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Author Message
Sep 28, 2009 10:41 am

Let’s face it: Given today’s challenging economic climate, corporate dollars available for the annual company holiday party more than likely have dwindled. That means Chicago-area planners need to be a lot more creative, resourceful and persuasive in order to pull off a fun and memorable event. The keyword here is “creative” because a diverse, vibrant market like Chicago offers plenty of options.

Here are suggestions on how to organize and host a great holiday event during these budget-crunching times. One general rule to follow: Plan now to get the best options and avoid being forced to take what’s left over.

Consider off-peak times. Most venues, whether it’s a restaurant, hotel, museum or private club, charge a premium on weekends and evenings. And, in some cases, weekends are not available for large private events. So consider holding a late afternoon lunch – or even a breakfast – on a weekday. Historic venues like Chicago’s Union Station or the Art Institute have private rooms available.

Entertain yourself. Music from a live band or professional DJ is tough to beat. But consider getting the entertainment for free by tapping into your team. Learn if anyone wants to perform holiday songs or skits as part of a “holiday pageant.” Play dinner music using an iPod run through the venue’s sound system.

It’s all in the view. Select a venue with a dramatic view, and make that the focal point of the party. Venues like the Adler Planetarium provide dramatic views of the lakefront. Or, Navy Pier offers a wide range of accommodations with Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline as a backdrop.

Get smart on food and beverage. Open buffets will give guests more options, but they’re generally more expensive than a plated meal. Also, considered passed hors ‘d oeuvres to reduce cost and eliminate waste. As for beverages, most venues and caterers make the biggest profit on the bar service. Ways to save include asking for something comped – perhaps a glass on wine at the start – and drink tickets for guests.

Make it staff only. Inviting spouses and guests certainly can liven up the festivities; but they also can add 40 to 50 percent to the bottom line. Keep the invitation list to just employees.

Let vendors play Santa. Ask suppliers and vendors if they would donate a prize, such as a restaurant gift card or an upscale promotional item, in exchange for exposure at the event. In fact, ask the venue to donate, too.

Get your event gift wrapped. Many venues today have special holiday event packages that bundle space, food and beverage costs. Sometimes, these pre-packaged options offer the best price-per-person over an event you customize.

Following some of these suggestions can help you and your company take the “bah, humbug” out of the company holiday party during these challenging economic times.

Jim Grillo, CMP is the President & Internet Marketing Specialist of Online Destination Companies, Inc. which owns and operates 500 online destination marketing resource directories globally to include http://www.hereschicago.com, Chicago’s online resource directory which reaches the desktops of meeting and event planners worldwide. Reach Jim at jim@hereschicago.com or (630) 916-8000 ext. 3.

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