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August 19, 2008

Damian Clarkson:An early Christmas present

Now I don’t know you all personally, so it’s difficult to decide what to get each and everyone of EVENTS:review’s viewers for Christmas. Consequently, I thought I’d give you all the same early present – as it will be wasted if I wait for Santa to arrive.

As a caterer and event organiser, I’ve done my fair share of Christmas parties, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to impress people. But rather than constantly pushing the boundaries, sometimes it can be a good idea to remember the basics.

You should have all booked your parties by now, and if you’ve not you’d better get on with it! And it’s only once you’ve booked the event that the hard work really starts. So here are my top 10 tips for the perfect Chistmas party -– and one you’ll be able to enjoy along with your guests!

1. First and foremost, plan, anticipate and prepare
These three words are the backbone to every successful event. If you adhere to all three you really can’t go wrong.

2. Work closely with your caterer

Most good caterers will also have a strong team of in-house event planners. Work closely with your caterer, especially in the early conceptual stages of the event – they are specialists and can provide you with invaluable guidance when considering themes, food and drink options, venues and budgets. The planner will also be crucial to you enjoying the event itself, rather than spending the day worrying and looking after everyone else.

3. Start planning early
The more you take care of early on, the less you have to organise in the week leading up to the event and the more you will enjoy it.

4. Less is more

This is perhaps a slightly over-used phrase but something I try to stick to it, unless a client is desperate to do otherwise! Themes are great, but a little goes a long way – too much and suddenly the whole event can become very tacky. A production team can transform a venue and gentle nuances throughout the menu, as well as any entertainment, can be very effective.

5. Choose for your guests, not for yourself
There’s just one of you, but hundreds, if not thousands, of them. It is essential to cater for the majority, especially when agreeing food and drink requirements, so find out any dietary requirements before menus are decided. This also goes for music and entertainment – be age and genre appropriate.

6. Taste every dish before you agree to the menu

Any decent caterer will welcome the opportunity to hold a tasting for you and your boss well in advance of your event date, including vegetarian or alternative dietary options. The caterer will not want you to have any surprises or subsequent disappointments on the night.

7. Be realistic with your budget
Don’t let an extravagant theme compromise your food and drink budget. In my experience, while guests enjoy the wow-factor of arriving somewhere heavily themed, they are very quick to grumble when food is not plentiful and there is little generosity behind the bar.

8. Discuss style of service
A buffet or canapés works for an informal event, whereas a sit down meal may be much better for a more formal corporate affair. While it is nice to ‘do something different’ and break away from a staid office environment, do not forget who the guests are and what they will be expecting.

9. Remember that first impressions count

The moment the party invites hit the desks of your guests, you’ve made your first impression. Give as much attention to the invite as you do everything else to ensure a full-house and colleague buy-in ahead of the event.

10. Don’t get caught up over details such as table plans
While the politics of this can be stressful, it is often better just to pick names out of a hat. You’ll be happily surprised who will chat to who once the party gets underway and inhibitions loosen.

I hope you find these useful, and good luck!

Damian Clarkson is managing director of event caterer and planner Red Snapper

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