You may have the responsibility of planning your company party in addition to your regular job duties...it can be a real "bear of a job". You have to face the pressure of being responsible for the party's success and it's not as easy as having 8 people over for dinner at your house...and that can be a nerve jangler. We've produced hundreds of fun company parties - of all types. Of course, we'd like to offer our event planning services to you, but in the meantime, here are some minefields to avoid. ... Remember "party" is not a 4 letter word......and planning it shouldn't feel like facing an overdue term paper.

1. LARGE PARTIES -PARTY DATE PROBLEMS: For "once a year" bashes, usually held in December, often the comptroller will hold up the party planning, by not giving a clear go ahead to you. If you're having more than 300 people, you should try to get the party date as soon as possible. (e.g. for parties of 300 to 500 you should begin planning by Sept 1.....parties of 600 to 800, begin planning by August 1 and parties of 900+, try to set your date and hall as early as March, if possible). The very large halls book the good Friday and Saturday dates in December quite early. but because some halls have cancellations for prime dates, it's still possible to plan a large December party in the fall. Of course, once the comptroller has given you the funds, it's advantageous to have several preferred dates in mind, in case the best hall is already booked up. Some planners have tried to deal with party date problems, by shifting their "holiday parties" to January....or to weeknights (e.g. Thursday) in December. Most employees, though, don't appreciate attending the big bash on a weeknight, when they have to rise at 6:00 a.m. the next morning for the job. We keep in close contact with the halls, to learn which ones have last minute weekend openings because of a cancellation.

2. COMMITTEE PROBLEMS - You want to let many people have a voice in planning the party, so you've assembled a committee of 12 people. Unfortunately, it's hard to match the schedule of 12 busy employees for planning meetings. Usually a maximum of 3 to 5 people works better. Try not to schedule meetings just for small tasks....obviously the meeting should be as organized as possible. (when we work with you, we have a worksheet for party aspects to consider).

3. LACK OF INFO ON PAST PARTIES - For some reason, some employee/party planners either squirrel away their notes from past parties (taking it with them to the next job), or just toss them in the shredder. It's hard to "reinvent the wheel" each time party planning comes up. This doesn't mean that you "rubber stamp" last year's plan, having the same D.J., the same chicken and mashed potatoes, the same dreary hall.......you're liable to have the same "dud party". But, it's helpful to have each year's party details put into an accessible party booklet. (We, of course, have a massive booklet with all types of party services that we draw upon when we help you plan). It can add hours to your drudgery time to have to relocate 1) dance floor to rent ... or 2) party invitations with your company logo......3) fake snow drifts..........4) chocolate cable cars...........5) that great band you got in 2005 whose name slips your mind...etc.

4. PROCRASTINATION TREADMILL - Yes, everyone has a tendency to put off making decisions....we sympathize with you, but there comes a point in the planning process that further indecision compounds the work. For example, if you have a good party date in December, but can't decide whether to have a holiday themed event, or a political correct non-sectarian black and white event.........you'll be stuck, unable to plan the decor, food, etc....months may go by. (Medically speaking, this is how ulcers form). We can help clarify your questions, and help you come to a consensus, so that you can move forward.....and get back into the fun of party planning. Another procrastination treadmill is the D.J. vs. band question (we have solutions for that). Oh, you're ready to make a step? Feel free to fill out our no obligation questionnaire and get the ball rolling.

5. DISAGREEMENTS OVER D.J. VS. BAND - Ah yes, it was easier when there were only dance bands composed of human musicians. Now we have the additional option of machines with recorded music in the electronic age. There are advantages to both options. Obviously a disc jockey is less expensive, and has the versions of songs you've heard on your car radio countless times. The advantages of a dance band (assuming it's a great band) include: 1) the presence of all those live human beings in tuxes and sequins, singing and playing on stage creates a great party atmosphere right off the bat.......2) the band can shorten or lengthen songs according to your preferences and pacing.........3) live bands generally add a specialness to a party, much above just having a D.J. (even jr.high dances have D.J.'s, whereas the most special elegant parties generally have a live band). If you can't agree on D.J. vs. BAND, we can provide an affordable D.J./BAND package, which will keep all sides happy.(Request our "Band vs. D.J. pamphlet" through our questionaire).

6. CANCEL PARTY DUE TO LOWERED BUDGET - Your employees work all year long, and look forward to a holiday party, and it's not good for morale to skip the party all together. In this day of downsizing and myopia towards the "bottom line", you may feel it's impossible to create a party if your funds have been slashed. We have been able to help employees continue the party tradition, by producing the party cheaply "on site", bringing in very affordable decor, food and music to transform "Building B-253" into a temporary festive locale. Tell us what your Scrooge has given you to work with, and we'll tell you what we can do. You'll be pleasantly surprised.

7. HAVE CEO SPEECH TOO LONG - This is a difficult problem, since no one wants to advise the CEO to "keep it short", but we've seen some parties almost squelched by a droning 50 minute speech by a CEO. The CEO may see the party as merely an opportunity to rant on about his(her) "vision", making his party guests sit quietly, unable to enjoy the party.....as the minutes tick by. We remember a party that had the best of all intentions----they had a French theme, complete with can can girls, strolling French bistro musicians, flambe desserts, etc...and a 14 piece dance band waiting in the wings. But the CEO proceeded to talk for 70 minutes. When he mercifully finished, some people were too tired to stick around for the band, and his speech definitely contributed to the fizzle out of the party. If you can't speak up to the CEO, perhaps show him this column.

8. FOOD - Your choices may be constrained by your budget, but there are other things to consider. In the health-conscious Bay Area, you probably have some vegetarian employees. Also, some may be allergic to certain foods. Some dishes are too messy for elegant affairs, but fine for picnics or informal parties. For parties of over 500, some menus don't work because of the logistics of carrying food to 500 people (e.g. sauces congeal)....and there's always the bad coffee mistake. (if you must cut corners, don't skimp on coffee, or real cream. If you do, the last impression the partygoer will have is the dinner ending with brown water coffee, and a plastic packet of fake "cream" powder). On a positive note, we have some great menu ideas (themes, multicultural cuisines, California nouvelle cuisine, exciting innovative dishes and presentations....for example in an abundant seafood presentation over ice, we included something unusual--- a succulent marinated baby squid in-a-cone hors d'oeuvre, to be eaten with chopsticks). For a holiday party, we had a fabulous elegant French dessert called "Croque En Bouche" (a 4 foot pyramid of eclairs filled with creme anglaise "glued" together with golden spun sugar). Whether your budget is champagne or Dr. Pepper, there are small effective touches one can do.

9. REPEAT THE SAME PARTY YEAR AFTER YEAR - Yes, it's easier to simply repeat last year's party (see Mistake #3 above), but with minimal changes, you'll keep up your employees' enjoyment of each year's party. Though there may be 1 or 2 employees that rave about and demand to get "D.J. Dave" back again for the 3rd time, there may be 10 or 15 that that would rather have something different this year. Parties are more memorable if there is something unexpected, exciting...and delightful. We organized an "Oscar presentation" ceremony for 1 party, where we provided 2' high chocolate Oscars for awards, that were given to various employees for serious and silly accomplishments. (And we had "Marilyn Monroe" and "Clark Gable" hand out the awards). Everyone loved it, and it was something different. Another party, we had the band perform a customized version of "That's Amore", with lyrics relating to the company's new buildings, products and managers...it was laughter everywhere. Lately, because of the popularity of T-V Reality Shows ("Survivor", "American Idol", etc.) and game shows ("Do You Want to be a Millionaire"), we've concocted some great skit packages, complete with costumes, lighting, music, scripts.

10. TRY TO DO IT ALL YOURSELF - Often the party planning responsibility is dumped onto 1 person (namely you), and what was fun, now feels like a PBS Pledge night....it just goes on and on. We can offer 2 suggestions: ask for help from your fellow employees or.............give us a call. We can come up with 4 or 5 complete party package ideas (complete proposal usually to you within 48 hours). Staying within your budget, we can provide as much or as little as you want: hall, menu, decor, music and entertainment, celebrities, children's activities, awards, invitations, photographer, transportation, etc. To begin the process, at no obligation, fill out our questionnaire.

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