Yes, it’s time to book the office Christmas party

christmas party season
It’s only the end of September but the Christmas party invitations – from venues and hosts – are beginning to arrive. The Irish World takes a wry look at that most traditional British and Irish event

Clunky conversation, wine-spotted shirts messily unbuttoned, awkward, regrettable sexual encounters and harrowing post-event embarrassment; office Christmas party season is almost upon us.

Companies big and small will this month be putting the finishing touches to their annual dos. Despite all of their negative tropes, however, a 2015 survey of Christmas party attendees found that 75% enjoyed their previous seasonal work celebrations.

Commissioned by Poptop – an event planner’s group – the survey of 1000 UK citizens attempted to uncover the best and worst elements of the annual workplace rendezvous.

This can be an in-house event or as is most popular now, an outside establishment: normally one that sells alcohol by the boatload.

For those who didn’t enjoy their last Christmas party, the survey indicated, the most common reasons for their displeasure were choice of venue, the entertainment, and the behaviour of other attendees.

For most, it’s a way of enjoying oneself with colleagues that might not be practical during busier months – especially if there is a plentiful and complimentary supply of good food and drink. A unique entertainment selling-point like a band or a themed party is often popular, too.

wine drinkers at party

Lucrative

The business of Christmas parties is steadily becoming more lucrative. This can be seen in the emergence of the London Christmas Party Show – an exhibition for event agents and corporate event buyers seeking the best venues and inspiration for firms’ Christmas celebrations.

This year, for its fifth edition, over 200 bespoke venues, hotels, clubs, restaurants, bars and shared party nights flexed their party planning muscles in an attempt to woo potential clients.

Whether you’re a modest start-up, a medium sized company or a corporate conglomerate, your needs can be catered for.

The UK largest Christmas party provider – Best Parties Ever – announced in May that it was expanding into Northern Ireland this year, creating 150 jobs in Belfast in the process.

The spectacularly-named firm, which operates in 23 cities across the UK and Ireland, and whose many services includes office Christmas parties, serves an incredible 200,000 guests annually.

“Cultural Event”

Speaking to the Financial Times, Andre Spicer, a professor of organisational behaviour at the City University London, described Christmas work parties in terms unlike most – a “cultural event”.

A party reflects both the official workplace culture, according to Spicer, which can be marked by weaving company policy into the party’s fabric, and the unofficial culture, which can be suffocating, enjoyable, toxic, and everything else in between.

“It can have a “gestalt effect” on people — “where everything comes together, [to] remind them they love or hate the place,” he said.

The London Christmas Party Show’s organisers also revealed earlier this year the findings of their Venue Search London’s 2018 survey, which included analysis from over 300 corporate event buyers and mapped out the latest trends.

London Christmas Party Show
London Christmas Party Show

£3m spending

The survey, carried out online in April, covered the party choices of over 36,000 guests in the 2017 season. Remarkably, the total spend was in excess of £3m.

This, on average per head, rose 2 per cent on the previous year. Over half of parties are now held at restaurants, bars, and clubs, with 60 per cent opting for the more traditional, formal seated-meal catering style.

Thursdays and Fridays remain the most popular nights for parties, accounting for 69% of the total market.

There is an increasing trend towards lunchtime events, which now represent 21% of the total Christmas events market. Average party numbers are also likely to increase for 2018, it added.

The Poptop survey, conducted by research agency Fly Research, also made some conclusions from its submissions for firms hoping to breathe life into their Christmas parties.

It advises that planning begins early to ensure a suitable venue is booked; to allow for a vote to democratically decide the venue and entertainment options; to ditch the dress code for a more relaxed, casual atmosphere; to provide transport; ensure fewer upper management types are present so staff can relax; to provide for nondrinkers, even the limitation of alcohol.

And, perhaps most pertinently of all, the survey opined that one of the best ways to ensure a party’s success is to completely avoid discussions about work — something everyone can agree on.


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