So you’ve landed the task of organising the office party. Get it right, and you could be the flavour of the month well into January. Get it wrong, and you might wish you’d kept a lower profile.
The trouble is, it’s very difficult to please everyone. One person’s idea of a good ‘bash’ is another’s idea of party hell. Younger guests may like the idea of a quick meal before pounding the floor of a trendy night club until 2am. Others will prefer a more sedate occasion, with a meal eaten at a leisurely pace in a calmer environment. It’s your job to find the common ground and come up with an event that all will enjoy. No mean feat! But perhaps the answer lies in an event where the music and dancing take a back seat. Can you find a venue that offers entertainment as well as a meal? A cabaret or a themed event for example.
Food It’s always wise to visit the venue yourself and check out the catering. Is the food going to meet the expectations of the most discerning person on your guest list? Food is likely to be one of the most important components of the evening, so getting it right is vital. A good restaurant will be more than happy to let you taste the food before you make a firm booking. Are you convinced that they can cater for the size of your party, serving everyone at the same time?
Do you really want to offer a traditional turkey roast with all the trimmings, followed by the heavy old Christmas pud? Maybe many of your guests would relish a few lighter options. Consider too that a typical sit down meal means that people may get stuck with someone they consider to be the office bore. A buffet can create a more informal atmosphere in which people find it easier to move around and swap places.
Location Make sure you don’t sign up for a superb venue with fabulous food and cracking entertainment, only to find that no-one can get there because it’s miles from anywhere. The weather is likely to be cold and possibly wet, so you don’t want people to spend ages standing around outside. If public transport is not frequent or readily accessed, you may need to lay on taxis or a minibus. Investigate parking facilities too if people will be driving to the venue - you don’t want them to have to walk half a mile from the car park.
Music This is one of the hardest things to get right for an office party, as people are usually of mixed ages and interests. Talk to the restaurant manager and ask about music during the meal itself as well as afterwards. If there is a disco, find out what type of music will be played. Can guests easily request their choice of dance tunes? If you are booking an entire venue for your office party, you will have the luxury of specifying the music, and may be able to even pick the DJ. Even if the DJ has a liking for rap, you can insist on at least a good amount of music that meets the taste of your party-goers.
Speeches If you are the boss, bear in mind that people are not there to hear your pearls of wisdom - they are there for a party. While it is good to reward effort with a pat on the back for the people who have worked hard, keep it brief. If you are not the boss, but organising the party on his or her behalf, try tactfully asking how long the speech is going to be. You could claim to be working on the timing of the evening, and gently suggest that ten minutes is quite long enough!
Alcohol The office party is the traditional time of year for everyone to let their hair down. But you don’t want it to turn into a drunken disaster, with your colleagues feeling insulted, embarrassed, or at worst, sexually harassed. If people really want to drink too much, there’s little you can do - but you could take a few steps to give them sensible alternatives, so no-one can say you didn’t do your bit. Ensure there are plenty of soft drinks on the table - many restaurants offer interesting non alcoholic cocktails too.
Make it special Try to add at least one ingredient that will make it a memorable occasion. How about hiring a magician to entertain your guests at the table or during a reception drink? Or have a theme that will involve people – fancy dress, or a murder mystery event can get people mixing and laughing. This is a once-yearly event, so try to add some sparkle, and above all, have fun!