Sunday, November 8, 2009

Your Corporate Holiday Parties

     I've mentioned most of my event planning experience comes from several years of directing corporate Christmas at our family business. I learned quickly in our industry that there is no such thing as "Christmas" per se in the professional world.
    There are "The Holidays" and there is "The New Year," and there is a "Season" which must be greeted, but it's not called Christmas. Now, our parties certainly reflected the Christmas spirit (one of the season's parties was a no-holds barred Santa extravaganza), but in secular industries, not being more sensitive to and aware of others' cultural diversities will come back to bite you in the arse. If you have Jewish clients and employees, take the time to learn about Hanukkah. Non-Christian Asians tend to put more emphasis on the New Year.
     When I took over the job, Harry & David hams were traditionally sent to clients. People of the Jewish and Muslim faiths don't eat pork, and neither do I. But we live in the Bible Belt, and this had not occurred to my predecessor. We switched to smoked turkeys, which some clients really liked. If I knew they had always enjoyed our meat in the mail, I'd send the bird. Otherwise, it was gift-towers for all. Eventually I settled on sending organic Fruit of the Month. I was never disappointed. They all loved it. Each individual piece always looked like something from a food styling photo shoot. If you have the budget and you're looking to impress, Harry & David is a great option. Their customer service reps are really great, too.
     Whatever you do and whomever you use during the season, start early. Be ready to ship December 1st. Sure, most vendors will handle ultra-last-minute pleas but shipping and schlepping will cost you dearly. I once had to phone our order in 3 days early from Cabo San Lucas. It arrived on Christmas Eve at clients' homes, but the charges were staggering. And the roaming. The roaming from my cell phone was a king's ransom. I thought I'd never hear the end of it.
      If you care enough to spend the money to send gourmet foods or something really cool, you obviously want to make an impression. If your items don't arrive until the day or two before the holiday begins, your big mucky-muck probably won't see it. Either it will get lost in the avalanche of gifts that pile into the office, or it will arrive after your executive has jetted off a day early on vacation. Then all your butt-kissing will be for naught. Get it there early!
     Conversely, you must take note of what's coming into your office as well. Do your thank you notes as time allows during this busy time of the year, but write your thank you letters as you receive the gifts.  Make sure you acknowledge the gifts, however small or mundane - and even if your company won't be reciprocating. My boss insisted upon a running inventory of who sent what. (continues below)

     Alright, I'm pretty sure I'll catch hell for this, but I'm just going to say it: I. Hate. Secret Santa. It's the worst thing ever. If you're in charge of office cheer, don't foist this upon people. For one thing, an office isn't a sorority house. I'm not grinchy, really I'm not, but it's really awkward. Really, really awkward. I felt weird receiving presents from people I hardly knew. A sweet high school girl who worked about 5 minutes a week for minimum wage drew my name. I felt like a total ass accepting her cute little bag of Bath & Body Works (which, of course I refuse to use because of paraben and SLS and fake perfume content). I am old enough to be her mother. I secreted cash into her little felt stocking in the front of the building. That's what Secret Santa should be about!
In this awful economic climate, please don't press people into playing reindeer games. These are the sorts of things that add to rampant holiday stress. If you must spread some office cheer, why don't you take some of the delectable fruit baskets nuts and sausages (oh yes, there were loads and loads of sausages - more than any family could or should eat) down to the local police station or fire house? Or food pantry, or shelter or whatever. Give your coworkers the opportunity to do passive service. I think that's what the corporate world, or at least Michael Scott, calls a "win-win"situation.

Promote your business with personalized M&M’S®.


  1. I'm with you on Secret Santa. Generally I encourage a white elephant exchange if folks insist on gift exchanges. At least it's entertaining.

  2. There is a cute White Elephant invitation in the post I tacked up the other day about seasonal stationery. I think I'm going to get them for my Christmas Eve with the family. Definitely the way to go. Thanks for coming over!

  3. Such good thoughts and ideas. I have been torn on Chinoiserie Chic with the "holiday" and "season" issue as opposed to using the word "Christmas," but I can't resist the "Ch" with Chinoiserie Chic Christmas. LOL!!!!

  4. SR2: The words "Chinoiserie Chic Christmas" are too alliterative not to use! Can't wait to see you holiday posts!