Administrative professionals often get involved in planning the office holiday party—sometimes willingly and other times by default. If the task has fallen to you this year, don’t fret—Kathy Posey, the office administrator at StrategyWise in Mountain Brook, Ala., has advice for you based on her experience planning more than 20 such parties over the years.
1. Get a mix of committee members. Posey says she tries to get new people on the planning committee every year to provide new perspectives and ideas. Look for a good mix of people with a wide variety of skills who can enlist volunteers and lead subcommittees.
2. Highlight the career advantages of participating. Harvard professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter found “office housework” often falls to women, and you may find it difficult to convince men to participate. New hires are a great resource; they can use their work on the committee to show they’re team players, Posey says.
3. Share the burden. Posey says her committee spreads tasks among members. The committee then meets several times a year to check in with one another and keep everything on track.
4. Keep it simple. Scale back expectations before you start planning. Posey says the dinner-plus-activity formula is a good one. “We mix it up—sometimes we go on a dinner cruise; another year we went to a play and then dinner.” Posey’s company invites everyone on staff plus one guest each.
5. Know your audience. If you’re going to a comedy show or play, be sure to research the content to ensure it doesn’t contain anything attendees might find offensive.
6. Set limits. Don’t be afraid to offer a cash bar or establish a drink limit, and consider making taxis available.
7. Just do your best. “The biggest challenge is trying to please everyone, because it’s impossible. So you try to please the most,” Posey says. Take notes on what works and what doesn’t, and keep them for next year’s party planning.