How to Keep Your Office Holiday Party From Being Lame
CNBC.com News Editor
Show of hands, please: Who here is sick of lame conference-room parties with fluorescent lighting that can make even the brightest of confetti seem unfestive?
All of you?
Well, don't worry Cubesters – we're here to help. Today,we're checking in with Maneesh Goyal, president and founder of experiential-marketing agency MKG, who's planned parties for everyone from Russell Simmons to P.Diddy (Sean Combs) to help keep the "lame" out of your holiday punch.
(Read More: Tips for the Office Holiday Party.)
One party he organized for Simmons involved a variety of entertainment from ballerinas to ballroom dancers on stripper poles.He's also done black-tie events for Diddy and other clients.
But hang on, there Skippy — that doesn't mean we're ordering strippers and ballerinas for the office holiday party. We're going to have fun without setting off the flashing light in HR!
A whole lot of eye rolling goes on in Cubeville, which can make it daunting to plan a holiday party that doesn't evoke the dreaded "L" word (lame). But Goyal says you just have to break it down and find a simple solution.
What could be more daunting than planning the snack menu for a Food Network holiday party?! That's a lot of culinary genius and high potential for the eye-rolling meter to go off. MKG's plan was simple: Have a decorate-your-own gingerbread man station. Anyone calls their gingerbread man lame — it's on them! Ha ha.
You don't have to be a Food Network star to have a decorate-your-own station — that could work at any office holiday party to get people engaged.
Another interesting thing about the Food Network party — they invited clients as well as employees. Everyone from consumer-packaged goods companies to beverage companies and appliance companies. It might initially sound like a bad idea to mix business and pleasure but Goyal said it worked.
"It's the kind of notion that you do business wherever you can in the new economy," he said.
Plus, he said, adding the fresh blood to a party, instead of just employees, keeps it lively. (No disrespect to our co-workers of course –you're all lovely and lively!)
Another trend he's noticing is working some element of giving back to the parties.
At a recent party for Delta Air Lines and Madison Square Garden, they took some underprivileged kids, most of whom had never been on a plane before, to an airplane hangar out at JFK airport where they had it decorated like a winter wonderland. The kids got to climb up in the plane, and even in the cockpit, where, lo and beho- ho- hold, there was Santa Claus!
Goyal threw a holiday party for his employees at his own home, a loft in New York's Union Square. Given that New York was still reeling from Superstorm Sandy, he said, they asked every employee to bring a canned good to help restock New York City's food-bank shelves.
Goyal said the holiday-party business was pretty non-existent for the past three years given the tough economy but it's made a significant comeback.
"Definitely, the holiday party is back from the past three years, though they're not quite back to the mid-2000s," he said.
Though companies are spending more, he said spending has more than doubled from two years ago.
"There was a sentiment before that you largely didn't throw a holiday party because of the perception of it" – throwing a lavish party during a tough economy, he said. "Now, there's no shame in celebrating the holidays with your team — in fact, there's a lot of benefit to that."
(Read More: Par-ty! Par-ty! Office Holiday Parties Are Back.)
Alas, it's not all back: Goyal said the trend of having spouses or dates invited to the office holiday party pretty much died during the recession and it's starting to come back. Now, he said, for every party he hears about where spouses aren't invited, he hears about one where they are.
"I think it'll come back even stronger – as long as we don't go over the 'fiscal cliff,'" Goyal said, referring to the tax increases and spending cuts slated to go into effect at the end of the year.
If you've got a big budget, Goyal offers these three tips for a more lavish affair:
- Do a Make-a-Wish for Employees. Maybe you allot $500 a head (or more, depending) and figure out a way to make your employees' wishes in some way come true. Do your employees want a Starbucks machine in the office? Maybe you bring one in for the party. Do they want to go to Disney World? Maybe you help get them a flight and passes to the park.
- Do a Destination Party. Keep it a secret to the last minute, Goyal said. When everyone shows up to work,have them board a luxury liner that takes them to an old warehouse in Brooklyn that you've transformed into a tropical Hawaiian beach resort. Or, if you already live in a sunny climate, transform it into a snowy mountain wonderland.
- Take Them to a Show or Private Performance. Maybe you buy X number of seats at the Radio City Spectacular or you buy out a Louis C.K. show.
(Read More: He Did WHAT? Outrageous Holiday Party Behavior.)
But if you don't have a big budget, no sweat. Relax and have another little plastic cup of wine — Goyal has some tips for spiffing up your conference room soiree, too:
- Put the Boss in a Santa Suit or Dreidel Costume. That will certainly lighten the mood and make the boss more accessible – but don't worry, Goyal says, you don't have to sit on his lap!
- Conference Room Snow Globe! Get a giant bag of Styrofoam peanuts and an industrial fan,close the conference room door and voila! You're having a party in a snow globe. "I'm not going to lie, we might've done that yesterday!" Goyal joked.Though, he has one important tip: Allot three times the usual amount of time for cleanup!
- Drop the Beat Now. Music can really make or break a mood no matter where the party is — in a fancy ballroom or the conference room. Choose the right music, and you can hear the cool points coming down the chimney. Goyal says ditch the traditional carols and opt for hipper holiday songs from modern artists.
And if you want to stop the fluorescent lights from sucking the life right out of this party, Goyal said, just buy a bunch of LED candles – they'll set a cool, mellow vibe – and no one has to call the Fire Department!
Happy Holidays, Cubeville! Let's get this party started.