The success of any party is determined by how much fun the guests have, and the intent of themed corporate party is to show appreciation to the staff for their hard work during the year. However, planning a themed corporate event is more complex than many people may assume at first.
Even a small staff may include a diverse collection of personality types, food preferences, and definitions of what makes an enjoyable party. Some people may love a chance to dress up in formalwear and attend a lavish banquet, while others may not enjoy formal occasions at all, preferring a more casual environment and dress code.
One of the most critical factors that determines how much a guest enjoys a party is the food that is served. Throughout human history, sharing food has brought people together and been a central part of celebrations. What was true around ancient campfires is true at your office party: if people are enjoying what they are eating, they tend to feel content.
Answering the Big Questions
It may seem obvious, but you must answer the big questions before you can plan the details. Your answers to the following questions will greatly affect the type of event you will plan.
When will the event take place: weekday or weekend? Weekday luncheons are the most common choice for themed corporate parties, but that may not be desirable for every company.
What time of day will it occur: daytime or evening?
Where will the event be held: in the office or at an offsite venue?
Are you holding one big event for the whole staff, or will you have separate parties for various departments?
Are employees invited to bring spouses/dates or children to the party? If so, receiving RSVPs will become very important so you know how many guests to expect.
What is your alcohol policy for this event?
Once you have answers to these questions, you will be prepared to proceed with planning!
Selecting Your Holiday Party Theme
When planning your event, you may decide whether to select a specific theme beyond a general “winter holiday celebration” idea. It is a good idea to consider the everyday atmosphere of your office when choosing a theme. A wild luau could feel out of place in an office that is usually formal and reserved, and a formal dinner might seem odd and confining to a staff accustomed to a more free-spirited or blue-collar work environment.
Once you have decided on a theme, you may choose to represent it in the decor, dress code, or planned activity, and the menu can be created to complement it. Or you may prefer to reverse this process by first choosing the menu you would like to serve, then planning the other elements to go with it. When choosing your menu and service style, consider the venue where your event will take place. Is there enough capacity to seat all your guests for a meal? Will you have room for guests to line up at a buffet?
It is likely that your caterer offers themed menus that may be tailored to complement the occasion or the event’s setting. For instance, if you have chosen to have a black-tie dinner, a dinner of filet mignon or Cornish game hen may suit the occasion. If your party takes place at the office during a workday, you might declare it a casual “jeans day” and serve a fun, relaxed barbecue buffet.
Exploring New Trends
Does your staff like to keep up with the latest trends? Your caterer can advise you about the hippest new party food options. “Dishes that spark conversation and photos are taking over,” said Jaleesa Kirk, event sales manager at the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago, reporting a recent trend she noticed to Michelle Laufik of BizBash.com: “Passing a shrimp cocktail across a room doesn’t garner quite the same attention it used to. However, passing an Iron Chef slider with an adult root beer float shooter does. It seems to be all about taste and tweets!”
Laufik also provided this tip from Savannah, Georgia-based event planner Rebecca Gardner. “Citrus is in season during winter months and provides an alternative to floral decor. Punctuate a traditional mass of greenery with brightly colored Meyer lemons and clementines.” Texas-grown grapefruits and oranges are plentiful around the holiday season, so using local fruit may be an option.
Variety is the Spice of Life
As you plan your menu, keep in mind that some attendees may have dietary restrictions or allergies. You may need to provide gluten-free meals, or a vegetarian or vegan option. Many of your guests are likely to appreciate having some lighter, healthier options available too. Offering a variety of foods will help ensure that all of your guests may find something to their liking.
A buffet-style meal allows you to give your guests various food options. It is an informal style, well-suited to a workday lunch event. Many buffet menus offer dishes from a particular style of cuisine, such as Mexican, Italian, or barbecue. Your company’s staff members may have different tastes and dietary needs, but a buffet lets them all share a communal meal, which may prove to be a pleasant team-building experience.
Taking Small Bites
If you prefer not to serve a full, seated meal during your holiday party, you may consider offering a selection of small bites that accent your theme. Global cuisine has become a popular culinary theme for corporate holidays. An “Around the World” party could feature hors d’oeuvres representing the flavors several different countries. This is a great way to introduce some variety to your menu–perhaps more than any other option. It allows your guests to mingle and gives them something to chat about. Hors d’oeuvres are especially convenient when your event revolves around a social activity such as a casino night.
In a relaxed party atmosphere, people may be more willing to try new things. Hors d’oeuvres are an ideal way to allow your guests to taste new foods. Because they generally are bite-sized, hors d’oeuvres do not require a big commitment from a skeptical eater. Each one is just a bite or two, enough for the person to learn whether they like this new flavor in a fun way.
And To All A Good Night
The number of questions that must be answered while planning a corporate holiday event may seem a bit daunting, but taking it step by step will make it a manageable task. A little thoughtful planning will ensure that your event is enjoyable and memorable for all of your guests.