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8 Tips for a Great Office Party

The office party returns

The recession spurred most companies to scale back on costs or cancel their office gatherings entirely during the past two years, but “the market in October looked up, and we’re beginning to see the light,” says Bob Kelleher, author of Louder Than Words: 10 Practical Employee Engagement Steps That Drive Results. As America slowly drags itself out of the doldrums, Kelleher predicts that more companies will be looking for ways to engage and thank their employees.http://www.mainstreet.com/article/career/employment/economy-snags-first-job-gain-monthsIf you’re tasked with planning your next office gathering, try the following nine tips to make your party a memorable hit.

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Do: Pick the right time and place

“These days people have a lot going on,” says Stephanie Fader, senior marketing manager for Punchbowl.com, a website that helps party planners create invitations, search for themes and locate vendors. “Consider doing it during the day as opposed to night.” Mary Beth Wood, a corporate event planner based in New York, agrees. “Don’t schedule the company party to take place on a weekend,” she says. “No matter how much you love your job, your time off is a sacred thing.” Early cocktails are usually a good bet, as everyone likes leaving work early. Try scheduling your event between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. As for the place, Wood suggests a picking a venue that offers “lounge seating so people can sit and be comfortable throughout the course of the evening. “Don’t pick a dive bar,” she says, “but don’t go for the most expensive place in town, either.”

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Do: Invite the kids … and spouses

An office gathering shouldn’t be viewed as a one-time event to engage employees, Kelleher says. Companies should remember to thank their employees all the time, as “these small, but critically important gestures go a long way in building the culture in many organizations.”That said, “it’s important to bond the family with the employer,” says Kelleher, because it shows the company cares about its employees more than just its own bottom line. “It gives people the chance to get to know their colleagues,” adds Wood.” “It creates a more community-focused work environment.” “If you do it right, it can cost very little to invite the family,” says Kelleher. Simply “ask employees to bring spouses, or host a balloon painting for the kids.”

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Do: Spread the word

Sure, you can use Evite.com, but then again, it’s 2010. We recommend classing things up a bit with Paperless Post, a website that makes digital cards on pretty stationery, sans postage.  http://www.paperlesspost.com/session/newTo ensure attendance, also remember to “send an e-mail alert at least one month in advance,” says Kelcy Hale, account manager for the Chicago party planning company,  All Terrain. “It’s best to make it an appointment that can be downloaded to employees’ calendars and smartphones, which will cause alerts to pop up and help the organizer get a headcount.”

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Do: Give details

“Make sure you spell out all the details on the invites,” says Fader. “Employees will want to know the proper attire, what food is being served, and if it’s a potluck and some people have allergies, what everyone’s bringing well in advance.” If you’re hosting a potluck, make a sign-up sheet, and to further incentivize people to come, assign everyone a task, such as bringing punch or dessert.

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Don’t: Overdo it

“Lavish spending, including serving shrimp or prime rib, sends the wrong message,” says Greg Jenkins, partner of Bravo Productions, an event planning company based in Long Beach, Calif. “There is likely to be backlash, so a modest tone and simple statements are likely to be much more appreciated.”With most Americans struggling just to make ends meet—and some even going hungry—we couldn’t agree more.http://www.mainstreet.com/article/moneyinvesting/news/15-us-households-went-hungry-2009

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Don’t: Hire a comedian

What’s funny to your boss might be offensive (and dreadful) to you. Spare everyone the awkwardness, Jenkins advises, as “it can come back to haunt the company, especially if alcohol is involved.”

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Don’t: Serve alcohol

And speaking of booze, think twice before springing for an open bar. “That's a recipe for disaster and liability if a problem should occur,” says Jenkins. If you’re set on serving drinks, make sure they’re free, and try to keep servings to a two drink minimum. “Two drink tickets for beer and wine might be fine,” Jenkins says.

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Don’t: Make it religious

This one goes without saying, but if your office is diverse (and most contemporary offices are), “don’t get into any religious symbolism,” advises Jenkins. “It’s easy to offend one person,” and that’s something you don’t want to happen.

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