’ Nobody knows your company as well as you do, so give thought to what will be well-received by your colleagues and clients and go from there.

And remember: the event organizer within your firm should have an enjoyable time without feeling burdened by the stress of planning the affair.

Jen Schwartz is the special events director at Schwartz Media Strategies and president of CaliJen Events. Take a closer look at some of the corporate events Jen’s team has planned below.