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November 9, 2006
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Party piece: let them know it's Christmas time...




It's mid-November and almost time to down tools and put your drinking hat on, as the party season is about to kick off. But with the terrible reputation that the traditional Christmas party has, is it becoming a dying breed?

“Companies still like to hold some kind of celebration, it’s traditional,” says Carly  Mitchell, sales and marketing director of Best Parties Ever. “They may look to do something different in terms of the event, but typically people still want to get together and celebrate the holiday season.”

However, Mitchell admits that some companies are moving away from traditional Christmas parties, and one such trend is for holding parties in January. Some see this solely as a cost-saving exercise, but while Mitchell agrees that is definitely a consideration as venues and suppliers will charge less at that time of year, she also highlights other reasons for the shift. “Some organisations simply don’t have the time to hold their Christmas events at this time – like us, Christmas is their busiest time,” she explains. “In addition, if you are hoping to attract senior or key personnel to your event, you may well be competing with a plethora of other events and vying for guests’ attention pre-Christmas, whereas an invitation for an event in January could be a very welcome antidote to post-Christmas blues.”


Mitchell: "planning, planning, planning"

If you’re thinking this is all a little 'bah-humbug', then you’ll be upset to learn that Mitchell also highlights a move away from the tinsel and Santa approach this year. “There is so much of it around now that corporates find it refreshing to have a party with a non-Christmas theme. As more and more companies attend amazing themed parties where little emphasis is placed on Christmas the pressure is on to better them each year,” she explains.

But it’s not all about Christmas, and there are certain rules that apply to any party or hospitality events: not planning in advance so not securing the best venue for your needs and not getting into people’s diaries; sub-standard catering or not enough of it; and not thinking sufficiently about your guests and what would appeal to them. These are all classic mistakes companies make when organising parties, and they can be key determiners of success or failure.

The three Ps

For Mitchell it’s all about “planning, planning, Planning”. “You need to plan as far ahead as possible,” she says. “If you’re aiming for very senior executives. six months would not be too far – you have to get into people’s diaries. In addition, if your event is taking place at a particular time or place with limited availability, such as Christmas, booking a year ahead would be wise to make sure you have secured your venue and suppliers.”

Getting outside help can be a real boost to the potential success of any event. Everyone should do what they do best. Organising a successful event is not simply ‘throwing a party’. If you try and do it yourself, who’s going to take responsibility? Someone who can only devote some of their time to the task because they have other things to do, someone with little or no experience? It’s always best to delegate a specialist task to the those who can deliver it professionally and within budget.
 
An outside organiser will bring a vast pool of knowledge, experience and creativity to the table. A good organiser will be familiar with the best venues, the trends in catering, who the best suppliers are for flowers, table settings, entertainment… you name it. In short, they should be an encyclopedia of event knowledge.

Call in the cavalry

But, that’s not saying that businesses shouldn’t run their own events. “Companies should be as involved as much as they wish to be,” says Mitchell. “A good organiser  should be able to take a brief and run with it, but some clients like to be closely involved and we welcome that. Feedback is always helpful, particularly in the early stages. The more information we have about the event, the company hosting it, the potential guests and what the client wants to get out of it, the better we can do our part.”

Corporate parties and hospitality, providing they are done properly, can be a very useful marketing tool. They are the perfect way to cement business relationships and get to know customers better. If your customers are left with an empty “well, that could have been better” feeling at the end of your event, imagine the impact that has on their perception of your brand.

So, if you’re going to throw a party, whatever the time of year, it really does pay to do things properly.


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