A holiday event is a very important moment for any company and, often, are occasions to celebrate your organization, your colleagues, and the achievements of your team over the past year. These events also help set the tone for the coming year and, if done correctly, create a sense community. Your careful attention to the smallest of details will be noticed and appreciated by even the most cynical of guests.

Clearly company parties require a tremendous amount of forethought and planning—and a smart place to start is deciding on the right venue. It is important to plan an occasion that fits the unique attributes of your specific organization. Hotels, in particular, have experienced event planners on site to take a lot of the burden off your plate.

By having a built-in support system at the venue, it ensures that you have time to concentrate on other details that will make the event fun, safe, and something your colleagues will long remember.

Secure Appropriate Venue Accommodations

Whether you have already selected the venue for your holiday party or are still considering locations, it is critical to work closely with your venue managers to accommodate your specific needs. Each and every holiday celebration should be unique; don’t settle for cookie-cutter options. Instead, create a tailored, seamless experience for your guests—with a few surprises to knock their socks off.

Little Things Mean A Heck-of-Lot

Often overlooked, but should be your first agenda item with your venue, is to confirm that there will be the appropriate amount of staff to support your event flow.

Nothing puts a damper on a party more than your guests having to wait in line for cocktails, wasting time at the coat check, or having a delay in retrieving their car from valet. 

A Feed For All

Always work with the venue to design a tailored menu that all guests can enjoy. Food is the lifeblood of any gathering—if the music or the conversation is bad, the food had better be good. It is best to offer a wide range of food options that that will appeal to all palettes.

If you’re looking to try something new, break from the traditional setup with a variety of fully-stocked food stations placed throughout the venue, each overflowing with a bounty of hand-selected cuisines and flavors. This is a great way to create curiosity among your guests, and allows everyone to try a bit of everything.

You Write The Songs

When it comes to entertainment, be sure that the venue can accommodate your vision. There is nothing more fun than live entertainment to get guests loosened up, but not all venues are created equal, so it’s important to confirm before booking any performances or acts. Music is always a great element of any gathering.

Whether you’re considering a band or a DJ, you ultimately want to find a vendor that can play a variety of genres from several decades—you will be the hero when your guests realize they can make song requests or recommendations all night long.

Engage Guests to Create Community

The holiday season is always a time of celebration, so it’s easy to get coworkers interested in a company party. But it could also be the perfect opportunity to engage your employees or colleagues in a teambuilding activity.

Plan Well to Play Well with Others

A group outing is a great way to get your team to feel involved and interact with each other—especially if you’re mixing departments that don’t typically work closely. Group activities can be anything from holiday-themed scavenger hunts in the surrounding area, holiday cookie decorating contests, custom-themed trivia, and more. For example, at Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner Center, we work closely with the ice skating rink on the Plaza to offer group skating options for holiday events. 

By incorporating a fun and unique activity, it helps guests break out of their comfort zone and creates a memorable experience that guests will be sure to talk about until the next holiday gathering.

I Have Ideas Too!

Another idea, which can be very successful, is to let your team help plan the event. What better way to feel truly invested in making it a great time? For example, host a contest in advance of the event in which employees can suggest a signature drink, food option, activity, or specific decoration that they feel would best represent the company at the party. The submissions are voted on by colleagues and the winner’s suggestion is featured throughout the event. These, and other related concepts, are meaningful ways to engage guests, and by considering your team’s input will help tailor the event to their preferences.

In the Service of Others

An event may do well to consider integrating a charity component to the occasion to help lend a deeper meaning to the event. It is important to select a charity or a cause that will resonate with your guests, so they can share in the feeling of accomplishment and the pride of giving back to the community. Of course, there’s always room for creativity, so create a unique way that they can participate throughout the event.

There are lots of clever ways to do this, such as Instagram Challenge: For every photo posted to Instagram (accompanied by a pre-determined hashtag), the company will donate one dollar to that selected charity or cause. This not only benefits a good cause, but engages guests on social media in a communal effort in support of that cause. You might be surprised how popular this kind of idea becomes.

It Should Be Fun To Be Safe

The two most important elements for any holiday event are “fun” and “safety.” It is important to make sure these two elements coexist throughout your holiday party, big or small, day or night.

We all know that many (of our favorite) holiday parties inevitably turn into an after-party. After all, it’s a sure sign of a successful event. Knowing this, it is prudent for companies to plan ahead and secure a safe and nearby after-party venue for guests where they may continue their revelry in comfort and with peace of mind. If your event is at a hotel, there are typically onsite restaurants and bars where you can coordinate the extended celebration, while ensuring guests do not need to travel far.

At the end of the night in a hotel setting, there is always a concierge at your service who can arrange a safe ride home. And if they don’t want to leave, guests can always take the elevator home.

Companies can take this idea a step further by implementing a pledge program, tying in the charity that the event is supporting. For example, all employees who pledge to “Get Home Safely,” or “Ride the Elevator Home,” the company will donate additional funds to benefit the selected charity.

Booking a Last-Minute Holiday Event

Never fear. Even though the holidays are just around the corner, there are still many great options for booking your holiday event. You just need to know where to look.

Friday and Saturday evenings are traditionally the most popular times for company holiday events, and you’ll discover venue availability will be more competitive during those dates. However, venues typically have ample availability during the week to host a week day event. Consider creating a “Mid-Week Weekend” for your company to mix up the normal work week. If it’s an option, host a Wednesday event, and then give your employees Thursday off as an unexpected perk.

January, the New December

December is probably the busiest time of year for many businesses. I’ve noticed a growing trend of companies holding off on a December party and opting to host their annual celebration in January. This is for three very good reasons. First, it naturally avoids the most hectic and stressful time just before the holidays.

Second, it offers flexibility in choosing an event theme—not everyone wants a “holiday” party. But word to the wise, if you’d still like a holiday-themed event, most venues will work with you to keep up their holiday decorations until the date of your January event.

Third, hosting a January event can help to kick off a great new year with your employees and colleagues.

Dan Amato is the general manager of Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner Center, located in Tysons Corner, Va. Amato has worked in the hospitality and meeting industry for close to 40 years and has received prestigious recognitions including Hyatt’s “General Manager of the Year,” and Washington D.C.’s “Hotelier of the Year” awards.