Holiday parties are meant to thank employees for all the work they have done throughout the year. It’s also an opportunity for everyone in the company to step out of their work roles and spend time with each other in a social setting.
“These special occasions should be built around making employees feel like valuable members of the team,” says Matt Radicelli, founder and CEO of Rock The House Audio Visual. “Companies are finding unique and innovative ways to thank their employees for a great year. And more often they’re going out of their way to give them an event to remember.”
Smart Business spoke with Radicelli about how to impress employees with year-end and holiday parties.
What are some elements that wow guests at an event?
When planning an event, regardless of the size of the budget, don’t spread the elements too thin. For instance, rather than featuring hundreds of small centerpieces on dining tables, put that money into three or four big arrangements placed throughout the venue that make an impression — they’re a success if your guests are gathering around them to take pictures.
Similarly, with entertainment, bring in a well-known act that will be the highlight of the night — an act employees will brag about to their friends.
Food and drinks can be a spectacle in and of themselves. For instance, flaming coffee bars that incorporate fire and liquor in the service or serving cotton candy on LED sticks that create a glowing presentation are gaining popularity. There is a lot of creativity being put into making a spectacle out of what would ordinarily be mundane.
Also, rather than typical waitstaff walking among the guests serving appetizers, some events have converted them into roving entertainment with a food component that gets people talking. For instance, there are waitstaff dressed in elaborate outfits over which they pour champagne to fill guests’ glasses, and there are flying bartenders who swing from a harness 20 feet off the ground. Anything that makes the food more of a show and less of just a meal is sure to make an impression.
What are some ways companies are keeping guests entertained and engaged throughout a holiday event?
Consider activities that aren’t necessarily the center of the room’s attention. People enjoy interactive attractions and anything that offers a souvenir they can take home from the event. Those could include photo strips from a photo booth, prizes from a game or contest, or custom merchandise, like hats or T-shirts.
Giveaways can also be entertainment, but the gifts should be impressive. Better to make it memorable by giving away tablets than looking stingy by giving out cheaply made, company-branded water bottles.
What energy killers should companies be sure to avoid at their events?
What really kills an event’s energy is trying to force employees into a party that may not be for them. For instance, a holiday party thrown for a group of mostly men ages 50 and older that features a giant dance floor is probably not the best choice.
And unless a common religion is really ingrained in the company’s culture, it’s better to keep those beliefs out of holiday events. Many companies are skipping references to any December holidays and rather framing them as year-end events that follow an unrelated theme or have no theme at all. Again, it’s about understanding the people in the company and building an event that suits their interests, not just those of a few executives.
What are some ways to leave a good impression on guests?
An understated way to personalize an event and show appreciation is for the executive team to greet everyone as they come in. Say hello, meet their spouses and family and strike up an authentic conversation unrelated to business.
It makes a great impression to send a personal letter to everyone after the event, thanking them for a fun night.
Also, it’s a good idea to make available anything that serves as a reminder of the event — a photo album on Facebook, a light-hearted video, for instance. It’s a success if people are talking positively about the event when they come in Monday. ●
Insight Entertainment Services is brought to you by Rock The House