As event planners consider various options for this year's corporate holiday parties - both client and employee appreciation, many are looking for ways to control costs without compromising overall value. Of course, many are also seeking ways to create a cheerful environment without appearing wasteful in any way - a common objective for all corporate events these days.
"As event planners, we believe many companies - from small-size to large firms - will need to re-focus the holiday event on business over frivolity, striking a balance between fun and content," explains Greg Jenkins, partner at Bravo Productions, a full-service event planning and production company in Long Beach, CA, and specializing staging corporate, association, government, nonprofit and social functions.
So, what's out? Fully hosted bars and extravagant menu choices - unless your organization can justify an extremely profitable year both this year and next.
That means the vast majority of event planners will roll up their sleeves and design holiday parties that are worthy of the intent without negatively impacting budgets. Jenkins offers the following holiday planning tips that won't convey the wrong message to your important internal employees and external constituents:
- Make the holiday party an awards program.
Give this year's holiday party a business focus and emphasize the appreciation message with an optimistic future. This helps to associate the event with more measurable and tangible benefits.
- Eliminate the carving stations.
Choose more cost effective menu items, such as chicken, fish and mini-appetizers and skip the prime rib and turkey carving stations. The decision will also eliminate the cost of required attendants and chefs.
- Choose seasonal fruits and vegetables, and eliminate the crudités.
Out of season fruits such as mangoes and papayas, and out of season vegetables such as asparagus and artichokes are usually more expensive. And because many people do not eat raw vegetables, many of those items will typically go to waste.
- Choose mini-desserts rather than full servings.
The rule of thumb is that most guests take two bites of dessert and the remainder is tossed. Consider setting up a dessert station with small portions and smaller quantities, and skip the full size slices of chocolate mousse this year.
- Use lighting to create atmosphere.
Rather than investing in the use of rental linens and expensive centerpieces, choose a venue that already incorporates these elements. Work closely with the venue on creative ways they can position lighting in the room to enhance festivities.
- Host a lunch event; if dinner, make it business casual.
It is always more cost effective to build the holiday party event catering from a luncheon menu vs. a dinner menu. Not only will this save money, but it usually helps to limit the guests to employees or clients only (no spouses or personal guests) - another way to save on the budget. But if you're hosting an evening event, formal attire generally means that guests will expect a higher-end food and beverage experience - which will increase overall costs. Make it business casual instead.
- Limit alcohol beverages.
Many more organizations have been doing this in the last few years. A couple successful strategies include offering a signature drink, limiting options to beer and wine, and offering a two drink maximum. Another suggestion is to eliminate alcoholic beverages completely, which also eliminates any potential liability.
- Bring your own CDs to use for background music.
Rather than spending money on a jazz trio or other live musicians, work with your catering manager to explore options for playing background music in the room.
- Consider co-opting the holiday event with others.
By hosting the holiday party with an association, a professional group, another internal department or even important business partners, this can help defray costs, while providing a lot of networking opportunities.
- Ask the venue if they can reduce costs.
Seems like an obvious cost savings tip, but even a savings of 1% or 2% can be significant when added up for food, beverage, venue rental, staffing, etc.