The annual office Christmas party should be an event that your co-workers look forward to attending instead of dreading.

Put on a party that will have them talking for weeks afterward!

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Not everyone is a event or party planner and many businesses will just ask someone to "be in charge" of the office Christmas party each year.  Even if it's not something you are experienced in doing, you can plan a fun-filled evening for your co-workers. 

Establish what type of Christmas party is expected or wanted.  You will need to have a planning meeting with those involved to determine the venue and logistics and answer your questions:

  • What kind of time frame do you have?
  • How much budget is allowed?
  • Who will be included? 
  • Will spouses or families be invited?
  • Where will it be held?
  • What has been done in the past?
  • What does the "boss" expect?
  • Can you plan whatever you want?
  • Will gifts be provided?
  • Will it be a sit-down dinner or just appetizers?
  • Will alcohol be served? 
  • Any other questions you have!

The basics of planning a fun-filled evening include:

Theme -  All good party planning is easier if you have a theme.  You can plan the decorations, food, entertainment and even gifts centered on the theme you have chosen.  Chose a theme that will suit your co-workers and business. 

Invitations - Make sure that everyone receives a formal invitation.  Get a list of names and addresses from the payroll clerk for all employees and enter them on a data base.  Print mailing labels to make it easier to send the invitations.  Keep this list for future years. 

Location - If you need to rent a banquet room or other space, do it early in the year!  They book early.  Consider other locations that have large meeting rooms such as the senior citizen center or a school or church.

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Food - Food can make or break a good office Christmas party.  This doesn't mean that you have to have an expensive sit-down dinner if the budget won't allow it.  It does mean that whatever you decide to serve, make sure it is good quality and that you have plenty so you don't run out.  If you are on a limited budget and want to have a nice dinner, plan on serving a traditional turkey dinner, a hearty baked potato bar, or serve homemade soups and salads.  If you can afford a caterer, make sure you hire one that comes highly recommended or one that you have used successfully in the past.  This is one event that you don't want to take a chance on!  Consider a variety of food stations to satisfy the tastes of all of your guests.  You could include ethnic cuisine such as Mexican or Chinese, a chocolate fountain with fruit, meat and cheeses, veggie bar, or pasta bar.  Make sure you include a hot beverage bar with teas and flavored coffees.

Entertainment - If you have the money, you can hire all types of entertainment that any group would enjoy.  Consider hiring a hypnotist, caricature artist, musicians, a comedian, or a floor show.  Professional entertainment adds a nice touch but often it inhibits party attendees from interacting so it's nice if the entertainment doesn't take all of the time allotted for the Christmas party. 

Games - If you have a smaller group, plan some fun games that will not only break the ice but will have your guests interacting with each other.  Never play games that will embarrass the guests.  Games can be simple old-fashioned Christmas games such as "Name that Christmas Carol" or more involved games such as "Who Murdered Santa?"  Ice breakers that have the guests asking questions and talking to one another are good especially when the spouses are invited to attend. Games that help the employees get to know each other better are always an excellent choice.  Play "Two Truths and One Lie."  Have each guest write down on a piece of paper two things that are true about themselves and then one outrageous lie.  Put the papers in a basket and have the "boss" draw each one.  He will then try to determine what is the lie and what is the truth about each one of his employees. 

Other Activities - Consider hiring a band or disc jockey and have a dance.  If you have a themed dance it can be a lot of added fun.  Ideas are a western dance with line dancing  or 50's "Let's go to the Hop" music.  Have someone put together a slideshow presentation of all the employees through the years, their families, pets, or during other events.  Show the presentation on a big screen during dinner.  Have a joke telling time!  Let anyone who has a good, clean joke take the microphone and see who can get the most laughs.

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Gift Exchange - This will be at the discretion of the employer.  It's a lot of fun if you can purchase items of like value, wrap them all and then play a game so each guest can win a gift.   Have the guests all bring a "white elephant" gift for a gift exchange.  This can be alot of fun if everyone brings something of similar value so it's best to set a price for each gift such as $5. If you don't have much of a budget you can decorate a Christmas tree with a $1 lottery ticket for each guest.  There's always the chance of a big win!

Emcee - Plan on having an emcee to keep your party moving and organized.  The owner of the company is an excellent choice for this.  Make sure you provide him/her with an agenda of the planned activities for the evening.  The emcee doesn't need to be constantly entertaining or talking just to keep things exciting and fun.

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Other Ideas - Consider having a totally different office Christmas!  Here are some ideas:

  • Rent a bowling alley and have a bowling party complete with pizza!
  • Go caroling!  Rent a large truck and trailer or use pick up trucks.  Drive slowly and carefully.  After caroling go back for chili, hot chocolate and donuts.
  • Do a community service project such as have everyone bring canned food for the food bank or adopt some families and provide the gifts.
  • Go roller skating!  Rent the rink for the whole family.
  • Plan a carnival complete with cheesy carnival games and cheap prizes.
  • Set up a casino. Play casino games with play money.  Award the big winners with prizes.

Be careful!  If your office Christmas party is a success, you will probably be asked to be in charge again next year!