Monday, December 8, 2008

Corporate Party Extravaganza (by Martha)

Our Holiday Party is a What???

Hear those carolers? See those lights? It’s the most wonderful time of the year for Christmas is here! For those of us that work for the man it also means it’s time for the annual corporate holiday party. Even if your office party is a catered affair at a swanky club or hotel with an open bar, on some level it still ends up being slightly boring, awkward in essence..corporate.

If you’ve found yourself lucky (or unlucky) enough to be the planner of your office holiday party, then you know it’s hard to work to try to make it as un-corporate as possible. Before I moved to New York, I used to work for a company that hosted what I still consider to this day to be one of the best holiday parties. It was a costume party!

A costume party in December you ask? Yup. I’ll admit, I was mortified and annoyed and frankly inconvenienced when I went to my first one. By the time I left the company I was the official holiday party planner! Nothing lowers your inhibitions about drinking and dancing with your coworkers like being dressed as a Cindy Lauper while the CFO is dressed up in drag as Cher.

Here are my suggestions for how to plan and host successful a holiday costume party:

1. Choose a theme. Believe me you will be met with resistance from coworkers about the whole costume thing. Narrow it down for them so they don’t have one more stress to add to their list. Some of the more successful themes included Wigs, Superheroes, Rock Star, TV Personalities, or my personal favorite Studio 54.

2. Venue – make it as non-traditional as possible. You’re already breaking tradition by making it a costume party, take it one step further with the venue locale. For 2 of the parties, the CEO was kind enough to let us have it as his lovely home in Northwest DC. Talk about having serious trust in his employees! After he moved, it was at a well known Chinese restaurant that was probably at it’s coolest circa 1968. Another year, we had it at a cheesy and I do mean cheesy dance club. Also, try to pick out a location where you can rent out the whole space. Make it a private affair!

3. Music – make sure there is lots of it. If you can’t afford a dj, ask fellow coworkers to make mixes. Make them feel that they have some say in the party. Plus, you'll be shocked to see how many of your coworkers hit the dance floor. Think your finance or IT guy! There is something about being in costume that makes people feel just a little bit more uninhibited.

4. Good food + open bar – You’ve made people dress up, the least you can do is reward them with copious amounts of alcohol and good food. Be sure you negotiate with the venue of a good cost per head.

5. Awards - Give out silly awards that honor the inside jokes of your department or office. Pass out the ballot the week leading up to the party then present them at the party. We called our awards The Haslies named after our CEO. Examples of awards included “Office Intimidator” “Speech of the Year” “Rookie of the Year” “Hardest to Reach” “Researcher of the Year” and lastly the “Office Blooper Award.” We also gave out best costume awards. The winners received gift certificates AND trophies!!! Who doesn’t love an engraved trophy like those we received in elementary school. I still proudly display my “Most Social” trophy.

This is a great recipe for office holiday party fun. That being said, while the costume will help you lower you inhibitions, it can’t extricate you from potentially awkward situations like making out with your coworker or hitting on your coworker's significant other. But if it’s done in costume, at least you can say it was done… “anonymously”!

Happy holidays!

Love, Martha

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