It’s about balancing business with personal, Mojica says. “Going out for drinks to be authentic can be too casual, while confident drops, formal icebreakers and name badges can be too structured.” Selecting a vendor or activity that can help strike that balance, he continues, can allow your team to disconnect from work and re-engage as people. This, in turn, creates a holiday party “that your team will actually want to attend”.
To strike that balance on their own, companies can add little surprise elements to their corporate holiday events, like friendly competition, silly prizes, and year-end rewards designed with a touch of humor. . “Think of something you’d do for fun with friends, or something you’d love to do with friends, but never had the chance,” Mojica suggests for planning the perfect event. “Also make sure your staff have the opportunity to connect with people other than those they work with on a daily basis.”
Another important element to consider when planning corporate holiday events is the atmosphere, says Lauren Hammond, director of communications at LM Restaurant Group. There’s no better way to create atmosphere, she explains, than by making everything about the event interactive, including the food and drink. “A great way to move a standard diner forward is to make the food interactive,” adds Lesley Rottsolk, catering sales manager at LM Restaurant Group. “Having multiple stations where customers can customize their food helps people get up and mingle.”
Ideas for interactive cooking experiences can include a DIY s’mores station — which Rottsolk says is “incredibly popular” at various events — or live-action stations where chefs cook custom dishes to order. Mariel Iverson, senior manager of catering and events at Waldorf Astoria Chicago, suggests finding a way for guests to bring home interactive experiences as well. “Have a wine tasting with appetizer pairing where guests can create a cookbook to take home for the holidays,” she says. “Or provide docking stations with holiday-themed trivia in order to move on to the next station.”
Interactive vendors are another big hit at corporate events, says Iverson. “Photo booths are always a big hit,” she says. Businesses can even brand photo frames or backgrounds with their company logo. “They’re fun for guests of all ages to participate together and create memories that will last long after the event is over.”
Since the holidays are a time to cherish and celebrate loved ones, Iverson suggests extending invitations to corporate events to employees’ families. “One of our favorite events is a Breakfast with Santa, which resonates with our employees and conveys an understanding of the importance of family, especially during the holiday season,” she says. “We love hosting events that encourage our employees to bring their families, turning our organized festivities into family memories for life.”
Being able to walk to a location, Iverson continues, also helps employees feel much more valued. “Being able to get to a site is a treat for a whole host of businesses,” she says. “Give employees the option to dress up for a stylish holiday soiree, bring their significant other and head off somewhere new for a memorable and out-of-the-ordinary experience. Plan an event away from the office or workplaces.”
Still, bringing a little work into the picture doesn’t hurt. “Share your excitement for the year ahead by highlighting company initiatives and upcoming rollouts, while celebrating milestones,” says Lorelei Kroulaidis, Director of Special Events at the Chicago History Museum. “When corporate holiday events demonstrate excitement for what’s to come, it can be contagious. A combination of a unique atmosphere, engaging moments and memorable takeaways can keep employee morale high. as you head into a new year.”