How to throw an unforgettable corporate event

Tasked with the Christmas party? Solely responsible for boosting staff morale and building client relationships? It’s a familiar brief for HRs who are simultaneously encouraged to ooze generosity but ensure price per head is firmly under £150, (to avoid National Insurance charges obviously!)

A good corporate event can kick start a new business relationship, lift team spirits and boost productivity in the weeks that follow your soiree. As the Christmas party season jingles to life, FairFX spoke to star of Channel 4’s The Millionaire Party Planner, Liz Taylor — and La Belle Assiette’s private dining expert, Millie Ashbee, about how to throw a memorable and cost-effective corporate event whether at Christmas or any other time of the year.

Stay True To Your Values

The choice of venue should be as distinct as your business and its staff: “Always keep the team in mind when planning a party and do something that fits in with the company culture. A quirky venue will get people talking as soon as they arrive,” recommends Millie.

Liz agrees: “Organise something that really appeals to them. If the team are family people you could choose a family party on a Sunday, with a visit from Santa! But railway arches, disused warehouses and urban spaces are the choice of the party elite. ”

And Liz is no stranger to curating a jaw-dropping party. At a private festive event, guests stepped through magical wardrobe doors on arrival, and journeyed through the seasons to a chilly wintry Narnia. Electric blue and hot pink lights brought an ‘iced’ dance floor to life. A room filled with oversized winter trees sprayed in silver and white, Perspex tables and chairs, table décor of white roses, frosted twigs, fruits and pine cones, and deep blue and white crystal glassware created a winter wonderland feel. Atop the dance floor, was a giant icy chandelier.

A corporate client asked TLC to create a ‘Ski Lodge themed’ event so the team built a bespoke Aspen ski lodge complete with a faux fireplace. An entire backdrop was created to transport guests to the après ski, plus a full lighting production to add atmosphere and windows with mountain views. Faux fur topped seats and benches, wooden tables and chairs, stone doorways and skis adorning the walls transported the guests to another place entirely.

Although, if your budget isn’t quite at Aspen levels, sometimes the simplest venue is the most effective, and staying at the office could work in your favour. Liz reassures planners that: “often the office is an ideal venue as it’s easy for the team to get to, and get home afterwards.”

Feed the Masses (for less than £5,000)

While bottomless supplies of bread rolls might fill their tummies, make no mistake, guests will be onto your penny-pinching faster than you can say: “refill, please!”. The success of a big, satisfying and affordable corporate meal relies on creativity, says Millie: “Think about mini street food canapes such as burgers, tacos, ceviche and wings, to more sophisticated and traditional dishes.”

“Bowl food is a great alternative to sit-down dinners and at a fraction of the cost, they’ll be sure to keep everyone full. Unique flavour combinations are combined in small bowls that are guaranteed to impress and all dietary requirements can be easily catered for. Guests get to mingle and socialise in the same way as a canapé reception, yet they’re eating a satisfying meal at the same time.”

Inviting caterers to your venue could also reduce restaurant costs. “The average three-course meal in a restaurant with wine will cost around £55.82/person, but a three-course private chef meal starts at just £39 per person.”

Drink and Be Merry!

Hard workers who put in the long days will just want to let their hair down at corporate events. There’s no crime foregoing the formal sit-down meal and investing the full budget in something more fun. The same goes for client entertainment (especially if they’ve caught the train to join you for an event).

Liz says: “Make drinks entertaining! What about plastic zip-up bags — complete with a plastic goldfish inside and a straw — filled with vodka, lime and soda? Perhaps a watermelon and lychee martini delivered in ornate bird cages, and vintage inspired ingredients poured from a tea pot? They all contribute to the most exciting cocktail experience. Not forgetting those behind the wheel, these can all be converted to a delectable non-alcoholic choice that is just as appealing.

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Originally published at blog.fairfx.com on December 6, 2016.