Law firms of all sizes host holiday parties in December, and many lawyers have one or two could-have-been-avoided mishaps tattooed in their memories, whether they had a starring role in them or not. Think proactively, and make yours the best holiday event ever.
What is your goal? To reward, to share, to present your staff to clients, to meet friends and family of your team? Decide before you launch, but be clear that this is a professional event, not a remake of Animal House.
Determine your theme. Is it a generic holiday party? Christmas? New Year? End-of-Year? Solstice? If you select a religious theme, consider the faiths and feelings of all your guests. Is your theme appropriate for your firm? Be considerate—it will be noticed
HIRED HELP OR DO-IT-YOURSELF?
If you want to make it down-home, be sure folks on the upper end of the totem-pole are doing most of the work, unless your admin staff truly wants to take charge and you’re cool with that. Consider a caterer, a professional bartender, valet car service, and a coatroom attendant. It’s those details that make your event a memorable success.
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Some possibilities, if you serve alcohol:
a-Limit the drinks menu to beer and wine, and have some enticing non-alcoholic choices visible.
b-Opt for smaller-sized glasses, if possible.
c-Set a starting and an end time for your event.
d-Hire a bartender with experience and communicate your rules in advance, even if you are in a hotel.
e-If you don’t have a professional bartender, at least batten down the alcohol and designate appropriate staffers to dispense the alcohol. Self-serve kegs and bottles may lead to trouble. Give clear instructions to staffers.
f-Deputize each staffer to report impending trouble to you or whoever you name. Definitely refuse service to anyone who is getting tipsy.
g-Your staff should monitor the event to determine if any guest needs a ride home. Your guests will appreciate this.
h-Open the bar after the food is in circulation. Keep the non-alcoholic drinks out until you end the party. Offer coffee at the bar late in the event.
Don’t tolerate it, whether it is verbal or physical misbehavior. Let your staff know your policy. You can’t afford any other approach.
GIVE EVERYONE AT THE FIRM A ROLE
Everyone who wants one, that is. There are lots of fun things to do, and some will enjoy having an official task. Be sure to have a pre-party meeting, and be clear about how these jobs should be performed:
a-Greeters & Networkers. Create a happy and welcoming mood. Engage your guests. Help them network. You may or may not need to do a little advance role-playing to demonstrate the best practices (body contact, personal banter, confidentiality, etc.)
b-A Toast-Maker? Up to you. If someone at the top of the pyramid can make a classy toast, go ahead. Can be a nice touch.
c-Nametag-Writers & List-Keepers. If you invite clients, referrers and experts, you want to know who was there, right?
d-Bartenders. If you decide to have alcohol at all, get the rules straight in advance, whether you use contract professionals or your own staff as bartenders.
e-Spotters. Deputize people on your team to be sort of like roving bouncers. Someone getting tipsy? Loud? Inappropriately physical? Inappropriately anything? The spotters get the right person to put that fire out quickly and quietly. Advance training required.
f- Closers. Right, you never heard of this either, but it is a good idea to say goodbye personally to each guest, including staff-guests. Have the right people on hand at the logical time and place as guests sign-off.
a-Signage. You may need signs for parking validation, lavatories, etc.. If you are in a large office building, alert your security guard and place a sign in the lobby. You may wish to subtly place the start and end time of the party on your signs, or not. Make everything user-friendly.
b-Clean the place up! If you are not going off-site, tell Partner X with rubble in her office that you are bringing in a bulldozer. Naturally, put the confidential stuff where it belongs. Lock some doors, if appropriate.
c-Dress. It is perfectly fine to suggest what dress is appropriate, if not during business hours.
d-Coats & Bags. Have a designated spot,
a couple of chairs and a table, and an attendant.
e-Clear the Walkways & Parking Lot. You don’t want this slip and fall case.
f-Food. Vegans exist; feed them or don’t expect them to enjoy your party. Same with seafood and nut allergies. You probably know if any guest keeps kosher/halal; accommodate.
g-Security. In case you missed it above, you need to protect your confidential stuff. Instruct your coat check attendant to be vigilant. You don’t want a guest to lose a totebag or laptop or even a coat.
HAVE A GOOD TIME AT YOUR OWN PARTY—THE HOST SETS THE TONE!