Site icon Tim Foolery

Planning a Corporate Holiday Party


I do not work in Human Resources – I do not want to work in Human Resources.  In early October I was asked by the head of our HR group if I would be willing to help on the Holiday Party Planning Committee.  I said, I’d love to help out.

Fast forward six weeks to early/mid November. An email goes out to our headquarters (approximately 120 people) asking for volunteers to help me plan the Holiday party.  Evidently my role has changed from committee member to committee chair.  Lovely.  When this email went out, I was traveling for work.  No one volunteered.  I begged and pleaded and got two people to step up and offer to help.

Once I got back to the office we began planning.  We knew we wanted booze and food and we had only a couple days to book the date and get the whole thing planned as the Thanksgiving Holiday was upon us.

We didn’t have any info on the budget either — so we made the assumption that we’d have about $80/person all in.  We each decided to call 3-4 restaurants and get availability and sample menus.  We then found our budget was a whopping $55/person — which when you pull out 20% gratuity and 11% tax we are down to $43/person.  Yikes.

Of the 13 restaurants we called we had two real options and after some minor discussions we decided to move forward with Nacional 27, a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant.  We worked with their catering manager and picked a few things from the menu, but at our price point we couldn’t do a full bar and a full menu option — but they understood that and managed to tweak their options and allowed us to have a limited open bar and several food options all within our very limited budget.

We got started too late to get a Friday lunch, which was a high priority for us, but we could get a Thursday lunch — which people really hated the idea of.

We got the venue, booze and menu finalized — now we just had to find something else to do while there.  Last year, while at a Brazilian steak house we had Samba Dancers providing entertainment and lessons.  The year prior to that we had a colleague and her band sing for us.  I was perfectly fine with having no entertainment, but needed something for our people to do in addition to stand around and drink.

We decided to play “Bingo”.  We created a bingo board with items like: Has Skydived; Is Multilingual; Has been to Africa; Finished the 2011 Chicago Marathon; etc.  You would then find a colleague who has done the item.  Once you complete the bingo board you turn it in for a raffle ticket.  Surprisingly, of about 100 people about 80 turned in their bingo boards — people really seemed to get into it.  Of course there were a couple people who were too cool to play the game — which I am fine with.  As long as you don’t stop others from having fun, I don’t care if you don’t want to play the game.  If you want a copy of our game board, just leave me a comment and I’ll get you a copy.

We also decided to do a “holiday spirit sweater” contest.  We didn’t want to say “Ugly Sweater” contest because that could be hurtful to people who like these sweaters.  We had about 30 people wear either a holiday shirt or sweater — this was the first year we did the holiday sweater thing, so I think people were nervous to participate — fearing they’d be the only one dressed up.  No people know.

The two weeks leading up to the event, so many people were complaining because: The event was on a Thursday, they didn’t want “Mexican” food, they wanted a full bar, they thought pizza and beer would be a better option…blah blah blah.  Of course, none of these people could be bothered to help out on the planning committee.

The event was a huge hit.  Not a single person had a complaint — and since our office is pretty small I would have heard the people complain by now.  People all thought the food was amazing, the limited open bar was a pretty big hit too.  The HR folks did announce that we did an amazing job and HR will no longer be planning the events in the future, but it will be planned by committee.

The folks at Nacional 27/LEYE were so great to work with.  I did a ton of event planning in College then again at my first job in Chicago, but not much since.  I really loved working with these people and cannot wait to go back.  Being the host of the party (like the Bride and Groom at a wedding) I didn’t get a chance to eat very much, as I was wandering around making sure “my guests” were well taken care of.  I want to go back to Nacional 27 very soon for a full dinner and to listen to music.

Kudos to everyone at Nacional 27.

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