The holidays are creeping up on us and before we know it people and companies will be throwing their annual parties, events and get-togethers, and that may include you. Now, here’s my question: does your event look pretty much the same every year? Well, I guess my real question is: are you OK with that?
It’s unfortunate that most events happen in the last one to two months of the year, which makes for a fun holiday season but also means that parties tend to blend into one another after a while. Now most of us remember the amazing all-white dessert table that Nancy put together with the help of Roseo’s last year (Note from Nancy: Ellina, co-owner of Roseo did most of the set up for our Christmas Party)– which was both gorgeous and remarkably tasty. And I remember the décor at that event was also knockout.
But let’s face it, most parties just feel like they’re going through the motions. Sparkling something to drink, hot appetizers and sweet somethings to eat, young girls in too short things, older women in too low things, men in expensive things, too much networking or not enough depending on who you are, and you’re left with a general feeling of dissatisfaction at the end of the night. And maybe a headache the next day depending on how much of the sparkling stuff you drank.
So as we head into another round of holiday revelry, let’s think about how we can do a bit better job of creating a remarkable and memorable event for friends and colleagues as we wrap up another year. Here are just a few suggestions that might make a difference or spark some ideas of your own.
Include Comfortable Seating: Almost every party I go to involves standing around trying to juggle a drink, a plate of food that requires utensils, business cards and handshakes. That’s a few too many moves for just two hands. Chairs and small tables make this process easier. While you’re renting stuff for your party, look for ways to create areas where people can sit and relax and talk. This can lead to actual conversations that go beyond superficial chats. Create opportunities for people to get comfortable and enjoy each other.
Change the Venue: Hosting a party at the Desert Botanical Gardens, Zoolights, or other non-standard locations allows you to take advantage of holiday activities to make your gathering memorable. Or you can rent a box for a sporting event or holiday concert.
Think Creatively: How about a party with a theme? You could go with Dickens with Victorian decorations and hire some acting students to perform scenes from A Christmas Carol during the party. Or go all Disney. Did you know you can hire Disney princesses to tell their stories and sing their songs? (I would recommend inviting people’s kids and grandkids if you go that route.)
Create Interaction Opportunities: This could be games, activities, demonstrations or anything to break the ice and get people who don’t know others talking. There is no denying that cliques develop in every group and there are always insiders and outsiders. You want to make sure your party changes that dynamic. Look for ways to do that with opportunities for every guest to get involved. You might want to have people learn how to do a craft – make a wreath, centerpiece or ornament that they can bring home. Craft stores and florists will send people to teach these things with materials for a reasonable cost.
Give Back: Nancy has done this with her cookie baking for troops overseas. Other groups put together gift bags or other thoughtful projects over the holidays. You might consider building an event around an opportunity to contribute to an organization that could use help. This could range from a gift-wrapping event for Toys for Tots or something similar, to scheduling an evening volunteering at a local soup kitchen followed by a meal at a favorite restaurant for your volunteers. I can guarantee the conversations at that gathering will be deeper and more meaningful than the casual networking normally experienced at traditional holiday parties.
Include Learning: Think about inviting an interesting and dynamic speaker to provide an exciting presentation on a topic that everyone would benefit from to speak as part of your holiday event. A half-hour presentation that wraps up with a copy of his or her latest book signed by the author might make the evening particularly memorable.
These are just a few suggestions. And understand that not every party needs to break the mold. It just seems that if a couple of people or companies every year did something different it would be fun for all of us. And then we would all really appreciate the regular parties too.
And if any of you have other ideas, or have been to any parties that were unusual or particularly fun, share them in the comments. I’d love to hear about them. And then, please, invite me. I love a good party.
Maria Muto-Porter is one of those odd people who actually enjoys speaking in front of groups. To see her in action and learn more about speaking in public, you can come and sit in on her upcoming free presentation this coming Saturday at the Goodyear Branch Library at 3 p.m., “Public Speaking for Teens, It’s Easier than you Think!” You’re welcome to come even if your teen years are long behind you.
Maria Muto-Porter is a freelance writer and blogger. Her career began in broadcasting as a reporter and producer where she covered local news and features in Toledo, Ohio. Muto-Porter served as editor for two publications including a national design magazine. She has also written and edited books, magazine articles and other business materials. You can contact Maria at