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October 7, 2014

Sub-Saharan Africa: End of Year Parties & Corporate Gifting

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As we near the end of 2014, the air is buzzing with party fever. Planning a successful end-of-year event is often quite a task for companies and should not be left for the last minute. There are so many things to consider, for instance, what music or entertainment will be on hand? Will you have an interactive foodie element, ice-breaker games or a photo booth? How large will the bar tab be? Even deciding on a specific party theme can be arduous, especially if you’re adding a funky dress code to the mix.

This unending list of options can be daunting for the best of organisers, but a great party requires just a few main ingredients, says Karla Oettler, Owner and Founder of The Absolute Collection, an innovative, one-stop event planning company in the Western Cape. “The most important aspects of a good event or party are attention to detail, showcasing new trends, good food that fits with the theme, and entertainment,” she explains, “It is also key that you have a great team of service providers working with you to ensure all aspects of the party are of good quality, and that things run smoothly.” Oettler goes on to say that starting early and book your suppliers before the end-of-year rush is imperative. “Make sure that you get the best and exactly what you want. You need to know what the client’s expectations are, and always over-deliver! Also always have a back-up plan – you never know what could happen.”

Kirsten of Bright Ideas Event Management, a niche, family-owned and run company, agrees, saying, “Entertainment is key to a successful year-end, whether it be a chilled pool party or a full-on themed party. As long as everybody is having fun and is entertained you are a winner.”

There are a few non-negotiable elements needed to ensure a good party, says Jacqui Higgins of of CLA Brand and Event Engineering. “These include excellent and sufficient catering, a pleasing, comfortable environment – including taking weather and temperature into account – that is easily accessible to all, and well thought out entertainment. It is important to know your target audience and the reason for the event. The event should fit the preferred outcome, whether it is a more formal event with awards being presented or a casual ‘bring the family’ vibe.”

Barry Futter, Owner of Adventure Works, a teambuilding company that does end of year events, has another gem of advice to add: “Check if past events have been done for your client,” he says, “This is to ensure that one doesn’t repeat past experiences or make the same mistakes as in the past. It allows room to improve. Also realise that one cannot please everybody – making allowances and trying to please everybody often results in a watered down event. In many cases one should make decisions based on your knowledge and experiences and stick to it.”

So…How Much?

Budget is one of the first things that can ruin a good party plan so ensure that you know exactly what you can spend…and what you can’t. Once your budget is in place, it’s time to plan and decide what will be used where. “We all know that the end of the year workload can bring additional stress, so plan as far in advance as possible to make sure that you are on top of everything,” says Futter.

Bright Ideas Event’s Kirsten says that budgets can be a huge challenge as you’re often given less to work with than you might need. And this year, it seems that companies are more stringent than ever before. “Budgets are tighter and clients want to get more value for money,” she says. “That means perhaps throwing a year-end and a teambuilding together.”

With this in mind, there are a number of ways to cut down on unnecessary things. “Don’t spend unnecessary money on designing and printing beautiful invitations. The fact is most people are going to look at it once to get all the necessary details and then it will be going right into the trash,” a recent article on the Crowne Plaza Johannesburg’s website says. Picking a day other than Friday or Saturday will also cut your costs, especially if your venue is in a central business district. Most venues and suppliers charge premium rates for weekend celebrations and tend to get snapped up quickly. Picking a theme can also reduce costs, as most function venues offer specifically themed evenings that can be booked as a package. This will not only save you money on décor, but will also save time on working out the details.

Food Glorious Food

Food and budget go hand in hand. Often the one depends on the other and the quality of catering usually comes down to how much can be spent. There are a number of ways to avoid budgetary issues in this department, writes Sandra Minnaar, contributor for Meet Magazine. “Stay within budget by getting your colleagues to cook their own food – and they’ll have fun doing it, too. Potjiekos competitions are simple to facilitate,” she says. This works extremely well for other facets of the event as well – especially if you’re catering to many people. Consider activities that encourage participation such as games with players, cheerleaders, announcers, scorekeepers and photographers. This will help keep people entertained and involved without stepping out of their comfort zone.

Generally the budget for any event is split so that about 60% goes to food and bar tabs, while the rest is used for décor, venue, entertainment and other bits and bobs. This ensures a well-rounded approach to organising an event. Mixing and matching various foods is a great way of getting people excited. “Food pairing is a big thing right now, with cake and bubbly bars, etc.,” says Oettler. “People are a lot more interactive and there’s more focus on entertainment – sketch artists, fire dancers, DJ’s or live music. The theme should be coordinated and incorporated into all aspects of the event including the food, music, and layout. Whatever it is, the theme needs to flows throughout.”

Oettler goes on to express how critical it is to get catering right: “People always talk about the food after an event, so make sure they will be saying good things. The food must be spectacular, from the variety and presentation to different trends and flavours. Be adventurous, and have more than enough for everyone.”

The Art of Gift Giving

Although most event planners either opt out of gift giving or tend to give guests small, branded tokens, corporate gifting is still a popular trend with a number of benefits that should not be ignored. “Corporate gifting within the workplace assists in forming a common bond between everybody. Customized promotional products and advertising gifts are the perfect way to target new customers, increase employee relationships, boost brand awareness and ensure that your marketing strategy and advertising campaigns have the maximum effect with bottom line results,” says Simon Jonsson of Corporate Conference Gifting.

Higgins says that good food and entertainment are key, but “recognition by way of a gift and personalized note or message add enormous value and if possible should be part of the celebration.”

Barry Futter agrees on the importance of corporate gifting at end-of-year events. “Ensure clients feel looked after,” he says. “Clients like to know that they are appreciated or mean something to your company. Even if it’s a small gift or card to thank them, or an additional surprise activity – all these small gestures go a long way.”

The trend in gift giving this year is general to go smaller and some popular items include power banks, desktop items, laptop bags and of course branded flash drives and pens. “Pens and flash drives are still important because it is easier to carry a flash drive with a 260-page catalogue than to carry a hard copy,” says Jonsson, “Pens never outdate – how many times has one needed a pen to sign a credit card slip, and there is no pen near? Pens with a stylus on one end are vogue at the moment.”

Other big sellers are bags of all shapes and colours. “Make it too good to throw away,” says And Johnston, President and Creative Director of The Idea Group, “Just imagine how it could increase the image of your organization and the impact of your conference if the attendees loved your bags and considered them filled with unique, exclusive, valuable items and information?”

Teambuilding as an Alternative

A teambuilding event rather than an end-of-year do could greatly impact your company’s morale – and isn’t too hard on the pocket either. Organisations like Adventure Works offer exciting teambuilding activities that guarantee loads of fun and then some. “What we would like to call unique is our Design Your Own Putt Putt Course. Teams receive the equipment needed to put this together, where creativity and innovation is key. Urban Rooftop experiences as well as Flyboarding are all on Adventure Works’ clients bucket list. In terms of popularity, our Urban Adventure which explores the unique history and culture of our Mother City is still a familiar favourite. Our Minute to Win it, one of our more affordable yet popular activities is a very fun and interactive team build with great benefits for all staff,” Futter says.

He says that companies are more interested in having fun and promoting team spirit in 2014. As such, original teambuilding activities like boersport and Survivor have made a comeback. But original, unforgettable events still trump trends. “Clients are always looking for something unique and they want to be ahead of the game,” says Futter. “We try to keep track of these by receiving feedback from clients and agents, as well as tailor making specific requests or enquiries that are out of the norm.”

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