The holidays are the busiest time of the year. For many businesses, the company holiday party is just another thing on their endless to-do list. But your small businesses’ annual celebration can actually be turned into a unique networking opportunity. Think about it: If you open your party to the public, and allow employees to bring guests, you’ll have a diverse group of professionals all in one place. The social setting loosens people up, and without the pressure of knowing the event is geared toward networking, conversation flow will come naturally. But first you’ve got to get them there.
If you want to make your holiday party as fun as exciting as your small business, we’ve got some creative ideas that will make it worth your employees’ while. We guarantee you’ll get bonus points for creativity!
1. Give Your Party a Fun Theme
This should come as no surprise: In an experiential market, people are more interested in quality experiences than materialism or popularity. It’s no longer a priority to be on the VIP list of every hot industry party happening locally. People want to attend events that will add real, experiential value to their lives. So don’t worry about how fancy your party is or start comparing it to other glam events circulating on the internet. Your event can be exclusive and coveted without breaking the bank. That’s an important fact for small businesses to keep in mind. The key to making your holiday party a hit is to make it stand out from all the others.
Why not choose a unique theme for your holiday party? The theme you decide on depends on your customer base, employees, and your brand’s personality. For example, if you know your attendees are an artsy crowd with a love of fashion or creativity, try throwing a vintage party. Gatsby parties are all the rage right now, and for good reason, but you can also just choose a decade as a theme. If your holiday party is a quiet, scenic affair featuring art or wine tasting, a 60s retro vibe would take on new elegance. A full-out flapper theme has just the right hint of nostalgia, and works great in a vintage pub that won’t be too expensive to rent for the evening. For wilder, more theatrical souls, a Vaudeville party that invites guests to dress in costume is a fun idea. And let’s face it, the standard ugly sweater idea never really gets old, does it?
If you don’t want to limit your guests’ wardrobe choices to one decade, why not give your party a seasonal theme? A “Winter Wonderland” party where guests can dress up as winter itself is a fun idea, and doesn’t require any major costumage for those who want to keep it simple. Attire could range from silvery wigs and makeup to elegant, ice blue suits and dresses. The main idea behind giving your party a theme: It creates an authentic experience that stands out. And it gets extra bonus points for being so delectably Instagrammable.
Yet another, more low-key option is to simply make yours a VIP party. Doing this doesn’t mean you actually have to only invite customers or clients who’ve been the most loyal or signed up as a VIP customer, ect. It just means you’re treating all of your customers like VIPs, and treating them to a special after-hours party to show your appreciation. Include a raffle and offer free drinks or desserts to sweeten the deal. This way, your staff and employees won’t have anything to do but show up and be merry- and neither will you.
2. Join Forces with Other Small Businesses
We know, we know. Other local small businesses are your competition, so why would you fraternize with them? Well, for starters, not all businesses related to your industry are your competition. For example, let’s say yours is an event planning business, and you invite decorators, tech companies and startups, production companies, and even other event planners in different niches from yours. While all of those types of businesses may be closely related to yours, they’re not directly in competition with you. In fact, networking with these kinds of businesses and their contacts could open exciting doors for your business.
The more industry professionals you have in one place, the richer the networking opportunities. The possibilities are virtually endless. You could potentially meet a technologist with access to an AI service you need, and get it at a discounted price. You may make valuable connections with vendors that would be perfect for your next event. Maybe you’ll just meet new people in your industry and learn new things over a glass of bubbly champagne.
The experiential market is all about making genuine connections and building relationships. What better way to do that than to connect with other professionals in a social setting, without the pressure of a formal networking event?
If you don’t have the budget or space to make yours a low-key industry party, you might want to ask neighboring businesses to join forces. This is a fun idea if your venue or company headquarters is located on a street where other small businesses exist. Stores could create their own pop-up shops or storefront attractions; for example, a small cafe might offer free holiday lattes and autographed copies of a holiday cookbook for sale. Even simple, unique ideas that don’t cost much are memorable to attendees. And other small businesses on your street or block need to have their own holiday parties, right?
Let’s say you’re a tech startup, and you rent a cozy space at a local bar for your holiday party. Now imagine that the bar is flanked by a restaurant and eclectic shopping center. If those businesses join forces with yours simply by hosting their own holiday fun, your attendees are being treated to a variety of experiences: good food, holiday shopping, and great company over cheese and wine. Plus, it’s convenient: Guests don’t have to grab dinner before your party, and you save on catering costs. Bonus points for you: They can also get some much-needed holiday shopping done on the same day.
Obviously, this is just an example of how this scenario could possibly work for your business. Not all locations will be compatible with this idea, but the point is to diversify your guest list as much as possible while still keeping it intimate and on-brand.
What to do if you want to pull off this idea, but don’t have neighboring small businesses? You might want to ask local small businesses to set up shop with you in an outdoor space. You can all rent spacious tents for pop-up shops displaying holiday exhibits.
3. Create a Sales Promotion or Raffle
Yes, people value experiences, but they also value a good deal on a quality product. Try hosting a special sale or promotion to add interest to your party. You can do this by giving everyone who attends the same discount on a product of yours. If it’s within your budget, you can also give gift cards to attendees to thank employees and customers for their loyalty. To amp up the excitement factor, try doing a raffle in place of or along with a sales promotion.
If your business is offering a new product or service, there’s no better time to introduce it. At a holiday party, people are in high spirits and feeling fancier than usual. If there’s an air of the extravagant at your party, it adds even more allure to your product or service’s debut. You might also want to offer free shipping if you’re introducing a product that isn’t able to be purchased on the spot. In the weeks before your event happens, include a fun countdown for your product’s debut in all of your emails. But only those who attend your party are eligible for an exclusive deal. Roll out the red carpet and making your staff and customers feel like stars of the show- you can’t go wrong.
4. Host Your Very Own “Santa’s Workshop”
We’re not suggesting you stuff yourself into a Santa suit and start building train sets. No, this workshop idea is for the grown-ups. If your small business offers a service, host a how-to class. For example, if you’re a beauty brand, host a master class that teaches guests how to do fun everyday or holiday looks. If you’re an artist, host your own painting and design class in which guests create a holiday-themed work of art, such as a snowy landscape. If you’re a cafe or a bar, teach guests how to make fun holiday drinks at home.
It’s an educational spin on the traditional holiday party that adds value to the experience. It also makes your holiday party feel more personal and intimate, which is a pleasant alternative to getting drunk together at headquarters or a local bar.
5. Send Them Home with Swag
Holiday themed swag bags are a must! Not only that, but your holiday swag should be unique and personalized; this way, you give attendees something to remember you by. One fun example: Instead of actually buying books or novelty items from Barnes and Noble, why not give away a homemade holiday cookbook or DIY gift guide? A little artistic know-hot and a thrifty trip to your local craft store gets the job done.
Speaking of art and craftiness, if your business sells art of any kind, you can give away exclusive, handmade items that won’t be sold in stores...or items that aren’t yet in stores, but are free for attendees. If you or your employees have the skills, create a small, holiday-themed painting or picture frame. A sculpted ornament or easy-make gingerbread house is also a nice personal touch.
If you have the artistic ability the kids who built Frosty the Snowman, don’t sweat it. Everyone loves items that are useful in everyday life, such as earphones or other inexpensive electronics. To add your own special touch, have these gifts personalized with guests’ names and your company’s logo. If your guest list is small, you might also want to include a handwritten note thanking them individually for the value they add to your business.