So you’re happily plodding along in your day job and suddenly you’ve been elected to the Christmas party committee, and while it sounds fun it’s not something you have experience in. Worry not, here are a few simple steps to help you break it down and create a memorable experience for you and your colleagues.
The brief: Know what you’re working with
Get a good brief and full transparency on budget. Your first task should then be to understand what the company can already provide and what needs to be paid for. For example, if you have a venue within your office that’s a non-negotiable, then you’re saving budget on an external venue, and you can pump more money into décor to transform the space.
The brief should include:
- Capacity requirements (number of people attending)
- Do you need to provide food?
- Do you need to provide entertainment?
- Is there a formal section, requiring an MC?
- Is transport required for staff to/from a venue (if it’s out of town)?
- Is security required by the venue?
- Does the room need to be dressed and styled?
- Is alcohol allowed to be served?
- Does the event need to be held during office hours or after-hours? On a particular day or can you guide the date?
The fun bit: Theming
Once you understand the brief and company constraints you can unleash your creative side!
You don’t have to go full fancy-dress with a theme, it can be subtle and may simply ensure a party is cohesive and flows well. Theming touches on all cues including invitation design, venue choice, decoration, furniture, entertainment and food and beverage selection. Theming can be influenced by anything, and generally it’s around an era (1920s flapper/art deco), a place (New York’s Studio 54), another event (Brazil’s Carnivale) or simply be a colour reference tying the event together.
This year we predict the following trends for the Australian party season:
- Summer garden party: bringing the outdoors inside: lush green foliage, dainty trees and a mix of different light sources, from gentle tealights to bright spotlights on décor. Everything is light, airy, open with crisp, clean lines; perfect for a balmy summer’s evening
- Geometric patterns continue to hold sway in design and events, whether it be a geometric tunnel entrance to a venue (for the VERY high end budget!), to hexagonal-pentagonal clash tableware. Texture plays an important role in geometrics, so stick to maximum two textures, and a clean colour palate
- Colour trends from colour gurus at Pantone this year focus on violet shades of purple, and there’s a strong influence of raspberry pink (called pink peacock) – particularly lovely for Australian summer – and ‘valiant poppy’ red. Colours can be integrated in many ways, for instance with the use of tablecloths (overlays), floral design, lighting and venue flooring and walls
- Wood is out, marble is in. As textures go, make a feature of marble or choose a venue with marble. For instance, a beautiful marble bar can be up-lit with strong white lighting create a striking decorative feature.
- Standalone drinks carts or bars continue to be an influence this event season. Gin bars go from strength to strength, where a bar person mans an independent station serving only different types of gin drinks and cocktails. These bespoke drinks offer guests the option to choose the gin, mixer and garnish for that VIP touch.
- Sustainability continues to trend in all events, whether it be supporting local food sources or distilleries, through to ethically sourced materials, or donating florals post-event to a local aged care home. Consult your organisation’s sustainability plan to ensure your event is guided by your company’s ethics.
Take control of your budget
When it comes to budget, just remember that quotes are normally exclusive of GST, so factor this in when you’re working with your budget.
If you’ve never engaged event suppliers before, it may be wise to speak with internal experts such as marketing and PR teams, who will be able to guide you on general prices for venues, catering, entertainment, photography, décor specialists and AV, so that you can set a loose budget to work with.
Where you may find savings:
- Do you have in-house graphic design skills to design the e-invite?
- If you’re hiring a venue, see what the hire includes. Sometimes it may include security, use of certain decorative items and furniture, other times you will need to hire separately
- Venues may include canapés if you’re purchasing a drinks package, especially at Christmas time, so check what package options are included
- Check for scale: catering is generally quoted per person, and some venues or caterers offer a discount for larger group numbers. For example, a $49 per person package for up to 50 people may be reduced to $45 per person package when booking 200 people.
- If you have musical entertainment, check if they have their own audio-visual equipment and if it can be plugged into the venue’s sound system. If they do, you may not require AV company at all, or you may simply need one person for the duration of the event only.
My final tip is to factor a 10-15% buffer into your budget as something will always come up, be it an extra courier to pick up something that was forgotten about, or a rush job on a print run that hikes up the cost.
Suppliers… It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know
Once you know what in-house expertise and supply you can call on, the next step is to source the best suppliers who meet your budget.
Request a list of event industry suppliers from your marketing and PR teams, and a list of suppliers used at last year’s Christmas party, with whom you had a positive experience. You may have special discounts with these suppliers, and they are also already trusted, reputable and recommended by the specialists in your company. My supplier database contains all of my recommended suppliers, from venues to bands, furniture hire to security firms, and is one of my most prized possessions, with luck you can tap into your company’s database too.
- Always ask for a discount; if you don’t ask you won’t get. Unfortunately, it’s a very busy time of year so you may not get one, but if they’re a regular supplier you may be in luck, or they may supply an early bird discount for people booking or paying before other companies come knocking at their door.
- If your budget stretches, hire an event producer. Even if you haven’t the budget for a full producer, they may be able to work as a stylist, and can often get discounts with suppliers such as AV teams, furniture hire and venue hire, so they pay for themselves. These producers and stylists have a fantastic eye for making an event stand out whatever the budget, and they know where to spend and where to save. I highly recommend Mister Milford for example, who has spectacular taste and has the best contacts in the business, all across Australia.
- Your budget allocations should be malleable. For instance, if you select a venue that has a very strong design concept such as Marble Bar in Sydney, or Naked for Satan in Melbourne, then you don’t need to spend as much on décor as you would in a blank-canvas room such as a boardroom or hotel conference room.
- Remember to budget for items you may not consider such as photography, and if possible a photographer who specialises in events such as O’Neill Photographics
Whatever you decide to do for this year’s Christmas party, plan ahead, let you creative juices flow, stick to your budget and most of all, enjoy yourself! Good luck!