From venue scouting to hangover management, here's everything you need to throw an awesome office party
Words: Millie Milliken & Heather Steele
A is for abacus
If there’s one thing that will definitely keep your boss happy, it's making sure your numbers add up. The biggest pitfall is spending on no-shows. Always plan for a 20% dropout rate, negotiate a last-minute additions deal and you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.
B is for blockbuster
It ain't a party without entertainment but, when it comes to AV, something always goes tits up. Cover yourself by making sure there is a technician on hand if something goes wrong. That way, you have time to set the mood lighting, control the speakers and test everything. Then, you can put your feet up and enjoy.
C is for cow
It’s simple: hungry guests + plenty of food = successful party. Seriously, if the grub is woeful, people remember. BBQs keep mouths salivating and dishes circulating evenly throughout the event. Think about your timings too: as the drinks flow, stomachs will start to grumble.
D is for drums
The music you choose should be as well thought out as the food and drink. Think about your crowd and what they’ll know and enjoy, not just what you like. If it’s meant to be in the background, for God’s sake keep it there. If music’s the main attraction, do a practice run first to avoid embarrassment.
E is for eggs
Chances are, if you’ve done your job right, there will be some sore heads in the office the next day. ‘Me? Hungover? Oh no, I think I got too much sun.’ Yeah, sure. Eggs are the answer. Have a caterer serve them up scrambled with lashings of butter, or in butties with bacon. Eggcellent either way.
F is for fizz
Bubbles need not cost you an arm and a leg. Remember that top-notch cava is a better bet than cheap champagne. If you’re opting for cocktails, stick to two or three varieties to save on time and think about pre-mixing and bottling before the doors open. It’s all the rage these days.
G is for goodie bags
The main aim when filling a goodie bag is to avoid the tat. The most tasteful of planners can get it wrong, but it’s easy: pick a small bottle of booze, something for guests to eat on the way home and something that smells nice. Done.
H is for hashtag
It seems no one can do anything these days without putting # in front of it. Harness the power of social media and create a hashtag for your guests to use throughout the evening. Twitter is the default platform, but don’t forget Instagram either – best for photos.
I is for ice bucket
When it comes to chilling, remember: get the good stuff and make sure there’s a shed load of it. Bear in mind it takes an entire bag of ice to chill a case of wine for three hours. For quality, talk to a specialist supplier. Bad cubes can break a cocktail.
J is for jenga
Nothing says summer party like some old-fashioned British competition. If you’re doing team activities, make sure everyone knows what’s going on at least a day before the event to avoid last-minute stress and confusion. And don’t be too ambitious – it’s meant to be fun, remember.
K is for king kong
They leave smashed glasses and their dignity behind, so keep a lookout for guests who’ve had a little too much plonk. Have a word with your staff so drinks aren't circulated in their direction and ready the water.
L is for lemonade
Chances are you’ve got some teetotallers, expectant mothers and drivers on the guestlist. Fresh fruit garnishes on long drinks make them that bit more special. And don’t forget the water. Even the drinkers will need some H2O to keep them dancing.
M is for marquees
The choice between indoor and out is a tricky one. If you plump for indoors, aim for an adjoining garden, in case the weather’s good. If you’re outside, consider a marquee to protect your guests from the elements.
N is for noodles
As the night draws in, don’t forget to nourish your troops. A food truck serving up boxes of noodles will help to soak up all that inevitable booze. Handheld snacks such as hot dogs and burgers will also do the trick.
O is for octopus
Organising a party is a juggling act, so remember to delegate. Ask one person to be in charge of invitations and another to source decorations. Many hands make light work.
P is for piss
If you’re planning on hosting a rounders tournament in a park, make sure there are loos nearby. Hire some portable toilets if necessary. No one wants to get caught short when they’re four pints down and about to bat.
Q is for quiz
Don’t scrimp on the entertainment, especially if you’re making a long afternoon of it. It doesn’t have to be a quiz (although one involving food and wine could be fun). A strolling magician or photo booth will work well for large and small groups.
R is for red
Don’t forget the sun cream. There’s always one who forgets to lather up. Even if it’s cloudy, a full day outdoors can leave you red-faced the next day. Bring along some bottles of SPF, so no one gets caught out.
S is for Saturday
Nobody wants to give up their weekend to hang with their dear colleagues, but picking a Monday for your big blow out is just cruel (they won’t feel human until Wednesday). We say go for a Thursday. No one does any work on a Friday anyway.
T is for crossing the Ts
Once you’ve sorted out all of your suppliers, caterers and the venue location, make sure you have everything in writing. Don’t forget to give specific location instructions to your team if they’re coming straight from home.
U is for umbrellas
Ah, the great British summer. Let’s face it, it will probably rain. A stash of brollies will stop the weather putting a dampener on your event.
V is for vegetables
Yes, it’s barbecue season, but don’t forget about the veggies. Salads, grilled aubergine, halloumi burgers and baked bananas should keep them content.
W is for Wimbledon
Make sure your date doesn’t clash with any of the big sporting events. That is unless you fancy making a feature of it. A live screening of Murray in the final (here’s hoping) would certainly rally the troops.
X marks the spot
Do you want a garden party, a game of petanque on immaculate lawns or a drinks reception on a boat along the Thames? Do your research early to snap up that ideal venue.
Y is for yellow
It’s a summer party, so make sure it looks like one. Bright colours, bunches of flowers and some stripy deckchairs are all that’s needed to make an impact.
Z is for Zeppelin
Like it or not, at the end of the night it’s the company’s responsibility to make sure all staff members get home safely. Pre-book a fleet of cabs, and send your merry gang off with a bottle of water and something to eat. They’ll thank you for it come the morning.
This article was first published in Square Meal Venues & Events, Spring 2015