Not every Christmas Party needs to end like Elaine’s. Don’t know what I’m talking about, WATCH THIS.
You either hate them or love them.
The annual office Holiday/Christmas Party can be a sometimes dreaded rite of enterprise-passage. Filled with prime rib, booze, cookie trays, gift exchanges, back-room snark, and usually a lot of anticlimactic fun.
But what if you could make them cool and useful?
What if you could take your Office Holiday Party and make it an event enjoying the spirit of the Holiday season and appreciating all that you’ve done in the past year? All while enjoying food and some time out of the office? Well, I’m going to show you how. And I’m going to show you how to do this all year long.
Because who doesn’t like year-long parties? (Okay, not like that).
YOU KNOW IT WHEN YOU SEE IT
I was recently lucky enough to attend two company Holiday parties. One for Anytime Fitness of Lincoln and another for Evol Empire Creative. Both here in Lincoln but both unlike other Christmas parties I’ve attended. In short – they got it.
“We just really respect and appreciate our people. Like, genuinely appreciate them.” That’s COO of Anytime Fitness-Lincoln, Brandon Peterson. He gets it. His evening was filled with all the elements of an impactful, culture-building and fun-filled, Holiday Party. None of the awkward and mindless banter that fills most of these parties.
When you ask Brandon why even try to have these parties, his answer is simple,”Why not have some fun while recognizing our people for their exceptional work? This should be fun and allow us as leaders to reflect on what we’re accomplishing”.
Their party stood out for another reason: costumes. They amped up the fun-factor by creating a theme for the night that included costumes from various Christmas themed movies. It was brilliant. They had fun.
These type of nights are supposed to be what after-work functions are all about. Taking in what you’ve accomplished and letting your team know how thankful you are.
A MOMENT TO REFLECT
“Just taking it all in, man.”
That’s Davey Owens. He’s head of Digital Marketing for Evol Empire Creative, a Digital Marketing Agency here in Lincoln. I attended their Holiday party as a “plus-one” and it was Davey’s stance at the back of the room that caught my attention.
He was taking it all in. You could see his baited breath as he stood with a dry, easy smile on his face. He was genuinely in the moment, watching his team enjoy a moment where there were no phone calls or texts from clients. He was at peace. A rare moment of peace for Owens.
Those rare moments of reflection and introspection are what makes holiday parties special. You’re allowed, if not required, to enjoy a moment with your colleagues outside of work.
You can do this, too. What’s the secret? What both Evol Empire and Anytime Fitness of Lincoln get is that these events aren’t about the food or drinks, they’re about your people.
What most leaders do is treat the office holiday party as a line-item event they have to check off the yearly to-do list. If you’re going to do that, why not make it useful?
So, here are five important ways you can do to create a meaningful and fun office holiday party.
START WITH THIS:
- Have fun. Like actual fun. It doesn’t have to be “board game” type of fun but plan some type of activity. If it’s the holidays then a white-elephant gift exchange is a simple and fun way to enjoy the moment. Not only that, but you get to see sides of your team you wouldn’t have otherwise. Have that quiet, “IT” type on your team? Watch the gift they give (it’s usually the best). Themes are also a real easy way to up the fun quotient.
- Reflect on the good. Take time to recognize your efforts from the past year. Create awards to give out to teams but instead of giving out “money or gift cards” give out funny themed gifts or awards that can be given out each year. Like “best office moment” or “Department MVP”. Most of all – tell your team you appreciate ALL of them.
- Get some BIG work done. I know, I know. You’re thinking, “why work at a fun event?” I don’t mean pouring over quarterly statements but you can discuss what your future holds. Discuss your vision for the upcoming year and create a loose timeline of when you want to accomplish key moments. Transparency is a bedrock of trust and no better time to “get big” than now.
- Give the microphone away. If you’re the CEO, Founder or senior leader on your team, chances are they’re used to hearing you speak. This time give the microphone away to other key team members (management and non-managers alike) and let them reflect on the year as well. They’ll respect you and so will the rest of the team.
- Don’t kick them out. Keep the fun going by saying that they can stay long as they like. Don’t rent an event space and then say it’s “time to go”. Think of it this way: if you were at the greatest party ever and someone said “Time to go home” would you stop? No. Don’t let amazing nights end by ending it yourself. You want to capture all the good for as long as you can.
HOW TO KEEP IT GOING YEAR ROUND.
- Schedule them and stick to it. We humans like anticipation. It takes small moments and make them big. It’s something to look forward to as well. Sit down and create a year-long schedule for team events.
- Create a template and stick to that, too. If you go into each event assuming that it will be as fun as the last, think again. Creating simple templates for events can take the guesswork out of planning and allow for all to know what to expect. Employee’s like to keep fun-fun and work-work.
- Require attendance. This one might seem a bit hard to do if you have a team that is spread out but it’s worth it. If you stress the importance of attending “fun” office events and you strive to make them stress-free, enjoyable experiences then they will hit their mark.
- Don’t break the bank. You don’t need to spend a ton of money to make these events fun. Along with pre-scheduled dates, you should also set a budget that is always affordable. If you can splurge on one or two events a year – do it. However, you don’t need to spend all of the money in the world to have fun.
- Celebrate your culture. Make each event about celebrating the fact that each team member is a valued piece of the puzzle. Make sure you take time to recognize success at each event while also stressing WHY and HOW that person or person(s) were being selected. An easy way to do this is by selecting one of your core values and centering the recognition around that core value. It keeps people connected to the larger picture and mission of your organization.