ISES Quick Tips For Event Planners: November

Christie Altendorf, president-elect of ISES, on tips and trips for a great holiday bash.

It’s nearly the time of the year again when companies are planning their holiday parties. Here are a few tips and tricks to make your bash a smashing success.
Repeating this three times fast: Big bashes are back! – We all remember when the economy tanked and took traditional holiday parties with it. The good news? Not only is unemployment down and the market up, but big holiday bashes are back! Companies are realizing the most effective way to build communities with their organization (read: retention) is to foster an environment where their teams can connect on both a personal and professional level. Larger scale holiday parties not only provide an ideal foundation for this, but also work to create an atmosphere of camaraderie that quickly translates into relationship building. Now who wants to try and put a gift-wrapped price tag on that?
Celebrate your locals with local – All bias aside, we’re truly blessed with local farmers and artisans that work tirelessly every day to make sure we Minnesotans have the best of the best. Whether it be insisting that your local grocer or caterer use a neighborhood farm when creating your holiday feast, or you call in an order to your favorite bakery for that delicious buche de noel, you and your guests will not go hungry with the bounty that our great state has to offer, and that’s a promise. Just as importantly, celebrate the holiday spirit with a northern spirit or three! The last five years have been incredibly kind to our community with an influx of wildly talented and tasty beverage houses – be it beer from Northeast Minneapolis, wine from the St. Croix River Valley or spirits from Duluth. You don’t need to venture beyond our borders to keep glasses full of cheer and the room merry.
Entertainment, enigmas and activities – Whether we care to admit it or not, your company event is only as good as the entertainment. From an overwhelming amount of social media to a flurry of social obligations during the holiday season, there are a million and one reasons why your guests will leave—mentally or physically—if they’re not entertained. The good news? Entertainment these days doesn’t just mean a killer band. From museum galleries to murder mysteries, bocce ball to ballroom dance lessons, there are an unlimited number of ways to keep energy levels up, interests piqued and conversations (read: team-building moments) flowing.
#CommunicateYourHashtags – Word (and more importantly, pictures) of your event are going to hit the Twitterverse and every social media stratosphere long before the candles are blown out and the decorations taken down from your celebration. If you and your planner have done their jobs right, guests won’t want to wait to brag about the incredible experience they’ve had. Be sure to harness that energy and keep it on hand for future use by communicating your hastags to guests. Whether it be event specific or a hashtag that is used for all group gatherings, when your guests know ahead of time how to tag you in their media, you’ll not only extend your reach, but also have access to all of the content for opportunities down the icy road.
Small details can make a big impact – Think back to the last time someone did something really nice for you. It probably wasn’t donating a kidney or paying of a vehicle, was it? My point is that small details oftentimes have the biggest impact, and your holiday event is no exception. Something as simple as black napkinds available for those in black attire at the dinner table or a coffee bar set up for guests to grab a cup to go for their drive home speaks to those in attendance and show them that you’re two steps ahead in keeping their every need fulfilled. And do you know what happens when people feel cared for? Your turnover rate drops faster than the mercury in January.
Spread the joy – Bringing people together at the holidays is bound to evoke not only nostalgia, but also the spirit of generosity and giving. Start the giving with your guests, and bring that moment full circle by looping in a local charity or nonprofit. Asking guests to bring gently used coats and food shelf items can produce tangibles that are needed through Minnesota’s most extreme season, setting up a volunteer session at a local animal shelter or food bank can serve as a donation and activity and donations made to a nonprofit from your organization on behalf of your guests can show that your celebratory event goes beyond just a party and works to improve our community.
Trust An Event Professional – As event professionals, we’d much rather see you be the toast of the party than the host of the party – leave the heavy lifting to us! Trust me, we’ve seen it all. We all have stories that could make you laugh, cry, and—yes—even blush. Through those experiences, we’ve learned what really works and, more importantly, what doesn’t. By looking at your local chapter of the the International Special Event Society or Meet Professionals International, you’re on the right track to finding an event professional who can take your vision, priorities and budget and transform them into a lovely gathering for not just your guests to enjoy, but for you to as well.
Christie Altendorf is the general manager and director of catering for Bon Apppetit Management Company at the Minnesota History Center and is the president-elect of the International Special Event Society—Minneapolis/St. Paul chapter.
The International Special Events Society (ISES) is the world’s largest community of event professionals with over 5,000 members worldwide. The Minnesota chapter of ISES is comprised of leading professionals in every aspect of the event products and services industries. For more information on how an ISES professional can help you with your event, please contact